Tag Archive for: Smart City

Of digital natives and data-based services – BFH researchers at Connecta 2019

Swiss Post’s Connecta digital conference was a success on Tuesday with over 300 participants and more than 90 speakers from 12 countries. Everyyear,Connecta bringstogether experts in the field of digitalisation to exchange experiences and transfer know-how. The Bern University of Applied Scienceswas also prominently represented with four experts from the Departments of Business and Technology and Computer Science. This year’s Connecta made one thing clear: despite digitalisation, personal exchange is obviously still very much in demand. More than 90 speakers presented trends, developments and experiences from the broad field of digitalisation in well-attended plenary sessions and workshops. It was no longer just about online trade – which Swiss Post had focused on when it launched Connecta three years ago. Fake science, cybersecurity and human-machine interactions were just some of the topics addressed at the conference in Bern.

It doesn’t always have to be “big data

Kim Tokarski, Head of Continuing Education at BFH Wirtschaft, addressed the audience at the beginning of his session on “Data-based service economy” with a question: “How do you decide? According to what guidelines and patterns?” It quickly became clear that many decisions are made intuitively – not least due to a lack of time. However, one basis for decision-making is always data analysis. “Here, the opinion often prevails that this analysis is expensive and time-consuming,” said Tokarski. “But that is no longer so absolutely true today.” He used various examples to show how added value can be created with simple, target group-specific applications. For example, one of Tokarski’s employees built a dashboard for a degree programme by means of which students can put together their desired study plan and immediately see whether there are time overlaps between individual courses. “It took an hour to build that,” he explained. “But the Department of Economics waited three years for it.” His conclusion: small is beautiful. “Sometimes very simple things are enough to improve something. That’s how you create customer satisfaction.” And he also encouraged his audience to put aside any shyness they might have about data solutions. “We have had people who have never had anything to do with IT. After two days, they could build a simple dashboard.”

Privacy worth protecting

When it comes to data, the question of security is not far away. This was the question addressed by Eric Dubuis, head of the Computer Science Department and the Research Institute for Security in the Information Society (RISIS) at BFH Technik und Informatik. “Privacy is part of IT security,” he stressed. “And we must not capitulate in this regard.” His message: “Reconciling data security and privacy is sometimes difficult, but doable,” he said. He used public transport to show how this could work. Today, everyone can still decide for themselves whether to buy their ticket anonymously at a ticket machine or use applications such as fairtiq or lezzgo, thereby automatically revealing personalised information about their respective whereabouts to the respective providers. In the future – Dubuis predicts – using public transport may only be possible with a smartphone. “We therefore looked for solutions that would not allow providers to personalise the tracking of users.” The BFH researchers found what they were looking for with a combination of two IT building blocks, namely group signature and homomorphic encryption. This makes it possible to determine which services a commuter has received, but not at what time he was where. Tracking would thus be depersonalised. His conclusion: “In order to be able to exploit the positive sides of digitalisation, new solutions are often needed

Connected cities

New approaches are also needed when it comes to the city of the future. Stephan Haller from the Institute Public Sector Transformation at BFH Wirtschaft showed where the digital transformation is leading us in his workshop “On the way to the digital city”. Among other things, Haller has worked on a European-Japanese research project on “smart cities”. “When we talk about ‘smart cities’, there are two visions,” he said at the beginning of his presentation. “In one, everything is green and peaceful, everyone is happy. On the other side, there is total surveillance of the citizen, a punitive system for misbehaviour – no one really wants to go there.” Rather, he says, it is about increasing the quality of life. “That’s why it’s not just a technology issue,” says Haller. “The technology is just there to support it.” The digital transformation affects the whole of society, but it is in the cities with their increasing population that many challenges manifest themselves first, such as environmental pollution and resource consumption. That is why research is also focusing on cities. In Switzerland today, many cities are on the way to becoming a “smart city”, but they often remain stuck in individual pilot projects. “We have to get to the point where we learn from each other,” he said. “And also in terms of technical solutions. This will make municipalities less dependent on technology giants.” This networking idea is represented by various international and national platforms – in Switzerland, for example, the “smart city hub”. To Haller’s regret, only German-speaking Swiss cities are represented in the latter. On the other hand, efforts are underway to improve monitoring, i.e. to map what has already been achieved with regard to the smart city. “Tools for this are being developed,” says Haller.

How digital natives work

One population group is likely to be particularly involved in building the “city of the future”: The “digital natives”. They were the focus of Katinka Weissenfeld’s presentation. The BFH lecturer in project management asked whether those born after 1980 have heralded the end of project management. To illustrate this, she placed two employees of a company next to each other in a fictitious example, a young woman and an older man. This example quickly showed the problems that can arise when the two generations meet. “Digital natives expect work to be fun and meaningful. They work fast, independent of location and communicate directly,” says Weissenfeld. Multi-tasking is important, as is constant availability – there are no fixed working hours. Many projects, on the other hand, are characterised by rigid structures, clear hierarchies, predefined processes and budget plans as well as method fetishism. “This is not where the digital natives find themselves,” Weissenfeld emphasised. Rather, digital natives orient themselves to the guiding principles of the “agile manifesto” (which originates from computer science). They are:

  1. The individual is above processes.
  2. The system is central.
  3. The customer’s well-being is above the conclusion of a contract, which means that work can begin even if a contract has not yet been concluded.
  4. And finally: change is desired.

So is classic project management a relic of bygone times? Weissenfeld answered this question diplomatically: “No, digital natives do not stand for the end of project management but for the dawn of agile project management.”

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How Lenzburg is becoming a smart city

The city of Lenzburg is solving more and more offers in a digital way. On the topic of Smart City, the city is launching a specialist series specifically for this purpose, as our author Dominik Grögler writes. How can small and medium-sized cities advance digitalisation and benefit their citizens? How can internal city processes be improved and automated? What potentials are opening up with regard to sustainable and resource-saving urban development?

Figure 1: savisio works with a city to determine which problems need to be solved, which technologies are available and which projects are currently being implemented. savisio finds suitable partners from industry and research and forms project teams and working groups to develop solutions. The working groups AG Technik and Projektteams develop solutions and present them at the symposia.

These and other questions are answered in the annual Smart City Lenzburg series with concrete implementation projects. The starting point for the specialist series is the problems and challenges of small and medium-sized towns. For the first event, this is the town of Lenzburg. The problems to be solved are jointly defined in several workshops. Savisio AG then brings together experts from industry and research and puts together working groups. These work out generic proposals for solutions and present them at a specialist conference using implemented application examples. The symposia are held every year in Lenzburg; the first symposium will take place on 28 May 2020 in Lenzburg Castle. The target groups of the symposium are decision-makers, specialists and project managers from public administrations (Confederation, cantons, municipalities) as well as partners from industry and research. The participants of the conference will be informed in advance about the problems and solutions by means of interactive online sequences. At the conference, participants will have the opportunity to test the applicability of the solutions to their own problems in workshops and to provide input for the follow-up phase. Currently, four working groups are working on the following problems:

  1. Payment solution: The various services of the town of Lenzburg, from swimming pool admission to refuse collection and parking, can be used today via different payment solutions. This causes a lot of administrative work, is expensive and unattractive for users.
  2. Mobility: The traffic routes in the town of Lenzburg are heavily congested. Weather-dependent excursion points and events cause short-term congestion. One of the causes is traffic searching for parking spaces.
  3. Environment / energy: The town of Lenzburg would like to further promote sustainability and energy efficiency, curb light pollution and optimise the operation and maintenance of the facilities while maintaining or increasing safety.
  4. Data: Lenzburg has many different systems in use with many different types of data. Many of the systems are proprietary, and data sovereignty is often unclear. Systems for the collection, processing and use / provision of the data as well as the formal and legal foundations are not in place.

Figure 2: The first three symposia 2020 – 2022 are accompanied by the working groups People (M) and Organisation (O).

Over the period of the first three symposia, the effects on people in the world of work (M) and on organisations (O) will be examined on the basis of predefined questions, starting with the respective technological solutions (T). The motivation of this MTO approach is to gain insights and to develop and derive assistance from them so that people and organisations can shape change processes or approach them prepared.

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September issue: An ecosystem is essential for the establishment of smart cities

A few years ago, the MIT scientist Otto Scharmer coined the expression or rather the demand“from ego-system to eco-system”. He was referring primarily to macroeconomic aspects and postulated that in order to master today’s major challenges (climate change, poverty, financial crisis, etc.), a change in thinking was necessary: away from a focus on one’s own advantage and towards a holistic way of thinking. This demand can also be applied to the smart city context. In an earlier article, we had already postulated the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach, albeit without using this term. On the one hand, this applies within the city itself, where not only the individual departments should network and seek cooperation, but where the participation of companies, social institutions and residents is also practised. Kerry O’Connor, Chief Innovation Officer of the city of Austin in Texas, illustrated this very well in a recent lecture in Bern entitled Smart City: From Ego-System to Eco-System. But this also applies to networking and the exchange of experience between cities. Laurent Horvath, Smart City Manager of Carouge, also uses the terms “ego-system” and “eco-system” in his description of the 5 stages that a city typically goes through in its Smart City development process. From his point of view – and I can only agree with this – it only becomes really interesting when a city has internalised the ecosystem approach. There are a number of organisations and forums around the world today where cities can exchange ideas. In Europe, but also beyond, this is especially the Open and Agile Smart Cities Initiative(OASC). From Switzerland, the cities of Carouge and Geneva are also active there. However, OASC offers more than just an exchange of experience; it also promotes the dissemination of standards in order to achieve more interoperability and vendor independence. To this end, it has also defined so-called“Minimum Interoperability Mechanisms” (MIM) on three levels: APIs, (semantic) data models and marketplace integration. In Switzerland, the exchange of experience between cities mainly takes place via the informal IG Smart City, which was set up by the Federal Office of Energy, and via the Smart City Hub Switzerland association, which was founded in 2018 and to which the larger cities in German-speaking Switzerland in particular have joined. In this issue, you will find two articles on two new activities in the start-up phase that further expand the Swiss smart city ecosystem. In the first article, Dominik Grögler describes the new specialist series “Smart City Lenzburg”. In this specialist series, concrete problems in the areas of payment systems, mobility, energy & environment and data are tackled and discussed at an annual specialist conference. The first conference in this series will take place in Lenzburg in May 2020, and then in other cities in subsequent years. In the second article, Enrico Baumann, CEO of Elektron AG, talks about the Smart City Alliance. As a counterpart to the Smart City Hub, this alliance is intended in particular to promote the networking of technology and solution providers and contribute to the establishment of a Smart City marketplace. I wish you an interesting read.

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How a Smart Building Enables New Ways of Teaching and Learning: An Example from Tokyo

Commonly smart buildings are mainly associated with using ICT in order to make a building more energy-efficient. But this is only one aspect – albeit an important one. A smart building offers many more possibilities, like more flexible usage of the spaces in the building, or new forms of interaction between people or with the building itself. A particularly interesting aspect is the use of a smart building in educational institutions, as such buildings enable new forms of teaching and learning. The recently opened Faculty of Information Networking for Innovation and Design (INIAD) at Toyo University in the Akabanedai town of Tokyo exemplifies very well the impact that a smart building can have on these activities.

The peculiar design of the new HUB-1 building, with its particle-like flapping panels and the combination of wood, aluminium and concrete, immediately catches the eye. It was architected by the renowned Kengo Kuma, whose works also include the ArtLab at the EPFL in Lausanne as well as the new National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Kuma’s designs often feature this mixture of traditional materials with modern and functional architecture, combining it in new and sometimes surprising ways. The design is particularly matching for the curricula taught at INIAD. INIAD aspires to prepare young people to tackle the issues of the digital society. Data, networks and information exchange play a crucial role in the digital society, and computer science – and in particular the Internet of Things (IoT) – are the foundational topics that are taught at INIAD. However, limiting education just to computer science is too limited and would risk resulting in a too technocratic society. Interdisciplinarity and a holistic approach are important if society wants to be able to address the global challenges it faces. The curriculum at INIAD thus combines science education with humanities and arts. So like the HUB-1 building is combining tradition with modernity, so is the curriculum combining several fields of study: modern computer science with more traditional studies in humanities and arts.

Figure 1: The INIAD HUB-1 building from the outside

The HUB-1 building has been designed as a smart building in several ways. Firstly, smartness is in the architecture itself, reducing the energy needs of the building. Secondly, the building is full of networking and approximately 5’000 IoT devices used not only in the operations of the building, but also directly in research as well as in teaching. With his 30+ year-long background as a leading researcher in IoT and ubiquitous computing, Professor Ken Sakamura was responsible for the interior of the building as well as the IT equipment and networking architecture, and thus designed the building equipment so that it could fit those purposes. The building is in effect a real-world IoT installation, and it can be used as a research and test lab to study how IoT can be used to facilitate life, but also to discover and overcome challenges in the daily use of IoT.

In this article though, we’d like to focus on how such building changes how students are taught. The use of the “Flipped Classroom” model, where students study the theory by themselves using video lessons and other online information sources and where classroom lessons are used for coached practical exercises deepening the understanding how the theory is applied, as well as massive open online courses (MOOCs) that have gained a lot of interest in the last few years. At INIAD such teaching models are also applied, supported by the HUB-1 building. Instead of using large audience halls as in traditional universities, most lecture rooms here are small to enable coaching of student groups, lively and focused interactions between the students but also between students and teachers. Students bring their own laptops or tablets to access all information needed. Whiteboards are not needed, rather the network allows the students to follow the lecture on their devices, and to take individual notes on their copies of the teaching materials. The same concept is also applied at the library: There are no paper materials at all (!); the shelves were created to stress this shift of paradigm. Instead of having many physical books standing around on bookshelves, making it hard to find what one is looking for, tablet displays are used to give access to all materials. This allows keeping the physical library small, freeing space for other usage, without limiting the available sources of information.

Figure 2: A typical classroom, the networked library with tablet displays, and room directions projected onto a wall

All equipment in the building is networked, also for example the lights, and APIs are available to control its behavior. So in addition to the online information access just described, students in a programming class are able to interact with the building directly. As students are learning how to program against APIs, they can, for example, turn on and off lights in the classroom from their computer. Students can thus immediately observe the effects of their programs. The learning experience through effecting change in the physical environment with immediate feedback is more fun for the students, but not just that: It also leaves a deeper impression and strengthened skills.

Walls in a smart building are more than physical structures that keep the roof from falling down or divide the space into different rooms. Walls can become information displays as well as interaction spaces by using projectors as well as sensors and cameras that detect what people are doing. A simple example of this in HUB-1 is the possibility to project the directions to a room with arrows etc., guiding new visitors to where they need to go. (See Figure-2)

To summarize, the INIAD HUB-1building is an excellent example of the possibilities a smart building offers, not only regarding the minimization of resource usage, but also regarding changes in teaching and learning, preparing the people for the digital society. The technology and networking equipment provides a foundation for supporting modern curricula, but it should also enable future usages that we are currently not yet envisaging. It will be interesting to see how the building and its usage changes as the digital society is maturing.

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Data as an innovation driver of the smart city

Data has already been called the “oil of the 21st century”. But data will also form the basis for many processes in the intelligent city of the future – the smart city. This will require a platform in which data from a wide variety of sources – sensors and the Internet of Things, open data, government data, data from social media and other third-party providers – can be processed, linked and analysed to extract valuable information and make it available as Linked Open Data. Based on this, both cities and private providers can offer new-value applications and services; the platform thus becomes a location factor and an innovation driver. With increasing digitalisation, society is facing new challenges. At the same time, increased urbanisation is taking place. The societal challenges thus manifest themselves most clearly in the city: densification, public transport, efficient use of resources such as energy and water, security, and – central to the city dweller – improvement of the quality of life. It is therefore worthwhile to address the societal challenges in the urban environment first; a recent OECD study (OECD, 2015) also refers to “cities as hubs for data-driven innovation”. A research project coordinated by the BFH called “City Platform as a Service – Integrated and Open”, or CPaaS.io for short, was launched in July 2016. The project is a collaboration between partners from Europe and Japan and is funded under Horizon 2020 and by the Japanese NICT. It aims to build a cloud-based platform for cities and urban regions that will provide the basis for urban data infrastructure and innovation. The need for such a platform is supported e.g. by a study (Vega-Gorgojo et al., 2015): The study emphasises that “the city will need platforms that support digitalisation and the use of data, culminating in Big Data”, and that “the smart city must work with platforms on which data can be analysed and shared with other sources” smart-city-innovation The goal of an innovation platform is ambitious. It is not just about realising a technical platform, or connecting complementary technologies such as the Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud. Other projects do that too. Smart City Innovation means that the platform, or new applications and services based on the platform, provide real added value for society and for the actors in the city – residents, visitors, private companies and the public administration. To achieve this, the platform must be open, both in terms of the integration of other data sources and the access of third parties to the data (keyword: open data), naturally in compliance with data protection. In the urban environment, the integration of open public authority data is of particular interest. The project benefits from the fact that more and more authorities are following this trend and publishing their data on open data portals – in Switzerland, for example, on opendata.swiss, but the city of Zurich is also one of the pioneers in this field. CPaaS.io will go one step further here and also make the relevant data available as Linked Data. This means that the data is semantically annotated and also provided with metadata, e.g. on the provenance and quality of the data. Only this enables a simplified machine integration and use of the data in further applications. This can be used during large events, for example: In which direction do streams of visitors move? How has public transport been adapted to the current situation? How is the system reacting to dangerous situations, accidents, weather conditions, etc.? In order to identify beneficial applications for society, to implement them in the project, and thus to be able to validate the benefits of the platform, the involvement of cities is of central importance. To this end, the project has been able to initiate cooperation with several cities that already have experience in the areas of Open Data or Smart City. In Europe, these are Amsterdam, Murcia and Zurich, and in Japan Sapporo, Yokosuka and Tokyo. Field trials are planned in several of these cities. We are convinced that the longer we have more and more data, the more important it becomes to be able to master the social and economic challenges. Based on data infrastructures like the ones CPaaS.io will deliver, new applications and services will be offered and transparency will be increased. And for cities, this will become an important location factor, because innovative companies will prefer to settle where such platforms are available that they can use to provide their services.

Project details Duration: 30 months. Partners: Bern University of Applied Sciences, AGT, NEC, Odin Solutions, The Things Network, University of Surrey, YRP Ubiquitous Networking Laboratory, ACCESS Co, Microsoft Japan, Ubiquitous Computing Technology Corporation, University of Tokyo. Acknowledgements logo-eu The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement n° 723076) and NICT in Japan (Management Number 18302).


  • OECD (2015). Data-Driven Innovation: Big Data for Growth and Well-Being. Paris: OECD Publishing, p. 379ff.
  • Vega-Gorgojo, G., et al. (2015). Case study reports on positive and negative externalities. EU FP7 Project BYTE, pp. 141 & 138.
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