Zurich is regarded internationally as a city that sets standards in quality of life as well as being at the forefront of the Smart City movement. This is above all supported by an ecosystem of clever companies, which in conjunction with energy suppliers, transport firms, cities and municipalities works to launch pilot projects.  

In October, the Smart City Index 2019 ranked Zurich in second place behind Singapore in terms of the world’s smartest cities. For Enrico Baumann, the term “Smart Cities” above all represents greater quality of life for inhabitants and using natural resources sparingly. “And to achieve this, public authorities and companies of different sectors are increasingly seeking to collaborate”, Baumann explains.

He is CEO of the technology firm Elektron from Au, a village located south of the city of Zurich, and also President of the Swiss SmartCity Alliance, an organization under the aegis of which approximately 25 companies have joined forces.

Smart City Tower
Smart streetlight as a starting point

In the Greater Zurich Area, some projects bear witness to what can be achieved collaboratively in addition to the precedents that could soon be set around the world. Since 2017, Wädenswil (Zurich) has been implementing a Smart City concept. It is a story which all began with a Smart City Tower – otherwise known as a smart streetlight. It is only illuminated when absolutely necessary, supplies power to electric cars, collects environmental data, measures the flow of traffic and acts as a public WiFi antenna. It is also able to identify free car parking spaces and determine how full a garbage container is.

In Wädenswil, the town is working together with the SBB, the electrical utilities of the canton of Zurich (EKZ) and companies such as Elektron. The platform provider Switzercloud from Regensdorf and the Zurich-based traffic planning firm Swisstraffic are also involved alongside Elektron. All three companies presented their solution in the fall at the Smart City Expo World Congress, the most important global trade fair for smart cities, held in Barcelona.

A smart city affects all areas of life – it allows flexible working patterns, shared mobility concepts and efficient management processes
Enrico Baumann - CEO at Elektron

Top infrastructure for future projects

The smart streetlight is, however, just one piece of the puzzle. Baumann explains: “A smart city affects all areas of life – it allows flexible working patterns, shared mobility concepts and efficient management processes”. The economic area of Zurich is again a role model in this regard: the cities of Zurich, Winterthur, Schaffhausen and Zug, for example, are all realizing Smart City strategies, with top-class infrastructure in the form of a fiber-optic network now ready to handle complex applications in many places. 

Communication-enabled street lights allow solutions developed within the context of the Internet of Things (IoT). The Zurich-based start-up Loriot specializes in developing the networks associated with such objects and has realized IoT infrastructure projects in countries such as the Czech Republic, among others. Baumann states that the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) is an important proponent for the ecosystem and has participated in many projects of this nature. In this way, the Smart City ecosystem collects experiences and brings functioning solutions to the wider world.

By Yvonne von Hunnius

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