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Different cities, different solutions, same goal: smartness in our homes

07.10.2016

Smart Homes – when talking about this topic, many people are thinking of science fictional environments, in which fridges can automatically order fresh milk or where we can beam ourselves from one room into another. But what could a smart home really look like? Is it a home that has access to the Internet and can it run automatically? When does smartness begin? We have asked Professor Kai von Luck, a specialist for the digital development in smart cities and smart homes at HAW Hamburg. His answer: “There is no measurement for smartness.”
By Dina Chemko, Anna Purtseladze, Khamis Ali Rashid and Vanessa Fröhlich

 

Dar es Salaam, Saint Petersburg and Hamburg. These three sister cities may seem very different at first sight, but they have more in common than just the harbor. They are all looking for smart solutions. With the help of new technologies, they want to improve the lives of their citizens.  

For example, Dar es Salaam is improving and organizing the infrastructure of the city by establishing a house number system. Although the main focus of the digitalization regarding smart homes is to upgrade the security systems. These systems close windows and doors automatically when the owner leaves the home and deliver a notification via smartphone if anybody tries to enter the house. The security system is equipped with a lot of cameras and sensors, which monitor around the clock seven days a week. The Berlin-based company “Mobisol” produces affordable solar energy for low-income customers and offers mobile payment options.  

In Saint Petersburg some companies are working together with engineers to produce the latest technologies to make living easier for house owners. The technologies are covering several areas such as: safety protection, air conditioning, light regulation, and water purification. They also ensure the development of a leisure atmosphere. The owners can regulate and control the technology in their houses via apps on their smartphones.  

When talking about smart homes in Hamburg, three different sectors must be defined: ambience for assisting living, comfort homes and smart home energy solutions.

Various institutions are working on three different topics. For example the HAW Hamburg is researching the so called “Living Place”, where students and professors try to invent innovative equipment for more comfortable living and for independence of elderly or disabled people. Some intelligent devices make it possible for beds or carpets with various embedded sensors to maintain health monitoring and safe lives. 

 

 

This technology also requires infrastructural support from the city. “Hamburg ensures a high-speed Internet access in the whole city, which contributes to taking the necessary step forward towards digitalization”, says Tim Angerer, State Chancellery Hamburg, Head of the Coordinating Office ‘Digital City’.  

Wilhelmsburg, an industrial area in Hamburg held a local exhibition in 2012, where the first smart homes in the city were presented to the public. Today, 4 years later, many citizens are actually living there. One of the innovative houses is the “Algae-House”, where heating energy is produced by microalgaes. It’s an ecological and economical way to produce energy while using plant-based technologies. Stefan Hindersin, the project manager of the Algae-House explained that the sides of the building, which face the sun, have a second outer shell that is set into the facade itself. Microalgaes are tiny plants, most of them not larger than bacteria, they are produced within this shell. They enable the house to supply its own energy.   

 

Subtitle: The World’s First Algae-Powered Building, Hamburg (Photo: Anna Purtseladze)  

 

Subtitle: The facade of the algae-house made of microalgaes (Photo: Anna Purtseladze) 

In all three cities, smart homes are expected to improve the quality of life providing better and safer living conditions. This goal can be reached by improving the energy efficiency and upgrading security, entertainment and communication systems.

This reportage is part of a student exchange program of HAW Hamburg, University of Dar es Salaam, and University of St. Petersburg.


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