Opinion Articles

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Welcome to the digitised city

M2M technology transforms parking in Pisa

Jürgen Hase of Deutsche Telekom writes:

The Smart City is on its way. All over the world more and more cities are connecting all areas of their infrastructure. Pisa in Tuscany, for example, aims to improve its traffic management with a machine-to-machine (M2M) solution and a Big Data service provided by Deutsche Telekom.


Increasingly, people are moving to the cities. In 2011, according to UN estimates, about 3.6 billion people lived in urban areas. By 2050 the number of city-dwellers is forecast to increase to 6.25 billion. This rapid growth is not the only challenge that cities will face in the years ahead either. Cities already account for up to 70 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions and that is why they must also do something to counteract climate change. The Smart City, using interacting ICT solutions, is seen as the key to providing citizens with a functioning municipal infrastructure and an extended range of services in the future.

Smart City in miniature

What lies behind this concept is already in evidence at stadiums, albeit on a significantly smaller scale. IBM and Deutsche Telekom are developing an overall concept that enables organisers to simplify all work processes – from standard work instructions in the event of incidents to the management of concessions. It reduces energy consumption at the same time and is able to do all of this by integrating and evaluating data from different sources.

The system makes decisions independently, for example, on the basis of sensor data from people counters, video analysis, and weather and traffic data, thereby optimising ongoing operations. Guidance systems redirect visitors automatically to reduce waiting times at ticket counters, and drinks and snacks stalls. For the fans, a smart stadium complete with information boards and fan apps also offers significantly higher entertainment value both at the match and by offering information on other matches taking place at the same time.

From playing field to city street

What can be achieved in a few months in a stadium usually takes years, if not decades, in a city. Yet first steps towards a Smart City are already evident in many places. Take Pisa, for example. Anyone who was looking for somewhere to park in the historic city centre used to have to manoeuvre around the narrow streets and hope to find a vacant parking space. In future, motorists will simply be guided by display boards to the nearest vacant parking space. The technology on which this is based is a machine-to-machine (M2M) solution that Pisa is introducing jointly with Deutsche Telekom.

In a pilot project, an initial 75 parking spaces are being equipping with sensors. The sensors recognise by ultrasound whether a parking space is free or occupied. Mobile network-based gateways collect the sensor data and relay it to the municipal IT infrastructure that processes the information for display boards. Motorists are spared a tiresome and at times time-consuming search, and the city gains a better overview of the utilisation of its parking facilities.

More detailed information about the parking situation


The larger the number of connected parking spaces, the more useful the information is and, if cities use it in their city planning, their environmental performance improves too. Navigant Research experts estimate that cars looking for somewhere to park account for around 30 per cent of inner-city traffic. In New York the figure is said to be 45 per cent. In the long term, connected parking spaces can reduce these numbers. More and more cities will therefore use this technology and analysts forecast that the number of parking spaces equipped with sensor technology will surpass 950,000 worldwide by 2020.

In addition to parking guidance systems, the market now has other Smart City solutions to offer in the context of mobility management. Pisa has been using one for five years. Residents, taxi drivers and delivery vehicles had to exchange their paper parking permits for RFID chips. The advantages are that the city spends less time managing permits and that the citizens of Pisa retain their permits when they register at a new address or apply for a permit renewal.

Big Data service analyses traffic data

Pisa has also installed RFID gateways at strategic points. These register the traffic flow between different areas of the city and generate enormous quantities of data about the utilisation of its infrastructure. Hitherto the city has not evaluated this data on any large scale but, in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom, it now plans to change all of that. A Deutsche Telekom Big Data service will first analyse this constantly growing stock of data within the next six months. Pisa then plans to make use of the findings in its city and traffic planning, with a view to improving traffic flows and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Cities can also reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by means of smart street lighting management. Lighting of public spaces currently accounts for over 40 per cent of municipal energy costs. Remote management solutions based on M2M promise to improve matters in both ecological and economic terms. In combination with LEDs, cities can cut their electricity costs by up to 70 per cent and their maintenance bills by up to 10 per cent.

Programmable street lighting

Most of these remote management solutions communicate in much the same way as parking management solutions - through gateways that are connected with the city’s server infrastructure via the mobile network. A cloud-based Web portal manages street lighting and other applications. It enables the authorities to check the status of all lamps remotely and to program their lighting behaviour. Cycles can be set up, for example, with times when lights are switched on and off. In addition to timing, the system can take other factors such as data received from brightness sensors into account. Street lights are then dimmed or turned up to full performance as indicated by the ambient lighting conditions.

Solutions like these are making cities smart already, but there is much more to the Smart Cities concept. The aim is to connect the individual pieces of the puzzle and prevent silos. In this early stage, citizens, authorities and businesses still have an opportunity to take part in the development process and shape the city of the future in accordance with their own ideas.

Jürgen Hase joined Deutsche Telekom AG in 2011 to head the M2M Competence Center. Within Deutsche Telekom he is responsible for the international M2M business. Jürgen has worked more than 20 years in the telecommunications industry and in the M2M sector. He is also Chairman of the M2M alliance.

Deutsche Telekom is one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications companies with 140 million mobile customers, over 31 million fixed-network lines and more than 17 million broadband lines (as of September 30, 2013). The Group provides fixed network, mobile communications, Internet and IPTV products and services for consumers and ICT solutions for business customers and corporate customers. Deutsche Telekom is present in around 50 countries and has 230,000 employees worldwide. The Group generated revenues of EUR 58.2 billion in the 2012 financial year – more than half of it outside Germany (as of December 31, 2012).

Author: The Fonecast
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