Kakšna bi naj bila mesta prihodnosti – izsledki konference Urban Futures

Iztok Kamenski Aktualno

V Berlinu je bila 25. in 26. novembra zanimiva konferenca z naslovom Urban Futures, katere udeleženci so razpravljali o različnih projekcijah razvoja mest v prihodnosti. Predstavniki vodilnih teoretikov iz vrst politikov, poslovnežev in raziskovalcev so na njej izmenjali svoja spoznanja in zamisli, podeljene pa so bile tudi nagrade trem najbolj inovativnim rešitvam. V prihodnosti se bodo razprave na to temo nadaljevale v okviru skupnosti inovacijskih partnerjev “Morgenstadt – City of the future”. Podrobnosti o obojem si preberite v nadaljevanju v angleškem jeziku.

Smart City – An urban paradise

Taking the Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF’s vision for the city of tomorrow (Morgenstadt) as their starting point, the expert network has been developing strategies for sustainable and intelligent urban development. Their objective is to create the “smart social city”, a central living space and economic environment for the 21st century. The underlying idea sounds sublime: Inhabitants of the city of the future will go to school, work, and enjoy their leisure time without these activities having any detrimental impact on the environment. And with access to clean water, healthy food, environmentally friendly energy, efficient transportation concepts, and good air quality, these modern smart citizens will have everything they need to live comfortably and shape their own urban habitat.

To make this vision a reality, interdisciplinary research teams are developing new concepts and testing the use of innovative technologies. Dutch scientists in Eindhoven, for instance, are working on strategies for emissions-free traffic, with plans to allow only electric vehicles (buses and cars) into the city center in the future. In the German cities of Chemnitz and Reutlingen, experts are investigating ways to capture visitor flows and road traffic data using an intelligent sensor network. Their system, which works a bit like a fitness tracker for cities, is intended to be used in the future to help urban planners avoid congestion and create shopping areas tailored to residents’ needs. In the Norwegian city of Stavanger, another interdisciplinary team examined the extent to which energy could be saved and medical care improved by enhancing links between companies, inhabitants and doctors. “Fraunhofer researchers are heavily involved in projects on both the German and European sides,” says Braun.

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Three winners of the “Call for Ideas” competition at Fraunhofer’s “Urban Futures” conference

As part of the Fraunhofer “Urban Futures” conference, ten selected young entrepreneurs and start-ups took to the stage to dazzle the jury and the audience with their innovative ideas. The finalists presented their concepts for the city of the future at an “idea pitch” event on November 25, 2015 to about 250 prominent representatives from municipalities, politics, business and research. The top three received a membership in Fraunhofer’s Morgenstadt innovation network, each of which is worth 25,000 euros.

“We were surprised and delighted by the variety of ideas pitched from Germany and around the world. All of the entries are excellent examples of young and forward-thinking entrepreneurs – the next generation of urban dwellers,” said Steffen Braun, who heads the Urban Systems Engineering competence team at Fraunhofer IAO.

First place went to Green City Solutions, a start-up that offers intelligent solutions in environmental services, clean tech and sustainable urban development. With their “CityTree,” Zhengliang Wu and his colleagues aim to better equip cities for the future and make them more appealing places to live. CityTree is the world’s first vertical, ecologically active communication space. It combines the latest Internet of Things technology with the natural ability of specially cultivated moss to filter particulate matter and nitrogen oxides out of the air, thereby ridding it of large quantities of CO2 equivalents. What’s more, relevant information can be displayed as text or images on CityTree’s green surface, and implementing an iBeacon QR code or an NFC makes it possible to transfer digital data.

Second place went to Sasan Amini and the team at ParkHere in Munich. ParkHere is a spin-off of the Technische Universität München and has developed the world’s first self-powered sensor system for parking solutions. The system plays an active role in reducing traffic, since it means drivers don’t need to endlessly circle the streets looking for a parking space. Towns and cities can also benefit from this solution as they think about how to manage their parking availability in the future. ParkHere allows them to efficiently design parking areas and manage all of them effectively. In spring of 2016, the start-up will face its first major test as the sensors are embedded in the streets for the first time, initially on charge spots for electric vehicles.

A business idea by Breeze in Hamburg won third place. Robert Heinecke’s team has set itself the goal of shaping the future of air quality monitoring, in order to help cities and companies create an environment worth living in. Founded in February 2015, this start-up develops smart sensor networks that monitor their surroundings. The environmental data they collect is then evaluated on a cloud-based analytics platform. One sensor for measuring air quality has already been made and is currently being used by a customer. Based on the data, users can derive recommendations for how to improve the environment. Compared to other solutions, Breeze costs less, takes up less space and is easier to use and integrate.

The ideas competition was sponsored by Fraunhofer’s Morgenstadt innovation network. “Entrepreneurs are our future,” emphasized jury member Alanus von Radecki, Fraunhofer IAO. “As a research institution, we’re happy to help new ideas get off the ground. Innovative concepts that connect the latest research with new approaches offer an ideal combination, especially for the cities of the future.”

About 50 ideas and projects were entered into the ideas competition. In addition to students and start-ups, other players such as cities, innovation agencies, creative thinkers, and SMEs were encouraged to present new concepts and ideas for revolutionary products, technologies or processes.

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