In the early 21st century the concept of Smart Cities has emerged. With the increase in urban challenges such as population growth and environmental concerns, holistic and sustainable solutions, which likewise support and grow the economy, have been longed for. Governments, corporations and other stakeholders around the world are starting to understand how these project and environmental driven solutions address the challenges of planning, managing and governing todays cities.
Urbanization and fast development of the ICT sector
The movement towards the concept of Smart Cities is attributed to two major trends: Urbanization and the fast increasing development of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Nowadays, 90% of the globe’s households have a mobile phone. The urban residents are becoming increasingly connected with the cities allowing technology to create this new, fast moving concept. Hence, Smart Cities intend to solve urban life problems while focusing on sustainable solutions which ultimately leads to a higher quality of life.
With an increasing number of cities intending to fulfill this transformation, Swiss companies face great opportunities regarding investment, driven innovation (increased competitiveness), potential cost savings and the creation of clusters within the Smart Cities.
How Switzerland can support Germany
Switzerland has been named the most innovative country in the world eight times in a row by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Moreover, Switzerland is the world’s number 1 Artificial Intelligence (AI) country per capita and regularly ranks among the top countries for the number of patents filed per capital. The worldwide renown Swiss Federal Technology Universities ETHZ and EPFL, with many spin-offs, greatly contribute to the innovative mind set. Additionally, companies such as Google or IBM operating in Switzerland, enhance and challenge the skilled labor force on a global level even more.
Pilot project “Smart City Switzerland”
In 2012 a pilot project was launched by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy under the name “Smart City Switzerland” with the aim of bringing together Swiss universities of applied sciences, universities, public administrations and companies to rethink the Swiss urban environment. Today, more than 60 projects are currently in progress. Moreover, there is also a Smart City Hub encouraging and facilitating projects and scientific partnerships among different Swiss stakeholders.
Germany’s lethargic digital transformation
Germany has approximately 82.79 million inhabitants (2017), from which 77% live in urban areas and cities, which depicts a higher urbanization rate than most nations. It is anticipated, that the urban population will continue to expand, at four times the pace of overall total population growth in 2015-2030, to reach 64.8 million in 2030.
Although Germany is the economic power house of Europe, Germany is also one of Europe’s laggards when it comes to the development of Smart Cities and therefore, digitalization. The glass fiber penetration for fixed broadband lines was in 2017 astonishly low with 2.3%, compared to France 12.5% or Japan 76.7%. Reasons for Germany’s lethargic digital transformation can be attributed to several factors such as: lack of a clear strategy, lagging interest in automatisation & innovation, inexistence of holistic e-government system and cumbersome application process for federal funding. A conducted survey from 2018 among German companies revealed, that the greatest pain points for future growth are issues concerning road traffic, mobile communication & internet and logistics & transport – all issues that can be solved with Smart City solutions.
Opportunities for Swiss companies in the area of Smart Cities
Areas of Smart Cities opportunities and collaboration possibilities for Swiss companies in Germany can be (list not exhaustive) :
- Mobile Communication
- Internet of everything
- Big Data
- Cloud / Cloud computing
- Renewable Energy
- Public Transport
- 3D Printing
- Block chain technologies
- Cyber Security
- Social Robotics / Robotics
- Artificial Intelligence