Issue 75, June 2016
bulletSmart Sustainable Cities
bulletInnovation: ParkHere - Searching for the Perfect Parking Spot Just Got a Little Easier
bulletStuttgart Uses Green Ventilation Corridors to Combat Poor Air Quality & Heat Island Effect
bulletInterview with Berlin's Traffic Planning Expert Burkhard Horn
bulletThe World's Most Energy-Efficient Traffic Light
Smart Sustainable Cities 
Less than a decade ago, our planet reached a key inflection point: For the first time in human history, the majority of the population resided in cities. In fact, over 50 percent of the world's population has now settled on less than two percent of the Earth's surface area.
Rapid urban migration and an explosive growth in megacities are two international phenomena that are putting present-day metropolitan areas under enormous strain. Factor in global warming, resource scarcity, and a bourgeoning middle class, and it's clear that we need smart solutions to carry our cities forward into the future.

To do so effectively, however, cities must not only be 'smart,' but they also need to be sustainable. As the biggest consumers of energy, cities hold the greatest potential for mitigating the negative effects of climate change. In the years to come, this role will become even more pronounced as the share of city dwellers around the globe is projected to rise to 70 percent by 2050.

With its vast research landscape and forward-looking policies, Germany is well-positioned to spearhead the smart cities movement. This month's newsletter explores some of the exciting advances that have been made in the field thus far - from the first self-powered parking sensor to the world's most energy-efficient traffic light.

30 percent of traffic in cities is caused by drivers searching for a parking space. Anyone who has circled city blocks trying to find a spot can attest to how frustrating this process can be, one that not only wastes a driver's time, but also pollutes the environment unnecessarily.

ParkHere, a spin-off of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), aims to make this search easier and more efficient. It has developed the first self-powered parking sensor that provides real-time data about available parking spaces closest to a user's final destination. ParkHere's sensors are one-of-a-kind, as they can be sustainably operated for 15-20 years without requiring any maintenance.

The ultra-thin sensor sealed in pavement registers whether a car is driving over it or whether the vehicle is parked in the spot. The sensor then uses energy-harvesting technology to generate an electric impulse to send the occupancy information of the space to the second component of the system called the "Base Station." This station receives transmitted signals from the GPRS modules within a range of 200 meters and then forwards this data to a cloud server via a mobile network. The "Base Station" can easily be mounted on street lamps or parking meters.

Ingolstadt is the first city in Bavaria to use the sensor-based system by ParkHere, which was founded by Felix Harteneck, Jakob Sturm, and Clemens Techmer. These three entrepreneurs have been researching and developing their idea in cooperation with TUM since 2014. They have patented their results and at the beginning of 2015 established ParkHere as an independent company.

ParkHere is located in MakerSpace, a 1,500 square-meter high-tech workshop open to the public that provides members access to machines, tools, and software as well as to a creative community. Recently, BMW began collaborating with ParkHere as its sensor-based technology fits well with BMW's DriveNow and ChargeNow concepts.

In May 2016, ParkHere was awarded Best Mobility and Transportation Start-Up out of 3,000 companies from 94 countries at the Pioneers Festival 2016 in Vienna, Austria. The company was also recognized as one of the Festival's Top 7 Start-Ups.

To watch a video clip about ParkHere, click here (for German with English subtitles) and here (for German). 
Source & Image: ParkHere

German newspapers have called Stuttgart "the German capital of air pollution." Its concentration of fine particulate matter in the air exceeds the legal limit on more days per year than any other city in Germany.
Situated in a wide valley basin and surrounded by steep slopes, the city's geographic location, mild climate, low wind speeds, industrial activity, and high traffic volume have made it susceptible to poor air quality. It cannot easily get rid of its own heat, which stays trapped in the city, demonstrating a microclimatic phenomenon known as the urban heat island effect.

It has therefore become critical for Stuttgart to map out where winds come from and how they can be redirected throughout the city according to urban topography and land use. Based on this information, a number of planning and zoning regulations have been established, including a series of designated green ventilation lanes, which local planning legislation prohibits from being obstructed.

At night, clean air sweeps down from the surrounding hills and runs through these ventilation corridors, which have been kept open as wide, tree-flanked arteries within the city's street infrastructure. Currently, over 60 percent of the city is covered in green space.

Stuttgart's climate planning strategy is viewed as one of the best examples of heat island management in the world as it leverages how natural wind patterns and dense vegetation can actively help mitigate urban challenges like overheating and air pollution.

Source: European Climate Adaptation Platform 
Image: Stuttgart Municipality


Berlin has a complex and efficient traffic system. No major city can function well without one. To optimize the interplay of pedestrian and bicycle traffic, public transportation, and motorized traffic, long-term urban planning is imperative. 

Burkhard Horn, Head of the Transport Division for the Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment in Berlin, is focused on improving pedestrian and bicycle traffic and the city's public transportation system, promoting bicycle and car sharing, and further developing electromobility.

In his interview with GCRI, Horn discusses some of the biggest challenges that cities face with respect to traffic management. He addresses how traffic flow can be improved in cities to promote sustainability. He also shares his thoughts on what developments he foresees in the field of mobility over the next 10-15 years. To read the full interview, click here.

Horn completed his graduate studies in urban planning at the University of Kassel in Germany from 1982 to 1990. Since then, he has served in a variety of capacities as a traffic planner. From 1996 to 2008, he held the position as Head of Transport Planning for the city of G�ttingen and from 2008 to 2014, as Head of Transport Policy and Traffic Development Planning at the Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment in Berlin.

In his current role, he is responsible for key issues pertaining to transportation policy and development planning, major transport policy framework planning, including business traffic planning, traffic safety programs, city park planning, and cycling strategies, and the evaluation of major infrastructure projects.

Source: Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment

More than 100 years ago, the first electric traffic light went into operation, marking a key milestone for traffic control. Today, it is difficult to imagine cities without them. In recent decades, however, the red-yellow-green lights have not changed much - that is, up until now.

Using new "1-watt technology," Siemens engineers have managed to improve the energy efficiency of traffic lights by more than 85 percent, revolutionizing the market and offering tremendous benefits for tight city budgets and the environment.

By reducing the power consumption of a traffic light to just one to two watts, a typical intersection equipped with the new bulb-based technology and roughly 55 traffic signals can now avoid more than 6,000 kilograms (or over 13,225 pounds) of harmful carbon emissions a year. With this new technology, a city like Berlin could eliminate roughly 2,000 tons of carbon emissions and save approximately 500,000 euros in energy costs each year.

In cities that still use large numbers of filament light bulbs instead of LEDs, the potential savings for energy costs and emissions are significantly higher, with newly-installed, 1-watt technology traffic signals at a typical intersection paying for themselves in less than five years.

1-watt technology uses digital LED driver modules, which eliminate the need for load resistors and switching elements in the signal light units. Until now, these aspects have consumed most of the energy. In addition to energy costs, the 1-watt light units also reduce service costs as optical monitors continuously check the state of the LEDs. It is conceivable that in the future it may be possible to predict when units will fail, thus enabling preventative maintenance of signal light units and therefore reducing the risk of chaos caused by traffic light failures during rush hour.

Earlier this year, Siemens presented the technology for the first time at Intertraffic Amsterdam 2016. The company's first pilot projects are up and running in Bolzano, Italy, and in Bietigheim-Bissingen near Stuttgart in Southern Germany.

Source: Siemens

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