Cleantech Market Intelligence
In Germany, the Future City Takes Shape
Friedrichshafen, a town of 60,000 people in southern Germany, is probably best known as the location of the original Zeppelin factory. It is also home to one of the most interesting and long-standing of smart city pilots. T-City Friedrichshafen is a program developed by Deutsche Telekom and the city council as a showcase for advanced information and communications technologies and the way they can transform urban living. The program began in 2007 with the deployment of a state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure for fixed-line and mobile communications. Since then, around 40 projects have been implemented covering six project areas. A second phase of the project has now been launched, focusing on three core themes: energy, mobility, and health. The new phase will see T-City engaging with some of the core challenges around the smart city concept, particularly the need for closer integration across services and industries.
Energy efficiency in the form of smart meter and smart home pilots has been one of the key programs in the first phase of the project. Deutsche Telekom worked with the local utility to deploy smart meters across two city districts. The second phase will focus more on integrated smart grid projects, including virtual power plants and smart grid integration with PVs, micro CHP, and heat pumps in the home.
As well as new energy projects, the next phase of T-City will also include a broader range of e-mobility projects, in particular a ‘triple-play’ approach combining communications, transport, and energy. Deutsche Telekom is working with Deutsche Bahn, the German railway operator, to provide a fleet of around 30 electric vehicles that will be available for hire within the town. As with many EV and smart grid pilots around the world, the goal is to better understand the interplay between mobility patterns, energy savings, and grid optimisation in the context of large-scale distributed energy production (Freidrichshafen already has a large number of solar PV deployments). One of the most interesting aspects of the project is the integration with public transit systems: Deutsche Bahn is providing an integrated ticketing and booking scheme that will allow passengers to book their EV at the same time as they pay for their ticket from say Munich or Hamburg.
T-City stands out amongst smart city pilots for the scope of the projects and the long term partnership that has been established between the local council and Deutsche Telekom. During a recent visit to Friedrichshafen, I saw one of the smart home installations. This was in the home of what are called ‘Futurists’, town residents who are piloting a range of innovative technologies and services and also acting as advocates and communicators for the project within the community. The system I saw included smart metering and consumption monitoring for electricity, gas, and water, temperature monitoring and controls, integrated home entertainment, and a security system. Despite teething problems with the system, the homeowner was evidently pleased with the level of visibility and control it provided. The fact that the system had become part of the furniture is probably the biggest vindication of its usefulness. However, the need to regularly replace batteries in 90 sensor devices presents a good argument for the value of energy harvesting.
The enthusiasm of the Futurists is encouraging, but it also has to be noted that for most of the citizens of Friedrichshafen life has not changed as much as the initial hype might have suggested. The need to manage expectations has been one of the major lessons of the project. City management in a relatively affluent community like Friedrichshafen is largely about the mundane but important issues of public safety, social services, clean streets, and available parking. The transformation of the city in terms of transport systems, energy conservation, and the redesign of the home environment is a slow process. For the vast majority of citizens the creation of the smart city is a slow, evolutionary process, not a revolution.