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Haßfurt on the way to becoming a Smart City

The three keywords 'together', 'with each other' and 'for each other' of the Smart Green City Haßfurt, surrounded by 7 images symbolizing Smart City projects of the city.

“Together – with each other. For each other.” The three keywords of the Smart Green City Haßfurt. Image: City of Haßfurt

Haßfurt is a small town in Lower Franconia and, like many other cities and communities in Germany, is facing pressing future tasks in the area of digital transformation. For the past 4 years, the city has been part of the federal funding program "Model Projects Smart City". Topics such as dealing with data, the intelligent use of resources or even infrastructural issues are to be answered in the best possible way in Haßfurt, according to Dr. Madlen Müller-Wuttke, project manager of the Smart Green City Haßfurt model project. "The city is striving for a common good approach, which was the basis for the successful application in 2019 in the federal funding program 'Model Projects Smart Cities - Urban Development and Digitalization' of the Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building (BMWSB). Our approach in Haßfurt has been and continues to be the concept of a 'Smart Green City' that increases the efficiency of urban systems, improves the quality of life for residents, promotes sustainable development, and utilizes technological innovations in the urban environment."

Sensors, monitoring and virtual reality

Specifically, Haßfurt's Smart Green City is evident in its use of sensors to collect and analyze relevant data. The city is focusing on preventing and responding to heavy rain events: "Sensors have been installed at strategically important measuring points along the city's tributaries to the Main River. These are capable of determining current water levels and transmitting them via the city's own communication network. The collected data is visually processed in a user-friendly dashboard. This monitoring enables a timely and effective response when a critical water level is reached or exceeded and will soon be transmitted as an information message to interested citizens via various channels. Work is currently underway to integrate further meteorological and geodata-based information so that it can also be interlinked in the form of simulations via the so-called digital twin and thus provide even faster warnings of possible 'emergencies'," says Müller-Wuttke.

But the cultural heritage of Haßfurt is also to be recorded for posterity with the help of smart city technologies. The Ritterkapelle is an important landmark and monument in Haßfurt. A 3D model of the Ritterkapelle has been created from a combination of photography, drone technology and photogrammetric reconstruction. "These digital archives provide long-term access to the buildings, which is invaluable for future restoration work, historical research or educational purposes," says Müller-Wuttke. "As such, it can be used in a variety of applications, from virtual reality to complex simulation environments. Since its completion, the 3D model has served as the digital twin of the Knight's Chapel, allowing users to explore the structure in a virtual environment."

Data - the basis of the smart city

Data is also the basis for the Smart Green City in Haßfurt. Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data make it possible to collect, process and analyze data more quickly. Processes in the city can thus be optimized to make better decisions based on the data. One of the most important tools in the Smart Green City Haßfurt is therefore the urban data platform: "This is establishing itself as a fundamental instrument for managing and using the raw data collected as part of the Smart City. As an integral part of the urban infrastructure, it coordinates and harmonizes the data streams collected in the city. In doing so, it takes into account essential aspects such as data sovereignty and data sovereignty. It regulates all access requirements to urban data and manages data distribution from source to destination. In the long term, this platform should enable the city to efficiently design data-based decision-making processes and adequately control applications. In addition, transferability to other municipalities will be developed and tested through interface adaptation and standardization."

Tips for becoming a smart city

As project manager of the Smart Green City Haßfurt model project, Madlen Müller-Wuttke has concrete tips that can help cities and communities on their way to becoming smart cities:

Concept: For Haßfurt, local needs and challenges were analyzed to derive in which areas technological solutions can have the greatest impact.

Bottom-up principle: The opinions and ideas of citizens are essential on the way to becoming a smart city in order to find out what improvements they would like to see in their city or region.

Goals: Goals must be defined clearly and measurably, and priorities should also be set and milestones defined. This makes the smart city initiative more tangible.

Partnerships: Different stakeholders such as companies, universities and even non-profit organizations can contribute their expertise and resources to the smart city process and support areas such as technology, research and implementation.

Start small and grow big: For the first visible successes, small projects were initiated to test the effectiveness of smart city solutions, illustrate them for citizens and make adjustments.

Infrastructure: Cities and municipalities should invest in the necessary infrastructure. IoT sensors, networks and data centers are key components of a smart city infrastructure. Security and data protection should not be lost sight of - especially the preservation of data sovereignty and data sovereignty.

Knowledge transfer: Employees and citizens should be informed as well as possible about new technologies, processes and changes in order to involve them closely in the smart city process. This can be done, for example, through workshops or information evenings to promote acceptance and understanding of smart city solutions.

Evaluation: Successes should be measured and recognized in order to track the development process. Areas where development is stalling are identified in the process and improvements are initiated.

Smart city initiatives are not one-size-fits-all solutions: Areas and development steps must be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of a city or region. Careful planning, close cooperation and continuous involvement of citizens, administration, business, politics and science are the keys to success and a continuous process.

• And most importantly, don't lose heart and motivation.

Opinions, expectations and fears

People in Haßfurt react very differently to the city's smart city projects. "Communication is the key element here," Müller-Wuttke emphasizes. "In order to strive for and achieve acceptance and implementation of our Smart City solutions, open communication with our citizens is crucial. Transparency about the project's goals, benefits and impacts, as well as the opportunity for citizens to voice their concerns, questions and suggestions, helps build trust and address concerns. To better illustrate our projects, one of the things we've done is set up our urban lab as a central place to meet and experiment." The city lab has become a "kind of smart city you can touch" to make the projects more tangible for the people of the city. Haßfurt also relies on a strong presence on the Smart City website and associated Instagram channel. "A Smart City for everyone - whether online or non-linear. Because a Smart City thrives on togetherness. Only together can changes take place and developments be driven forward," Müller-Wuttke emphasizes.

The older citizens are very open to the Smart Green City project, Müller-Wuttke is pleased to say: "They ask questions and show great interest in the projects and what is behind them. Regardless of whether they are young or young-at-heart - we try to inspire and motivate our citizens through a wide variety of channels. But we also want to give everyone the opportunity to participate and help shape things through cooperation partners. Among other things, we organize joint events with politics, administration, business and science to inform and create space for exchange."

Smart Green City without end

Even though the "Model Projects Smart Cities" funding program from the BMWSB will come to an end at the end of the 2020s, the topic of smart cities will continue to occupy cities and regions in Germany beyond that time. "Haßfurt will hopefully continue to develop through the sustainable and innovative projects with and for the citizens”, says project manager Madlen Müller-Wuttke. “Our Smart Green City includes the implementation of various technologies, processes and services to improve efficiency, sustainability and quality of life in our city and should create the basis to continue working on it.”

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