Smart Cities: a bunch of opportunities
From efficient streetlights to intelligent parking systems, Deutsche Telekom is a leading provider of “smart city” solutions. We spoke with Ralf Nejedl, Senior Vice President of B2B and ICT at Deutsche Telekom, about the groundbreaking urban services made possible by combining European Union financing with our innovative applications.
How does a city become a “smart” one?
Every city is unique, with its own history and character. For example, does it position itself as a business location or a cultural metropolis? Smart city solutions must take into account the different motivations, requirements, limitations, and challenges a city faces and they must support its overall strategy. So, being “smart” means something different for each city.
How does Deutsche Telekom approach smart city projects?
Again, that depends on the city but our ultimate goal is to create solutions that will improve public services and economic development, and thus the lives of citizens and visitors alike with the help of available EU funding. We believe that this combination is the key to a successful, fast, and cost-effective implementation of smart city applications across Europe. Our vision is to be nothing less than the premier provider for smart city solutions.
For example, our colleagues at Telekom Romania are already in discussions with the local authorities to create a sustainable strategy for smart cities across Romania. In partnership with Smart Sun Solutions, we’ve rolled out a pilot project in the city of Timisoara for a “digital tree”, which is a solar charger for mobile devices with internet Wi-Fi connectivity. And Telekom Romania is also pursuing Parking PLUS, an intelligent parking solution that identifies in real-time the closest available parking space that can be reserved and paid for via mobile. Parking PLUS was the Romanian winner of Deutsche Telekom’s international Business Wall of Fame IoT competition this year. Other examples of our Smart City solutions include a street lighting project in Dubrovnik, Croatia or a traffic management and passenger information system in Budapest, Hungary.
How can cities tap into EU funds to help with their smart city investment?
EU funds for infrastructure-related smart city solutions, such as intelligent lighting, are covering anything from 40 percent up to 100 percent of the investment needed to complete these projects. It is therefore important for cities to know about the availability and understand the prerequisites for EU funding in order to maximise the benefits for their citizens while minimising their own investment. Based on our experiences so far, cities are not yet fully aware of these opportunities and they often rely on our support and expertise to help them step into a connected future.
What are generally the biggest challenges for smart city projects?
A major challenge is that the initiatives of individual departments within a city administration cannot remain cut-off from one another. They must be connected in order to realise the full potential of the Internet of Things and create synergies. These include not only cooperation between different departments but also participation of citizens in innovation process. To achieve this, open platforms and open standards must be used. That is the only way to ensure that people and city data remain combinable in the long-term.
From a technological perspective, cities need an IP-based, open, scalable and extendable horizontal architecture that enables any authority, citizen and vendor to dock onto it. Proprietary protocols and data formats need to be avoided.
Pilot projects provide an opportunity to test smart city solutions on a small scale and get an idea of their impact. Several configurations can be tried out without running the risk of interrupting public services. During the testing phase, individual requirements can be identified and transferred to a larger project. What’s more, such pilot solutions are regularly funded and supported by national and supranational institutions like the European Union. In this way, cities establish an open infrastructure for testing a wide variety of applications.
In which areas can smart cities solutions have the biggest impact?
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and smart street lighting rank among the most promising and beneficial infrastructure projects for connected cities. Conventional street lighting, for example, accounts for more than 40 percent of a city’s energy expenditures. By using an appropriate smart city application – such as a combination of LED lights with intelligent management solutions – they can cut their electricity costs by between 30 and 70 percent and their maintenance costs by 10 percent. Citizens also derive direct benefit from smart lighting concepts. Streetlights are generally seen as an important security aspect as they can both prevent accidents as well as reveal sources of danger.
Deutsche Telekom already offers a number of ITS and smart lighting solutions in Europe and beyond. However, we are also looking into other smart city applications including public safety, with video surveillance as one of the key areas, as well as water and waste management.
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