Dominik Hennes

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Can I take a deep breath, please?

Even though I grew up in a village of just 200 inhabitants, these days I’m drawn to big cities. But what I miss is fresh air. Taking a big, deep breath of nature after a long working day. Instead, I walk along busy roads and am met with stale air from air conditioners or exhaust fumes from the buses that drive past. But soon, sitting down and getting some fresh air will become a possibility for everyone, even in the middle of a busy city. The "CityTree," which Deutsche Telekom wants to use to improve network coverage, among other things, is intended to make cities smarter.

Green City Solutions' CityTree

Green City Solutions' CityTree.

The German start-up "Green City Solutions"’ CityTree is not an actual tree planted in the city. It is in reality a four-meter-high biotech filter. What is that, exactly? Bio is the operative word here. The surfaces are covered with moss. This purifies the air in a clean, natural way. Integrated fans increase the air circulation and automatically adapt to the air quality in the immediate surroundings. Faster running fans lead to more air being blown through and purified by the moss cultures.

Cool oasis

The CityTree is still brand new, but I'm sure it’ll make a big impact. Especially in summer, when air in big cities can become so hot and suffocating, the CityTree can offer citizens an agreeable meeting place, with an integrated bench inviting passers-by to take a seat and catch their breath. Since the fans and moss cultures also provide cooler air, I can't imagine a better place for you to enjoy an ice cream during your lunch break.

Targeted urban exodus

This may at first sound like a luxury improvement to citizens’ city centres, but we feel it should be considered a basic need. Yes, I decided to live in a city. But that shouldn’t mean I have to suffer poor air quality. I increasingly catch myself fleeing the city to get some fresh air. I’ve even noticed friends who move to foreign cities for student-exchange semesters who resort to wearing breathing masks whilst outside – an unthinkable situation for me.

An important investment

This doesn’t just lead to dissatisfied citizens. Bad air can also become increasingly expensive for cities. EU directives must be complied with, otherwise cities run the risk of incurring severe penalties. With this in mind, I don't see the CityTree as a new project which has to be squeezed somehow into municipal budgets, but much more as a vital investment for green and intelligent cities.

Space for state-of-the-art technologies

This is where Deutsche Telekom comes in. The CityTree doesn’t just offer citizens a space to breathe, it also provides space for state-of-the-art IoT technologies and mobile communications. It offers space for so-called small cells, which can supply network coverage to public squares in bustling city centers – where, incidentally, the CityTree’s air-filtering capabilities are best put to use. Wi-Fi hotspots can also be fitted into the CityTree. Deutsche Telekom is planning to install this technology into future CityTrees, in close partnership with Green City Solutions. These will be designed and set up in close cooperation with cities, to best tailor to their needs.

Take a deep breath

I’m looking forward to a completely digitalised world, but also to a green one. That's why start-ups like Green City Solutions are worth their weight in gold. Because the latest technologies must be coupled with environmental protections in order to create sustainable living spaces for modern life - and with the CityTree, city dwellers can finally breathe some fresh air again.

Dominik Hennes

In 2019 Corporate Blogger at Deutsche Telekom.