Smart City & Smart Region

Fraunhofer IESE offers innovative solutions for the sustainable design of digital cities and regions.

The smart community of the future

The digital transformation now permeates all areas of our lives – from administration and politics to mobility, security, health, and communication. Digital solutions offer immense potential for communities worth living in. However, the concrete challenges differ, sometimes significantly, between a Smart City and a Smart Region. We address the differences and commonalities of both sides. This enables us to respond to individual requirements.

Together with you, we analyze existing structures and processes to design the optimal digital strategy for you. We advise you on existing solution approaches or support you in the development of digital solutions for urban and rural areas. In doing so, we use our comprehensive competencies in the areas of data platforms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Digital Twins.

We are convinced that cities and regions can only be as smart as the people living there.

Because the focus of Smart Cities and Smart Regions is on added value for the people. 

From Lab to Smart City:
with Digital Ecosystems to Smart Cities & Smart Regions

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©Fraunhofer IESE

In this video, Steffen Hess illustrates how the experts of IESE support cities in implementing the sustainable Smart City with innovative and digital solutions and thus improve the local provision of public services. 

Municipalities and city administrations receive individual support right from the start: from strategy consulting with citizen participation (e.g., in the form of creativity workshops) to the technical implementation of a digital product (e.g., with a Digital Twin or Digital Ecosystem).


[in German]

We accompany you on the way to the Smart City & Smart Region

Digital solutions


Together we develop your digital strategy for a Smart City & Smart Region.

Together with you, we identify relevant fields of action, evaluate their potential, and design solutions.

Individual concepts

 Our team pools interdisciplinary knowledge in the field of software engineering.

This is why we can evaluate existing (software) solutions and point out new solution approaches!

Sustainable municipality

We support you in your strategy process, either holistically or in specific areas according to your needs.



What is a Smart City & Smart Region?

what is a smart city, fraunhofer iese
© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
What is a Smart City? The Fraunhofer IESE explaines!

A Smart City or Smart Region is a city or a rural area that exploits the potential of digitalization to become more modern and livable. The focus is on topics such as ecology, social coexistence, citizen participation, and many more.

The meaningful use of tools such as digital platforms and solutions is commonly based on a solid digital strategy that ensures a structured approach to achieving self-defined goals. This includes diverse aspects such as:

  • More sustainable use of resources
  • Digitalization of public administration
  • Improvement of public services
  • Citizen participation


What does the strategy of Smart Cities & Smart Regions include?

The strategy of Smart Cities & Smart Regions follows the approach of holistic development. To this end, various fields of action are included, such as mobility, health, energy, and sustainability.

To implement the strategy, it is recommended involving a large group of stakeholders from public administration, industry, research, government, and the general public. In this way, the broad spectrum of fields of action can be covered optimally.

Activities in strategy development include, but are not limited to, the following aspects:

  • Conducting an as-is assessment
  • Defining strategy goals
  • Determining fields of action to be worked on
  • Determining measures to be implemented
  • Clarifying roles & responsibilities
  • Developing an evaluation concept
  • Developing a roadmap for the conception and implementation phase

References: Digital strategy of Smart Cities & Smart Regions

In the project Smart Region Mayen-Koblenz, Fraunhofer IESE is developing sustainable and integrative digitalization projects in the sense of a Digital Ecosystem.

As part of the federal program “Smart Cities Model Projects” of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Construction and Home Affairs (BIM), we are developing an integrated Smart City strategy together with the county of Sankt Wendel.

In the framework of the ancillary research Smart Cities Made in Germany, Fraunhofer IESE supports the “Smart Cities Model Projects” in the digitalization of their urban development.

How are Smart City & Smart Region solutions designed and implemented?

conception, implementation, digitale stadt, fraunhofer iese
© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
Conception & implementation of innovative solutions for a digital city.

Digital solutions for smart municipalities

Today, municipalities face a wide range of challenges that can be suitably addressed with digital solutions. Individual needs and specific challenges mean that standards solutions do not always help. Therefore, in addition to adapting existing tools and integrating them into one’s own Digital Ecosystem, appropriately tailored design and development of individual solutions are becoming increasingly necessary.


Implementation of Smart City & Smart Region solutions

Ideally, the starting point for the conception and implementation phase is an existing digital or Smart City & Smart Region strategy.

This ensures rapid start of the conception phase. Especially in the area of Smart City & Smart Region, the use of participation-oriented processes is recommended. Co-creation & co-design, living labs, citizen participation, or democracy workshops can be used here.

In the implementation phase, prototypes are implemented using an agile approach. Thus, they can be developed step by step into innovative products.

Such an approach forms the basis for the successful development of the solution. This ensures that the accompanying evaluation addresses the needs of the various stakeholders and that the strategic goals are achieved.

We support you:

As Fraunhofer IESE, we support you in the conception and implementation of innovative solutions for your Smart City or Smart Region.

Using a user-centered development approach, we develop a rough and a fine concept for your solution space. We validate these concepts with prototypes with regard to the achievement of your strategic goals and help you develop products and make them sustainable.

We support you during the conception and development phase, either holistically or in sub-areas – depending on your needs; for example, in the design and evaluation of public tenders, in process support, or in the technical evaluation of implemented solutions.

References: Design & implementation of Smart Cities & Smart Regions

In the project KomMaaS, the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE and its partners developed and implemented a concept for improving mobility in rural areas. 

In the project “Digital Villages (‘Digitale Dörfer’)”, Fraunhofer IESE and its partners investigated how digitalization opens up new opportunities for rural areas.

In the project digital.vital, Fraunhofer IESE is responsible for the development of a portal for senior citizens that is intended to enable elderly people to live independent and active lives and remain engaged in society for a longer time.

What is meant by a Smart City & Smart Region ecosystem?

© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
Wir gestalten Smart Cities durch die Vernetzung in einem Digitalen Ökosystem.

Digital Ecosystems are complex systems that function according to the principles of the platform economy. Against this backdrop, Smart Cities & Smart Regions have various special features when viewed as ecosystems. For example, they are faced with the challenge of using suitable strategies and concepts as a basis for combining a large number of technologies and systems with one another while meeting a wide range of requirements. In this context, Smart City or Smart Region ecosystems have the potential to address the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders (e.g., citizens, clubs, associations, companies or individual municipalities, public administration). To meet these needs, the platform of an ecosystem provides various solutions. In this way, it delivers added value that could not be achieved before without the ecosystems, and is attractive to consumers and providers alike.

The following elements are important for Smart City & Smart Region ecosystems today and in the future:

  • The central ecosystem platform as a basis
    • hosts new, domain-specific solutions (mobility, health/care …)
    • integrates existing systems such as geo-information systems, administrative services, and the German Online Access Act (OZG)
    • is closely linked to the local data platform
    • has interfaces to simulation tools (e.g., Digital Twins)
  • The organization of a Smart City & Smart Region ecosystem
    • is based on a sustainable business model
    • is assured by the clear definition of responsibilities and roles
  • Social processes are a fundamental component of Smart City & Smart Region ecosystems, since
    • the needs of different urban society stakeholders have to be taken into account
    • participation and exchange are of essential importance

More information on the above-mentioned topics and on our support for you can be found in the following sections.


References: Digital Ecosystems in Smart Cities & Smart Regions

The goal of the model project Smarte.Land.Regionen, in which Fraunhofer IESE plays a central role, is the digitalization of public services in rural areas.

In the project EnStadt:Pfaff, Fraunhofer IESE and its project partners are jointly developing a real-life laboratory for the implementation of a climate-neutral residential, commercial, and technology district.

What role do data platforms play for Smart Cities & Smart Regions?

Daten Verwaltung Organisation
© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
Daten in einer Smart City & Smart Region verwalten.

Intelligently networked Smart Cities and Smart Regions are increasingly using data platforms that enable different stakeholders to use data in new forms. A data platform combines various data sources (e.g., social networks, public administration, and industry), which municipalities can use to optimize administrative services and public services. A data platform can thus fulfill different functions in the context of Smart City & Smart Region.

The topic of open data is often mentioned in the context of data platforms. Open data refers to data that is publicly available, may be used free of charge, and may be redistributed. This data can be seen as resources of data platforms that are available to cities and regions for evaluation and processing.

In addition, data platforms are essential components if Digital Ecosystems are to be established in Smart Cities and Smart Regions.  


Challenges on the way to a municipal data platform

First of all, there should be an exchange in the municipality about which goals are to be pursued with the data platform. In addition, costs and benefits must be compared and a suitable business model must be developed. Prior to the implementation of the platform, fundamental aspects must be clarified from a technical and organizational perspective, e.g.:

  • (Data) interfaces and standards
  • Data sources
  • Existing systems
  • Operator model
  • Requirements of participating stakeholders

Data platforms must also be continuously developed further and require significantly more attention than a classic software solution. Criteria such as performance, stability, security, and data protection must also not be neglected here.

We support you in setting up a data platform

A data platform forms the basis of a Smart City & Smart Region ecosystem. With extensive experience in the context of data platforms and Digital Ecosystems, Fraunhofer IESE is there to support you.

References: Data platforms in Smart Cities & Smart Regions

Fraunhofer IESE supports the city of Ulm in building up and designing a Smart City data platform.

Caruso GmbH has developed its open and neutral data and service marketplace for the automotive aftermarket with the support of Fraunhofer IESE.

Fraunhofer IESE is collaborating with the county of Sankt Wendel to develop an integrated Smart City strategy as well as the basis for a data platform for connecting digital solutions.

In the project Digital Villages Data (Digital Villages 3), Fraunhofer IESE and its partners are developing a web application on which municipal stakeholders can retrieve statistical data.

What is the significance of Digital Twins for Smart Cities & Smart Regions?

Smart City Digitaler Zwilling
© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
Potential für Smart Cities & Smart Regions durch Digitalen Zwilling.

The Digital Twin for urban and rural areas

A Smart City or Smart Region contains a wide range of technical, economic, and social elements. This complexity can be mapped in a Digital Twin, which in a sense creates a virtual model of the city. As part of the Smart City or Smart Region ecosystem, the Digital Twin has access to already established solutions such as geoportals or data platforms. By exchanging data with various sources, it is able to not only map existing processes, but also to forecast future developments. Specific processes can be modeled and the effect of changed parameters on the overall system can be simulated.

The potential of Digital Twins in cities and rural areas is immense: It ranges from predictive maintenance of municipal infrastructures and increased resource efficiency to improved and more efficient decision-making. Its range of application areas already includes areas such as sustainable urban development or planning, mobility and tourism, but also participation. The added value generated by a Digital Twin in cities and rural areas is therefore not only of interest to public administrations, but also to citizens and companies.


Digital Twins and municipal innovation

While Digital Twins offer great potential for the future, the transfer of this concept to cities and regions is still in its infancy. Current challenges include creating a database by linking data platforms or establishing open standards and data interfaces. At the moment, the implementation is still largely limited to specific areas of application. The vision, however, is to have a comprehensive representation of the large, complex overall system of an entire city or region in all its facets.

Fraunhofer IESE supports you in:

  • Evaluating the potential of a Digital Twin for your region
  • Defining relevant application areas and designing your Digital Twin
  • Implementing and integrating a Digital Twin into your Smart City & Smart Region ecosystem

References: Digital Twins for Smart Cities and Smart Regions



Digital Twins for Smart Cities:

What are the opportunities for Smart Cities & Smart Regions? Which prerequisites must be met?

Read more about our solution offerings and our service portfolio for Digital Twins. We support you with virtual test environments.

Are Smart Cities & Smart Regions sustainable?

Smart City Smarte Stadt
© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
Nachhaltigkeit einer Smart City & Smart Region.

The digital-ecological transformation as a municipal challenge

In addition to digitalization, sustainability is another field of action that is becoming increasingly relevant for municipal players. In light of advancing climate change, the focus is mostly on how municipal action can contribute to saving resources or avoiding emissions, for example. However, sustainability involves more than questions of ecology: It is also important to consider standards of sustainability in social and economic terms – especially also in connection with the digital transformation.


Combining digitalization and sustainability in a meaningful way

Although it might not be clear until we take a second glance, digitalization and sustainability are linked directly. Digital solutions are, for example, one of the most promising tools for achieving sustainability goals. Examples include the optimization of traffic flows, control of energy generation and consumption, or welfare-oriented public services. Moreover, digital technologies are sustainable if they are developed in a planned manner and permanently fulfill the requirements placed on them.

In all this, the aim is to balance the social, economic, ecological, and technical aspects of sustainability. This also includes taking into account the consumption and emissions of digital tools.


Sustainable digitalization – digital sustainability

For Fraunhofer IESE, sustainable digitalization is of central importance. It includes topics such as participation, Green Economy, sustainable mobility, or even the development of resilient business models for the digital age. We use the findings from our research to actively support Smart Cities & Smart Regions in achieving their sustainability goals.

References: Digitalization and sustainability in Smart Cities & Smart Regions

In the project DESIRA, Fraunhofer IESE is investigating how digitalization in local public administration can contribute to improving living conditions in rural areas.

In the project Digi Green, which is funded by the German Federal Environmental Agency, Fraunhofer IESE and its project partners are conducting research on how digitalization can simultaneously strengthen environmental protection and support the development of rural areas.

How does digitalization affect the provision of public services?

smart city engineering, fraunhofer iese
© Illustration: Franziska Ruflair
Through smart city engineering to better services of general interest.

Public services in the digital age

Nowadays, municipalities are active in many fields of activity: They provide administrative services and ensure the supply of the population. Accordingly, public services cover a wide range of services. They include areas such as local supply, waste disposal, and (digital) infrastructure as well as the provision of educational offerings, energy, mobility, or cultural offerings. Municipal players now have a great deal of scope for shaping the provision of public services. These can increasingly be provided digitally – and make a tangible contribution to improving the quality of life.

Recognizing the potential of digitalization

Demands on the supply with goods and services do not only change over time. The spatial context also influences the priorities of municipal players. In many rural areas, for example, the focus is primarily on ensuring areawide services. Here, digitalization offers effective tools for planning and implementing public services. In larger cities and metropolitan areas, on the other hand, the requirements for intelligently networked systems, e.g., in the areas of mobility or energy, are increasing all the time. The topic of Smart Cities has become a comprehensive field of activity. However, as the complexity of the tasks increases, so do the demands on the associated planning processes. Such new areas of responsibility for municipalities and the municipal economy do, among other things, lead to the need to develop suitable competencies in the workforce and, in some cases, even integrate new types of professions. At the same time, aspects such as ecological, economic, and social sustainability, the resilience of technical and organizational systems, and equality of living conditions must not be overlooked.


Making digital public services fit for the future

Innovative software and networked systems represent only partial aspects of municipal digitalization. New potentials are also opening up, e.g., with regard to the participation of citizens and the employees of municipal enterprises. Through its extensive research activities, Fraunhofer IESE covers the entire breadth of the topic of digital public services – from the conception and implementation of smart solutions to user participation and target-group-specific knowledge transfer. We support municipalities in making their public services digital and future-proof.

References: Digital public services in Smart Cities & Smart Regions

Preliminary study on the TOP 100:

The preliminary study provides impulses for more effective public services in Germany’s digital transformation. 

In the county of Tirschenreuth, Fraunhofer IESE and its project partners developed a user-oriented, user-friendly platform for digital housing counseling and various tools to support the counseling process.

Bitkom Smart City Atlas

Together with 13 other partners, this study is the first to take a systematic look at those cities that are pursuing an integrated Smart City approach.  

With 16 selected model projects, we are providing support in strengthening and securing the provision of digital public services in rural areas in the project Heimat 2.0. 

In the project Digital Neighbors, Fraunhofer IESE demonstrated how digital voice assistants can reduce the loneliness of senior citizens.


Contact us!


We will be happy to discuss your tasks in a phone call or at a meeting.

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