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The swarm mentality
The old industry is leaving, the new one is coming: "Rheinmetall Defense" is on the building board, but the arms company occupies just half a floor of the huge office building in Zurich Oerlikon. For this, young companies are spreading, for example Akenza. The start-up is a driving force in Switzerland in the area of the "Internet of Things" (IoT). This is the idea of networking things and making them more intelligent.
Akenza wants nothing less than "making Zurich the smartest city in the world", as Vikram Bhatnagar, co-founder and CEO, proclaims with the boldness of the young entrepreneur. But how is that supposed to work? What does he mean with that? And what does that mean for the city?
In the vernacular, IoT became famous for the Internet-connected refrigerator, which self-replenishes supplies (and no one actually needs). "These times are long gone," says Bhatnagar. For him, the smart refrigerator, for example, makes sense when pharmaceutical products are transported and the temperature must be kept constant by means of control.
In this way, Akenza reflects on the world. But it is not about the individual refrigerator, but about buildings, shutters, heating systems, parking lots, toilets, indeed the infrastructure of a whole city. Bhatnagar likes to use the term Smart City. The magazine "Wired", the journalistic authority of the technology world, writes: "Smart cities can solve the worst problems of big city life." A report from McKinsey & Co comes to the conclusion that among other things, the crime rate by 30-40 percent, the Commute time by 15-30 minutes and reduce water consumption by 25-80 liters of water per person.
The big chance
Although Zurich is repeatedly awarded for its high quality of life (ranked 1 in the ranking of "Monocle" and ranked 2 in the ranking of the consulting firm Mercer), the city ranks in Smart Cities rankings mostly knocked off or does not occur. "There may even be a connection," says Vikram Bhatnagar: "Because the quality of life in Zurich is already so high, there is less pressure to change anything than in cities that are struggling with notorious traffic or smog problems."
The Indian metropolis of Delhi, for example, is currently implementing a smart traffic management system, because the congested roads cost the city just under $ 10 billion a year, the average speed of traffic is just 20 km / h, and the air quality is precarious. Vikram Bhatnagar recently wanted to test a new air quality sensor, but the pointer did not move - only when he took him to India did the scale start.
Whether a bus rolls faster or slower over the Central in Zurich seems at first glance to be a side issue. But just for Zurich is the Smart City a "huge opportunity," says Vikram Bhatnagar. In order to achieve the goal of the 2000-watt society, technologies are urgently needed "which make the existing infrastructure more efficient". In addition, smart devices often resulted in huge cost savings. A simple example: If a company is in the picture centrally about the fill levels of beverage vending machines or printer cartridges, it can optimally plan the use of the refilling personnel and the shopping as well as the transports. "Such small examples," says Vikram Bhatnagar, "are thousands upon thousands in the city."
From Zurich to the world, like Google, Facebook or Disney
The role of Akenza in such IoT projects? They build something like the brain of data flows: "The data comes in very different channels," explains Bhatnagar. "These can be radio networks such as LoRaWAN or the fiber optic network, building management systems, Bluetooth or a mobile network." Akenza manages, processes and consolidates these data Data flows on the Akenza Core system, which in turn is compatible with the customer's system - be it a Microsoft, SAP or Salesforce world - and visualizes the data so that it can be easily understood and derived from it.
Akenza started in 2017, still under the name Hivemind, and today already employs 26 people; In the office a mix between German and English is spoken. Most of the projects are still from Switzerland, but Vikram Bhatnagar is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy. The goal is to offer the world's leading IoT system in five years, based on the findings from Zurich. The market research institute IDC estimates the global IoT market currently at 726 billion dollars, by 2023 it is to grow to 1.1 trillion dollars.
"Perhaps unnoticed by the public, the city has become an international hotspot for IT"
Zurich as a company location is undisputed. The ever-growing presence of companies like Google, Facebook or Disney shows "how to develop solutions for the world from Zurich". The Innovation Park in Dübendorf gives the entire industry a further boost - Akenza has also implemented a project there.
Sick days reduced, productivity increased
Vikram Bhatnagar, a 32-year-old native Indian with a pronounced Basler accent, is constantly looking for ways to optimize his environment. "If this roller shutters were electric," Bhatnagar points to a large window of the old building, "if I could compare its control with different environmental data and connect it with the entire building services - this would significantly improve the air quality and thus the well-being of the employees. And it could save a lot of energy and costs. »
Such projects accompany Akenza. For example, "Together with ewz, we began measuring the air quality in many of the city's buildings, collecting and analyzing the data centrally to improve the indoor climate." Another customer, who has been experiencing air quality in his office space for some time Time is measured, it was found that the air was too dry in the afternoon. The system was connected to the building services, so the air quality could be improved in real time. "The before / after interviews showed how much better people were: their vocal cords were less irritated and they felt less tired," says Vikram Bhatnagar. In this simple way, sick days could be reduced and productivity increased.
Smart Parking with batteries that last for several years
There are many other examples where cities in Switzerland or even things could become "smarter": If parking spaces "report" whether they are occupied or not, the search for parking spaces and the associated search traffic can be reduced. Knowing how often and when a toilet is used, the cleaning staff can be used more efficiently. And and and.
Is the city of the future full of sensors? And do not they need a lot of electricity? At the municipal utility company, we asked: "With every application, you have to think carefully about what you want to measure and what benefits you want to generate for which target group," says Marcus Cathomen from ewz. "And before you roll out anything, the technical solution should be tested and the benefits demonstrated, for example in the context of a pilot project."
Cathomen gives an example in which 185 parking spaces at the Hallenstadion in Oerlikon were equipped with sensors and integrated into the parking guidance system of the city of Zurich in the Department of Transport and the "Organization und Informatik Zürich". "From this pilot project we have gained a lot of insights for further Zurich IoT projects."
To be able to use sensors citywide, especially where there is no power supply or data connection such as fiber, ewz therefore realizes a wireless IoT network based on the so-called LoRaWAN technology - a component of the Smart City Zurich strategy. LoRaWAN stands for Long Range Wide Area Network, meaning that the network has a long reach. The bandwidth for data transmission is also very low with this technology - which is usually just right for IoT applications. To do this, LoRaWAN sensors require so little power that they are battery operated and, depending on the application, operate autonomously for up to several years.
Yoga instead of pizza
At the Akenza office in Oerlikon, an employee bursts into the meeting room. The yoga class starts right away. "We may be a software company," says Vikram Bhatnagar, "but the days of pizza and beer are definitely over." Fitness equipment and fruit bowls standing in the office underline the boss's words.