Smart initiatives for the smartPORT of Hamburg

Smart initiatives for the smartPORT of Hamburg

Government Europa speaks to Dr Sebastian Saxe, CIO and CDO of the Hamburg Port Authority, about the smartPORT project, enhancing mobility and infrastructure within the Port of Hamburg.

The focus on smart cities throughout Europe has resulted in the number of initiatives rising. As a result, the number of projects focusing on smart approaches to mobility have also multiplied. Berlin, Munich and Hamburg, are just some of the cities in Germany which are renowned for their smart city initiatives and aspirations. With a variety of projects under the Hamburg SmartCity initiative, including the smartPORT project, mobility is just one of the areas utilising advanced technological developments in order to enhance mobility across the city – from addressing traffic to increasing the number of vehicles in their electric fleets.

The smartPORT project, focusing on streamlining operations within the Port of Hamburg, aims to build on the green energy strategy of the port, as well as focusing on intelligent traffic and trade flows. Overall, the project was established to provide quality information, both strategically and operatively, through measures concerned with traffic management. Government Europa speaks to Dr Sebastian Saxe, chief information officer and chief development officer at the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), about the role of smartPORT in contributing to enhancing mobility across Hamburg.

What role are technology and data playing in the smartPORT project?

As the former Chief Information Officer at the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA), one of the first priority projects was to prepare the port for digitalisation, therefore consolidating the IT network infrastructure. We continuously modernise the digital infrastructure of the port by implementing induction loops for traffic monitoring purposes, video cameras and new level stations, in order to collect the necessary data and utilise it in the best way.

We see a lot of potential for many processes, with support, to be managed differently, or totally redesigned to offer improved efficiency, owing to the possibilities offered by fast growing technologies, including:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT);
  • Big Data;
  • Artificial intelligence (AI);
  • Virtual and augmented reality;
  • Drones; and
  • Blockchain.

Over the last few years, we have been prototyping and implementing new technologies in our ports for the benefit of our customers. The smartPORT initiative was founded in order to co-ordinate the realisation of the vision for the port of the future. To date, more than 30 projects have been carried out – some were successful, while others failed.

We co-ordinate this project with agility and when we fail, we think of new ideas or solutions and try again. This trial and error approach appears to be unconventional for an organisation such as the HPA. Yet, we have learned a lot as a result, such as agility, the process of innovation, methodology, and an improved understanding of the business models of departments. We can profit on this knowledge for our journey to become one of the most intelligent sea ports of the world.

In 2015, we had the opportunity to host the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPA) world conference, where we demonstrated some results of this project. We have modernised our traffic centres with the most cutting-edge equipment and digital technologies in order to improve the arrival and departure process. Today, our colleagues no longer need a paper-based approach.

Prior to the series of smart city projects for Hamburg, what kind of problems were persisting in mobility across Hamburg’s ports and roads?

There have been a few challenges for the Port of Hamburg, especially in the mobility sector before the smartPORT programme was established. Places within the port are limited because of its location in the heart of the city. Larger container ships lead to increasing higher peaks, which means that we also have peaks on the hinterland road and rail networks. With smartPORT, we are able to tackle these challenges one by one, using IT megatrends.

The interconnected port traffic centre provides port operators with a comprehensive overview of the current situation of international transport systems. To this, detailed insight into the traffic situation and the traffic data acquisition support this. Therefore, digital infrastructure can be used to its full potential. In addition, improved infrastructural planning is possible and support can be adapted to the needs of port customers.

With various smartPORT projects, such as the intelligent traffic management system, we can perform visualisations daily at construction sites, as well as sensory start-up checks. Through integrated barriers and information layers, or the smart switch for predictive maintenance, we can lower traffic in the port. As a result, the flow of goods could be improved overall.

What are the next priorities for mobility in the smartPORT project?

We want to build the city of solutions. As the port development authority and infrastructure service provider, we have to provide the physical, but also the smart digital infrastructure in the best possible way, and in a way which is tailored to the needs of our customers. For us, this includes establishing and testing infrastructure together with Deutsche Telekom and Nokia, which will be elementary for future business models in the mobility sector, or elsewhere, to guarantee availability and short latency.

In addition, we are also working on automotive solutions and the operations of radio networks, which are particularly suitable for vessels with low frequencies, bandwidth and capacity deployment in infrastructure. In summary, IoT and intelligent infrastructure for autonomous driving and AI for system support are topics of the future for us.

We work together with various authorities, companies and institutions to network dozens of intelligent solutions in Hamburg. Outside the port in particular, it is often still a matter of standalone solutions being integrated with holistic architecture and suitable Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) interfaces. For 2021, we can certainly see HPA in good standing and where Hamburg SmartCity could go. However, this is only an intermediate stage and the road to our vision for 2020-30. Even after that, there will be further potential for improvement which we will try to exploit. We will have a fully-functioning smart city in Hamburg, and it is always a question of perspective.

Mobility for Hamburg

Switchh is one of the innovative smart initiatives which are enabling people in Hamburg to choose the most flexible and suitable transport mode for the individual, in attempts to reduce car traffic. Through using the Switchh app, users can get the best price whilst selecting from a range of options for connecting travel, including:

  • Bus;
  • Underground or rail;
  • Car2go – a carsharing service; and
  • Rental car, bike or taxi.

Meanwhile, the hire and return service – offered by StadtRAD Hamburg – offers users with the ability to rent a bicycle using a customer card or phone, lock them if they wish to continue using the bike after a short break on their journey, or return them to the hire station. In 2015, the service aimed to increase the share of bicycle traffic by 18%.

In order to further their enhanced mobility vision, the e-fleet in Hamburg has in excess of 600 vehicles. In 2014, a three-year trial of the “Eco Fleet Hamburg” initiative was launched, whereby the aim was to determine the everyday effectiveness of having in excess of 450 electric vehicles in operation, as well as measuring energy consumption and CO2 reduction for businesses.

From 2020 onwards – with the assistance of Hamburger Hochbahn AG and the city – Hamburg aims to use only emission-free buses.

Dr Sebastian Saxe
Chief Information Officer
Chief Development Officer
Hamburg Port Authority (HPA)


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