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Ulm on the way to becoming a smart city

City view of Ulm, in the foreground a meadow with flowers

Photo: Pixabay

Around five years ago, Ulm set out to become one of the country's leading smart cities. The project was supported by the "Smart Cities Model Projects" funding programme from the Federal Ministry of the Interior and for Homeland Affairs. The programme kicked off with the development of its own strategy, the first measures have been implemented since 2022 and the results were already clear last year: Ulm made it into the top 10 smartest cities in Germany for the first time in 2023, which are determined each year in the Bitkom Smart City Index rankings. Ulm was able to improve in almost all areas, says Michael Pfefferle, Bitkom Head of Smart City & Mobility in an interview with SWR. Progress has been particularly strong in the area of administration: "It is now possible to pay fines online and online appointments at public offices have been expanded."

From strategy to implementation

Federal funding in Ulm runs until 2026. Around 8 million euros will flow into the city's Smart City projects by then - Ulm itself is contributing a further four million euros. The majority of the money is only now being spent, said Uwe Brennenstuhl from the City of Ulm's Digital Agenda department in an interview with SWR. The past five years have been more of an experimental and planning phase, now it's time for concrete implementation. Smart City projects are being trialled in several areas of the city, such as monitoring with AI at Ulm's Lederhof, a social hotspot. A smart bench has also been set up here and intelligent lighting installed. In the Botanical Gardens, Ulm is trialling the "Talking Trees" project, in which sensors on the trees provide data on how the trees are doing and whether they need more water, for example. This system is now to be transferred to other green spaces in the city. Finding a parking space in Ulm is also to be made easier in the future using sensors. Small ground sensors on the car parks will register whether a car is parked in front of them and will in future show where there are free parking spaces on the "Parking in Ulm" website. An overview of all concrete measures on the way to Smart City Ulm can be found here on the website of the Smart City Strategy Ulm.

Small projects, big change

Many of the sensors and aids in Smart City Ulm are not immediately obvious. However, this is often intentional, says Brennenstuhl in the SWR: many of the projects, such as the parking sensors, are designed to be integrated unnoticed into everyday life. The best digitalisation is the one that you only miss when it is no longer there.

Every year, we honour the smartest cities in Germany at the Smart Country Convention. Join us in 2024 to gain an insight into the latest model projects and digital solutions.

Further information on the Smart City Index Awards can be found on the SCCON website.

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