The results of the Smart City Readiness Check carried out by the German Association of Cities and Towns in collaboration with TÜV Rheinland clearly show that municipalities in Germany still have a long way to go when it comes to offering digital services. In this survey, which we talked about in a first post on this topic, municipalities were asked questions about energy, digital infrastructure, eGovernance and mobility.
Too much red tape, not enough resources
The results confirm the existence of the digital gap to other nations that is repeatedly criticized in international comparisons. German bureaucracy takes a fair share of the blame for this. While numerous funding programs are in place at the federal level to support German cities, towns and villages on their way to becoming digital communities, many local governments don’t even utilize the funds. Funding processes are often too complicated and municipalities lack the manpower necessary to fight their way through the required applications.
Only when it comes to energy are the cities and towns in better shape – as opposed to digital infrastructure, eGovernance and mobility. For the buildings managed by the city, municipalities use smart technologies more often than in the other three areas. Why is that? Local governments can directly save money by using digital technologies, for example by reducing heating costs or electricity costs for street lighting.
Municipalities must step on the gas
Nevertheless, local authorities would be well advised to pick up speed in the digitalization process. If they don’t, they run the risk of becoming unattractive both as employers and as places to live and work. After all, who wants to work for a city in which tasks from the last century have to be performed at all and then even “manually”?
Many have suspected it for some time – especially in an international comparison. And the “Smart City Readiness Check” now confirms this suspicion: The silo approach prevalent in Germany is a serious threat to successful digitalization. It just doesn’t make sense for every town to reinvent the wheel. Instead, digitalization projects need solutions that can be transferred to other locations. Local authorities, but also municipal utilities and network operators, for example, would be well advised to purchase such a solution – including services such as consulting, of course. No organization benefits from developing such a solution from scratch – which is both costly and time-consuming – and from hiring experts who then twiddle their thumbs when the whole thing is up and running. If local authorities and companies purchase a suitable, flexible solution instead, they can focus on their core tasks.
From big data to smart data
TÜV Rheinland has recognized the need for an end-to-end platform for comprehensive digitalization projects and is now launching its new Digital Infrastructure Management (DIM) service to address exactly this need. In this context, data analytics, i.e. the intelligent preparation and use of the ever-increasing amounts of data is an important aspect, but only a means to an end – which is obtaining smart data. DIM therefore maps all technological pillars of a professional smart data and analytics strategy: the digitization of inventory data and the digital capture of current and new data; a powerful data center; professional applications with AI support for taking the step from big data to smart data; and sophisticated cyber security and data center security strategies.
Example: Electricity grid operators
TÜV Rheinland is of course aware of the shortage of experts and therefore not only provides the platform, but also supports and advises organizations in its implementation. Take, for example, an electricity grid operator who wants to go digital. First, we analyze the challenges together with them. The data from their network might not yet be available in digital form. There is also no systematic knowledge management in their organization. Instead, individual employees have essential knowledge, and when they leave the company, the knowledge disappears with them. In addition, the current status of the network is not recorded in real time by sensors. However, this would be an essential prerequisite for predictive maintenance, which the network operator would like to introduce. The existing analog structure also excludes remote support via augmented reality (AR), which is very important to the operator as they want to reduce costs.
Based on the requirements, we then create a tailor-made concept: In this example, the underlying requirement would be digital asset management. In addition to the training of the responsible employees, data digitization measures would need to be developed. These could be laser scans or drone mappings of the existing plants. The sensor concept must also be defined and suitable sensors must be selected and installed in order to start collecting data in real time immediately.
The data, which is available in digital form and, thanks to the sensors, also arrives continuously, is then transmitted to the network operator’s protected area in TÜV Rheinland’s DIM cloud. A Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRa) could be used for this purpose. This low-power wireless network protocol has an uplink transmission rate of up to 50 Kbps and a range of up to 10 kilometers.
That’s where the magic happens.
In the data center, the data is then automatically examined further by way of explorative data analysis and subsequently processed by machine learning. The complexity up to this point alone clearly shows how much effort would have to go into developing such a solution oneself. But there’s more: The data has been prepared, but is still far from being perfectly usable. We need interfaces for humans. The DIM platform offers a dashboard and other applications for this purpose. The customer uses these to access the smart data and thus gains deep and useful insights into their assets.
Depending on requirements, the data can be processed into a digital twin, for example. The digital twin is perfect for real-time status monitoring, predictive plant maintenance or forecasting and risk-free testing of future applications without compromising operations. The digital twin is also ideal for visualizing the infrastructure via AR: Mobile employees simply point a tablet with the AR application at the road and thanks to the digital twin the tablet display shows exactly where the power lines run.
Partner for ambitious digitalization projects
For many years, TÜV Rheinland has been offering high-quality consulting services for network and broadband expansion, network operation and network security in telecommunications, and telecommunications infrastructure and systems engineering. We are now consolidating our many years of experience in the digital sector and providing our consulting services together with the versatile, innovative DIM platform to municipalities and businesses.