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Huawei, Kelsterbach, Rüsselsheim und Raunheim

Notes about „smart city“

The Mayors of three German cities signed a cooperation with Huawei at the CeBIT Fair. I was an observer of the signing ceremony.

Majors signing the agreement. A big display show the text: Smart City Cooperation 3Wins - Huawei LOI Signing

Rüsselsheim Mayor Patrick Burghardt, Raunheims Mayor Thomas Jühe, and Kelsterbachs Mayor Manfred sign a cooperation agreement with Pablo Cui from Huawei.

The cities are located near the biggest German airport of Frankfurt in the economically active Rhein-Main region. However, the cities have combined less inhabitants than Huawei has employees.

What is the agreement about? The cities wish to receive Smart City services, and Huawei plans to open a Smart City Exhibition Center.

What are these smart services exactly? The speech of the mayors were quite generic. If you read the press release, you find only one specific project: the construction of a high speed fibre-optical network.

The cities probably have more projects in mind, as they have organized a German-Chinese Smart City forum in Rüsselsheim in September 2014.

Huawei itself defines the key aspects of Smart City on its website as follows:

In a nutshell, a Smart City describes the integrated management of information that creates value by applying advanced technologies to search, access, transfer, and process information

If I simplify this sentence, Smart City is information management. Like a database.

Huawei further lists the following application areas (in this order):

  • Government and administration (e-government)
  • Traffic management (e-traffic)
  • CCTV (Video surveillance)
  • Health and education (e-health and e-education)
  • Home Monitoring (e-Home)

Next these technical requirements are listed:

A Smart City needs to support services like E1, E3, DS3, STM-1, PRI, ATM, FR and X.25

Overall, Huawei offers a very technical interpretation of the concept Smart City. This is of course not so surprising, as they want to sell the needed technologies. Compare this to other interpretations in my article “Smart City, one term, many concepts

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WebApp-Icons für Chrome auf Android

Das Android-Maskottchen: ein grüner Roboter

Translation to english is in progress, stay tunes

Webapps sind im Grunde einfach Webseiten, die man mit eigenen Icon auf seinen Smartphone installieren kann. Die Nutzer brauchen so nicht über einen Appstore zu gehen.

Um eine solche Webapp zu entwickeln müssen wir dem HTML-Code einer Webseite zusätzliche Informationen mitgeben: die generelle Eigenschaft “WebApp-fähig” sowie mindestens ein Icon. Apple hat sich hier ein Link Element mit Namen “apple-touch-icon” ausgedacht, zunächst in der krummen Größe von 57 Pixel. Dann kamen neue Geräte und Auflösungen, und Ruck-Zuck durfte man 4 verschiedene Icons allein für Apple definieren.

Android hat WebApps bisher zwar auch unterstützt, aber eher halbherzig. Und Android möchte gerne andere Icon-Größen haben, die Vielfalt ist noch höher als bei Apple. Die Icon-Größen sind hier 48/72/96/144/192. Natürlich wollte die Android-Entwickler nicht die Tags nutzen, die das Wort “Apple” im Namen haben. All diese Bilder müssen im Kopfbereich der HTML-Datei verlinkt werden. Der Kopfbereich wird dadurch immer größer, ohne das irgend ein substanzieller Inhalt hinzukommt.

The new solution

Mit Chrome ab Version M39 hat sich Google jetzt der WebApp-Funktionalität noch einmal angenommen. Die Lösung ist eine zusätzliche Datei, die von der Originaldatei mit einem Link-Element referenziert wird:

<link rel=”manifest” href=”manifest.json”>

Der Browser braucht die Informationen in der Datei nur anfordern, wenn der Nutzer wirklich die WebApp auf den Startbildschirm installieren will. In der Datei können wird die verschiedenen Icons definieren, sowie einige nützliche Extra-Informationen:

  • name: Der Name, der auf dem Startbildschirm erscheinen soll. Der sollte möglichst kurz sein, also oft anders als der HTML-Title.

  • orientation: Man kann landscape oder portrait als Ausrichtung festlegen.

  • start_url: Das ist meistens einfach “index.html”

  •  

    display: “standalone” Dieses Attribut schaltet die Webapp Funktionalität in Chrome an.

Result

Die Auslagerung der Web-App-Definition macht den Head-Bereich von Webseiten wieder kleiner (oder zu mindestens wächst er nicht mehr mit jeder neuen Icon-Größe).

Das gewählte Format ist offenbar wieder mal ein Alleingang einer amerikanischen Firma. Weder CSS noch der ebenfalls “Manifest” genannte Appcache-Definition, noch die XML-Widget-Definition des W3C wurden verwendet. Leider fehlt bei Chrome immer noch eine definierte Möglichkeit, wie die WebApp erkennen kann, dass sie im Standalone-Modus läuft.

 

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Beijing wireless card for public transport

Beijing Yikatong Card

On my desk is a souvenir from Beijing: a so-called Yikatong card. You can pay subways, buses and also taxis with the card. It works as prepaid card, the card is charged with credit at special machines. When entering the bus you tap card to a reader and at the exit you will tap it again to a reader. The fare is calculated and deducted from the balance. In contrast to the many “Mobile Payment” attempts here in Germany this system is used by millions of people each day for some years now.

Continue Reading →

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Smart City, the IT perspective

From the perspective of a computer scientist, a city is also an information-processing entity. And so when IT talks about “smart cities” they usually talk about a system of many data sources and actuators distributed in the city, and the infrastructure to use them meaningfully.

Data sources are things like a sensor temperature sensor, or a bus which reports that it arrives at a certain bus stop. And last but not least the smartphones of citizens can also be viewed as data sources.

Continue Reading →

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Smart City – one term, many concepts

The term “smart city” is en vogue. Every city that is proud of itself would like to be like a city smart. But most citizen con not connect a clear idea with this term. Sure, there are definitions of the term. Just for new terms it is crucially how they are used.

Where there is something new, and where is somebody just trying to sell really simple apps or other services? What are the subjects where something is happening? I have analysed documents by various actors to create more clarity.

EU level

The European Commission has created a multi-stakeholder platform, connected to the ‘digital agenda': eu-smartcities.eu

Smart City Infografik

A infographic published by the EU shows problems, actors and tasks of the Smart City Innovation Partnership

On this platform, there are three thematic working groups:

  • Energy efficiency and building
  • Power distribution networks
  • Mobility and transport

There are also some cross topic groups, dealing with IT or financing, but this was all the topics that were connected to “smart city”. Recently there was added a topic with a broader view called “citizen focus”.

Berlin

The senate of Berlin has established a working group Smart City Berlin (SCB). In a position paper this working group defines smart city as “Cities and regions which have set itself the task to identify future issues of the city and then to solve these issues”. So identifying the problems is a separate step. Different cities have different objectives.

These self given objectives should than be addressed by the interaction of various actors (politics, administration, economy, society, science)

The Smart City working group claimed a holistic approach and chose as objectives the creation of a higher quality of life, as well as strengthening of innovation (i.e. meta-innovation).

As a slightly more specific topics, the position paper names again environmental, energy and mobility, and in addition health, security and demographic change.

Hamburg

Container vessel in the port of Hamburger

Container loading at the port. For several years there are autonomous vehicle for container transport. In future, the feeder traffic will be further cross-linked.

Smart City is apparently occupied by the authority of “Economics, transport and innovation” in Hamburg. On the Hamburg web page smart city is defined as “intelligent and networked city

Objectives are

  • Improve quality of life
  • Efficient mobility,
  • Environment (use less resources, less pollution)
  • Utilise the benefits of “innovative infrastructure”

I can recognize these fields of work:

  • The port (smart port). Here sensor networks will probably be employed.
  • Street lighting and traffic lights
  • Detection and control of traffic flows
  • Citizen kiosk (a kind of container with video connection to other authorities)

Although “quality of life” was the first item in the list of objectives, smart city seem to be driven by the economy (more precise: individual economic actors). Especially highlighted is a partnership with the American network equipment manufacturer Cisco.

Amazingly, not mentioned at all is everything that happened for the international building exhibition (IBA) from 2006-2013. After all, the IBA has defined itself also as a city laboratory: “in the middle of Hamburg IBA sought answers to the most pressing questions of the modern city of projects for the future of the metropolis.”

Paris / San Francisco

Centre Pompidou in Paris

Centre Pompidou: a bold architectural concept. The square in front of it is used as a meeting place.

Here I have found a nice summary by Marie-Perrine Durot, Technology Partnership Director  the”PRIME transatlantic innovation platform”. (Interview published in “Atelier”, Publisher: BNP-PARIBAS). Mrs Durot designs the following program under the term smart city:

…first and foremost all about getting sectors which have up to now been working independently to dialogue and work together …

…A second revolution is needed to de-compartmentalize the roles of decision-makers, experts and citizens in the way our cities are run….

… A third move is for cities to break out of their geographical isolation. Cities have so much to share…

Part 2

The second part of this analysis discusses the use of the term smart city in the IT scene.

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How does the NFC-Hunt App from Google works?

Das Android-Maskottchen: ein grüner Roboter

Google organized a kind of scavenger hunt for the developers conference IO 2013 to demonstrate the practical use of NFC. Participants needed an NFC-enabled Android and then installed an app called “NFC Hunt”. The app gives clues where to find specific NFC tags in the real world. The user has to find and scan these tags, and then the app give clues for the next station.

Google has published the source code of NFC Hunt app. So we developers have a fine example of a complete NFC application. But when I tried to understand the source code I noticed gaps in the documentation. Just the interesting parts are not explicitly explained: how can I make my app listen to NFC tags and how do I respond to the detected tags. Here now is the result of my research:

Continue Reading →

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Reversed sound volume controls

Sometimes when I want to adjust the volume on my electronic devices, I push the loud button instead of on the quiet button. Why do I get confused? Let’s look at the assignment of the volume buttons to the volume control for a Android tablet nexus 7, second version:

volume controls of a tablets

Assignment of the volume buttons for the Nexus 7

When I press the left button, the sound becomes louder and the slider on the screen moves to the right. When I want to move the slider to the left, I must press right. What you see is the opposite of what you get. (WYSITOOWYG). It reminds me of German dadaism poetry.

Why does somebody assign the keys like this? Continue Reading →

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Counter with pie chart

Just created a new video and uploaded it to YouTube, it shows the Android port of Handylearn Counter. I especially like how the pie chart dynamically changes with presses of the buttons.

The original J2ME version has now six-digit download numbers and is particularly popular in India, Mexico and Argentina.

The android version let you swipe between the counting screen, a bar chart screen and a pie chat screen

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