Zug, 02.05.2019

Some blunt answers to Smart questions at Technology Cluster discussion

Last Wednesday evening some 200 attended a discussion among experts on the how smart “Smart Cities” were.



The experts invited included Eliane Birchmeier, a Zug city councillor, Anna Schindler, the head of planning in the city of Zurich, Marie Sidler, head of planning in Sempach in the canton of Lucerne, and Alice Hollenstein, a lecturer at the Centre for Urban and Real Estate Management at the University of Zurich, all of whom can be seen from left to right in the photograph with presenter Marco Meier in the centre.


The evening was one in a series of debates and discussions on the theme of digitalisation with reference to “Zug as a city of the future”, this particular evening  focusing on the future of industry in the city.


One member of the audience, Benedikt Loderer, considered the term “Smart City” to be merely an empty expression used by experts purporting to present solutions to current problems. When he stood up and asked the what real problems could be solved by “Smart Cities”, he answered concisely and monosyllabically himself by saying, “None”.


Anyway, this gave all the aforementioned expert ladies plenty to respond to, with presenter Meier initially asking what they understood by the term “Smart City”, after which it became clear that the term was indeed unclear.


For her part, Schindler asserted that Zurich was “very smart”, as she went on to explain that, in her view, smartness in this context was all about the linking-up of people and the organising of participation. She mentioned that, in the city of Zurich, 25 per cent of the population was made up of people between the ages of 30 and 39, yet, of these, only 50 per cent had the right to vote, “a lot more than in other large European cities such as London,” she said.


What Hollenstein was more concerned about was how people perceived architecture, her studies in this area based on data and taking into account the behaviour and needs of people, with the design of individual buildings coming only at the end of planning processes.


Both Birchmeier and Sidler also felt it was right to prioritise the needs of people, both  of them having visited various areas of their own cities to meet up with and consult people there, the latter mentioning how the needs of people were very similar whether they lived in large or small communities; the former saying how she felt ““smart city” was a technology much like other new technologies in the past”.


The discussion was rounded off by Beat Weiss explaining all about the “Zug Technology Cluster”, followed by all in attendance enjoying a drink as they discussed intensively the issues raised.


This article is based on one written by Christof Gassner of the “Zug Technology Cluster” organisation.