Cities’ start to view the technology as a real benefit.08 Jun 2020
Daniel Michel, Vice President of Portfolio & Delivery Smart City at Deutsche Telekom, sees a lot of potential in Smart City business: New technologies can help cities to save money and improve quality of life for its citizens.
Daniel, you are Vice President of Portfolio and Delivery at Smart City Unit at Deutsche Telekom. What are your responsibilities there?
Daniel Michel: "I identify and productize solutions that fit city’s needs. These are mainly products that help a city save costs, increase revenues or improve quality of life. In addition, we are looking for market trends, and any products that fit the requirements of EU funding, mainly energy efficiency and transportation related. Additionally, I ensure a high-quality delivery so that our customers are happy. If you can deliver technology that provides benefits and is easy for a citizen/City to use, the customer will come back to you for more."
“Buy more” is a good point: What do you think about the business opportunities of Smart City technology?
Daniel Michel: "We are a small team, but we have big goals. Most cities are still doing things in a very non-digital way, but others are very innovative and start to lead the way. The opportunities to automate and digitize processes to make them more efficient for the cities are very high. I feel Smart City business will grow rapidly in the next decade and that public sector business has a lot of potential for DT."
Cities have master numerous challenges, such as air quality, car traffic and mobility as a whole or public safety – especially in urban areas. What role do smart cities play in mastering these challenges?
Daniel Michel: "Reading a book can make you smarter. But reading many books, taking the knowledge and applying it beneficially to your life, makes you intelligent. I see the same with Smart City. Having one smart solution does not really make you a Smart City. A Smart City is really a city that takes information from many different solutions, processes and sources and uses that data to the benefit of the city. We as Deutsche Telekom are here to help the cities understand new technology. To understand the root causes of the problems and issues they face. To offer them solutions that not only solve their immediate problems, but also provide data to be used to solve other problems in a way they did not expect. It is a broad range of things that we can do to help a city: things from making street lighting brighter, more efficient and less expensive to digitizing processes to enable remote applications, increase visibility, reduce waiting times, and to generally make a city run more smoothly."
Do you know any cities that are very active in Smart City, and what are the answers and approaches that Deutsche Telekom can already offer today?
Daniel Michel: "With every new technology you have early adopters. Cities like London, Barcelona and Singapore have done a lot, and are leading the way. This helps demystify the solutions and prove they work; this shows the way to the cities that are not so interested in being a first mover. Within our Deutsche Telekom footprint across Europe we have also delivered many projects over the past 4 years. We have built a rather impressive list of cities and projects. Along the way we have learned that we need a diverse portfolio to solve the diverse issues a city faces. In addition, we know we do not have a lot of big cities in our footprint, so besides being diverse, we need to focus on scaling and repeating solutions to make them more affordable for our medium and small target cities."
What hurdles must be overcome to convince city representatives of the Smart City concept?
Daniel Michel: "More and more cities start to view the technology as a real benefit for them. But cities need to change a bit their organization to enable new technology, that is why you see a growing trend of Chief Digital Officers. As the technology matures and as the city changes its organization to have people who are used to dealing with new technology, then you will start to see cities adopting more innovative solutions."
What is your favorite solution at the moment?
Daniel Michel: "To me – and from a taxpayers’ perspective – the best solution is the one that promises the greatest savings and greatly increases safety. And that’s Smart Street Lighting. I have seen some impressive demonstrations from our partners that have made the difference between the new and old lighting very clear to me: On a dark street they switched from an old to a new lighting and suddenly a person standing on the street appeared who you actually could not see before. A real improvement. Also, knowing that this solution could be not only so much better, but also about 60 percent less expensive regarding the energy costs, makes Smart Street Lighting one of the most interesting solutions to me. The other nice thing about street lighting is that it changes a street light form a pole with electricity at night, to a real estate asset with 24/7 power and communication, that can be used as many other Smart City solutions. In addition, I see the really interesting solutions to be the solutions created by combining and finding new uses for the large amounts of city data."
Let's take a look into the future: How can cities change in the future with the support of Deutsche Telekom?
Daniel Michel: "In the next five or six years the main change in most cities is simply going to be digitalization, basically making paper processes digital. This will be triggered by legislation and in reaction to COVID-19. In addition, cities will start realizing the saving opportunities and revenue opportunities from automating services like using parking solutions to automate parking enforcement."
What does Deutsche Telekom offer to cities that need solutions outside the standard Smart City Portfolio?
Daniel Michel: "Of course, we have our standard portfolio, but if there is something outside the box, we are always scouting the market for new and interesting products. We use our own knowledge and experience to roadmap and to bring new products to market. We also work together with cities through Co-Creation workshops. In these workshops’ Deutsche Telekom consultants discuss and breakdown the challenges the city faces and then we try to come up with solutions to solve those problems. That really puts the city into a creative thinking mode to better understand and solve their problems with the support of Deutsche Telekom."
Data Privacy and Security plays an important role for Smart City solutions. How does Deutsche Telekom solve this challenging situation?
Daniel Michel: "Data Privacy and Security is a key concern of most cities and citizens. Not just protecting the data from hackers, but also who owns it, who has access to it, and what to do with the data. Deutsche Telekom is a market leader in security and has a strong reputation as a trusted security focused company. This differentiates Deutsche Telekom with many of our customers and its often overlooked."
And what about the citizens? Are they open for the Smart City idea?
Daniel Michel: "I guess every citizen would probably think it’s a good idea to reduce traffic, improve air-quality and to make city streets brighter with lower costs. Most Citizens are looking for easy to use common sense approaches that make life better without complicating it. As long as a city keeps those few things in mind, I think citizens will generally support technology and innovation in the sense of Smart City."
Finally, do you have any advice or wishes you would like to express to city representatives?
Daniel Michel: "The main advice that I would have to a city is: Do not limit yourself. There are proven solutions and technology to support your most immediate needs. More and more cities are already thinking in new and innovative ways to provide services and Citizens expect their public officials to keep pace and to continuously make their city an attractive place to live."