«The new smart city – from hi-tech sensors to social innovation»

«If you want to know what’s happening with smart cities, then look no further than Seoul. The capital of one of the world’s most technologically advanced nations was an early investor in smart technology.

»At last week’s Smart City World Expo in Barcelona, Jong-Sung Hwang, former CIO of the Seoul metropolitan government, informed of the city’s attempt to capture real-time traffic data. For years the city invested millions of dollars in sensors embedded into the road infrastructure.

»“But we failed again and again,” said Hwang. “It cost a lot ... but the traffic information was not correct so could not be used.” In 2012, however, the city’s 25,000 taxis introduced a touchcard payment system using GPS technology, effectively giving Seoul the real-time traffic information it had long craved at a fraction of the cost. “A smart city can now use smart technology and solve problems without changing the city infrastructure”, said Hwang.

»However, for a smart city industry worth $400bn globally, there is much more money to be made in embedding sensors than in analysing existing datasets. And while data given passively or pro-actively by citizens wielding smartphones is by far the most important smart city development of recent years, not everyone at the World Expo seemed ready to admit it.

»The word “social”, Ana Cocho Bermejo, COO of Citycise said, made investors run a mile. “Since the 1950s we have been talking about this idea of the city as a complex system ... the part that currently has a business model is the part related to this system: management, energy efficiency, mobility – all the smart city industry is fed into that. But the other part, which is social innovation and social engagement, they really don’t know how to make a business model out of it... [citizens] are giving a lot of data, we are telling everybody a lot of things, so can we close the circle and revert it back to the citizens for the improvement of their everyday life.”

»There is some evidence of this starting to happen. Hanna Niemi-Hugaerts, project manager, Forum Virium Helsinki, has helped establish an Open311 API in the Finnish capital. An effective coupling of centralised smart technology and citizen participation, this builds on the US idea of a 3-1-1 phoneline to report non-emergency issues, adding a website and smartphone app with the ability to send photos.

»“Cities are opening up more and more data, but the development of citizen feedback systems has not been so fast”, explained Niemi-Hugaerts. “Often it disappears to this black hole called ‘info@...’.”. In contrast, an Open311 interface “allows citizens to send photos or update reports on anything from pot holes to traffic signs, the imagination is the limit”, she said. Open311 is also an open dataset, “allowing third party developers or the citizens themselves to develop apps or services”, said Niemi-Hugaerts.

»The mood from industry is that is still yearns for Seoul’s intelligent roads, not bottom-up solutions. Rio de Janeiro won best smart city 2013 at the World Expo, its Central Operations Centre the poster child of smart cities – a hub of 400 staff, myriad screens and an 80 square metre master screen, viewing images from the streets, a smart map of live city transport, even predictive analytics and “hot topic sensing” looking at trends and keywords used by residents in social media to try and nip problems in the bud as (or before) they occur.

»Rio is the epitome of the centralised, hi-tech approach to shepherding citizens. Yet its chief of staff Pedro Paulo Carvalho told me this was no longer sufficient: “The first stage of a smart city [is] to have the basic [central] infrastructure. Now the real challenge is the second phase, to integrate those systems into daily life, to open up our data ... for citizens in a way that they can actually use it. The concept of a ‘smart citizen’ is one that is engaged in the decision-making process.” Despite the city’s awards, it still has some way to go.

»There is a middle ground emerging also – the “internet of things”. This is the vision of a smart city formed household by household. Kevin Ashton, founder of MIT’s Auto-ID Center, gave the example of smart water meters. “About 40% of indoor water consumption is waste, it’s leaks, it’s leaving taps on ... if we could just capture the information about that and show it back to people who are consuming it they will waste less, it’s really simple”. An under-the-sink meter costing less than $100 and designed by his team will tell householders what’s being used – and leaked – where. Another example saw houseplants tweeting owners when they needed watering.

»The evolution of the smart city will involve all the above. At the end of 2013, no city can truly claim to be a smart city, and it would take a complex set of collaborations to achieve that status. Centralised operations systems must engage with citizens not simply monitor them; citizen groups must question policy and the use of big data, while also contributing to it; smart sensors in streets are still needed, as are those we choose to put into out houses. An holistic approach to smart city planning seems possible, but we are not there yet. And in the defence of the major technology firms, the political infrastructure is not there yet either.

»“The main challenges are not technological,” said Alex Mestre, marketing director of Spain’s Abertis Telecom, “we can do that pretty well. The big challenge I believe is in the political domain ... what we need is a clear indication from the municipality what has to be done, the silo barriers in the different departments have to be broke ... and a political mandate [in place] before we can roll out anything. Otherwise it will be [only] nice experiments.”

»In other words, the technology is already out there – but are we smart enough to use it?»

The Guardian, Tim Smedley


«Dubai Air Show: the sky’s the limit»

«The Paris Air Show in June was notable for the absence of a big US military presence. Defence chiefs and major contractors were hard to spot.

»Fast-forward to this weekend and the start of the biennial Dubai Air Show, and it’s a very different story.

»A US Navy aircraft carrier off the Dubai coast is hosting a dinner for 800 official delegates from around the world.

»US defence firms are out in force. Little expense seems to have been spared to showcase their fighter jets, bombers and other military hardware.

»It all illustrates the importance of this week-long festival of deal-making and schmoozing in the Gulf city-state.

»Power shift

»For Doug Emslie, group managing of Taurus, which owns the show’s organisers, F&E Aerospace, says it is all part of changes to the aerospace industry’s centre of gravity.

»“We are seeing a massive shift in buying power to the Middle East and Asia. It is makes sense that people will come to where the buyers are,” he says.

»The ambitious expansion plans of the fast-growing Gulf airlines, led by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, show no signs of slowing.

»And with defence budget cuts in Europe and the US being squeezed, arms firms are looking to Middle East states to keep their order books full.

»Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman and chief of French defence-electronics group Thales, underlined the changing mood, telling the BBC that simply exporting products from Europe was no longer an option. Thales had to be “local”.

»“Thales must be much more emerging-market minded. In order to counter the cuts in European defence spending, Thales must expand internationally into growth markets.” he says.

»“Our international growth has been limited due to the lack of local partnerships abroad.

»“Thales can no longer simply count on exporting products from Europe and North America. We need to capture growth in emerging markets and this is why events like the Dubai Air Show are important as they help us to increase our focus on developing regional industrial and business partnerships.”

»Record orders?

»To match the pre-show hype, the Dubai event got off the ground with a number of big orders.

»Dubai-based Emirates placed an order for 150 of Boeing’s new 777 mini-jumbos, in a deal valued at $76bn according to list prices.

»It also ordered 50 Airbus A380s, the world’s largest passenger plane.

»Boeing also saw demand from Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, with the US manufacturer announcing commitments for some 259 of its revamped 777X aircraft, worth roughly $100bn at list prices.

»Boeing will also be hoping to finally put any doubts about its troubled 787 Dreamliner behind it.

»Etihad has been in talks over a possible order for 30 of the aircraft.

»The Abu Dhabi airline has also been talking to Airbus about buying its A350 and A320neo models. And Airbus will be keen to announce further orders for its A380 super-jumbo, which have been slow this year.

»Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific and Saudi Arabian Airlines are also expected to be spending big. And Dubai’s fast-growing budget carrier Flydubai has signalled its intention to buy more aircraft.

»‘Tipping point’

»Barring a last-minute breakdown of negotiations for big orders, Mr Emslie believes the Dubai show could break its 2007 record, which saw the biggest ever package of orders announced: $155bn.

»“This week will be pivotal in the history of the show”, he says. “It will be the tipping point that confirms Dubai as the meeting place for the global aerospace industry.”

»That could be bad news for the Paris and Farnborough air shows. For decades, these were events where the aerospace industry not just wanted to be seen, but had to be seen.

»But long-time air show-goer Howard Wheeldon, of Wheeldon Strategic Advisory, fears that Dubai’s emergence means the two European events could become little more than networking events.

»He says: “There will always be a need for Farnborough and Paris, but I think the emphasis for these shows will be more and more as trade shows as opposed to air shows.

»“True, Farnborough is investing more money for the 2014 show, but compared to the likes of Dubai this is tiny. New shows are emerging in Bahrain, and soon, probably, India and even China and Brazil.”

»‘Opportunities and expansion’

»Mr Emslie says it should be recognised that for Dubai, the event is no mere show. “It is a statement about its future; a showcase for Dubai Inc.”

»Dubai itself is not just a big tourist destination, but a major transit hub for people criss-crossing the globe. It’s airport is expected next year to overtake Heathrow as the world’s busiest.

»Around 30% of Dubai’s GDP, and 20% of its employment, comes from aviation. But there is still, Mr Emslie says, a “pretty immature supply chain to service the sector”.

»And that means opportunities and expansion, he says.

»Of the 1,043 exhibitors, more than 266 are UAE-based. Mr Emslie says that the majority of them did not exist two years ago.

»Aviation analyst John Strickland points out that Dubai’s gain does not mean Europe’s loss. Orders placed in Dubai mean jobs across Europe for Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and other firms.

»“Given the importance of aerospace manufacturing for jobs and the UK economy, the Dubai Air Show is of key importance,” he says.

»Among defence deals on the agenda, the UAE is in the market for up to 60 fighter jets, with the European-made Typhoon said to be in pole position for the contract. An order would create production and maintenance jobs for decades.

»Dubai’s emergence certainly underlines fundamental changes in the global aerospace industry. But as Thales’ Mr Levy said, there are huge opportunities for firms prepared to adapt to the new reality.»

BBC News, Russell Hotten


«Innovation Lessons from China’s Champion Innovator»

«In 1984 a young manager called Zhang Ruimin took control of a loss-making fridge factory in Qingdao, China. He was appalled at the low standards of workmanship and quality in its products. In a dramatic expression of his wrath he gave out sledgehammers and asked factory workers to join him in smashing 76 faulty fridges in front of a large group of shocked employees. The message was clear – poor quality was no longer acceptable.

»Since then Zhang has focused on quality, innovation and branding in order to build the company, Haier, into the largest appliance maker in the world with a turnover of over $26B. One of elements of Haier’s success was learning from customers. Zhang regularly sent engineers into the marketplace to see how customers were using their products. The insights gained spurred innovation. For example engineers learnt that in rural China some people were using Haier washing machines to wash vegetables (in particular sweet potatoes). What did Zhang do? He told his development team to design a new cold water washing cycle specifically for vegetables. Engineers in the USA reported back that they had seen a student with two small Haier fridges set apart with a plank of wood on them that the lad had used as a desk. Haier brought out a line of fridges with a pull-out desk top. Another customer–led innovation was a freezer with a slightly less cold compartment designed to keep ice cream soft. Haier is the only Chinese company in the World’s top ten most innovative companies listing by the Boston Consulting Group.

»Zhang Ruimin is recognized in China and worldwide as a great entrepreneur and innovator. Now in his 60s he is a teetotaler who rarely takes time off and works most days in the business. His latest disruptive innovation is to jettison the company’s entire middle management layer. Instead of working in separate departments, like most large corporations, Haier’s 80,000 employees now work in some 2000 fluid teams. Any employee can propose an idea and if it is voted a winner then that person becomes the team leader. The team manages itself and is responsible for the profit or loss of the project. The revolutionary idea of self-organising teams has been tried successfully elsewhere by companies such as W L Gore and Oticon but it is still seen as radical – particularly in China. Zhang told the Economist he wants, ‘a free market in talent so the cream rises.’

»When asked how he intends to strike a balance between distributed teams and central control Zhang replied,’ we do not need a balance. An unsteady and dynamic environment is the best way to keep everyone flexible.’ He adds, ‘previously employees waited to hear from the boss , now they listen to the customer.’»

Innovation Excellence, Paul Sloane


«Innovation Ireland Forum: The Future Created Here»

«Ireland’s credentials as a world-leading location for technology and software companies is underpinned by a vibrant research and development ecosystem. As the world looks to technological innovation to provide sustainable solutions to the economic challenges of the 21st century, Ireland is well placed to leverage its knowledge ecosystem to become an international test bed for tomorrow’s innovation economy.

»The Innovation Ireland Forum will bring together the leaders in the ecosystem and the key stakeholders in government, academia, engineering, technology and investment sectors to help shape the direction of thinking and policy in Ireland.

»Silicon Republic will ask how we can amplify the message that Ireland is the go-to destination for the knowledge that will drive the next economy.

»Topics to be address at the Innovation Ireland Forum: The Future Created Here include:

»• Innovation Ecosystem

»• International Collaboration

»• Innovation for Sustainability

»• Innovation Clusters

»• International Test Bed

»• Sustainable Economic Models

»• Forming Tomorrow’s Talent

»• Enabling the ‘Creative Class’

»• Intellectual Property

»• Business Model Innovation

»Confirmed Keynotes include:

»Bror Salmelin, Innovation Systems, European Commission DG CONNECT

»Bror Salmelin is currently Advisor for Innovation Systems at the European Commission DG CONNECT (Communications, Networks, Content and Technology), responsible for innovation and take-up and real world settings fostering innovation, and Living Labs.

»Confirmed Panelists include:

»Travis Carpico, Country Manager, Fidelity Investments

»Prof Mark Ferguson, Director-General, Science Foundation Ireland

»Eucharia Meehan, Director, Irish Research Council

»Ben Hurley, CEO, NDRC

»Prof Brian MacCraith, President, Dublin City University

»John McSweeney, Head of ESB Innovation

»Prof Chris Bean, Director, University College Dublin Earth Institute

»Peter Finnegan, Director, International Relations and Research, Dublin City Council»

Silicon Republic Knowledge & Events Management Ltd