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Cisco, Dortmund and the art of reinvention

Sarah Wray talks to Mirko Bass about Cisco’s role in Dortmund’s smart city transformation.

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Mirko Bass, Cisco
Mirko Bass, Cisco

This article is in association with Cisco.

 

Cisco is one of the founding partners of Dortmund’s Smart City Alliance, and has been working with the German city since the inception of its digitisation initiative in 2016.

 

Just over two years later, in September 2018, the Living City Foundation presented Dortmund with a Digital City award.

 

Mirko Bass, Business Development Manager EMEAR (Europe, Middle East, Africa & Russia), Cisco, shares the key takeaways so far from this promising project as it starts to really take off.

 

SCW: How did Cisco become involved in the Dortmund smart city project?

 

MB: Our involvement began when we formed the Allianz Smart City Dortmund (Alliance) in 2016. The founding partners were Cisco, the City of Dortmund and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Dortmund, which represents over 50,000 businesses.

 

In June 2016, the Alliance founding members signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on economic opportunities, technologies and networks of the future to improve the

quality of life for citizens in Dortmund.

 

Initially, there were 65 members of the Alliance, including a range of businesses and science organisations. Now there are 137.

 

SCW: What excites you about the work in Dortmund?

 

MB: In the Rhine-Ruhr region, the coal industry saw a decline and this impacted the economy of the area.

 

Dortmund is a great example of innovation in a crisis. The city needed to shift to a more sustainable energy model and find new ventures for Dortmund and the whole region.

 

If the economy is good and you’re in a comfortable situation, there is often no need to change anything. But if you are in a crisis, you need to roll up your sleeves, work together and find new ventures. This is exactly what the work in Dortmund is about.

 

If the economy is good and you’re in a comfortable situation, there is often no need to change anything. But if you are in a crisis, you need to roll up your sleeves, work together and find new ventures. This is exactly what the work in Dortmund is about.

 

Together with the city and industry, we quickly identified that there’s a strong will from all sides to move into the area of digitisation.

 

That was the initial starting point where we launched Dortmund as an innovation lab for new concepts. Now, together, we are looking into mobility, energy management, logistics, demographic change, platforms, citizen services, city infrastructure and security.

 

Over 25 projects are either in the pilot phase or have been implemented.

 

SCW: Smart cities have complex ecosystems of partners. What role is Cisco playing?

 

MB: As a founding partner, Cisco is on the Alliance board, helping to guide and support the work.

We want to connect silos which haven’t been connected. To do this, you need to have a very strong, secure network so we will provide connectivity.

 

We’re working with Dortmund on its smart lighting upgrade – almost 25,000 traditional lights will be transformed into LED lighting, and these are all IP endpoints too. We will deploy an urban IoT platform for everything from the detection of available parking spaces to lighting control and mobility services.

 

We’re also moving ahead on mobility concepts, such as intelligent traffic management around the Borussia Dortmund football club stadium – when there’s a match on, there can be as many as 80,000 people moving around the area. This brings challenges, and we’re looking to tackle those.

 

It isn’t just technology, though. We’re an advisory partner so we also bring our decades of expertise and experience. I think the most valuable thing we provide, next to technical hardware or software, is that we bring our entire ecosystem.

 

We have partners all over the world who we have worked with to address city challenges globally, and we have been able to bring many of those experts into the Dortmund ecosystem.

 

It’s education, too. The Cisco Networking Academy is the largest online classroom in the world. We have so far educated more than 6.5 million people worldwide. Courses cover IoT, Internet security, industry 4.0 and more. We offer this in Dortmund, too, free of charge, and it’s about providing educational support for the job roles of the future. It’s available on the Internet, and we are scaling this work through initiatives with primary schools, secondary schools, universities and vocational academies.

 

SCW: What are your takeaways from the project in Dortmund so far?

 

MB: Dortmund has very strong leadership. They have strong ties between all the companies

and the Chamber of Commerce. The mayor ‘walks the walk’. He knows that this is the new opportunity for his city.

 

The mayor ‘walks the walk’. He knows that this is the new opportunity for his city.

 

It’s also interesting that the City of Dortmund has built the organisational platform to support the smart city initiative. The city has set up a Chief Information/Innovation Office, reporting directly to the mayor. That’s quite unique.

 

Also, everyone in the city and the Alliance partnership works very closely together. If there’s anything they need to discuss, they just get on a call and then they get it solved. I haven’t seen this working so well anywhere before.

 

All this, as well as the signing of the MOU, is helping Dortmund get ready for the future.

 

They have been forced to roll up their sleeves, and now they have a new direction. They are at the forefront, and that’s a very strong position.

 

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