Prof. Dr. Olga Willner, HTW Berlin

Photo: Die Hoffotografen GmbH Berlin

Prof. Dr Olga Willner, Member of the Smart City Berlin Strategy Advisory Board

The Strategy Advisory Board plays a key role in the process to develop a Smart City Strategy for Berlin. As members of the committee, experts from the realms of science, business and administration are accompanying the process. Prof. Dr Olga Willner is one of these “smart people”. The industrial engineer is a professor for information management with a focus on Intelligent Systems at HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences, and brings hands-on experience to the table as well: prior to her appointment to HTW Berlin, she worked for Deutsche Bahn [German rail], where she centred on putting the Internet of Things (IoT) to use at German train stations. This included heading a project to develop an IoT station clock, for which a patent application has since been filed. Olga Willner is also active on the CityLAB Berlin advisory council and a member of the IoT expert group for the Digital Summit – the central platform for shaping a forward-looking policy framework for the digital transformation in Germany.


Prof. Dr Olga Willner, what expertise do you bring to the table as a member of the Smart City Berlin Strategy Advisory Council?

My teaching and research focus on applying smart technologies in cities to make them more appealing to citizens – the Internet of Things, for example, or artificial intelligence algorithms. So in that respect, I support the advisory council with my technological expertise.


What are you currently working on in that context?

I am making my experiences in the field of IoT available to the city, in particular the ones I have made with LoRaWAN open radio technology. My students are also currently cooperating with CityLAB Berlin to further the development of the open source knowledge repository (German only) for our capital’s smart city strategy.


Climate change and dwindling resources are central issues for cities and megalopolises worldwide. Can smart cities really solve these problems?

Well, that should definitely be every smart city’s goal. Being “smart” shouldn’t be an end in itself but contribute to solving the biggest challenges our society faces.


What will it take for Berlin to become a smart city?

In a word: openness! From open data to open radio networks to open source software and hardware – everyone is welcome to join in and can understand what’s going on!


Smart cities affect almost every sphere of our work and lives: what role do citizens and the realms of business, science and civil society play in Berlin’s transformation to a smart city?

A huge role: smart cities can’t be planned from the top down; it is essential that different interest groups participate..


Which smart cities could act as role models for Berlin?

Different cities provide inspiration for different areas: Helsinki, for example, is known for its fully automated, underground waste disposal plant in the Kalasatama district, while Singapore is considered a pioneer in need-based traffic management. City toll charges there are dynamically adapted to traffic conditions – and in a way that every driver can understand. Both are fascinating approaches, especially for Berlin’s inner city districts.


Are there any smart examples of best practice that you find particularly innovative and interesting, in Berlin or any other model project city or municipality?

In Berlin, the CityLAB Berlin and its projects are definitely at the top of my list! In the south of Germany, I think the municipality of Herrenberg in Baden-Württemberg is absolutely ground-breaking. I am impressed by the innovative projects the council’s technical team with its agile way of working has already implemented – such as LoRaWAN-based winter road maintenance management.


What do you think the city of the future will look like?

Interdisciplinary, cosmopolitan and designed with its citizens’ needs in mind.


Please complete the following sentence: “Berlin is a smart city, because...”

... we are creating a city worth living in, together.