Intelligent, networked, sustainable: Cities are adopting “smart” strategies to maximize efficiency in terms of time, cost and energy. This can be achieved through the clever networking of traffic systems, government services, or even garbage cans. Smart cities are no longer utopias – and we have urgent need of them. Many metropolitan centers are bursting at the seams, and problems like air pollution and traffic congestion are on the rise. Approximately two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, up from half ten years ago. We present five strategies that point the way to the future.
Oslo Airport City: Removing stress from everyday routines
Development will begin next year on a smart city near the Oslo airport. Characterized above all by renewable energy and driverless e-vehicles, Oslo Airport City will have an area of 360 hectares and is expected to generate more energy than it consumes. Its planners are counting on geothermic systems and solar power from photovoltaic panels in the glass shells of the buildings. Surplus energy will be sold to adjacent communities. This intelligent city is designed for a population of 25,000. It will take 30 years to complete, but the first residents are expected in 2022.
Due to the city’s dense center, most destinations should be within walking distance, and stations for the driverless bus system no more than five minutes away on foot. Intelligent traffic control, real-time information on passenger volume in buses, and smart parking will minimize daily commute times. Street lighting will be regulated by computerized systems that also take environmental factors into account.
Steimker Gärten: Comfort for every lifestyle
Green, sustainable and intelligent: Since 2016, Volkswagen Immobilien has been developing a model urban district for electric mobility known as Steimker Gärten (Steimker Gardens). Located just ten minutes from downtown Wolfsburg, the 22-hectare area will have 1,250 residential units with electronically controlled ventilation, lighting, and locks. When the first foundations are laid for Oslo Airport City, the first residents of Steimker Gärten will already be moving into this new city quarter complete with shops, a senior residence and a childcare center.
Plans call for flexible and need-based transportation services – including electric cars, e-bikes and municipal buses. Mobility services will be connected with parking facilities too, enabling residents to quickly determine how best to reach their destinations. Fiber-optic cables and public Wi-Fi will ensure smooth data transfer. But planners do not want to use cutting-edge technology for transportation alone: “smart home” building automation, environmentally friendly power from photovoltaic systems and sustainable use of rainwater are also planned. And 95 percent of heating needs will be met by a combined heat-and-power system.
Santander: Sensor-based urban efficiency
The northern Spanish city of Santander is a European pioneer in smart-city strategies. One of the first steps in the “SmartSantander” project was taken in 2010 to improve public transportation to outlying neighborhoods. Residents can use a SmartSantander app that tells them when the next bus will arrive for their exact location. Sensors register and send passenger volume data to a control center. When too many passengers have to stand, more vehicles are deployed, including some with hybrid drive systems. Sensors also help control traffic lights to benefit buses. The number of cars in the inner city has been declining for years.
Thanks to intelligent networking, the city is saving both resources and personnel costs. Hundreds of parking places are equipped with sensors, and an app informs drivers when they’re available. Garbage containers are also furnished with sensors that alert waste disposal personnel when they’re 90 percent full. Now, garbage trucks making superfluous trips when containers are only half full is as much a thing of the past as overflowing containers. When no pedestrians or cars are out in the middle of the night, street lights switch to energy-saving mode. And plants are only watered when sensors register moisture levels below a certain point.
Estonia: A country in the cloud
Successful smart-city strategies will bring lasting improvements to our lives – so why shouldn’t they also be applied to entire countries? Estonia is showing how that can work. With only 1.3 million people, it is admittedly only as large as an average major city. But Estonia leads the world in promoting digitalized smart-city projects. Estonians can vote online instead of going to polling stations. And because tax forms are already largely filled out in advance, no more than five minutes is needed to make the few remaining clicks. New companies can be registered in under 20 minutes. It’s no wonder that most of the population is leaving paper and pencil behind for such tasks. Future plans call for eliminating applications wherever possible, and child support payments will start flowing as soon as a child sees the light of day. As of late 2014, non-citizens have also been able to apply for “e-residency” status so they can use all the services with their virtual citizenship.
Tianjin: Smart-city model project
The technology and service provider Bosch is working together with Tianjin to turn this northern Chinese coastal metropolis into a smart city. With more than 15 million people, Tianjin is an industrial center and major transportation hub for the region around the Beijing delta. The “Smart Tianjin” initiative seeks to improve the quality of life and make the city more cost-efficient with the help of networked solutions for mobility, energy, buildings and safety. In addition to the intelligent linking of different means of transport, plans call for virtual power stations as well as energy storage systems and energy-efficient heating, hot water, and cooling facilities. Safety and security solutions include fire protection, access control and video surveillance. Bosch “smart home” technology will be used to connect household appliances and make everyday life digital and as easy as pie.