In cities such as Braunschweig, London and Santiago de Chile German researchers are looking for “smart” solutions for the city of the future.
A becomes a laboratory. This was the headline in July 2014 when the large-scale research facility AIM (Application Platform for Intelligent Mobility) of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) opened its doors in in Braunschweig. Since then the facility has been analyzing, for example, the research intersection of the behaviour of car drivers and cyclists, with the aim of developing so-called driver assistance systems, which make road traffic safer and more efficient. From this in the end many cities should benefit. For jams and accidents in many metropolises of the world ensure today traffic chaos. Scientists, engineers and politicians are currently working intensively on finding “smart” technological solutions for this problem.
A study by traffic data provider Inrix shows how high times waiting in traffic jam are in German cities. Thus in 2014 in Cologne motorists stood in jams for up to 65 hours; in Stuttgart for 64 hours; and in Karlsruhe for 63 hours. In London motorists had to endure 96 hours of traffic jams. And if the current estimate of the Organization for Economic Co-operation (OECD) is to be believed, according to which traffic worldwide will double by 2050, the predicament will continue to worsen in future. Increasing traffic jams, however, are not the only problem to which science is seeking an answer. Increasing carbon dioxide content in the air and high energy and resource consumption are also problems that it wants to come to grips with by means of smart solutions.
SMART CITY OR ECO-CITY
Other names for the “smart city” are the “city of the future”, “city of the tomorrow” or “eco-city”. FOKUS, the Fraunhofer Institute fir Open Communication Systems that has for many years worked in smart city solutions, defines the concept as “an informed, networked, mobile, safe and sustainable city”. And the research agenda on the “city of the future” of the German Federal Government speaks of the “CO2-neutral, energy-efficient and climate-adapted city”.
That research on the urgent questions of the future have focussed on the city has a comprehensible reason. More than half the world’s population lives in cities, and in 2050 the figure will be at last 70 per cent. In addition, three-fourths of energy consumption takes place, and 70 per cent of greenhouse gasses are produced, in cities. For these problems too there is already an intensive search for solutions. One example is “InnovationCity Ruhr”, an interdisciplinary research project whose aim is by 2020 to halve energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in the North Rhine-Westphalian city of Bottrop through “a climate-friendly urban redevelopment”.
THE CITY AS RESEARCH LAB
The climate-friendly urban redevelopment is being tried first in a “pilot area” comprising several Bottrop districts and including 67,000 residents. This area will be refurbished in an eco-friendly manner, a hitherto unique project worldwide for a city quarter of this size. The restructuring will also include projects such as car-sharing networks with electric vehicles, the expansion of the district heating grid, a competition in the theme of “House of the Future” and much more, developed in collaboration with businesses.
In 2010 Bottrop was chosen as the model city to represent “InnovationCity Ruhr” at a competition for “Climate-Friendly City of the Future”. This is typical of many smart city projects. For example, “T-City” Friedrichshafen 2007 was likewise chosen for a competition. The competition was organized by German Telekom, which afterwards, from 2007 to 2015, tested and introduced smart city applications in the smart city in Baden-Württemberg. Those who wish to sign up their child for kindergarten or promote a particular citizen concern can do so through a newly developed portal. Many other processes of the Administrative Office for Citizens are also handled by this e-government app.
GERMAN IDEAS CAN BE FOUND EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD
That when it comes to the city of the future German research is by no means confined to German cities and regions may be seen in an example like the Fraunhofer FOKUS branch InnoCity in Santiago de Chile. It was opened in 2012 in order to develop on-site IT concepts for intelligent and safe infrastructures. These were to be used in key areas such as transport and mobility, health, energy production, public safety and disaster protection and provide long-term help in improving the quality of life in Chile and other South American countries.
Research abroad is also being conducted by Siemens Mobility. In Newcastle in northern England the German company has installed 20 traffic light transmitters that provide ambulances with local data and information as to the length of the traffic light phases. As in the traffic jam prject of the DLR, here too the aim is to avoid unnecessary waiting times.
A smart city, however, will hardly work without “smart people”. This will become clearer and clearer in the smart city projects: without residents who accept and participate in the “smart” ideas and solutions, the city of the future cannot be brought about.