When you think of Mongolia, yurts and people with birds of prey riding horses through the steppe come more often to mind than smart technologies. But in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, digitalization has long since arrived in people’s lives. As part of the Sustainability and Mobility in the Context of Smart Cities (SuMoCoS) project supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, we visited Mongolia and talked about opportunities, possibilities and technologies.

Mongolia is four times the size of Germany but there are only about 3.1 million inhabitants. Northeast of the city, the mountains of the Gorchi-Tereldsch National Park slowly rise and south of them the holy mountain Bogd Khan Uul. As early as the 12th century, logging and hunting was prohibited here, and subsequent dynasties also protected the area, so it is considered to be the oldest nature park in the world. Today, the Bogd Khan Uul is a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

On the other hand, mining is a very important industry in Mongolia, especially coal and copper and this has a negative impact on the life of the people. Half of the inhabitants live in the capital Ulaanbaatar, which lies at the foot of the Bogd Khan Uul. Ulaanbaatar, like so many cities encircled by mountains, struggles with emissions from car and industrial fumes. Almost always a brown smog cloud hangs over the city. It is particularly bad in winter. That is when the nomads, who still make up a third of the total population, set up their yurts on the outskirts of the city and heat them with old coal stoves. They are not connected to the city’s power grid. Then there are the coal-fired power plants, which generate most of the electricity.

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Smart technologies for a better climate in Mongolia?

The SuMoCoS (International Conference on Sustainability and Mobility in the Context of Smart Cities) project aims to strengthen international scientific cooperation in the field of smart cities between Germany, Mongolia, and Uzbekistan. The cooperation between the project partners will help to understand and address the theoretical and practical challenges of Smart City projects in Central Asia (including Mongolia). In Mongolia, a key objective is to reduce pollution and improve mobility.

erminas CEO Hilmar Bunjeserminas was business partner of the conference and reported first-hand how Industrial IoT projects can be successfully implemented with simple means. Retrofitting is an important topic due to the stock of old machines, which were often bought second-hand from other countries. Through higher efficiency, both, energy consumption and pollution, can be reduced significantly. erminas showed concrete examples of how the technologies can be used to meet the challenges in Mongolia.

At the panel discussion on the topic “Potential of Smart City Approaches in Mongolia” erminas-CEO Hilmar Bunjes gave an insight into the topic from an industrial point of view. Together with Prof. Dr. Andreas Winter (University of Oldenburg), Acad. Avid Budeebazar (Mongolian Academy of Sciences), Mr. Khaliunbat Myagmarjav (Deputy Governor of the Capital city in charge on Innovation and Technology, Governor’s Office of the Capital City) and Dr. Odgerel Ulziikhutag (Senior Officer at Policy and Planning Department, Ministry of Road and Transport Development), ideas and challenges from the panel and the auditorium were presented and discussed.

The visit to Mongolia was accompanied by a program of the Mongolian Ministry of Road and Transport Development. Besides a visit to the Ministry itself, the German delegation was also able to visit the wind farm near Ulaanbaatar and the new Chinggis Khaan International Airport. The trip was complemented by a visit to the German ambassador Jörn Rosenberg for a joint discussion.

For the future, further talks and work between the cooperation partners were agreed upon, as well as a loosely planned meeting in 2021 or 2022. For erminas, the conference resulted in numerous points of contact and ongoing discussions with regard to the optimization of energy efficiency through Industrial IoT projects and retrofitting.

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