4 Key success factors to build sustainable smartcities

smartcityLiving in an increasingly connected world means also to compete more and more in a global economy. This is true for countries, but also for cities, especially when more and more of the global population is moving into mega-cities.

In the cities of the future efficient usage of resources and competitiveness will be essential for continued growth and possibly even for survival.

The smart city concept is essentially about efficiency of a city. Efficiency based on the intelligent management and integrated ICTs, and active citizen participation. According to the wikipedia definition: “A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement”. The broadness of this definition means though that there can be many different interpretations of when a city starts to become smart. It also means it is difficult to compare cities amongst each other as priorities will differ. The current socio-economic context of city will certainly impact these priorities. The commonality between smart cities is that ICT is used to improve the city’s capabilities to innovate and solve efficiency or capacity related problems.

Direction, Commitment and Alignment

Smart cities are about efficiency but also about increasing the quality of life of its citizens. It is hence essential that local governments define a clear vision on what are the objectives and priorities for the smart city development. For me this is a pre-requisite to start working on a smart city agenda and is a first level of maturity that is needed from the local government and authorities. If I take Dubai as an example this first level of maturity is fulfilled, through the vision that His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum exposed at Gitex last. Focus on Smart Life, Smart Economy and Smart economy are clear indications of where the city wants to head in the next years.  This vision provides though limited value it is not transformed in a public-private sector agenda. Corporates and enterprises need to see profitable business in participating in smart city initiatives. This provides a second level of maturity. Here also I see that Dubai has reached that level of commitment, especially when looking at the objectives of the ministries and authorities in charge of transportation and energy. The third level of maturity will come once the various authorities start to break industry specific silos, and leverage on ICT to improve efficiencies among industries. I believe this third level of maturity is where the highest efficiency benefits can be reached, but this is also the hardest objective to define.

Clear metrics, a strong governance and an open agenda

Vision and objectives is one thing, but investment will only be made if the returns can be clearly measured. And this is where it becomes difficult. There are number of indexes that try to benchmark city performance and improvements but the difficulty lies in finding indicators that provide robust and reliable data. Since data collection is not of the same quality in each industry or country, the result of this type of exercise is not always of academic quality. If seen a least three different index recently measuring the efficiency of  smart city. Ericsson has produced a smart city index which positions smart cities on two axes: one measures the ICT maturity and affordability and another ones measures the impact of this ICT on a triple bottom line which looks at  environmental, social and economical impact. In the Ericsson index more than 80 difference indicators are analyzed and compared. GSMA has a similar index, and also INSEAD regularly publishes an index which looks more at the intellectual output. In any case each city might want to tune the indicators that are relevant to its priorities will competing in the global economy. One of the critics I could have to these indexes is that there are crunching offline data made by academics or consultants, but is not really visible or understandable to citizens in clear and understandable fashion. Since government will often invest tax payer money into this projects, I believe it is crucial also to provide an open agenda to share the progress made and measure indicators that are relevant to the citizens. The proper collection, management and exposure of the relevant city metrics shows and increased maturity in the city’s governance. A great example of such openness and transparency is the London City Dashboard, which shows regular updates on indicators that matter to its citizens. These are indicators like unemployment rates, crime levels or traffic accident levels. This opendata agenda also secures that there is a feedback loop between citizens and authorities

Continued investment in people and ICT infrastructure

In a smart city, it is kind of obvious that the right investments need to be made in ICT. Whether it is for connectivity, communication or cloud, ICT will support continued digitalization of services and development of knowledge economy. Similar the cities need to develop the right skills and attract the right skills to fill any competence gaps the city might have to be able to execute on its plans. This means a strong investment in education, but also adequate immigration policies and simplified processes to start a business.

New infrastructures to enable community involvement

For me the third success factor to create a sustainable smartcity is to create an environment that fosters innovation and is able to channel innovations from the crowds. In a digital economy innovation can come from everywhere and smart cities need to put the right structures in place to capture promising ideas in early stages and allow these to bloom. More and more cities realize the importance in setting up incubators and accelerators to capture these innovations, but we see also new type of creativity place like FabLabs gaining. This is certainly couple to a renaissance in hardware development and prototyping that has been triggered by innovations like the Raspberry PI, Arduino or 3D printing. Smart cities must provide environments to experiment, for people to rally around common causes and develop the next generation of innovations.

What’s your view?

I believe that continuously working on these four dimensions will help to develop sustainable smart cities. My view is certainly a bit simplistic and I acknowledge that but I hear to little about community involvement when reading about smart cities and this is why I wanted to write this short article and get some community feedback. What do you think is needed to build a smart city?

10 ways to make Dubai a Smart(er) City


There was a lot of excitement  in Dubai at GITEX last week after His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum outlined his plans to make Dubai a SmartCity.  The Dubai ruler, Vice President and Prime minister of UAE has started a project that aims at improving citizen’s quality of life, develop the economy, but also aims at putting Dubai on the global map when it comes to innovation and technology leadership.

Although no details  about the scope of the project are known, it is clear that it is an attempt to bring together both public institutions as well as private sector companies in order to speed-up the move of Dubai and the UAE into the digital world. The higher committee that has been formed to run this initiative includes both public and private sector officials, with telecom operators Etisalat and du represented among others. It is not clear how much money will be poured into this initiative, but looking at the stakeholders involved we are talking serious business .  There are today three main themes defined under the umbrella project: Smart Life, Smart Economy and Smart tourism.

  • Smart Life focuses on education, health, transport, telecommunication and public utilities….
  • Smart Economy concerns the development of technology companies and jobs as well as port, airport and other business services.
  • Smart Tourism aims to offer visitors efficient visa, aviation, hotels, restaurants and other services.

For this initiative to succeed though it is important  to learn from what is being done elsewhere in the world but also consider learnings from projects like Masdar in Abu Dhabi. The green city project had to revise many of its initial high ambitions, to become the first carbon neutral city, mainly due to cost of implementation. Still I believe it is the right time and the right place to start such an ambitious project.  Having lived in UAE for 6 years now I start getting my own ideas on how such a project could shape up and wanted to share some humble ideas around the main themes.

Smart Life

  1. I believe that traffic management is still one of the areas that has most potential for development. There are so many traffic jams, accidents and frustration spent on the roads that this could be a quick win for the city. Being it support applications to find parking spaces, information about location of infrastructure, real-time traffic information. I think this is one of the smart services citizen would really like to see.  Many cities around the world have started to even open this data to the public in order to stimulate innovation, I really hope Dubai and UAE can do thee same. Less accidents, Less CO2 emissions and less stress on the road are main benefits.  Check my previous article on opendata to read more about this topic.
  2. In order to improve quality of life, I think another important investment area should be around sustainability and greener lifestyle. Here also I am a proponent of environment opendata to stimulate innovation. Dubai and UAE would certainly benefit from measuring and exposing data like air quality, pollution levels as well as water and energy consumption.  Air Conditioning systems are in bad shape in many places here and lack of monitoring some of these environmental parameters could lead to chronic diseases.  To develop a Smart life means being more respectful about the environment, but to create awareness and change behaviors you need more visibility first.
  3. Healthcare is another area for investment. Now, while the quality of doctors here can be high, the administrative part is a nightmare, paperwork left and right, queueing here and there.  Now, this is probably not a quick win, but the move the electronic medical records is probably a big step to take as well as an introduction of remote patient monitoring solutions to deal with chronic diseases.
  4. Education is a tricky area, but I believe SmartCities will be cities capable of harnessing the right mix of local education programs combined with specialized Remote teaching capabilities from world class universities.  With technology the world becomes a smaller place, and that means that we can get access to educational resources that were out of reach before.  Video-conferencing, collaborative means that you can have very similar interactions with the teachers as when you are in the classroom. Another aspect of this development is that education could become a lot cheaper than it is today and hence become more affordable.

Smart Economy

  1. The smart economy is certainly about securing the infrastructure is continuously built-out to facilitate communications, logistics and production. Here I think tele-presence solutions provide an opportunity to facilitate Business-to-Business , Business-to-Government and Government-to-Citizen interactions. Less time spend on the road, waiting or idling will have a positive impact on productivity.
  2. Another aspect of the smart economy it is also about creating leaner administration and moving more jobs to the private sector. More jobs in private sector means also improving support systems for startups.  As I wrote in one of my previous articles cost of living and infrastructure is still to high to want to start a technology business here in UAE.  Maybe government needs to revise visa policies, provide housing support and finance startups to attract technology entrepreneurs.

Smart Tourism

  1. Digital signage could be further developed to promote events and provide tourist information services in strategic places.
  2. Voucher systems like the Dubai Entertainer or other coupon systems, need to be revamped so that you can get coupons in digital format. Just take the example of tourist visiting Dubai, likelyhood of him/her buying the entertainer at 100USD if he stays a few days is very low. Going digital gives you more flexbility in the offering.
  3. Automatic translation services could be used to provide relevant information to tourists.
  4. Now while many search engines are available to check flight availability, it is much more difficult to know restaurant availability. I would really love an application that can search for available restaurants that serve certain types of food.  Again if this type of data is made open and maybe brokered through the operator the applications will be developed.

Do you like some of these ideas? What are you thoughts and what would you like to see?

#Opendata status in European capitals

As a follow-up of my previous article on “why #Opendata matters in the networked society”, I have decided to have a closer look at what each of europe’s capitals has done so far to provide access to its precious data. There is a consensus now in the industry that the data available by governments can no longer be locked in  as there is soo much to gain by making it open. The European union has estimated that the overall economic gains from opening up public sector information could generate up to 40 billion euros a year in the EU, and there are today more than 6000 datasets registered on the european union’s open data portal.  The status of the opendata initiatives in Europe and the focus varies though from place to place, so I decided to have a closer look at  what the different european capitals are doing.

The description and comments below reflect the status as of Mid-October 2013 and is my personal assessment.  The research was done by searching for official opendata sites in each of europe’s capitals and government sites. For very small countries, I used the national sites or the largest city, made a search on datahub.io, but some countries still remain as “blackspots” on the map so I encourage you to provide feedback on this article so I can publish a better version of the assessment in the near future.

So why looking at #Opendata status in european capitals?

First of all, the capitals provide a good barometer on how Europe is opening up to opendata and the openweb. Opendata projects in a country are often  initiated at different levels: there are national projects that are driven by the government needs, there are regional initiatives driven by the regional administration and then there are urban initiatives which are kick-started in the interest of a city’s administration. But the main reason I am interested in the capitals is because they are in control of many data sources, and this is where I can see quick monetization opportunities as well.  And monetization is a good trigger to open up more data. To do these assessment, there are four aspects I am interested in understanding:

  1. How many sets are published, to get a quantitative assessment of the status and draw a heatmap
  2. What is the nature of the data that is shared, so that we see where the focus is for the city. It can also be used to see any “anomalies” or “creative” approaches
  3. Is there an API available to access the data
  4. What type of apps are being developed?

Quantitative view of Opendata – A European Heatmap

So here is the European opendata heatmap showing how many datasets are published in each of Europe’s capitals.


For many of the eastern european countries I couldn’t find any official links so I used the results I got from datasets stored on datahub.io and filtered by country (Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Poland Slovenia, bosnia, montenegro, macedonia). This means that reality might look slightly better for these countries, but it still seems that government driven opendata initiative in eastern europe are lagging behind.

At the top of Europe’s capitals is Helsinki with more than 1000 datasets published, followed by London and Rome with both around 500 datasets available. I am not so surprised to see the nordic’s in the lead, nor large cities, but more surprisingly you can see countries like Austria among the leaders with Wien having about 200 datasets and Austrian government about a 1000 datasets.

Looking at the disparity between smaller countries is quite interesting since some of the them are really lagging behind while others like Austria, Switzerland and the nordic are more of pioneers. In many of these countries the effort is also related to open government or e-government initiatives.

If you have access to better information or find some of the sources erroneous please let me know and I will try to correct. The heatmap is based on the following excel data OpenData-Europe.

Nature of the data published
It is when you start looking at what is published that it becomes really interesting. In France for instance you can see that the main agenda of the government is transparency, but is all of it useful? While the city of Paris has about 100 datasets published, the french government has a massive 300.000 datasets focusing only on employment and social policies, but I haven’t see much outcome when it comes to employment policies. Food for thought! In Rome 190 of the 500 datasets are about elections, seriously? On the positive side Italy is very active when it comes to collecting environmental data, while France is really lagging behind.
Maybe this is also a reason why some countries seem to be lagging behind when it comes to the number of datasets, when they are in fact more of pioneers on how the data is used. So it is not only about publishing the data but also making sure somebody will benefit from it.  it is not only about volume but also about usefullness. So while statistical data is of moderate interest, it is really goelocation data, environmental data and traffic data which is high on the agenda of the pioneer countries. Culture, food and healthcare are closely following.  Sweden seems to be low on the number of data sets, but the city of stockholm has one of the best portals with a simple structure and visualization, so usubility is very high.
Among some of the oddities in the datasets I am surprised that only Brussels is publishing location information about public access to Wi-Fi hotspots. Interestingly also is that Berlin is the only capital publishing data about consumer rights protection. When you start browsing the themes under which data is grouped, you will also notice that there is no normalization across categories, which means that it is not easy to link different datasets.

Access to the data and API

Data is usually publish in CSV, XML or other popular data format, but it is interesting to see that more and more countries are now providing API access to the datasets they publish. The access is usually done using an HTTP REST API, which means it is targeting the broad community of web developers.

The API access is becoming increasingly important as soon as you need to provide access to real-time data and some cities like Madrid or Wien are providing real-time access to traffic data. Metro and bus status updates are provided every couple of minutes to make sure the application developers can develop valuable applications to guide citizens or tourists.

API access also means that there is a bit more restrictions and developers have usually to be registered before API access is granted and some cities are even certifying the Application afterwards to make sure it does impact the peformance of the servers.

Applications of the data

One of the applications of opendata is obviously transparency. One of the best examples I have seen so far  is the London Dashboard.


The city of London is providing an easy to understand dashboard view on key performance indicators on how the city is run and how the administration is performing.

Beside the transparency aspect, many cities are also providing access to the public sector information to stimulate innovation in particular in sectors that would help the cities economic and sutainable development.

Most European cities are now organizing targeted opendata hackathons and in 2013 hackathons were organized around the world on the opendata hack day

Many of the applications developed during Hackathons target mobility in the city. From finding restaurants to parking spaces to cultural hotspots every data that help us improve our city lifestyle can usually find a taker.

Share you #Opendata experiences

If you are a novice to Opendata I hope that this article gave you a bit of an overview of what is happening in Europe, but for those of you working daily with opendata I would love hear about your projects and experiences. What type of applications are being developed? How is linking of data across europe and how are regulations around data evolving? And please, if you have data sources I missed, please share!


Why #Opendata matters in the Networked Society


What is Opendata?

In a nutshell, “Open data is data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.”

What this means practically, is that data assets are being exposed  without charging the consumer of that data, with the exception of possible reproduction costs.  Since most of this data will be available over the internet and stored in the cloud, where the costs are marginal we can assume that open data is completely free of charge. Secondly the definition also states that this data shall be freely redistributable and can also be mixed with other data assets without limitations. This means that you can manipulate the data, aggregate it without any limitations imposed by the original data source provider. But the most interesting requirement on opendata is that it cannot include any restrictions on how the data should be used. For me this is the key, since it will not only open the data for educational purposes, but also  allow  the use of  opendata for commercial purposes. So Opendata will spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

Opendata promotes transparency

One of the opportunities seen by governments and local administration is to expose data for transparancy purposes. This helps citizens to understand where and how public spending is made, allows better scrutiny of this spending and can create more trust in authorities in the long run. Let me give you a few examples.

Open data PARIS – The city of Paris releases economic data about public contracts awarded, government spending and other data to promote transparency between the public administration and citizen.  Information and location of public services like educational institutions and buildings is made available machine readable files that can be downloaed.  Accessibility information about government infrastructure is also provided.

The city of Vienna in Austria is even taking this one step further since the country was to implement a vision of an open government where  “In opening its data records to the public, the City of Vienna is taking yet another important step towards implementing its Open Government Strategy” furthermore the city has deicded “to create administrative structures based on more transparency and participation, enabling closer cooperation with the local population, local businesses and the scientific community.” This is quiet a bold ambition but I think is the future of governments in the networked society.

Another interesting initiative I came across comes from Northern Italy. The region Veneto has started an opendata initiative with an ambition to provide a portal to different type of data sets grouped in different themes. Interesting is that the data sources are not only including information about public infrastructure, like roads and maps,  but some of the data sets now also include more domain specific information like environment or culture related data.  Especially the environmental related data can be very important to creare a more sustainable society.


Opendata initiatives and the SmartCity

Governments and city administrations have also realized that sharing the data assets they have can help in the development of a SmartCity vision and improve the life quality of their citizen.

Around the world many cities have quick-started opendata initiatives to stimulate innovation in the urban context.

As  an example in the city of Amsterdam, DIVV, the city’s department for Infrastructure , Traffic and Transportation has

made available all its data on traffic and transportation to interested parties.  Data about parking (tariffs, availability, time), taxi stands, cyclepaths, stops for touringcars are public.

By having a competition on the best applications and rewarding the winners, they attracted a lot of potential startups that want to leverage ont the data . On the 2012 winners is ParkShark an application which helps you find available parking places using predefined criteria. The benefits for the citizen is less stress when searching for parking and for the city is ultimately reduces CO2 emissions and will optimize parking usage.

To go back to the previous example, the city of Vienna has been exposing mostly GIS based information like infrastructure, musuems, bus stops and other usefull data, but have now also started to expose real-time data. In particular they are exposing real-time traffic information about communal transportation systems.  There are today roughly 100 applications that have been designed specifically to leverage on opendata in Vienna.

Opendata will be a catalyst for innovation

The opendata phenomenom is growing rapidly around the world and I strongly believe Opendata will be a catalyst for innovation everywhere. It is important that startups and innovators realize that there is a good mine of data that is available for them to create value for citizens and governments.

Will wearable computing take us by storm?

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The world of wearable computing is evolving at lightspeed and the impact these connected devices will have on our daily lives will be dramatic. From the simple fitness devices we see today, to the smart watches and google glasses which are just around the corner, we are not too far from some of the visionary scenes of a movie like ironman. 

Skeptics will say that wearable computing industry is still a big hype but I believe we have hardly seen the tip of the iceberg and there are just too many technology trends converging and too many business benefits for this not too happen at a large scale and much faster than anticipated.  Here is why…

Connectivity is almost everywhere

Mobile Connectivity is almost everywhere, being it through Wi-FI or 3G and LTE, we can now be constantly connected with our mobile devices and at affordable rates. Mobile data share plans will also make it easy to connect more devices to our current subscription, but in the worst case you can always use your mobile phone or home gateway as an aggregation point. The truth is, that any device that benefits from a connection will have one. The phone is most likely to be our aggregation point for data traffic, since this is the device we always carry with us, but this might change over time.

Wearable devices us Open Source Operating Systems, Open API’s and SDK

Wearable devices are becoming mainstream, fitness devices produced by Nike or Fitbit are already part of the common sports gear and soon we will see smart watches from Sony and Apple on retailer stores. Health monitoring devices are also appearing as mass market devices.  Many of the devices we see right now are very much single function or very focused functionality which means they do not necessarily need to be open to the developer community but this is changing as the device becomes more of an interface to the rest of the world.

Many devices manufacturers that see the wearable device as an interface or a portal will most likely want to build on open operating systems, being it Linux or Android they are providing open API’s to stimulate innovation and community engagement. We see this already with Google Glass supporting HTTP REST API’s to interface with their device. Google’s main competitor Vuzix is taking a similar approach and seem to have come even further since they have a rich SDK and a developer program to encourage innovation.

In addition to these hub devices, with Open API’s we also see companies developing sensors that can be embedded in cloth and some even washed.

Cloud infrastructure and Bigdata

With the availability of cloud and bigdata infrastructures it also means that the data captured by these wearable devices can rapidly be processed and insights can be actionable insights can be gained. It also means that the data can easily be augmented to be provide new information and insights to the end-user of the device.

Imagine yourself walking through a book store with you google glasses and by zooming on the ISBN, or barcode you get access to instant book reviews from Amazon, pricing information and other information about the book author. The system could also provide you with recommendations you might like based on your previous readings and by access the local in-store information portal you could actually get guidance on which shelf to find the book. That is if you are still going to bookstore.. but I guess you get the point.

Cloud, bigdata and analytics could change the way we use devices and transform them to become some kind of life support system.

Consumer and Business Benefits

I believe consumer and businesses will both drive the development of wearable computing.  On the business side devices like smart glasses enhanced with augmented reality will allow major costs saving and efficiency improvements in the enterprise, especially in segments where you need your hands free. A good way to exemplify this is how SAP and Vuzix are partnering to bring augmented reality solutions to the enterprise. In this video, you can see how the smart glasses allow a logistics worker to get important information and guidance in his daily warehouse activities while keeping his hands free, this allows him to save time and avoid dangerous situations. If elaborate a bit more the needs from job safety you can find all kinds of wearables devices, what if you would start measuring vital signs of people working in hard physical environment, that could help do preventive care.

On the consumer side healthcare and fitness are two big interest areas and we see more and more self-diagnosis and monitoring devices appearing on the market.

If you have a sense of humor, you can also check out some more exotic projects like Durex Fundawear.The famous condom manufacturer is working on underwear which can be controlled with you mobile phone, no more on that!

Another interesting example is the invisible bicycle helmet, it looks like some sort of scarf, but is in fact a hidden airbag for cyclists, that use sensors that determines when to unfold.

Earlier this year Juniper Research issued a report forecasing a total of almost 70 million smart wearable devices sold in 2017, including smart glasses, health and fitness devices along with enterprise wearables, compared to almost 15 million sales in 2013. I believe these numbers are still conservative.

So will wearable computing take us by storm?

I believe it will, the technology is there and the benefits are huge both for the consumer as well as the enterprise, but time will tell how fast this will really happen. Also I am sure I have missed plenty of use-cases and companies doing great stuff. I would love to get your feedback, experiences and thoughts about this topic.

NSA Prism Data Mining – Are we just talking about privacy concerns?

digitalIDIn the last few days there has been a lot of talks about the fact that NSA and FBI  might be collecting and analyzing data from major service providers like Google, yahoo, apple and others in order to spy on citizens and internet users. Now while the concerns about privacy are legitimate I believe it is important also to start a proper debate about regulation for legal intercept on one end and what analysis these same internet players can do on their own without violating privacy.

While NSA and FBI are supposedly accessing the central servers of  leading U.S. Internet companies in order to extract audio, video, photographs, e-mails and documents that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time, the key question remains: how do we regulate the service providers and authorities?

Service Provider Regulations

Now while the regulations in the telecoms are quite mature I can feel that for internet service provides still a lot remains to be done and much is still blurry. For regulated services provides like telcos, it is quite clear on what can be done and not, especially when it comes to voice services. Authorities can perform lawful intercept, record and analyze voice calls of a suspected criminal after a court order has been issued. The tapping could also be done on the data traffic and deep packet inspection mechanisms can be used to understand what is said on the data connection as long as the traffic is not encrypted. Encryption is why Blackberry had issues in middle east and had to deploy proxy servers to allow tapping into their traffic. In any case their is a clear identification of the user by the service provider and that is enough to provide court order and do the tapping.

Internet services providers like google, yahoo, apple and others have on the other hand hardly been subject to regulations, and even though the internet as we now it is now almost twenty years old, the regulations are still in their infancy. What one can and cannot monitor is not that obvious and in that ambiguity and in an era of BigData the ambition for both service providers and authorities is to monitor more and more to get better insights.

The Digital ID at the heard of the problem?

I believe the decoupling of a digital ID from a physical ID is at the heart of the some of the issues we are talking about here. Let’s have a look at how you are identified as a user. For phone numbers their is usually quite a strong link between that phone number and a physical person, since you have to use your national ID or passport to get that service from your telecom service provider. You pretty much know who is at the end of the line or at least you know who is accountable for that phone or internet connection.  Yes, sure there is fake ID’s but still…

Now, how about a digital ID created over a public internet connection? There is no way you can be sure about the real identity of that digital user. I guess, and this is only a guess, that one of the mechanisms to validate an ID is to cross reference some of the content including messages, pictures and videos. Image recognition algorithms can fairly accurately identify persons and that maybe a way to uncover fake users. I believe the main purpose to analyze content is to identify dangerous content like terrorist messages or child pornography, but also because looking at the actual content  and applying BigData technology can help you in the identification process.

Another issue that might arise is how do you issue a court order when the user ID is not that clear? The digitial ID might be enough but it does not necessarily give you access to the physical person, but that is maybe a lesser problem.

Now while authorities are interested to identify people and their behaviors for national security reasons, the internet providers are doing the same with the intent of selling you more or at least get more of your attention. In both cases, I believe regulations have to evolve to properly handle a multi-faceted digital ID.

This article takes a bit different angle than what you might read in the common press and I do not intend to defend any abusive privacy invasion, but I think we need to have more structured debate on Telecom and Internet Service Provider regulations and put the digital ID at the heart of it.

#UAE as a platform for innovation?

Infrastructure and foundations are being build-up

A very strong point for UAE, Qatar and some other gulf countries to become strong innovation hubs is the investments these countries have made and are still making in connectivity and communication. With much of today’s business and value chains having turned digital, a good broadband connectivity is essential for any business to grow or even to get started. UAE and Qatar have both heavily invested in fiber deployment over the last couple of years and are now rapidly deploying LTE as well. The connectivity quality has rapidly increased and this facilitates communication and also secures a quality access to the cloud where many of the enterprise resources are located. Similarly regional airlines have also transformed the gulf states into major hubs between east and west cutting distances and facilitating business.

In addition education is on top of the agenda for all gulf states. This means also that local talent is fostered and developed.  Major Business schools have established in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So there is a good availability of business people, the shortage today would probably more reside in areas like software development, but these needs could possibly be off-shored to nearby india or some of the arabic countries like Egypt.

Incubators and accelerators are emerging

A number of incubators and accelerators are appearing in UAE and these are great places to launch your company if you have already a ready product and you only need the right coaching and relationships to get your business on orbit. I recently attended the innovathon in Dubai organized by DP World and Turn8, it is great to see this type of event appearing. For the selected teams, the promise is to help them to take their products from concept to launch in 120 days. Similar proposition is offered by In5, an incubator located in Dubai Internet city. Seed funding, coaching, office spaces, go-to-market support is part of the package. The incubators expect in return a certain equity in your company. In order to leverage these emerging infrastructures for accelerating your business the important thing is to be well prepared and almost ready to launch.

Status of the startup scene… something is still missing…

What seems to be still missing is an environment where people get support to develop early ideas and develop their business plans or even get together to share ideas and provide their skills to other entrepreneurs.

Having spent much of my life in Sweden, I want to compare this to the experience I had in Sweden. I exposed one of my ideas to the Stockholm innovation and growth initiative (STING) program in 2006. After the initial pitching and selection based on project description and one-on-one interviews, our team was selected to join the program. That program was setup a bit differently where we got 4 months of training with no equity required. The focus was entirely on business planning and value creation. In addition the program was setup so that it would also suit people that currently have a job or are studying (which is probably applicable to many potential entrepreneurs in UAE). We had 4-6 hours coaching a week, plus equal amount of homework for the next session. Program ended with a monetary prize for the winner and investor pitching for all the participants.

Beside this early support where you are still in exploration mode, I am also missing the networking platforms to explore ideas and meetup with like-minded people. I haven’t seen much meet-ups or google hang-outs. The business groups are often more focusing on networking for immediate business opportunities.

When it comes to software development and innovation, I think the appearance of hackathons and the platforms supporting these hackathons is also missing in UAE today.

Cost of living is still exhorbitant

On the downside, one of the main issues to setup a start-up here is the actual cost of living. If you want to start you business and cannot rely on somebody to fund you, then it will be difficult to get started.  With low-end housing in UAE today at 100-150K AED per year and equal amount needed to cover all your cost of living, it means that you need to have a minimum yearly budget 0f 200-300KAED (60-90k USD). Of course that is not the case if you have another family member covering for you or if you are student or if you are willing to compromise quality of leaving.  But you need you will have to get this budget somehow, since these costs are normally not covered by the incubator.

New platforms and models for Abu Dhabi, Dubai and UAE?

So here I want to throw out some ideas on what could help UAE to accelerate its innovation capabilities and i would love to get your feedback on these:

  • Develop short coaching programs to help entrepreneurs develop solid business plans for their ideas. Probe them well enough and develop ideas to create enough value
  • Develop partnerships between accelerators and major companies present in UAE to fully sponsor project teams, i.e. to also cover cost of living in exchange for higher equity.
  • Find a number of sponsors to setup regular Hackathons to stimulate the startup scene
  • Why not exploring complete new approaches like crowdsourcing? For instance develop a similar platform as kickstarter but based on Islamic funding only.
  • Virtual spaces to hang-out, offer your skills to other entrepreneurs, expose your ideas, build-up your team.

Probably my view is a bit biased since it is mainly looking at software innovation, but I would love to hear your opinion. What do you say? Do you want any of these ideas implemented in UAE?

Paper.li – More than just trend monitoring, it is a great #BI tool!



If I would ask any of us where you get updated about trends, competitors and technology, I bet the majority of you would say through digital media.

The problem is how much time are we spending each and every day going through online magazines, blogs, tweets, links just to stay on top of our game? It usually ends-up with many, many hours a week.

I have tried out paper.li for a few weeks now and I must say this tool is amazing. The daily editions I have created for my own use have become my default portals for BI information. I have created one edition to follow M2M developments and another one to share a vision on how to shape the connecting society (Shaping the Connected Society & The #M2M Startup Zone). These have become my default news and BI pages.

For the #M2M Startup Zone , I have selected RSS feeds from Blogs, Twitter keywords and a clever selection of filters to make sure I get the latest updates from market shapers and shakers, from partners and competitors. My primary sources here where Telefonica M2M, DT, AT&T, Vodafone, Jasper Wireless, DeviceHive, Arduino, Gemalto and Ericsson Labs to name only a few.

The flexibility here comes really from the filtering capabilities and the variety of feeds you can use. You need to play a bit with the sources to make sure you get fresh daily content. Some companies are not very active while others have to much content. Filtering allows you to get a good balance of information between various sources.

Paper.li is marketed as an online newspaper publishing and trend monitoring platform but it is so much more when used in a business context. Tech Magazines tend to target a wide audience and often contain a lot of content that is not relevant to me and specialized magazines are often difficult to find. The curated content provided with paper.li provides exactly what I am looking for.

Of course none of this will replace ground work done by journalists or analysts, but these have, for me at least, become a secondary source of information. Once I want to dig into further details, I might get that expensive analyst report.

Shaping-connected society

For the first daily paper I created, “Shaping the Connected Society” I have been using twitter feeds mainly, but for some of them like Mashable, the sheer volume of information will fill your paper with only that source. So filtering on keywords was key here as well to get a good balance on the content. I have some of the other tech sources like Techcrunch, Quartz included as sources to this paper and I am quite happy with the result although I feel that the results when focusing an specialized area like M2M tend to be better since the filtering is sharper.

Anyway, I strongly recommend this paper.li to anybody that is looking for a good and free tool to get good Business Intelligence platform on almost any topic. Try paper.li and make you own magazine matching you interest and needs, being it technology, sports, food or education, you will easily find your way around this amazing tool.

M2M & BigData giving life to the Connected Society – Part 2(5) – Connected Cars

Data volumes from Connected Cars will skyrocket

All indicators are pointing in the same direction, our cars are getting connected fast and they will generate loads of data. Axel Deicke, Vice President Aftersales Service Technologies at BMW Group, talks about an increase in incoming data from approximately 20 GB per year (in 2011) to now 30 GB per day – and that is at BMW alone. These statistics exclude information from market research or customer service.
In a recent whitepaper from Deutsche Telekom AG,Erol Gökçek, Head of Industry Solutions Automotive & Mobility forecasts that the monthly data traffic per connected car will increase from approx. 4 MB to 5 GB in the next few years. If one accounts for the increasing number of connected vehicles, then it’s clear that data traffic will skyrocket. According to a study conducted by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, 80 percent of all vehicles sold around the world will be connected as early as 2016. By then, about 210 million connected vehicles will be on the roads worldwide. Compared with 45 million cars in 2011, this would be an annual growth rate of more than 36 percent.
So what type of data are we talking about? It is everything… from sensors transmitting information about speed, miles driven, break pad consumption, weather alarms to owner downloaded content. Multiple players are interested in delivering, enriching or harvesting this data. Car manufacturers, Telcos, Cloud providers and analytics companies all see opportunities from these huge amounts of data.
Automotive industry – (Re-)connecting with customers and improving logistics
For the automative industry there are multiple benefits. Connecting cars is a way for major brands to create a real connection with their buyers, because to be frank this will not happen through the car sales people or car services. Both are usually synonymous to painful experiences.  But what if you car would start telling you when it should be taken for service, if it would start warning you about road hazards,  or if would automatically download content and car settings that are personalized to current driver. Taking it to the next level you driving profile, car usage could provide you car manufacturer with key insights on when and how to engage you on your next car purchase.
Getting relevant car information is not only useful to stay closer to the car manufacturers clients, but also to improve some of the internal processes, especially when it comes to spare parts for repair and maintenance.
Governments make safety a priority
When it comes to governments they see emerging technologies as great mechanisms to increase road safety and start inforcing this through regulations, which will further enhance the deployment of sensors and embedded connected devices. The EU has for instance passed regulations that will require new cars to have emergency self-braking systems (known as autonomous emergency braking, or AEB). The systems can use radar, laser or video to detect when obstructions or pedestrians are present, and a recent study suggests that the technology reduces accidents by up to 27 percent. Commercial vehicles will have to sport the systems from November next year, and everything else from 2014.
The European Commission has also adopted a measure to ensure that by 2015 your car can call emergency services for you in case ofa crash.  eCall automatically dials Europe’s single emergency number 112 in the event of a serious accident and communicates the vehicle’s location to the emergency services. According to some estimates, eCall could speed emergency response times by 40% in urban areas and 50% in the countryside, and save up to 2500 lives a year. The measure adopted on 26 November 2012 establish the conditions under which the emergency call response centres will be capable of properly rece iving and handling of 112 eCalls.
Enabling Vehicle-to-vehicle communication is another way of transferring key safety information with a  pre-emptive objective. A car suddenly breaking because of a fog bank or a car standing still on a highway are important pieces of information for another car driving in the same direction.
Telco’s addressing new value chains – Insurance telematics
Telefonica has come quite far within their digital services unit. They have managed to position themselves in complete new values chain, in particular in the car insurance value chain.
Telefonica has signed a partnership with insurance company Generali, in Spain, in order to provide detailed driving behavior data enabled by their insurance telematics solution.  In the Telefonica solution a device is installed in the vehicle and sends every minute the following collected driving information to the Telematics Platform via GPRS communication: Kilometers driven, Harsh braking and acceleration events, Speeding events, Time and date, Type of the road. For more information on the business models, and additional value propositions please read the original telefonica whitepapers.

Telco’s addressing new value chains – Safety, Infotainment


AT&T is another pioneer in theconnected car business, and AT&T’s vision crosses multiple value chains, from safety provider, to car infotainment provider as securing preemptive maintenance notifications.

At this years Mobile World Conngress AT&T and General Motors had announced a partnership to sell 4G LTE-connected cars in 2014.

The AT&T approach seems to focus on providing a complete eco-system around the connected car concept with the operator at the heart of different value chains.

Ericsson & Volvo are working on a similar Connected Car vision where the car is connected to the cloud and becomes a portal for different types of end-user services. A main screen will provide access to all services from navigation, to safety, maintenance or infotainmet. Volvo cars will be equipped with a control center  that will tie together third-party providers such as internet radio, road authorities, governments, toll-road operators, and others. A prototype was also demoed at the 2013 MWC.


Click to access att_connected_car.pdf


So what is next?  Creating more value by  data enrichment and analytics

To be frank, I believe this is only the beginning. Right now car manufacturers focus on connecting their cars as a differentiation for their brand and most of the insights are gathered from car-based measurements only. But soon you will need somebody that can combine data from multiple cars, analyze that data collected and gain new insights. This is an additional opportunity for operators.

In addition to earlier mentioned car collected data, their are other sensors and source of information that could be combined with the original data. Information from traffic lights, air pollution sensors could provide additional insights on how to optimize traffic lights or improve urban planning. Car data and car driving patterns could even be used to understand where there is lack of parking places and you could probably even infer the number of spots missing with the right analytics tools.

Possibilities for value creation are endless but this will require consolidation of M2M solutions and regulations so that data can be shared in a safe and reliable way.