Smart City Technology Thriving in the Reeperbahn at Hamburg Startups

Smart Cities is a relatively new term in the U.S. partly because we haven’t really had to think that efficiently. In many cities across Europe and China, however, urbanization trends have demanded that technology be integrated into city services in a new way and they have been doing so for year.

I had the great honor of presenting “Smart Cities: How Tech Connects Cities to Solutions” which included a panel interview with startups Breeze and Floatility at the Hamburg Startups Event at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany.  


We began with a quick overview of what a Smart City is – technology applied to civic challenges to create a more sustainable, connected and enjoyable urban life.  We talked about why Smart Cities are important and that when the right technology is applied the result can be a city that works for its citizens. Cities can move from bureaucratic road blockers to urban enablers.

No matter are three main challenges in Smart Cities that can also be viewed as opportunities: (1) Accelerated Change (2) Lack of Clarity (3) Infrastructure. When correctly identified and navigated, city leadership can guide their stakeholders to greatness and succeed.  As Pittsburg Mayor Bill Peduto said so well, a city can “roll out the red tape or roll out the red carpet.”

From the startup perspective, Daniel Priem with Floatility and Robert Heinecke with Breeze, have had experience with these three challenges as well:

Floatility is a mobility-as-a-service company that provides transportation for the “last mile” providing an option for when it’s too short to drive or too long to walk. Their urban transporters – or eFloaters – are equipped with sensors and also networked to a central command to enable a sharing economy solution that decreases cars on the road.

Breeze measures air quality for urban environments and within buildings through sensors that collect data that is then stored, managed and evaluated down to the most minute particle and can be geographically targeted down to a city block.

Although diverse businesses Floatility and Breeze are living examples of smart city technology in action. And they have followed a similar path in that they work both with corporate, university and third party (ecosystem) partners to integrate their technology into cities. It hasn’t been a straight shot or a smooth road. Both have had to prove their businesses with a B2B model and then integrate that into cities in Germany, in the UK and in Asia.

“We learned that cities have lots of priorities and are not able to pay, even when they believe in and want our product. We must find a way for our business models to work for consumers and companies first and then provide that to cities so we can improve the environment and help change the way cities work,” says Robert Heinecke

The examples of these companies point to the future of IoT and the future of Smart Cities. So how can city leaders engage and support this kind of innovative technology? The answers may be simpler than it appears:

  • Provide clarity around regulatory policy issues
  • Give guidance to other public and private stakeholders about city priorities
  • Invest in their local infrastructure (maximize broadband Internet capacity)

By providing this level of leadership, corporate partners and emerging startups can create trust and partnership with the knowledge that next-generation technologies can get the “red carpet” treatment instead of being mired in red tape.