You need to have processes that are much smarter than in the past: Wolfgang Schmidt

 Goutam Das        Last Updated: February 24, 2015  | 19:30 IST
'You need to have processes that are much smarter than in the past'
The tipping point to call services smart started with the 'smartPORT' project in Hamburg.

Much of Hamburg's economy revolves around its port - the second-largest container port in Europe with over 9.4 million containers handled each year. While the port can't be extended, more containers need to be handled every year. Wolfgang Schmidt, State Secretary, City of Hamburg, tells Goutam Das about the city's 'smartPORT' initiative.

Q. What was the trigger for smart city initiatives?

A. The administration has to provide services in a way that is modern and online. There are challenges like traffic management, subway system, buses. It is now possible to provide in-time information to the customer. It is helping us improve the quality of the services and cope with increased amount of traffic in the city. One initiative is the 'smartPORT' initiative. We have to work with limited space because you cannot extend the port beyond city boundaries. If you want to handle more containers in the same amount of space, you need to improve the quality of the available space. You need to have processes that are much smarter than in the past. So is the case for traffic management, parking management, the handling of the container so that the truck driver knows when his container will be where and he can avoid unnecessary traffic jams. The city is growing. People are coming to Hamburg. We cannot expand - we have our boundaries. We have to grow within the city. We have to become more productive and smart.

Q. What was the starting point?

A. Many initiatives were taken in previous years but nobody called it "smart city". The tipping point to call services smart started with the 'smartPORT' project - how we can make use of Internet of things in the port is one issue.

Q. Do you see results?

A. In the port it is working - traffic management for truck drivers. Nowadays, everybody has a tablet or a smartphone. We provide information on bottlenecks, construction work, where their containers are to be expected. In the city, when the bus approaches, the traffic lights automatically go green. Then there is real-time traffic information on the arrival time of the train, of the bus. It takes into account traffic jams. The last thing is 'Switchh Hamburg'. This is an app which has been integrated into mobility. If you want to go from point A to point B, it shows you the route. It gives you car sharing options and connects you automatically with the car sharing software. It also connects you to a taxi application. It gives you options of transportation and an estimate of the price.

Q. How are the smart city projects financed?

A. It is a healthy mix. You have private money. In the case of some public transportation initiatives, it has to do with money of our public transportation company, wholly state-owned. But there is private capital that can be used.

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