A Small, Smart City with Big Plans
Gelsenkirchen, a city in northwest Germany, has big plans to increase the quality of life for its citizens. First, it worked to improve air quality as required in Germany’s 1991 Renewable Energy Sources Act. Widely known for massive coal production — and smoggy skies — since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the city now focuses on ‘green energy’ to improve the climate and help Germany lead the world in the production of renewable energy. Today, Germany’s largest solar power plant is located in Gelsenkirchen, and two wind energy plants recently started producing CO2-free electricity. This technology is also creating new jobs.
But the city wanted more for its citizens: A city-wide security platform that would unite local businesses, city officials, and law enforcement to maximize safety, minimize theft and other crimes, and provide future city services. They also wanted to set an example for all other cities in Germany to use digital technology in innovative ways.
To do this, Gelsenkirchen had to think big: What did they want their city to be like in the future, and how would they achieve this vision? They also needed to figure out how to deal with their existing infrastructure.
Authorities in Gelsenkirchen realized that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is changing the way we live and cities operate. The city needed a comprehensive system featuring top-level design, integration, operations, service applications, and a new ICT infrastructure. Gelsenkirchen wanted to converge key data from city operations and management systems so managers could intelligently respond to a variety of governance, livelihood, and business needs.
Gelsenkirchen decided to partner with Huawei and a regional technology services provider, GELSEN-NET, to implement the country’s first Safe City solution.
Huawei’s Smart City solution incorporates cloud, network, and platform technologies, along with robust security. The solution is safeguarded with physical, network, host, virtualization, application, and data security mechanisms, and is supported by proprietary chipsets and source code.
GELSEN-NET, founded in 1983 as a regional German phone service provider, today offers the latest ICT services to over 72,000 residential and business customers. Recently, the company added extensive cloud services to its IT offerings, providing local businesses with external hosting, access to scalable storage, and cloud-based disaster recovery.
Fast, open exchange of data is key to building better cities, so Huawei and GELSEN-NET worked together to provide a secure cloud data center based on an open architecture. They also developed open, customer-centric solutions and built a sustainable ICT ecosystem. The cloud data center integrates and shares city information resources to improve government service efficiency and decision-making accuracy.
With Huawei’s wired and wireless broadband networks and the Internet of Things (IoT), ubiquitous broadband coverage places services at the public’s fingertips.
The Huawei and GELSEN-NET IoT network accommodates data services for new industry applications with a lightweight IoT operating system, LiteOS, and a wide range of access gateways. Huawei is also a major contributor to Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) standards organizations and brings those advances to bear on its Safe City infrastructure.
The two companies provided the town with an ICT capability disclosure platform for encapsulated, packaged ICT capabilities that enable developers from any third-party company to make open interfaces and develop integrated Smart City service applications. A Big Data support platform was also provided in order to share historical and real-time city data with all agencies.
An application enablement platform combines Huawei applications (Big Data analysis, security management, and video processing) with third-party applications, such as a Geographic Information System (GIS), public services, unified identification, and Single Sign-On (SSO). The result is a faster exchange of data resources, new software, and improved Operations and Maintenance (O&M) for Smart City applications.
An extensive 13,000-kilometer, fiber-optic cable network connects all industrial parks, hospitals, and schools as part of the Gelsenkirchen Smart City solution. Some 40,000 customers use existing Internet service, while 50,000 users take advantage of the new public Wi-Fi. Comprehensive Wi-Fi covers a pedestrian zone and two city centers. Free coverage is also available on public transport and in the city zoo — ZOOM Erlebniswelt Gelsenkirchen — one of the most modern zoos in Germany.
GELSEN-NET also provides mobile hotspots that integrate public transport in the Smart City. One example is the transport company Bochum-Gelsenkirchen Streetcars Corporation (BOGESTRA) that offers free onboard Wi-Fi to passengers in its PowerBus. A mobile eLTE access point in the bus supplies passengers with unlimited access to the Internet via a fast broadband connection. The technical solution for the bus was developed in cooperation with Huawei.
So far, 240 access points are available in the Gelsenkirchen city zone. “We look forward to establishing Gelsenkirchen as a pioneer for a future-oriented, networked city,” said Thomas Dettenberg, CEO, GELSEN-NET. A large, free-of-charge Wi-Fi hotspot area covers two kilometers of the Bahnhofstrasse, Gelsenkirchen’s main street. This innovation won the city of Gelsenkirchen the 2016 Smart City Award from Huawei.
Developments in Gelsenkirchen are perfect examples of what the other cities in Germany are aspiring to provide. The Gelsenkirchen solution helps improve the everyday life of citizens and businesses in the city and could be used in any city worldwide. Huawei and GELSEN-NET offer innovative solutions for Smart City applications that include free-of-charge Wi-Fi access in public spaces, Internet access on buses, and better coordination between security and emergency agencies.
“Huawei has developed one of the most advanced Smart City solutions in Germany,” said Hans Hallitzky, Deputy Sales Director at Huawei. “Using Smart City communications, Gelsenkirchen is able to offer its citizens a wealth of new services in the Schalke 04 football stadium and the zoo. Also, the connectivity of schools plus new safety technology make life more attractive and are promoting the influx of new residents and companies.”
According to the United Nations, over 85 percent of the world’s population will likely live in a city by the end of the 21st century. With such a large number of people in these cities, governments will struggle to provide essential services. While future Smart Cities are unlikely to look much different than cities of today, they are destined to interact differently with their human inhabitants. Gelsenkirchen is on the cutting edge of what any city of tomorrow could look like.