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Element einer kinetischen Fassade und Modell "The Tree" © Yvonne Scheller

Simplicity is (sometimes) the mother of invention

Smart solutions at Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft’s second Cross Innovation Class

The pitches at the concluding presentation and award ceremony on January 30, 2020 at the designxport demonstrated great creativity and that out-of-the-box thinking works. Ten interdisciplinary student teams came up with smart city solutions as part of the Cross Innovation Class to make our cities more efficient, more technically advanced, greener and more socially inclusive. The Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft had brought together universities and practical partners to launch innovations with potential for economically viable ideas for business through a shift in perspective.

Fruitful interdisciplinary approach

Designers, programmers and audio-visual talent were combined into two teams for the Westfield Hamburg-Überseequartier to come up with innovative approaches to enhancing the quality of life. Their task involved taking Hamburg’s weather into account, i.e. use wind and rain as positive drivers in terms of the company’s mission to develop and operate flagship destinations.

Cross Innovation Class The Tree

“The Tree” and a kinetic façade

One team of students designed “The Tree”, an installation in the shape of a climbable artificial tree some six metres tall that serves as a rainwater filter. The three-phase filter system relies on mosses and woven material, leading the filtered water to taps where passers-by in Hafencity can help themselves. The second team created a kinetic façade. Individually controlled elements show different animations like the interplay of wind and water as a wave motion. One possible idea is interactive-responsive control reflecting the moods of those in the vicinity. This idea was awarded the “Best Design” prize for concept and realisation.

Five businesses, five universities

Five businesses were the “customers” for this year’s Cross Innovation Class. Alongside Westfield, the IT providers Dataport, Ströer, specialists in marketing online and outdoor advertising, the image processing systems company Vitronic with its focus on solutions for industrial and logistics automation and traffic control, and Remondis, one of the world’s largest service providers for recycling, service and water. The student teams were drawn from various disciplines in five universities: Akademie für Mode & Design, Fachhochschule Wedel, HafenCity Universität, HAW Hamburg and Leuphana Universität Lüneburg.

Audience participation with Mood Display

Cross Innovation Class Mood Display

Ten teams – two for each company – have been perfecting their projects since last October: Developing initial approaches with design-thinking processes, backing up their ideas with field research, creating prototypes and moving to the final product by means of feedback loops with the companies. Ultimately, they were able to present a broad spectrum of clever ideas at the designxport. These included a Mood Display (Ströer) that captures images of moods on the street from those killing time waiting in supermarket queues or at the airport. This idea was awarded the public’s prize.

Traffic safety

Cross Innovation Class App Saflr

The prize for the “Best Interdisciplinary Collaboration” went to the app “Saflr – alles im Griff” by Dataport. The product, a combination of app and vibrating handlebar grip, warns the cyclist of accident hotspots. The two Vitronic teams concentrated on weaker road-users in particular, developing smart street lighting that detects people and animals and reacts with more light. This won the prize for the “best technical implementation” and the “SilentGuide” for the visually impaired.

SilentGuide – product with potential

Cross Innovation Class SilentGuide

Traffic lights these days have acoustic signals. Low frequency signals help find the traffic light and higher frequencies signal the green phase for pedestrians. But constant signals are both unnecessary and lead to noise pollution, according to the team. Their SilentGuide, which combines a sensor in a white stick and a responder in the traffic light, switches on the signal only when needed. “This idea could be extended to bus stops with an additional audio function announcing the approaching buses’ routes,” the jury found when awarding the prize for the “best smart solution”.

Suspense – will the prototype work?

The Remondis team was singled out for the “Best Pitch” for their self-sorting refuse bin. Cameras at the opening of the bin recognise different types of refuse, guiding paper, glass and cans to the right containers. The hall went silent as the device went through its brief “decision phase” before a burst of applause when it got it right.

Satisfied partner companies

How did the partner companies, hoping for a new perspective on their products from the collaboration, view the results of “their” teams? There was widespread enthusiasm at the designxport, with opinions ranging from “huge success” and “lots of fun” to satisfaction at the “concrete and not merely theoretical results”.

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