The digital age has transformed the meaning of ‘smart’. What was once a nod towards human intelligence is now a reference to a product, service – even a city - that is connected via the Internet of Things (IoT). Data and information are the building blocks of a smart city, where they are captured and transmitted using electrical signals to improve the functioning of the city. The only country to steal two spots in the 2020 Smart City Index is the home of luxury chocolates and high-precision watchmaking – Switzerland. Could this be a signal that Switzerland is the smartest country in the world?
‘Smart’ conjures up the image of multiple wireless connections beaming to form a complex network of signals. These signals are what make a city interconnected but what makes the city smart is when the data is used to make more informed decisions and improve the lives of the residents. In the Smart City Index, Zurich was awarded the bronze medal - only beaten by Singapore and Helsinki – and was recognised for its health facilities, governance and education. However, the citizens of Zurich addressed the need for e-voting and greater investment in mobile apps for car sharing. Meanwhile, Geneva took seventh place for their basic amenities, health, education and social mobility. Air pollution was identified as a problem in this Swiss city and this could be a call for increased investment in smart devices that conserve natural resources.
This continuous investment in new technologies is one of the reasons why Switzerland took first place in the 2020 Global Innovation Index once again, but how has the push towards developing smart applications and devices impacted the healthcare system?
Despite there being no universal coverage in Switzerland, the nation is renowned for having a high-quality healthcare system. And as the digital revolution sweeps over the country, technologies such as wearables, implanted sensors and smart textiles are beginning to push the boundaries and alter the skillset required for healthcare jobs. In PwC’s Digital opportunity in the Swiss healthcare system report, smart devices are identified as an emerging technology, suggesting that the true potential of Switzerland’s smart healthcare is yet to be seen. These devices are being used to collect patient data and report it in real-time, resulting in both reduced costs and improved operational efficiency.
One of the first uses of smart technology within Switzerland’s healthcare system was Google Glass. Swiss developers created an app to allow paramedics and doctors to use the augmented reality (AR) glasses to improve the quality of treatment, particularly in time-sensitive cases. Several years on, more applications of AR and VR tools within life sciences are beginning to emerge. The smart devices are now being used to help surgeons to prepare for surgery and assisting patients to perform their therapy exercises at home.
How can Switzerland get smarter?
In 2009, the chief technology officer for the District of Columbia (D.C) – Vivek Kundra – announced a competition for software developers to create a mobile app that used the open data made public by the municipality. The purpose of the competition was to take the stores of data that the local government collects and put it to use in a way that benefitted the public. The resulting 47 applications – including a real-time parking app and an app to track a safe route home from any bar in the city – achieving in one month what would have taken years had the government chosen to outsource the work.
Despite the number of software developers living in Switzerland being yet to reach the numbers in the US, and estimates that the shortfall of ICT specialists will reach 40,000 by 2026, the job market is growing. The combination of Covid-19, increased government investment in technology and a booming fintech market have led to a heightened demand for tech and digital skills, with no signs of the trend slowing down. Now, many software developers are trading in their coveted roles in Silicon Valley to relocate to the culturally vibrant Zurich. And with the rise of disruptive technology in Switzerland, more smart apps like those developed in D.C. look to be on the horizon. Perhaps all it will take is a competition to draw out these innovative ideas.
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Whether Switzerland is the smartest country in the world remains up for debate, but one thing for sure is that the nation is making a name for itself in the smart technology market. It is trends and technology drivers like these that the team at Swisslinx are committed to keeping pace with, so we can provide you with timely career advice. Contact us to speak to a member of the team or begin the search for your next digital and technology job.