Cologne GrowSmarter Study Visit

​​Cologne Growsmarter Study Visit 26th-27th June 2017

The main subject matter of this Study Visit revolved around Smart Cities and Sustainable Mobility, most of which was informative in nature. The most noteworthy events in the program were:

  • A presentation on Cologne’s open data platform, or what they refer to as the Urban Cockpit. This is synonymous with what is being planned in Malta for the National Traffic Control Centre and the National Access Point for travel and traffic related data;
  • A visit to a low energy district which included a visit on-site integrated energy management systems which showcased tenant electricity supply, smart meter adoption, district heating and smart home design;
  • A visit to what is referred to as a Mobility Station, synonymous or similar to what is being planned for a multi-modal hub in Malta. Mobility stations include car-sharing, and bike-sharing facilities of which a series of presentations by start-ups and SMEs were given.

The application discussed through the two-day visit had some intriguing characteristics that were motivating. Through what was communicated at multiple instances, some similarities were observed between the problems the local public administration is tarnished by and Malta’s own. Most especially, a qualitative and quantitative deficiency in resources and inefficiency in operations. Equally motivating was the fact that, through the impression that was drawn by the participating parties and the cities they represented, Malta is a great contender and is not far behind in great idea generation and the potential for relevance, innovation and leadership as one may think. Malta truly does stand a chance in giving great contribution in the fields of Smart Cities and Sustainable Mobility.

One important difference in approach that was deemed noteworthy, had to do with the presentation on the open data platform. It could be seen that Cologne is taking a very different approach to Malta in this regard where they are currently focusing on the back-end and structuring the necessary frameworks in order to generate successful projects out in their city (the front-end of Intelligent Transport System Applications). The approach presented by Cologne seemed as if it would be more credible and sustainable, and therefore effective and successful, in the long run.

Finally, the great involvement of start-ups SMEs in the Mobility Station and the systems or technologies employed seemed to me to be an approach worth noting. The private sector and the interests that are intrinsic, would play a significant role in kickstarting change in the transport sector. This approach was deemed commendable and could offer positive results with respect to a city’s aspirations to sustainable mobility. It will be important to identify very clearly where the role of the public sector should end and that of the private sector should begin, especially with respect to changing societal landscapes such as transport and energy, where the public sector cannot be the sole catalyst towards the desired results.