Cisco to pour millions into Berlin to turn German capital into a smart city

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Cisco will help Berlin build an mHealth platform in their latest project to turn the German capital into Europe’s leading smart city. In a deal announced over the weekend, Cisco and the Berlin Senate Department for Economics signed off on a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will cover telemedicine (mHealth), cyber security and of course building a general network infrastructure to support the platform. It will provide easy access to patient data for hospitals, general practitioners, specialists, clinics and emergency services.

While it isn’t known exactly how much Cisco and the city will invest in this project, it is part of a much larger package wherein Cisco will invest $500 million in the national Deutschland Digital initiative over the next three years that will build infrastructure across the country for various services and push the testing of new communications technologies like 5G networks.

Anil Menon, Global President Smart+Connected Communities at Cisco, is working on a variety of similar projects around the world on behalf of the corporate giant. He is also vice chair of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Agenda Council on Future of Cities.

“We are proud to support Berlin in taking this important step,” said Cisco’s head of German operations Oliver Tuszik in a press release. “Digitization is a great opportunity for the city to benefit even more from its attractiveness. By signing this Memorandum of Understanding, we want to contribute to improving the quality of life for all citizens and give the Berlin economy an additional boost.”

A greater infrastructure for smart Berlin will include environmental and weather data, traffic information, and communications for police and fire. Senator Cornelia Yzer, who signed the MoU on behalf of the city, said the platform should “contribute to providing more efficient medical care to refugees,” and promote other projects for “digitization.”

Berlin’s race to be the smartest city in Europe

Berlin is gearing up for a bonanza of smart city, connected cars and upgraded digital infrastructure projects (Public Domain image by LoboStudioHamburg via Pixabay)
Berlin is gearing up for a bonanza of smart city, connected cars and upgraded digital infrastructure projects (Public Domain image by LoboStudioHamburg via Pixabay)

As part of that national effort to digitize Germany’s infrastructure, the capital city has been extremely proactive in making its utilities and services intelligent. Berlin announced a master plan called Smart City Berlin 2030 in April last year. That strategy includes the Smart City Berlin Network to run pilot projects throughout the municipality, “citizens’ right” to personal data security, a plan to build thousands of affordable new units with possible smart home integration for lighting and appliances, and simultaneously speeding up and simplifying the city’s bureaucracy.

“As Berlin sees it, cities which are viable are those which achieve a significantly higher or stable quality of life while using the same or a lower level of resources. This can only be achieved by means of an urban management which, by using innovative information and communication technologies…” the municipality’s Smart City Strategy reads.

It’s not the only city in the world pushing for new smart city infrastructure: Tel Aviv’s sister city Ramat Gan recently hosted a smart city competition, Jerusalem is upgrading to smart public utilities, Hyderabad recently opened an IoT and smart city accelerator, and Hong Kong is designating specific neighborhoods for smart city experiments.

The German capital has a soaring reputation as the hottest tech hub in Europe right now. There’s a growing e-bike industry, a flourishing culture for car-sharing and the Berlin startup scene even rivals London. Startupbootcamp has run its Smart Transportation & Energy accelerator program in the city for the last couple of years with plans to focus on the connected cars and automated vehicles space in the next stage of the program. It’s worth noting that Cisco is also an investor in Startupbootcamp, recently infusing $2.5 million into their London-based IoT accelerator.

The Smart City Strategy aims to recruit organizational partners, like Cisco, to make their Jetson-like metropolis a reality. But according to the city’s strategists, it will be a collective effort rather than a mayoral one that will get a city of futuristic services and flying cars off the ground.

“The most important partners are, however, the Berliners themselves because the overriding goal of Smart City Berlin is to further increase the quality of life of the Berlin population and the liveability of their city.”

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