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Topic - Smart Networks Initiative

Smart networking

Introduction

The "Smart Networks" Initiative was launched in the context of the Digital Agenda in order to make better use of the major social and economic opportunities deriving from digital networking in the five sectors of education, energy, health, transport and administration.

"Smart networking" stands for the further development and optimised use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in these sectors. Digitalisation is increasingly becoming an overarching, everyday experience. It is changing the way people live, work and communicate with one another. New possibilities, products and services are emerging. There are already many examples of applications, such as the Smart Grid, Smart Meter, Smart Home, Smart Traffic, Smart City, eHealth, eLearning, eGovernment, eParticipation and age-appropriate support systems for living a self-determined life.

Digital networking permits smart solutions

In the field of energy, for example, the focus is on smart electricity grids in which smart meters continuously meter household consumption. This means that electricity generation can always be aligned with current demand. In the health sector, technical assistance systems based on smart networking help people in need of care to enjoy greater independence and self-determination. They remind them of the need to take medicine or inform emergency services about accidents in the home.

The systematic networking of the existing infrastructure in the five sectors can, in combination with innovative technologies and a greater user orientation, help these sectors to optimise processes, create productivity gains, and save costs. This can give a substantial boost to growth, also between sectors, and enhance prosperity.

The initiative

Making new use of networks

The Smart Networks Initiative works with a network of strong partners from companies, research establishments and associations from the ICT sector and the five sectors to promote the use of the vast potential.

The initiative promotes systematic networking between the various players, e.g. via the sharing of ideas and projects, on an open innovation platform. It is a contact point for experts, professional users and end-users. It organises activities to promote a better understanding of smart networking. The partners are engaged in a regular dialogue with the initiative. For example, they work on implementation projects and support the dissemination of successful projects. They feed in their expertise via the initiative’s activities, e.g. at events, and serve as multipliers spreading the understanding of smart networking. In a joint dialogue, the network partners and the initiative give a boost to smart networking in Germany.

Participating and feeding in ideas

Everyone can access the online platform (www.oip.netze-neu-nutzen.de) to register as a participant and feed in specific examples of how digital technologies can improve day-to-day lives at work and at home. This means that you can talk with experts, developers and users of smart networking about how we can advance digitalisation to everyone’s benefit.
At events organised by regional partners, the participants learn about projects in their vicinity and how to use the potential of smart networking in their own lives or for their companies.

Surveys, studies, practical guidelines

The Initiative conducts regular surveys and studies to boost the understanding of smart networking. These include a representative survey of the public acceptance of smart networking applications - results of a survey of public opinion, practical guidelines about public acceptance, and a study to promote smart networking projects currently under preparation.

Roadshow

At events organised by regional partners, the participants learn about the projects in their vicinity and how they can use the potential of smart networking in their own lives or for their companies.

Newsletter

In its regular newsletter, the Smart Networks Initiative provides information about current activities, events and trends. You can subscribe to the newsletter (in German) via the subscription service under "Newsletter".

Key Visual for the Open Innovation Platform; Source: Fotolia.com/Sergey Nivens

© Fotolia.com/Sergey Nivens

The Federal Government's strategy

Networking a variety of different aspects

The Smart Networks Strategy aims to use ICT to create additional opportunities for growth and efficiency in the five sectors of education, energy, health, transport and administration.

Here, digital networking helps us to optimise processes and to boost productivity. This results in higher economic growth and prosperity for people in Germany. The Smart Networks Strategy consists of 36 specific measures which aim to help us attain these goals, including training for employees and support for entrepreneurs by providing targeted assistance with data protection issues and possible funding. It is also about improving the statutory framework for innovations and projects in the five fields of infrastructure, e.g. for smart energy networks.

Strategic approach

The Federal Government's cabinet decision of 16 September 2015 on a smart networks strategy sends out a strong signal that it is taking an interministerial and connected approach to digitalisation. Ongoing activities are supported via a complementary, cross-sectoral strategic approach from the horizontal view taken by ICT policy. The aim is to make the best possible use of digitalisation and networking to boost prosperity. In order to attain this goal, activities are taking in four fields:

Supporting the five sectors

The five sectors are already seeing the implementation of a wide range of initiatives by a large number of stakeholders. In coordination with the relevant stakeholders, positive forces are strengthened and impediments (e.g. the skills shortage) tackled.

Building up cooperation

Given similar interests and issues across sectors, more intensive cooperation can tap synergies. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy will support cooperation platforms and foster the exchange of experience, especially about examples of best practices. In the "smart networking model regions" funding programme, the Economic Affairs Ministry supports digitalisation in the Länder, regions and municipalities.

Improving the policy environment

The policy environment needs to be improved in order to promote investments and remove barriers. Here, an intersectoral approach is highly promising in fields like data protection and data security, user authentication, data platform architectures, and standardisation. The Economic Affairs Ministry will for example promote standardisation and R&D activities.

Strengthening participation

Public acceptance and use can be maximised by the early involvement of all relevant stakeholders. Advantages and disadvantages, opportunities and risks, costs and benefits are discussed in a broad-based dialogue. The Economic Affairs Ministry is driving the development with a comprehensive information and communication campaign, the Smart Networks Initiative as the central contact point, and the initiative's open innovation platform.

The five sectors

Opportunities and potential for smart networking

Smart networking stimulates a lot of growth and can help to improve the quality of life in Germany. It is important to drive smart networking on a cross-sectoral basis so that it can develop as well as possible.

The expansion of ICT in the five sectors has so been approached on a sector-specific basis and in the form of a large number of initiatives and strategies (e.g. Health Ministry’s eHealth initiative, Interior Ministry’s eGovernment strategy). These can be helped by cross-sectoral approaches which develop additional efficiency and growth potential.

A study says that the smart networking and control of basic social infrastructure could realise overall economic potential of more than €55 billion per year – that is around two percent of Germany’s gross domestic product. The calculated savings are around €39 billion, and the stimulus to growth is approx. €16.7 billion.

Education

Online teaching services like the open online courses (MOOC) “openHPI” of the Hasso Plattner Institute permit people to learn wherever and whenever they want to. Here, the internet can be used to access multimedia course materials. In this way, learners, teaching materials and educational institutions are networked by the internet.

Energy

The energy transition is resulting in more and more energy deriving from distributed, renewable sources. Output can fluctuate enormously. Smart networking in the electricity grid can ensure that generation, distribution, storage and consumption of energy are optimally coordinated.

Health

In rural areas in particular, providing rapid medical assistance to patients suffering strokes is a challenge. Smartly networked applications can massively improve patient care here. For example, staff in ambulances, emergency units and specialists from elsewhere can coordinate their expertise in real time and ensure optimal patient care.

Transport

Smart networking applications can make the transport system more efficient and safer. They also permit a more efficient use of existing infrastructure via smart management of traffic flows and improvements in safety in the transport of people and freight.

Public administration

Efficient administration is a basic prerequisite for the smooth functioning of business and society in Germany. Applications range from smooth online handling of reporting requirements for companies through to the digital participation of citizens in political decisions.

Tablet and road infrastructure; Source: stockphoto.com/ martin-dm