Les Halles: smart infrastructure

Figure 4 Les Halles
Sketch of an information desk as seen in Les Halles

WiFi. Interactive maps. Advertisement screens. These are examples of smart infrastructure, which is broadly defined as technology that uses data and digital interfaces to improve the user’s urban experience. The Les Halles area’s smart infrastructure consists of free WiFi networks, interactive touchscreen maps within the mall, and screens advertising mall products.

Our Variable: Counting Who Uses Interactive Maps

To see how smart infrastructure impacts visitors’ Les Halles experience, we quantitatively investigated the technology which most directly interacts with visitors: the mall’s touchscreen maps. Specifically, we asked whether these maps’ smart infrastructure equally reaches and attracts users of all ages. To investigate this question, we compared the number of individuals of different age ranges who visited interactive maps to the number of those who visited information desks.


In our investigation’s first part, we noted the age range of people using the four interactive maps and two information desks within the mall. The age ranges were Adolescent, Young Adult, Middle Age, and Elderly.

In the second part, we asked a few individuals who used the information desk or the interactive map about their experience. Our interview consisted of three questions asked in French. The English translations are: “Do you consider yourself a techy person?”, “Did you know that an alternative exists to the info desk/interactive map?”, and “If yes: why did you chose this one?” or “If not: next time would you use the other option?”


Using the quantitative data obtained from the hour of counting and the qualitative responses to questions, we performed a chi-squared statistical analysis (see Table 1) to look at the distribution of the age categories of the users. We found a chi-squared of approximately 3.5 with 3 degrees of freedom.

Observed Expected Observed Expected TOTAL
ADOLESCENT 7 4.77477477 3 5.22522523 10
YOUNG ADULTS 37 37.2432432 41 40.7567568 78
MIDDLE 56 55.3873874 60 60.6126126 116
ELDERLY 6 8.59459459 12 9.40540541 18
TOTAL 106 116 222
Degrees of freedom = 3 Chi-squared = 3.4997099
Table 1. This table shows how we conducted the chi-squared test to look at the distribution of our categorical variables.

We then compared the value of our chi-squared to a chi-squared table (see Table 2). With 3 degrees of freedom and α = 0.05, the critical value of the chi-squared is 7.815. This value is superior to the 3.5 chi-squared that we found. Thus, we conclude that there was no significant difference between the distribution of the age categories of the users.

Table 2. This is a Chi-squared Table showing the critical values of the chi-square depending on the degree of freedom.

Figure 1 Les Halles Figure 2 Les Halles Figure 3 Les Halles


Since our results indicate that there is no significant difference between the populations using the interactive maps and those going to the information desks, young people did not seem to use the maps more often than the elderly. Contrary to what we first hypothesized, it seems that interactive map smart infrastructure attracts users of all ages equally .

We then randomly sampled our questionnaires for additional insights into people’s preferences between the two methods of obtaining directional information. It appeared that the people going to the information desks were looking for human interactions, which provided more general information, whereas the people using the maps already knew what location they were looking for and thus only wanted directions.

What could be improved?

According to our analysis, several smart infrastructure improvements could be made:

First, we observed that there was a huge difference in the frequency of people going to different interactive screens. Specifically, only two maps at the mall’s center were constantly used, while one in the UGC cinema area was practically unused. Relocating screens into the busiest areas would optimize their use and shorten the lines for interactive maps in the center spaces, which might encourage more people to use them.

Nevertheless, relocating screens wouldn’t be enough. Interviews confirmed that people tend to prefer talking to a human being at an info desk, as they feel more efficiently and comprehensively served. Therefore, info desks are still necessary and more people should staff the desks to avoid long waiting lines.

Finally, humanizing the maps’ smart technology could increase the number of map users. People usually don’t like to spend much time trying to understand the new technology. A voice response system, similar to Siri, could humanize maps by letting users ask the map questions and letting the map respond with the right information.

Disha Trivedi, Joris Richard, Peter Lee, Sarah Talon Sampieri

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