Only as much light as is really needed – intelligent lighting in public spaces is now one of the characteristics of a smart city. Such applications are developed by Swiss SMEs, such as ELEKTRON AG , the market leader in street lighting – in conversation with its CEOEnrico Baumann. What does Smart City mean to you? The goal of a smart city is to conserve resources and increase the quality of life. But the term goes much further: because ultimately, the focus of the smart city discussion is on the sensible use of the new technologies. This means being ready for future challenges, especially in the context of population growth and increasing urbanisation. What does that mean in concrete terms for Switzerland, where do we stand? Switzerland is a small country in international comparison. We don’t have any really big cities. That’s why we also have less density stress. We are actually really spoiled, because our entire infrastructure is in good shape. But that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels: Switzerland is also growing and is inevitably heading for 10 million inhabitants. The issue is further exacerbated by increasing urbanisation and the resulting orphaning of remote peripheral regions. The targeted promotion of issues such as decarbonisation and the circular economy is therefore so fundamentally important for future generations. New technologies offer many opportunities to conserve resources and avoid waste. If we do not take action today, this development will not only harm the environment but also the national economy. What does Switzerland need in order to exploit the potential of smart cities? In Switzerland we have optimal conditions: very good SMEs, a large start-up scene and universities with a great reputation. Both the universities and the Federal Institutes of Technology as well as the universities of applied sciences are intensively researching solutions for the future. It is important that the topic of “sustainable development and maintenance of cities and municipalities” is also firmly anchored politically. Appropriate legislative goals and effective laws must be passed to ensure that the necessary measures are consistently implemented and enforced. The Federal Council has taken the lead, but now parliament must also follow suit. Taking an attitude like “we are too small in the global context to make a difference” is simply not an option and prevents a new, strong economic sector from developing in Switzerland. Goals mean we have to do something. It is imperative that we move from small, regional “proof of concept” projects to larger rollouts. The technology works, and it now takes courage to deploy the solutions across Switzerland. This allows new industry sectors and value propositions to emerge that have the potential to become successful abroad. Ultimately, this will strengthen Switzerland as a business location and workplace. What role does ELEKTRON play in this?
We develop intelligent solutions for efficient systems – so in principle we always conserve resources in some way. Our balanced portfolio of products, services and support aims to make infrastructure, especially street lighting, intelligent. We therefore also see ourselves as smart city system integrators, as we always do this in cooperation with strong partners. In this way, we use synergies and create real added value for our customers – for us, this is intelligent and efficient. Have such projects already come about in cooperation? We have developed and realised various system solutions, such as traffic measurement that provides data for intelligent light control. In this way, the streets are only illuminated as brightly as is necessary for the effective traffic – without unnecessary light pollution. Or we simplify the payment of shared infrastructures such as communal laundry facilities and e-charging stations by integrating them into a central billing and management system. In doing so, we work closely with various hardware and software providers in the field of IoT. It is also really important to us that not only the owner but also the user of the infrastructure has an advantage – technology should always be used beneficially and not be a gimmick. At this year’s Smart Suisse in Basel in March, ELEKTRON toasted the Smart City Alliance. What is behind it? The Alliance was born out of the idea that no one builds a Smart City alone. If you look at the Smart City Wheel, you immediately notice the multitude of individual special fields. For each topic there is a large potential of individual providers who are world leaders in their field. However, they cannot make themselves heard on their own because they are only a small cog in a system. The Alliance offers precisely these companies the chance to appear in a larger organisation and thus be perceived as part of an ecosystem. Finally, a little outlook: Where does the smart city journey lead? In Switzerland, we are slowly coming out of the phase where we say “Let’s see if it works” and then decide what to do. It has been widely proven that it works, and the population now understands that new technologies really do make a difference. Today, we are working intensively on the topic of standardisation in order to guarantee operators the necessary investment protection. With the cooperation, also with the Alliance, we are trying to create standards in the IoT area for infrastructures and smart city providers. With the seal of approval of a standard, you are also on the safe side as a property owner or administration of an entire city, i.e. as an investor. There is no longer any reason not to implement smart projects.
About the person
As a committed visionary, Enrico Baumann has been leading the further development of ELEKTRON AG since 2011. By setting up the company’s own ideas laboratory, he created the conditions for creating space for innovation together with technology partners and universities. The sensible, needs-oriented use of state-of-the-art technologies is an integral part of the company’s philosophy. As the market leader in street lighting, ELEKTRON is committed to developing intelligent solutions for efficient systems that serve both the population and the environment.
1] Note: Smart City Wheel by Boyd Cohen