Smart City: The Concept of a Networked City

Smart traffic control and lighting, automated waste disposal, and innovative infrastructure: smart city concepts offer a high quality of life and promote sustainability.

Smart home, smart building, smart city concepts: digitization, new technologies and innovative processes are helping to make our buildings and cities more efficient, more advanced and more ecological. The digital transformation in the real estate sector, also known as PropTech, benefits both the real estate industry and every individual. digitalBAU 2024 examines the transformation of our cities.

Urbanization as a megatrend

Urbanization is one of the megatrends of our time. By 2050, 6.4 billion people are expected to populate our cities. They all long for a place where living, work and leisure can be optimally combined with each other. For this to work, the city of the future will not only have to create more space in a limited area. It must also offer its residents new business, residential and mobility models. It needs networked buildings and infrastructures as well as a superordinate network with which digitization and sustainability issues can be tracked, controlled and optimized. In other words, the smart city concept is gaining ground.

© Messe München GmbH

What is a smart city?

But what does “smart city” actually mean? By definition, the term describes a city that becomes more efficient, more ecological, more progressive and thus more livable through digitization and innovative concepts in the social, technical, economic and societal spheres. The focus is not only on individual networked and sustainable buildings, where, for example, the building life cycle is based on the closed-loop principle.

All processes in the real estate industry are also being digitized under the term “PropTech” (Property Technology). Every aspect of urban coexistence is controlled in a digitally networked manner and optimized holistically. This is implemented in new construction measures as well as through refurbishment with digital technologies.

The smart city concept

A holistic smart city concept consists of six building blocks (source).

  • Smart environment
  • Smart governance
  • Smart economy
  • Smart mobility
  • Smart living
  • Smart people

© Messe München GmbH

In the smart home, for instance, the digitally trained person uses networked household appliances with a high level of user friendliness. The smart city is based on a similar concept, only on a larger scale: the city of the future relies on innovative economic power and optimum environmental and climate protection concepts. Energy, urban planning, administration and communication are networked with forward-looking technologies and mobility concepts as well as energy-efficient construction methods. Infrastructure issues such as waste management, air pollution control, and traffic safety are also considered proactively in a smart society. This improves the quality of life of the residents as well as the sustainability of the respective city.

If the smart city concept continues to develop in partnership, the city will eventually become a responsive city in which everyone participates and from which everyone benefits.

Strategies, portals and platforms

Support on the path to the future is provided by the Smart City Charter of the National Dialogue Platform Smart Cities, which was drawn up in 2017, the New Leipzig Charter, which was adopted in 2020, and the Data Strategies for common good-oriented urban development, published in 2021. With the help of these platforms and strategy concepts, municipalities can better analyze the technical infrastructure and other basic conditions of cities and communities and develop smart city concepts. The portal urban-digital also deals with projects, strategies and solutions relating to the digital city. The focus includes details such as building digital infrastructures with LoRaWAN and videos on smart cities and digital approaches along that path.

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The benefits of smart city concepts

Smart city concepts are creating cities that are both sustainable and livable. Added values of a digitally networked smart city include, for example:

  • Better mobility solutions
  • Improved health in the population
  • Higher security
  • Optimized use of energy
  • Resource conservation
  • An overall higher quality of life.

In practice, this can look like this: instead of having to set up a workroom in their own home, workers in a smart city rent their workstation in a co-working space in their immediate neighborhood. Guests are accommodated in the guest apartment of the residential complex; apartment bookings are made via an app. If, in addition, an electric car is available at the car-sharing station on your doorstep, or if the location is optimally connected to the public transport system, there is no need for you to park your own car in an expensive underground car park or in a narrow street. Thanks to the networked city administration, administrative procedures can be carried out from the comfort of one’s own computer, intelligent sensors monitor air quality in the city, and smart grid solutions optimize urban energy consumption.

Weaknesses of the smart city

A smart city has many advantages, but no serious disadvantages (source). However, as with every concept, there are also weak points in smart city concepts that should be eliminated as early as during the planning phase so that the result performs well in operation.

The focus here is primarily on the topic of safety. A digitally controlled city inevitably collects a lot of data that allows conclusions to be drawn about individuals as well as the infrastructure. Accordingly, without important security mechanisms, people, society and infrastructure are susceptible and vulnerable to cybercriminals. Unauthorized persons could, for example, manipulate sensors and control systems if they are not adequately protected. If digital encryption is missing or systems do not have adequate physical protection, they can be attacked and damaged by hackers.

In order to ward off cyber threats in good time, the digitized city and the smart city concept must therefore be subjected to continuous risk analyses so that countermeasures can be initiated in good time. Likewise, it is necessary to know about the technical capabilities of cybercriminals and to implement the appropriate security technologies in your own systems.

One of the most important vulnerabilities, however, concerns people themselves: on the one hand, a digitized system requires that users deal with it consciously and do not rely solely on data and analyses. On the other hand, the digitized city must focus on people and their concerns, not on technology.

Smart city: examples of cities of the future

A smart city from the drawing board: Songdo as an example

The planned city of Songdo in South Korea, for example, shows how all this can work in a city of the future. Here, highly digitized, LEED-certified smart buildings with efficient and sustainable energy generation, rainwater storage and wastewater recycling already exist. Waste is automatically removed with a high-tech system and then recycled. The Songdo lighthouse project, which has been developed since 2003 on the basis of sophisticated urban planning directly on the computer, is thus an example of the advantages and disadvantages of a smart city concept planned completely “on the drawing board”. The city is considered smart and efficient, with round-the clock monitoring, and is thus safe. But the city administration also faces criticism with regard to data protection, security and a feel-good atmosphere. Nevertheless, Songdo’s smart city concept is inspiring many cities and municipalities around the world and is also showing what can be done even better in the future.

On the way to “smartness”: Hamburg, Munich, Dresden, Stuttgart

In Europe, too, there are numerous examples of cities that are well on their way to becoming smart cities: among them are Barcelona and Amsterdam. But the German cities of Hamburg, Munich, Dresden and Stuttgart are also already implementing exciting concepts.

Hamburg, for example, has smart traffic control and digitization in administration.

Munichexcels in the areas of mobility and information and communication technologies.

As a smart city, Dresden relies on temperature sensors, among other things, to identify heat islands and enable concrete measures to reduce heat. Smart neighborhoods or AI-supported communication technologies to optimize mobility and energy storage are also part of the city’s portfolio.

And in Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart, for example, is pushing ahead with an intelligent emissions-based traffic control system with a particulate matter alarm, as well as sustainable living, such as in the Neckar Park district.

The smart city concept of Berlin

Germany’s capital Berlin also wants to be smart and livable. To this end, the German city with its over a million inhabitants is relying on three phases in the realization process.

  • In phase I, completed in May 2021, Berlin’s urban community developed an overarching strategic framework.
  • Phase II, which lasted until May 2022, focused on formulating the smart city strategy. The aim was to combine the smart city concept and the digital strategy into a strategy entitled “Gemeinsam Digital: Berlin”.
  • Phase III is currently underway and will continue until December 2026.

The main focus is on five pilot projects: Smart Space Hardenbergplatz, Data & Smart City Governance, using the example of air quality management, Smart Participation/Citizen Budget, water (the “Smart Water” project) and designing urban green spaces in a climate friendly way, as well as Kiezbox 2.0 (offers Wi-Fi hotspots in crisis situations).

This makes Berlin one of the many municipalities that are on their way to a smart future and have already developed or implemented the first complete neighborhoods and smart buildings based on integrated urban planning. One example is the “Urban Tech Republic” on the site of the former Tegel Airport, whose neighborhood concept combines ecological, economic and social aspects. Or the “Quartier Heidestrasse”, in which a 40-hectare area north of Berlin’s main train station is being transformed into a fully digitized, smart urban neighborhood for around 16,500 people.

Smart city concepts and digitalBAU 2024

The cities of tomorrow are connected, sustainable and practical. Discover today the many special features offered by smart city concepts and smart networked buildings. digitalBAU has its finger on the pulse and presents new concepts and ideas associated with urban planning, smart buildings and digital solutions.

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