Deutsche Telekom takes 'California approach' to smart cities

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Deutsche Telekom has inked a partnership deal with United Smart Cities with a view to driving forward its presence in the smart cities space and adopting a Silicon Valley approach to deploying new products and services.

The German incumbent will add its technology prowess to the citizen-based expertise of United Smart Cities, a global initiative established by the UN to further the development of smart urban solutions.

“We are here to co-develop...the solutions of the future,” said Markus Keller, responsible for Smart Cities at Deutsche Telekom, speaking to the press on Monday.

Deutsche Telekom has a range of products that fall under the smart cities umbrella, such as urban mobility and parking solutions, and smart lighting products. But the partnership with United Smart Cities is about creating new offers, tapping into the opportunity that digitisation of cities and businesses presents, and boosting sustainability, he insisted.

When it comes to smart cities, the firm appears to be endorsing the 'fail fast' mantra embraced by Silicon Valley's Internet companies.

German companies and cities need to have “more courage to experiment,” Keller said. “We are very fear-driven.”

Deutsche Telekom has worked with Erion Veliaj, mayor of Albanian capital Tirana, who has a “do-er mindset,” Keller said. “The attitude is more California,” that is, if it doesn't work, can it, he explained.

Germany is very professional, Keller said. Its cities are clean, well-organised, safe, and highly regulated.

“Our strengths of the past are kind of a burden,” he said. “We have to invent a [new] German way.”