Smart Cities: This Is What the Future of City Centers Looks Like

Author: Lukas
Reading time: 5 minutes

Time to think a step ahead. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights what traditional and sometimes outdated concepts, processes and techniques bring to urban planning: A whole lot of frustration. The crisis situation forced many sectors, institutions and departments to come up with new concepts and solutions virtually off the cuff. Gradually, they realized how backward and outdated their own structures and working methods were and how much creative rethinking could achieve. The long-awaited implementation of digitization, which had been delayed by all means, finally gained momentum, albeit sluggishly. Over time, alternatives were recognized that simplified everyday life in a world with Corona. While the last few years have been all about dealing with the ongoing consequences and challenges, it is slowly but surely time to take perspective, however. Because one thing is certain: the future needs more innovative space.

Smart City concept using the example of the Karlsruhe shop window
Time to choose a new perspective. Image: ©7places.

What Does “Smart City” Actually Mean?

If you enter the search term in the search engine, you will find numerous definitions. EnBw, for example, uses the collective term on its website to describe “[…] ideas and concepts […] for urban spaces that are intended to make cities more efficient and thus more climate-friendly and more livable through the use of modern technology.” The focus here is primarily on the digitalization of various institutions and infrastructures. This offers scope for new lifestyles. Smart systems in the cityscape ensure multifunctionality and networking. This enables contemporary action and more knowledge transfer.

What Is There to Consider When We Plan for the Future?

The climate crisis, a backward education and health sector, public administrations that still have fax numbers. These are all problems that in conventional form will be a problem for the future. The answer is a holistic, self-functioning organism supported by the heart, the city center: The Smart City. The cornerstone of an interconnected ecosystem is e-governance, which then gives rise to other networks.

New standards are being set for a city’s energy budget. It is not only important to use sustainable energy, but also to use it as efficiently as possible. Institutions of education can only be saved through basic digital renovation. The dynamic alternation of home office and face-to-face events revealed in the most brutal way the sometimes questionable deficits in digital education and technological equipment in the sector. The healthcare system must be made more flexible so that it can respond appropriately to spontaneous events. The key to the whole thing is the transformation of the premises. Co-spacing and smart offices provide the variety needed to keep people coming to offices in the future. New and affordable housing is needed. At the same time, it must be designed to be sustainable and comfortable; after all, it must be worthwhile to move back to the city. Efficient use of space is particularly important here. In expensive cities like Stuttgart, housing can still only be afforded by people with above-average salaries. Malls and shopping streets are dying out; stores in the city center have to convince with newly conceived ideas and unique offers.

Smart City concept using the example of the Karlsruhe shop window
New ideas and unique offers, such as the #Schaufensterkarlsruhe, should revitalize the city centers. Image: ©7places.

These Are the Advantages of Smart Cities

The concept of smart cities is intended to do one thing above all: reinvent the city. For example, municipalities and communities can also be involved in urban development. A well-developed public transportation network connects the different areas of life, which are brought together in the heart of the city – the downtown area. This creates a diverse urban society. Likewise, the concepts can help achieve EU sustainability goals. Saving resources and increasing efficiency make a significant contribution to climate protection. Smart buildings and smart homes can each avoid up to 20% of the energy demand in cities. The goal of a smart city is to maintain diversity, create new service areas and business models, and in parallel network everything together. This can increase sales through offers and services and significantly improve the quality of life in the city of the future.

Smart City Strategy with the 7places App in Erfurt
Improving quality of life through smart city concepts. Image: ©7places.
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Retailers can also benefit from modernization. Image: ©7places.

How Does a Smart City Work?

Digital connectivity enables more accurate planning and new ways of doing things in urban development. This ensures cost- and energy-efficient data traffic, allowing new ways of digital education, work and communication technologies to be developed and service to people to be modernized through the implementation of smart governance concepts. Read more in 7 Places’ blog post on the future of digital ways of working. In the healthcare sector and in mobility, too, coordinated technologies ensure better care. The retail sector is also benefiting sustainably from this modernization.

What Makes a City Livable?

Often, different places around the world come into question in order to meet the aspects of a livable city in different areas. A smart city should combine all aspects, thus learning from concepts that are already livable and optimizing them in line with each other and integrating them into the various areas of life. New opportunities will then arise to actively help shape and improve the cityscape. Communication is an essential part of this and will be made more attractive and efficient thanks to new ideas. Smart city concepts should play a supporting role here and become a crucial source of information and data in the implementation of projects. City visits must be designed more thoughtfully. In order to create attractive offers, appropriate retail concepts are needed in the city center, among other things, which can also defy online retailing. A visit to a restaurant must be able to stand out from the conventional delivery service through exclusivity and convincing service, such as live events, or also modern infrastructure. Digital transformation also makes running a restaurant more profitable and thus more interesting for traders.

Smart cities bring forth new digital products
Smart city concepts ensure active co-creation. Image: ©7places.

Intelligent Projects in a Smart City

With “Self-Driving Vision 2030,” the city of Seoul in South Korea announced at the end of November 2021 that it would build the infrastructure for autonomous vehicles in the city by 2026. According to Mayor Oh Se-hoon, Seoul will then become a Future City with autonomous driving by 2030. In Germany, too, the focus is increasingly on the smart city. To this end, 28 model projects were announced by the German government in the summer of 2021 under the motto “Raus aus der Krise: Raum für Zukunft” (Out of the crisis: Room for the future).

We, too, want to make our contribution to smart cities in Germany and thus actively shape the future of the country. To this end, we have already created Europe’s most innovative tourist information center in Karlsruhe from an ordinary tourist information center. Where visitors and residents of the city used to get acquainted with brochures and information boards on the If they have already informed themselves about the city’s sights and current events, they can now use the digital marketplace or the Smart Table to search for specific points of interest and save particularly interesting offers via QR code and take them with them on their journey of discovery through the city on their smartphone.

The Thuringia Experience Portal also clearly targets the topic of smart cities by networking the entire state of Thuringia in an exhibition. The exhibition on the occasion of the BUGA 2021 in Erfurt serves as a hub for the visitors’ journey of discovery through all of Thuringia. The goals of the exhibition are to convey to visitors in a nutshell what makes Thuringia special and to invite them to explore by presenting various offerings. With projects of this kind, we are making a small contribution to bringing German cities a little bit closer to their goal of becoming smart cities. Because the future needs more innovative spaces.

Interested in turning your own city into a smart city? We would be happy to support you in the conception and implementation of the next lighthouse project on your doorstep. Just write to us at

Tourist Information Karlsruhe: First Steps to the Smart City
The tourist information center in Karlsruhe is just one of the many examples of how modernization has been implemented. Image: ©7places.
Erfurt experience portal: Digital elements create smart city atmosphere
Digital intuitively designed elements invite exploration. Image: ©7places.

How Smart Cities Become Metaverse Cities

Anyone who has been reading up on the Metaverse lately may have come across, among other things, Facebook’s presentation and their ideas of one. But the concept has much more potential than just that of a virtual platform for leisure activities. It is primarily about the creation of virtual spaces that are intended to generate a mix of the real and virtual worlds. This is where smart cities come into play. The metaverse becomes a new environment for various interactions and thus the new goal to achieve for cities and states. Smart Cities are Learning Cities that will constantly evolve through modern technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT). The more data and information that can be processed, the smarter cities will become. As a result of the metaverse, so-called digital twins are also becoming increasingly important. While at the present time they only represent a virtual image of a city, the Metaverse could turn them into a lifelike 3D experience that would enable virtual movement through the city center. The overlap of virtual and real worlds will simplify everyday life and living in cities and can thus provide more time and quality of life. As in the 1990s, we are on the verge of creating new worlds. It is particularly important that various players recognize this potential at an early stage and actively participate in this development. This is the only way to guarantee diversity and independence in the metaverse.

Smart City in Erfurt: Networking the entire federal state
In Erfurt, intuitive spaces invite discovery. Image: ©7places.

Technology in Sustainable Urban Development

For smart cities to function, they rely on future-oriented technologies. They form the core of cities and enable visitors to have a smooth city experience. The fundamental prerequisite for this is the expansion of e-government. Digital processes and services within the city can thus be enabled, for example, through a uniform access platform. Data such as tax returns, digital identities and e-signatures can then be securely compiled here in line with data protection requirements, thus enabling more efficient work. The aim is to connect public administration to the digital world and create a centrally functioning system for data and services. The necessary networking requires better fiber-optic networks and sufficient capacity in the infrastructure for data transmission and Internet access. For example, the equipment at schools and in the healthcare sector must also be modernized accordingly. Above all, IT experts and new interactive platforms for transmitting learning content and information are needed for this. Artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) can also provide innovative and supportive services. So-called “immensive learning,” in which realistic simulations and training are taught in a virtual environment, or AI-based diagnostic systems are just a few examples of applications. A functioning integration of the systems guarantees a qualified workforce with appropriate education and training.

7places App: A Step Towards the Goal of Smart City
Regional apps provide a breath of fresh air and effective networking during a city visit. Image: ©7places.

Even simple services such as online appointment bookings and telemedicine can be enabled by digital offerings such as healthcare platforms. With technologies such as virtual reality (VR), emotions can be conveyed more efficiently. Travel agencies can then offer their customers a clear vision of their next vacation. Regional apps, grocery delivery services and smart vending machines strengthen the digital competence of retailers and can expand the range of products and sales strategies through data processing. This can also enable 24/7 service. Sharing concepts can reduce the volume of traffic in cities. Autonomous public transport (ÖPVN) proves to be more efficient and attractive and enables new business models. The security of IoT devices is becoming increasingly important. Protection against manipulation of measuring stations and systems play an important role. The Smart City Solutionsteam shows what intelligent security and monitoring concepts for smart cities can look like. Together with several partner organizations, the telecommunications provider provides, among other things, future-proof technologies in the IoT sector. Technologies such as smart heating and smart lighting or predictive maintenance and indoor navigation can increase the energy and cost efficiency of an automated building.

Smart City Podcasts

For more information on Smart City, we recommend the following podcasts:

ZEIT für Klima – Smart City

The Future City Podcast – Ep. 42: The space-based city by Michael McCormack

Smart and the City

City Transformers – Ep. 07: Was ist denn der Kern von Smart City eigentlich? (What Is the Core of Smart City Actually?)

Also enjoy listening to our podcast on innovative spaces with Katharina Aguilar.

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