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5 March 2017

Cologne blog #5: open air hackathon and international exchange

Action area 1: Low-Energy Districts

To see all the measures to be implemented, click here.

Energy consultation in the Stegerwald settlement

The City of Cologne and its cooperation partner, the consumer center NRW, support the GrowSmarter project in Cologne. Tenants in the project area of the Stegerwaldsiedlung are eligible for a free energy consultation. This consultation is the perfect preparation for the installation of smart home devices and smart meters in the area. Tenants can receive an overview of their electricity and heating energy consumption as well as advice about heating and ventilation.

Consultants look at all household appliances, lamps, TVs and computers, as well as electric water heaters and other big electricity consumers, taking into account also the heating costs and total annual electricity consumption. In addition, tenants are asked about their electricity consumption habits, typical ventilation habits, and radiator settings. The design of the building and the location of the apartment are also included, since these factors also influence energy consumption. The total level of energy consumption is calculated from the data gathered, and the consultant provides recommendations for better-performing appliances the results are given to the energy consultant in a report for further check up.

The tenants were informed about this with a special invitation:

Action area 2: Integrated infrastructures

To see all the measures to be implemented, click here.

Open Air Hackathon – Cologne is starting to become a smart city

What is a smart city exactly and how can one bring it to the general public? –What about transparency, citizen participation and new forms of climate protection? Initiated by the activities of GrowSmarter, the City of Cologne, RheinEnergy and representatives of civil society pursued this question on 28 October 2016 at an Open Air Hackathon.

First meeting on Friday, 28 October

Within the framework of a “Pen and Paper Hackathon”, new application scenarios for a smart city were sought with specially developed environmental sensors. Under the motto "Open Air Cologne", interested parties were invited to place initial rudimentary sensors in different locations in Cologne to get an overview of where and how pollutant concentrations are generated and spread. As a first step, about 20 NO2 measuring stations should be installed for interested citizens in Cologne.

NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) is a gas emitted, among others, by combustion engines. The goal is not 100% accurate measurement results, but the transfer of technology and know-how. Competent experts from research and science as well as from the field of industry provide corresponding input before the first prototype sensors can be used to gain experience.

Sensor Data from Friday, 2 February – 06:00 AM

The pursuit of new ideas did not end with the conclusion of the Hackathon, it continues with the cooperation of the city of Cologne, project partners from GrowSmarter and the Kölner OK Lab ( as well as the regular Open-Data-Roundtable initiated by the City of Cologne (#ODRC). The Hackathon was the starting point for a regular exchange with interested citizens and stakeholders, centring around questions like: What was the experience like with the sensors? How can technology be used in a targeted way to solve problems with open data? Does the solution already exist somewhere?

The Cologne OK Lab is a regional group of designers, developers, journalists and others who meet every two weeks to work on useful applications for open data.

In the process, the group develops different applications, for example to display Cologne’s playgrounds or monuments on maps, to find homes for animals in Cologne's animal shelters, or to show 3D representations of how many young people live in Cologne.

OK Lab is sponsored by the Open Knowledge Foundation, which launched the network of OK Labs in 2014. Code for Germany provides OK Labs with the necessary infrastructure to network with each other. In addition, the program supports the local groups in communication with government, institutions and the public. Decision-makers and administrations are also involved in the processes.

In this respect, the organisers of the Hackathon were grateful to have found this group interested in establishing the participative approach of GrowSmarter permanently. The event itself was divided into two sub-events: the actual sensors were built at the beginning of the one-week festival as part of an embedded hardware meetup and were distributed during this workshop. First, the functional principles of the sensors were shown and explained. There were demonstrations about what happens with the collected data and how it can be examined and further processed, e.g. to correlate with other data or create visualisations.

Participants could take sensors home, install them, and thus support Open Air Cologne with their own data. The second part of the Hackathon focused on the actual development of applications and the optimisations around the sensors themselves, including measurement accuracy, design of housing, etc. The discussions went until late in the evening with the participants working enthusiastically. For the first time, interested people will be part of the data collection and, in addition to the hardware and software engineering of environmental sensors, will also learn about the background and technical know-how on topics related to environmental measurements.

Design concept of Sensor Board and Body

Where does it go from here?

Additional information will be found on following websites:

The entire codebase will be available on:

Action area 3: Sustainable Urban Mobility

To see all the measures to be implemented, click here.

Progress in CarSharing for sustainable urban mobility

The expansion of the mobility points in the Mülheim district is proceeding rapidly. Last year, four new Cambio CarSharing stations were opened. Two of them, REGENTEN and VON-SPARR, have already been equipped with charging stations from RheinEnergie (so-called Tank-E) and electric cars.

All new stations are within walking distance to public transport nodes. This is important in order to complement and connect different forms of mobility in the area. The station Bahnhof Mülheim is connected to tram, suburban train and regional transport. At the station Deutz, next to the station Auenweg at Charles-de-Gaulle-Platz, there is also a connection to the long-distance transportation. In the entire city area of Mülheim there will also be the possibility to use KVB´s bicycles, completing the service offer.

A total of 31 vehicles - including 4 electric ones - are now available to residents of the Mülheim area at different seven stations. Due to the variety of vehicles - in addition to the e-vehicles and small cars, there is also a truck, van or transporter – there are specific vehicles for many different requirements.

The GrowSmarter mobility points are not yet equipped with electric cars, but will also be equipped with Tank-Es and Renault Zoes in the following weeks. With a range of almost 120 km, the Renault Zoe is not just for going shopping in the city. Despite the compact size, it offers enough space for four people. Also the trunk has significant storage space. The Zoes are charged with green electricity. Thus the people of the Mülheim area can make a trip to the countryside without producing particulate pollution.

In addition to the seven existing stations, the station network in the district of Mülheim is to be further consolidated this year. Currently, two new stations are planned for 2017. The aim is to imlpement a comprehensive car-sharing service in Mülheim.

Map of car-sharing points in Mülheim Map of car-sharing point in Deutz

Presentation of GrowSmarter at 3rd World Internet Conference in Wuzhen/Shanghai

In September 2016 a delegation consisting of mayors of large towns, employees of market-leading enterprises and representatives of the company CETC visited the city of Cologne. The delegation was led by Dr. Wanje Chen from Graz, a follower city in GrowSmarter.

The representatives were informed about the aims and management of the smart city projects in Cologne. During a study tour in Stegerwald settlement the GrowSmarter project was presented. The integrated approach in the areas of energy, mobility and information technology impressed the delegation very much, and the city of Cologne was invited to participate at 3rdWorld Internet Conference in Wuzhen /Shanghai. This conference is attended by participants from all over the world.

The representative of the city of Cologne answered questions about smart city projects and GrowSmarter specifically to an audience of about 800. Particular attention was paid at the way of information and participation of the affected citizens during the entire process. The majors were highly interested in the implementation of innovative measures.

The exchange across the borders of continents has brought new knowledge and ideas to all sides, and should be continued.

Photo of Representatives of Wuzhen Conference and City Cologne (M)

District talk in Mülheim - Citizen participation in the GrowSmarter

On 15 December 2016, Mayor Reker invited the citizens of Mülheim to express their concerns and questions related to GrowSmarter. All the construction measures in Stegerwaldsiedlung as well as the plans for the mobile stations in the urban area Mülheim were presented. More than 600 suggestions and questions were collected from the participants, and Mrs. Reker assured that the questions would be answered within 14 days. A film was also shown to present the GrowSmarter measures and directly address tenants' concerns. The dialogue process is to be continued in summer 2017 with an event in Stegerwaldsiedlung.

Photo of GrowSmarter Information Point