The annual meeting of Hamburg’s ten external representatives gets underway Wednesday through September 12, 2019. This year, the focus will be on mobility of the future as Hamburg gears up to host the ITS World Congress in 2021 and digitalisation. The full-time representatives in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Dubai, Saint Petersburg, Brussels and San Francisco will seize the opportunity to update themselves on key future issues facing the Hamburg Metropolitan Region. “The aim is to convey a contemporary image of Hamburg to the representative offices in direct talks so that they can optimally represent the interests of the Hanseatic city on site,” said Dr. Rolf Strittmatter, Chairman of the Management Board of Hamburg Marketing GmbH.
Practical use of future technologies
Asked about current trends in their regions, Pan Hua and Michael Wunderlich, who are based in Shanghai, said developments in artificial intelligence, intelligent factories and intelligent production, Internet of Things and New Energy Vehicles (electro mobility), i.e. that are globally trending, top the agenda there. And Shanghai is already doing things that are still merely dreams in many other countries. A private taxi company, for instance, is now operating its first fleet of autonomous taxis and thanks to a steep government investment, entire bus fleets in Shanghai have been replaced by zero-emission e-buses. “The experience gained in this way gives Chinese manufacturers a significant market edge by international comparison,” Wunderlich noted.
Environmental protection rising, data protection waning
Shanghai is also focusing on digitalised traffic management. “Traffic in cities is managed using machine learning. Smart algorithms predict visitor numbers and make recommendations on the dispersal of taxi fleets,” said Pan Hua. Congestion, a huge factor in pollution, is avoided wherever possible. Topics such as environmental protection and waste separation are gaining importance in China and although data protection is under discussion, the comfort afforded by the data sold is more important to people.
Challenges require personal contacts
The Beijing-based Ma Lina has also noted the trend towards greater international co-operation especially multilateralism and free trade. “It is important to forge even more collaborations and strengthen mutual understanding to boost this positive development,” Ma Lina stressed. The role of the representatives, who act on behalf of Hamburg in China, is now more important than ever and was echoed by the envoy in Mumbai also. “The expansion of infrastructure, the development of ports and India’s growing importance as an international trading partner make the subcontinent not only an attractive economic market, but also an important strategic partner,” said Lea Miram and Peter Deubet, adding, “Despite plenty of progress, India still faces a multitude of challenges, which are best mastered through personal contacts.”
India’s innovative start-up culture
“India is making rapid progress and is reinventing itself. New ideas are in demand and provide the breeding ground for a vibrant, innovative start-up culture that is also gaining importance by international standards,” said Deubet. The government supports founders and has announced an exclusive TV channel to offer start-ups an additional platform. Many digital achievements have also been established. “Digital payment is common and ordering online is part of everyday life. Medicine, food, even services – everything is delivered to your doorstep in a short time,” Miram noted.
Dubai young and tech-savvy
Kirsten Staab, Hamburg’s representative in Dubai, noted great openness towards new technologies there. The population is only 33 and half years old on average and tech-savvy. More than a quarter of the population, including the young Crown Prince of Dubai is younger than 25, and are paving the way for innovative companies and start-ups. “Dubai is touting itself internationally as a testing ground for new technologies that are not being used in established and often heavily regulated markets,” said Staab. Dubai has set its sights on becoming the “Happiest City on Earth”. “Data collection and its evaluation, for instance, plays a key role in this respect,” she noted.
Edge computing in Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is hyping “edge computing i.e. decentralized collection and processing of data on the ‘edge’ of the network,” said Tim Ole Jöhnk, Director of the Northern Germany Innovation Office (NGIO) in San Francisco. “Instead of sending data from sensors to data centres located remotely, data is often processed on the spot. This can occur either on the end device or in the factory. The big advantage is that you are still in the cloud, but the individual devices do not have to be constantly connected to the network,” he added.
Taxes on robots
And the valley is also mulling costs in future amid digitalisation, automated jobs and weaker purchasing power. “I’m hearing more and more talk of a guaranteed, unconditional basic income. People like Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk have been talking about it for quite some time. According to the logics of the debate, 'the more we automate, the more jobs are lost’ and thus purchasing power. Proponents of a basic income are even calling for taxes on robots to cover the costs of such a service,” said Jöhnk.