Frankfurt becomes a smart city with sensors

Daten, data, data. Information about light and darkness, traffic jams, water levels, garbage cans, pedestrian frequencies, air quality and much more are considered the basis of a smart city, i.e. a city in which digital applications make life more pleasant and at the same time the available resources are used more efficiently. While some are tinkering with apps and platforms, others are testing sensors that can collect all of the data. The Frankfurt energy supplier Mainova is also experimenting with it, has installed a large number of measuring devices around its headquarters on Solmsstrasse and has now demonstrated this test field to interested parties as part of the Impact Week event series.

The tour led to otherwise little noticed places such as street lamps. The first one has sensors installed to measure particulate matter pollution and the amount of carbon dioxide in the air; a microphone hangs high on another mast to record road noise. Small guards, including a light sensor, also hang at a tram stop not far from the company headquarters. It reports when people approach the station. In the future, this could be used to control the lighting of the bus stop in order to reduce light pollution and power consumption of the stations. The power supply to the pay machine can also be monitored remotely. If there was a defect, the employees of the VGF transport company could be contacted quickly and come to repair the vehicle.

Automatic watering and parking easier

The tour continued to the parking lot on the Mainova premises. At least one parking space there is already equipped with a sensor that reports when a car is parked there and when the space is free. This technology would be the basis for a parking app that is accurate to the parking space and can guide the driver directly to free parking spaces without having to make extra laps through downtown Frankfurt, for example.

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Then the driver might have time to rest on a park bench. The Mainova has one built around a “Hydrocube”. This cube is also still in the pilot phase. A 1,000 liter water tank is hidden behind the wooden paneling, which in turn is connected to a nearby tree with a hose and sensor. The sensor detects when the tree needs water and triggers the automatic irrigation, which can save water in less hot phases and eliminates the need for employees who previously drove from tree to tree with their watering vehicles on hot days. Not only does the sensor in the earth take care of the tree’s well-being, in future infrared images from satellites could also provide information on how vital the urban green is.

Small data collectors

From the smart bank, Mainova employees drew the visitors’ attention to a small pond. A sensor is also installed on a bridge over it, which, so to speak, keeps an eye on the water level and reports rising water levels.

Like most other data collectors, it does this via the LoRaWan radio network that Mainova has set up in the city and uses for its own sensors, but also offers it to all other actors who want to collect and send data. The advantage of this technology is that the LoRaWan antennas require little energy and require little maintenance, while the sensors have to transmit relatively small amounts of data at regular intervals.

Fabian Annich, managing director of the start-up platform Station FrankfurtRheinMain and initiator of Impact Week, received praise for all the joy of experimentation. “I think it’s gratifying that an established company like Mainova is taking responsibility for the Smart City project.”


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