The SmartCity Alliance is a newly founded business association that works to promote future-proof and sustainable cities along with the wellbeing of their inhabitants – but it also links up SMEs that are driving this development with intelligent solutions. In foreign markets in particular, many Swiss companies find their know-how to be a competitive advantage, says Franziska Steidle, co-founder of the SmartCity Alliance, in an interview.

Smart City Alliance

Ms. Steidle, the SmartCity Alliance was founded in the fall of 2019. What is the aim behind it?

Smart solutions don’t develop by themselves. The SmartCity Alliance gives a voice to companies and associations whose smart products and services contribute to the sustainable development of the economy, the environment and society. On the one hand, the association serves as a marketplace that brings together the providers of smart solutions and technologies with partners, customers and local authorities. Furthermore, the SmartCity Alliance fosters knowledge transfer from research and pilot projects and secures the involvement and the trust of the population.

A focus on people

We want to contribute to the sustainable development of safe and healthy living environments that boost quality of life for their inhabitants. The focus has to be on people here; otherwise even the best technology will come to nothing. At the same time, the association aims to generate crucial trust by reviewing the quality of the market offering. After all, smaller municipalities, for example, frequently do not have the expertise or the capacity to review multiple exciting new technologies and filter out the relevant solutions that cater to their needs and will stand the test of time. That’s where the SmartCity Alliance comes in. The rapid growth in members shows us that there is a huge need for our services and that we’re on the right track.

What is the role of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the development of intelligent cities?

The Swiss corporate landscape is marked by family-run as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises. They offer relevant technologies and products for a digitally networked – smart – infrastructure and are often international pioneers with their solutions. In the area of cleantech in particular, we see a major opportunity for Swiss SMEs, because a smart city is a sustainable city. The development of modern living environments can therefore only go hand in hand with climate-friendly technology and innovation.

Closing gaps and consolidating cooperation

One hurdle for SMEs is the lack of capacity to be able to address the overriding matter of the “smart city” in a targeted way, to develop corresponding partnerships and to carve out market access and contact with local authorities and cities both at home and abroad. That’s where we come in and close the gaps: What’s needed here is ecosystems made up of clever companies that work with infrastructure operators, cities and local authorities to initiate promising pilot projects and scale them. This also applies beyond the borders of Switzerland.

How else can the smart city movement help Swiss SME’s internationally?

Swiss companies and Swiss expertise on smart city topics are much in demand the world over. Switzerland is considered a model for high quality of life and smart solutions. In the Smart City Index 2019, for example, Zurich came in second place behind Singapore. Many Swiss cities have developed their own smart city strategy and have the infrastructure, such as a comprehensive fiber-optic network for example, to facilitate IoT-based products and services.

Cleantech is part of the ecosystem

This reputation is fueled, first of all, by the innovative technology and excellent quality of products and services – particularly in the area of cleantech. Just as important, however, is Switzerland’s pioneering role in the networking of private and public organizations. It is this ecosystem of businesses, associations and universities as well as cross-sector cooperation that are part of the success. This is the accumulated experience Swiss firms have to fall back on and with which they can take their know-how and expertise out into the world.

Could you give us a few examples?

Many of our members are active internationally with their smart solutions. Here are just a few examples:

Our member Miromico AG has teamed up with its partner Compsesa to organize the biggest IoT and LoRaWAN conference in South America in May. The ICA Conference will take place for the first time on May 29, 2020 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. A series of other Swiss companies will present their IoT and LoRaWAN solutions alongside Miromico, with invitations going out to all businesses or individuals who are developing, utilizing or marketing the LoRaWAN protocol in their current or future products.

Last November three of the SmartCity Alliance members exhibited in the Swiss pavilion at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona:

The Switzercloud is an IoT platform from ZENNER Connect which stores and processes all its data exclusively in Switzerland. Various integrators from Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy and other countries are making use of the smart Swiss platform and thus realizing IoT solutions in the areas of smart city, smart buildings, smart energy and other areas of application. As a market leader in street lighting, ELEKTRON recognized early on that lighting offers far more than just illumination. Aside from connecting the branches of the city from the center to the outerlying districts, street lighting also offers the ideal prerequisites to become carrier infrastructure for smart applications. Since February 2020 the Swiss technology firm has been working with Signify, the world’s leading supplier of lighting and illumination solutions, to link up and expand external lighting now throughout the German-speaking region. As an expert in innovative mobility solutions, Swisstraffic AG exhibited smart, multimodal traffic data recording systems 4.0 with embedded artificial intelligence software for real-time analysis that takes into account all data protection conditions. The Swiss SME is also active in Austria and France (with Orange) and thus contributes to the mobility of the future there too.  

How does the SmartCity Alliance collaborate with S-GE?

The SmartCity Alliance also supports Swiss businesses in their foreign trade, and the areas of smart city and cleantech can help to boost the reputation and pioneering role of Switzerland worldwide. Here, we are delighted to be collaborating with S-GE.
In an initial step, we had planned a collaboration at the
 Aussenwirtschaftsforum 2020 organized by Switzerland Global Enterprise. The SmartCity Alliance was to showcase a “Cleantech Talk” breakout session, and offer impulses and knowledge on the subject of “Smart cities – cross-sector, international growth opportunities for Swiss businesses”. At SmartSuisse Basel in March it was planned that, S-GE would be exhibiting on a joint stand with the SmartCity Alliance.

Currently we are collaborating on a joint study of the Smart City landscape and potential for future international opportunities.

We are sure there will be plenty more exciting opportunities for cooperation to come.



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