Hamburger Hafen © E. Recke

Hamburg takes top position as digital city

HWWI presents smart city survey. Hamburg promoting progress with landmark projects, including smartPort activities

Among German cities, Hamburg is taking a pioneering role in the digitisation of urban life, which is having a positive impact on the region’s attractiveness and economic performance, a study entitled “Hamburg – on the road to becoming a smart city” published by the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) on behalf of Haspa, Hamburg’s largest savings institute, has found. Creating a positive investment climate for digital projects and ensuring widespread public acceptance is important for the future. The greatest effects can be achieved in transport, energy and management.

Custom-tailored app improves ship traffic

“Today, the digitisation of the living and working environment is a key factor in the competitiveness of cities”, said Prof. Dr. Alkis Otto, who led HWWI’s study. “As Hamburg wants to grow, it must make every effort to continue on this successful path.” Expanding digital information services, intelligent traffic and parking management systems to ease circulation in urbanised areas are just some of the sectors designated for action. A smart transport concept is being tested in the port of Hamburg at present. Sensors, intelligent street lighting and an advanced traffic control system have been set up with the IT service provider Cisco. As part of the smartPort, trucks and ships are now benefiting from real-time traffic information on apps and intelligent infrastructure (DIVA) in the port.

GDP to grow by 2 per cent

Hamburg also needs districts where work and life move closer together, according to Otto. He noted: “Wider streets and underground lines are helpful, but fewer and shorter ways would be even better.“ Apart from home offices, companies should also offer commuters office centres on the outskirts of Hamburg. “The infrastructure is there”, says Otto. And this would have huge economic effects. If the locals worked in such areas and did not have to spend hours stuck in rush hour traffic jams, the gross domestic product of the city would increase 2 per cent annually. “The number of 320,000 commuters is already high, and will continue to rise, if it is not counteracted.” Air quality and noise levels are also key to the quality of life in cities. As motorised road transport causes 70 per cent of transport-related CO2 emissions, every step towards “smart mobility” is important, according to the study.

Intelligent street lighting

In addition to transport, energy production, distribution and consumption are crucial to growing cities. According to HWWI, promising approaches include linking consumption and production through “smart home” technologies. Decentralised, green energy production near residential areas should be another objective, which compensates load variations and reduces line losses. Field studies have shown that these “smart grids” allow households to reduce their energy consumption by up to 13 per cent annually, and even moreso in the commercial sector. “Smart energies offer huge potential for the quality of life in Hamburg in the long term. Intelligent street lighting, for instance, not only reduces energy consumption and light pollution, but also adapts to the level of traffic and increases road safety”, said Otto.

Civic transparency platform

Digital innovations are reliant on broad public acceptance. HWWI recommends involving the population and the economy as much as possible. “The city needs the technological know-how and the investment capacity of companies to provide and operate the smart infrastructure, but should not be dependent on individual technologies or just a few companies. A regulatory framework and openly accessible information are key preconditions for competition and efficiency.” With its transparency portal as a public platform for municipal data and documents, and the online services of Hamburg’s administration (Hamburg Gateway), the Hanseatic city boasts exemplary bases for civic participation, and a powerful interface connecting citizens, administration and businesses. However, Hamburg still has huge potential for a digital-based ideas and complaints management.

Think tank & discussion platform: the Hamburg FutureLab

The internet platform “Hamburg FutureLab” has been launched to stimulate and steer the smart city debate. Haspa and HWWI will be bundling their studies on and encouraging debates as well as linking them to other sources.

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