1. Trends, potentials and challenges
New technologies act as drivers for innovation in industry, giving new boosts for growth, productivity and the development of new markets. But intelligent technologies employed in the service sectors of cities and municipalities will also play an important role in improving people's quality of life. Already, many ideas plus fully developed concepts and strategies exist for the simplification and enhancement of all areas of life and work in "Smart Cities" through the use of ubiquitous intelligent technologies and services. The networking of excellence in this sector is creating a standard for ubiquitous services in NRW and raising the profile of the ICT expertise that exists in the state.
There are more than 250 Smart City initiatives all over the world. The approaches they adopt are very different. Some are promoted privately, while some are public. Sometimes, complete new cities are constructed as Smart Cities while, elsewhere, existing cities are "made intelligent". However, "Smart Cities" need a sharper profile. The reason for this is to make all parties who are involved in the added value process that leads to an intelligent city aware of the advantages and benefits available to them through participation in Smart City projects.
Residential concepts for the future require the involvement of design, building technology, marketing, materials science and other areas.
2. Aims and strategies for NRW
A Smart City brings the administration closer to its citizens, simplifies municipal transactions and speeds up communication. In North Rhine-Westphalia, this future is within direct reach. Municipalities are making impressive use of innovative administrative solutions. Furthermore, nationally publicised developments by firms, research institutions and municipalities show that the theme of Smart Cities is very much alive.
A municipality becomes a Smart City when there is above-average use of new applications and a general increase in networking. The new feature of these applications is, in particular, that they are based on ubiquitous network structures. This makes it possible for users to access all the resources in the network and, if necessary, to make contacts for communication purposes.
The IKT.NRW Cluster concentrates and coordinates Smart City players and competences in North Rhine-Westphalia in order to develop and market highly innovative ubiquitous services for all areas of life in towns and cities.
3. Main areas of work and projects of the cluster
Under the umbrella of the ICT.NRW cluster, the thematic network "Smart Cities" was instituted to encourage concrete joint activities and projects and to establish the collaboration of business, science and other players in this topic area on a sound and lasting basis.
The mainstay ICT segments are RFID, sensor networks and the Internet of Things. Then there are alternative broadband connections, convergent broadband networks and new, flexible software concepts such as SoA (service oriented architecture). Other themes such as IT security, geodata infrastructures and geodata-based applications may also be included, as can the relatively new theme, Green IT, which can no longer be ignored in the face of the current climate protection debate.
An Innovation Network, currently comprising eight medium to large-scale industrial enterprises, has been formed to work on the topic "Universal Home". This network works on the principles of the open innovation culture and has set itself the goal of generating cross-innovations on the basis of project business. The innovation network is moderated by Barbara Wendling, Zollverein Business.Service of the Zollverein Foundation.
The starting point was a scholarship competition held by the development company Zollverein in the years 2006/2007. Ten young international designers had developed their visions of transgenerational life together. Building on these, the network is now proceeding with the development of a 'living-feeling' concept, enriched by further aspects such as "Ambient Intelligence", Smart Homes, "Green Design", "Sustainable Design", "Green Building", "New Materials" and "Universal Design". The point here is not to continue the trend towards hyper-technologisation, but to find customer oriented solutions which are user friendly, but nevertheless innovative. The firms meet regularly for workshops and also work in smaller competence teams on special topics such as "touch-pad technology". The firm network has just granted a research contract on this subject to Folkwang Design. The following firms are currently taking part in "Universal Home": 3M, Gira, Miele, Poggenpohl, RWE, Schott, Vaillant and WMF. They are represented by their respective design and/or marketing and/or development managers. Institutional partners are the Folkwang University, Department of Design, the University of Gelsenkirchen, Department of Media Design and the Design Akademie Eindhoven.