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Platform Smart Cities & Regions

Approaches to designing smart cities & regions are based on modern innovation processes and the convergence of applications, technologies and people. This platform brings together the ZHAW’s research skills and experience in the development of smart cities & regions.

Smart cities & regions are innovative, forward-looking, interlinked municipalities, cities and city regions which are designed around people and focused on respect for the environment. They are characterised by a high quality of life and an efficient use of resources.

They achieve this by creating intelligent links between their infrastructure and modern technology and by involving the relevant actors. The concepts on which they are based pay due heed to societal, economic and environmental considerations.

Thanks to its interdisciplinary expertise, the ZHAW is ideally qualified to act as a scientific partner in the development of smart cities & regions, be it through applied research and development work, services, training and continuing education courses, or events.

Key topics and areas of research

Research projects

Smart City Winterthur

As a city with a progressive attitude to energy use, Winterthur is keen to work with industrial and research partners to extend its activities in the field of sustainable energy supply and city planning. Smart City Winterthur (SCW) was established in 2013 as a collaborative initiative between the city of Winterthur, the ZHAW and the energie bewegt winterthur (in English, “energy moves winterthur”) association. 

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Participative Foresight for Smarter Cities

Smart city (SC) concepts are playing an increasingly important role in energy and city planning. Many completed SC projects demonstrate the vital importance of taking a systematic, integrative approach to these initiatives. When SC projects are being planned, conventional planning tools and approaches often prove ineffective if they are applied in a top-down fashion, adopt a short-term time horizon or do not allow for sufficient interaction between stakeholders and the various disciplines involved.

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Adaptive energy management for buildings

40 percent of the energy consumed worldwide is used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning in houses and apartments. As a result, measures to reduce primary energy consumption are a highly desirable objective. Efficient energy use requires optimisation from the point of view of both energy and entropy. While most current technologies are focused on energy savings, the model-based control system used in this project’s innovative heating system also achieves enhanced entropy performance.

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Social Power Projekt

Social Power is a joint research project being carried out by the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) and the ZHAW. Its purpose is to develop and test an innovative game app for smartphones and tablets. The app aims to raise consumers’ awareness of the scope they have for saving energy at home. The project is researching the potential for using social interactions (such as exchanging energy-saving tips) and a range of game-based mechanisms to encourage households to adopt enduring habits which promote the sustainable use of energy.

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SCW Smart Districts

The objective of this project was to design the renovation work carried out in the Talgut district of Winterthur in such a way that its use of energy and other resources was reduced. To that end, the ZHAW worked with the housing associations involved to develop a number of technical and community-oriented initiatives. The insights gained from this exercise have been summarised in a set of guidelines on smart districts for housing associations, site developers and towns and municipalities.

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BICAR sharing concept

The BICAR combines the low cost and modest storage-space requirements of an e-bike with the functionality and comfort of an electrically powered car, thus ideally meeting the needs of most urban users. BICAR is more than a prototype vehicle, however. It is also an open research platform which allows interested parties to develop new ideas and concepts for more sustainable urban mobility and to test them both in the laboratory and in practical conditions.

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ENSCC Smart Commuting

This project examines new ways of combining living and working through the use of modern, smart transport-system services and sustainable commuting concepts. Technological advances, commuting trends and changes in the world of work are making employees more mobile. This is a trend with far-reaching consequences, since long commuter journeys encroach on employee’s leisure time, thus potentially impacting their productivity.

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Developing new behaviour models to simulate people flows

Throughout the world, increasing attention is being paid to methods of simulating people flows. This project aims to develop new methods which will significantly enhance the results of such simulations and reduce the time required for carrying them out. In order to reduce calculation times and offer additional functionality, the project will also deliver a cloud-based solution as well as a conventional desktop module.

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Emergency Recognition through Energy Data

A comparison of regularly recurring day-to-day activities with the energy used to perform them provides an indication of whether a person’s habits are changing. By monitoring energy use, it should be possible to provide appropriate professional help in the event of an accident and to react quickly in the event that the course of an illness changes. Especially for older people with impaired cognitive powers, this method could help to maintain good health with the lowest possible technical outlay, thus ensuring greater overall safety.

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Urban Plant

The costs of the solar panels now account for only about half of the overall cost of photovoltaic installation. Thus, while cheaper solar panels still have a part to play in reducing the cost of solar-power installations, the economic viability of solar-energy installations now critically depends on new construction concepts. Light Energy Systems AG has taken an innovative approach in this area by building light-frame solar panels which, when necessary, can be safely stored in a protective box.

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H-DisNet

The H-DisNet project is engaged in developing a new technology for thermal-energy networks which not only heats and cools, but also humidifies and dehumidifies. To achieve this, the new system uses thermochemical heat-transfer fluids instead of water. This makes it possible to store and transport energy without loss. Because the stored thermal energy is not released until the thermochemical heat-transfer fluid is activated by contact with water, it can be deployed with great precision. The system can use a variety of energy sources including hitherto-untapped exhaust heat and thermal energy from renewable sources even at low temperatures. 

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Low-power Wireless Embedded Systems

Wireless embedded systems with optimised energy-consumption characteristics make it possible to create a whole range of new applications, products and services. The Internet of things is one of the many areas which demonstrate the transformation that this technology can unleash. By establishing wireless connections across a multitude of small, low-cost embedded systems, it is possible to create a host of distributed, intelligent applications. Because the end devices throughout the network communicate with each other automatically, these systems can record and process large quantities of data. This has significant implications for many processes used in day-to-day life.

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Bluetooth Low Energy sensors

In the HF and UHF range, RFID-based passive sensors can only be used to identify parameters such as temperature, pressure and humidity over short distances. Often it would be desirable to store and process these measurements centrally at a somewhat more distant location. For active, battery-powered sensors, Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) technology now provides an alternative to RFID solutions.

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Participating institutes & centres

Partners