Updated; 11-07-2017, 17:33

Technology trends of the last decade are going toward the “smart” choices. The same trends are invading Albania, focused in Tirana, where each problem is being solved through technology. This is more practical and automatic. On the other hand, the use of smart systems saves time, decrease pollution and energy, etc. These projects have been supported for decades by one of the world’s giants of telecommunication, Deutsche Telekom. Also, in our country such projects are being supported and applied by Telekom Albania. A more detailed landscape, including the challenges around the world and in Albania will be described by Landa Grembi, Manager of B2B and ICT Section at Telekom Albania.

How can you describe the “Smart City” concept?

Smart city, as many researchers claim, demonstrate the interaction between objects (Internet of Things), which through their embedded technology, canalling the organization of a structure. All this happens through the Information Technology. A typical example is the usage of sensors, be them independent or integrated in physical equipment, which may generate data that can be transmitted, integrated and then analyzed in order to facilitate some aspects of everyday life of a city. Among experts of this field, we frequently define it as: An intelligent, interconnected instrument. All these instruments help city administrations collect, process and communicate helpful information to citizens. Mark Deakin, director of Smart City Center at Napier University in Edinburg, defines “Smart City” as a user of Information Technology in order to fulfill the citizens’ requirements. This is why involvement of the community is very important during this process. An intelligent city would be a city that not only owns the information technology in different fields, but also makes use of it so it has a positive impact on the community.

May we consider the innovative SMS parking a smart project?

If we would consider it from the perspective of offering technology to citizens (the customers of a city), this project is absolutely a smart one, and not only. As the data collected from parking through SMS is an instrument that helps municipalities plan future city plans. Seeing the progress of this project, a municipality can also plan its future investments to improve the quality of the city life.

What are some of the “Smart” initiatives implemented in Tirana so far?

Tirana is increasingly growing every day and its citizens’ requirements also, same as in every European city. Some of the projects are tangible or visible to the public, but others are not. I take advantage here to mention the electrical vehicle chargers that were donated to Tirana city from Telekom Albania, which make it possible for drivers in Tirana to charge their cars for free. 

Also, another recent innovation we have seen in Tirana is the “Open Data Tirana”, a project that promotes Open Data principle. The purpose of this project is to process and archive all data produced by Tirana’s city hall institutions, which are then accessible online for everyone. This approach increases the interest of the public to search for information in real time.

Could you tell us something more about the EV chargers that Telekom Albania brought for the city, making them available at the new underground car parks? What are the advantages of this donation to the city?

Currently, there are 203 public transport vehicles circulating in Tirana, a number which is expected to increase because of the population growth every day. According to the data provided by the National Agency of Environment, a 40% pollution reduction was recorded on the “Car-free Day” (an activity of Tirana’s Municipality), reconfirming the fact that fuel vehicles are the biggest polluters of the city.

Against this background, installation of those EV chargers will be another reason to make people consider buying an electric vehicle instead of a fuel one, and help tourists who visit Albania with an electric car charge. EV chargers are one of the many initiatives undertaken by Telekom Albania, which have brought added value to the city in both the new underground car parks that where inaugurated recently.

Which are some of the technology areas where Telekom Albania has invested the most?

The latest innovations in technology are first offered to Telekom Albania’s subscribers. We improve our services every day as we want to offer best-in-class quality. In addition, we pay great attention to the fact that new technologies are an added value to our communities and become an essential feature of our society, businesses and their evolution in the digital area.

Which have been some of the most interesting technology projects rolled out by Telekom Albania during the time you have been working there, and which one would you single out as the most successful?

Being part of Telekom Albania for many years is like having a second family, and that’s what happened to me. There have been many projects developed over the years, and quite interesting, but I would like to mention one which was, as a matter of fact, a great innovation for the parents in Albania: “MyKid” watch. A parent can always keep track of his child and communicate either through the mobile phone, the PC or the tablet at any moment. MyKid brings an extra security to the family as the parent always knows his child’s whereabouts. Anyway, I believe that other more interesting and useful projects will follow. 

An international conference on the latest developments about smart city management projects was held in Tirana recently. Which were some of the trends discussed in the conference?

First of all, I would like to mention that this conference is organized twice yearly in one of the countries where Deutsche Telekom is present, and it took place for the first time in Tirana. The Technology experts, which are also Deutsche Telekom’s strategic partners, joined in the conference from all over the world. There were plenty of the latest technological innovations presented in the conference, but I would like to mention some that I consider as the most important, which are: City lighting management, public transport management, traffic management, etc. All these projects are very tangible for the Albanian cities as well, and Telekom Albania will continue to be willing to support any such projects that help citizens by making use of the best experience of Deutsche Telekom.

Deutsche Telekom has already implemented some projects in the area of smart cities. Which are some of the most important projects worth mentioning?

Today’s cities face tremendous urban challenges starting from rising populations and shrinking budget to the need to use more efficiently their resources. Deutsche’s Telekom motto is: “Smart solutions for Smart cities”. Deutsche Telekom has worked with a number of cities across Europe to help them overcome these challenges. In cooperation with the city administrations, it has first focused on smart mobility solutions such as smart parking, as well as smart lighting and public safety applications. In Hamburg, for example, there are recently being introduced 11,000 parking spaces with sensors, as part of the company’s approach to innovate intelligent traffic management and digital parking services. This new solution will ease the search for available parking spaces and reduce search traffic in the city. Similar mobility solutions have already been successfully implemented in Budapest, Bucharest, Dubrovnik and Skopje among others – where next to smart parking spaces there are also being offered other mobility solutions such as smart biking or smart bus management systems. In Gijon, Spain, Deutsche Telekom is working with the local city administration to fit a comprehensive lighting system with more than 1,000 smart light posts in the streets. Additional Smart Lighting solutions have already been rolled out in Monheim, Germany, Chalkida and Patras, Greece, but also in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In the Croatian island of Krk, or Rumania’s capital Bucharest, smart waste management solutions are already being offered. These are just a few examples, but the possibilities are virtually endless!