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?

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10 ways to make Dubai a Smart(er) City

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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?

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

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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 3(5) – Retail

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When it comes to bigdata, retail is an industry which is quite mature compared to the ones mentioned in my previous articles, especially if you start looking at companies like Wallmart. The subject of bigdata is already well covered but I hope I can give an additional twist on the current developments by taking M2M into the picture.

Wallmart has leveraged bigdata and analytics for a number of years now. The amount of data they collect is already at the level of petabytes and they save information about all of their customer transactions, more than 1 million per hour, and it is mainly related to receipts and purchases.  Even with a single source of data, it already provides a lot of insights when properly stored and analyzed. Today, the average retailer in the US has about 700 Terabytes of stored data. This is huge already. Processing this data requires often big investments especially if you want to process the data in real time.  But bigdata is not only for big enterprises it can also be offered as a service and a number of service providers are moving into analytics as a service, this will revolutionize the way retailers do business.

Connecting the right type of data sources could provide value even for the smallest companies. Most retailers own information collected at the point of sale in terms of receipts, purchases done, but that is not the only valuable source. Using video surveillance cameras to analyze customer behavior or combining information from mobile devices or social media could be other valuable sources. Much of this information comes today from mobile and M2M devices, but that data is often stored in silos and it can be difficult to get actionable insights from this data.  I think the key for smaller sized retailers will be to expose their own data assets, get that data enriched and get analytics as a service from specialized service providers. The question is now, how can these insights be used and monetized?

Productivity improvements and cost savings

A first application of properly processing retail data is to achieve cost savings. Knowing which items are in demand ahead of time and knowing what will sell can help to optimize inventory and supply chains. Utilizing big data could increase retailers’ operating margins by up to 60%, this could include savings in marketing, merchandising as well as supply chain.

Looking ahead, I could easily imagine in a not so far future, that bigdata and analytics could also become a means to improve in store customer service. Imagine a clerk in a fashion store that would know as you enter his store what you like in terms of clothes, what you sizes are, what colors you prefer and understands your purchasing behavior, he could serve you faster and better. This would result in more customers served and a better sales ratio.

Generate revenues from customer Insights, sentiment and behavior analysis

Another application of bigdata is to improve customer loyalty and reduce churn. To continue with the Wallmart reference, they have developed a product that allows them to reach customers, or friends of customers, who have mentioned something online to inform them about that exact product and include a discount. Using social media and combining that with purchasing data and contact information it allows them to implement pro-active measures and hence avoid churn or even attract new customers. This creates loyalty and strenghtens the brand image.

Retaining customers has also to do with the experience they get when interacting with the retailer, this is in part achieved by delivering relevant ads, offers, and promotions. Personalizing offers means making offers more revelant to a customer by having specific knowledge of that customer’s profile.

Securing increased sales is also related to the ability to rapidly adjust to the competitive environment. Most of us are sensitve to pricing and customers will often look for peer reviews to find the best place and time to buy an item. Being able to quickly adjust to this competitive environment will be key for increasing sales and sometimes even for survival.

M2M and mobile devices will play an increasing role in customer profiling.

There are today many data sources that are already in digital format and could be used in a big data context. From a retailer context we have customer information, this is often tied to the purchases done in that store through an opt-in loyalty program. Then there are the product catalogues and the actual status of the inventory.

The next step in personalization is coming from Mobile Devices, through applications which will let customers specify preferences, provide navigation capabilities to be guided to the right store, get relevant advertising and also get recommendations from other customers on the items they are interested in.

I think though that the biggest disruption might come from a smart usage of video cameras (e.g. surveillance camera) and other M2M sensors. Images from cameras in a store could help identifying who you are and support retailers to pul up a full profile of your customer preferences. Most of us tend to trade in privacy for convenience, so I have not doubt that every individual will sooner or later have pictures of himself tagged somewhere on the net and that could be the starting point to pull more information about you as a customer. But there are other mechanisms to identify you as a person as for instance foursquare check-ins or the social media profile you are using when logging to wifi.

Location information is going to be quite important to target shoppers. This could be obtained from mobile systems, wifi or tracking from video cameras. Video cameras could also be used to analyze how customers are focusing on different items in the store. This could help understand interest for certain items and maybe also decide when and what to discount. Another application of video camera is for instance to get the right sizes of the customers when entering a fashion store.

Digital signage in shopping malls and retail store can also be used to provide tailored messages and personalized ads to shoppers in or outside the store. A few seconds is probably enough to reach out to a shopper with the right message and the impact of the advertisement can probably be measured if the sale is done within the next  hour. Digital signage could also be used with cameras to analyze shopping carts and make a last second recommendation on something you might have forgotten to buy.

Other smart devices collecting data about users could be smart mirrors,  that record reactions when trying out clothes or screens that provide a personalized greeting when entering a store.

The future of retail – Smart Shopping malls

If I picture the future of retail I would imagine a smart shopping mall where customer experience is at the heart of this business. I would enter the mall and get greeted with a personalized message, the map of the mall would be downloaded to my mobile and I would get a recommendations on a few stores to visit. I would get discounts for the items I been looking for, especially the I have been reading recommendations about on the internet. This would be part of the profile information the mall is pulling up for me. As I walk and watch the digital signs I see more information about the products I am interested in. I enter a shop. The clerk again greets me and guides me directly to the item I am looking for and provides also alternative color options based on my preferences. Not much to ask me since he has all this information on a tablet.  As the clerk knows I am price sensitive he gives me an extra discount. If I picture the future of retail I would imagine a smart shopping mall where customer experience is at the heart of this business and where bigdata and analytics provide value at every step .

M2M & BigData giving life to the Connected Society – Part 1(5) – Healthcare

This post is part of a series of 5 posts that I intend to write on how M2M and Bigdata are made for each other. I will start with covering the benefits in HealthCare industry and then address Automotive, Utilities and Retail. In the final post I will go through some of technology requirements needed to properly address these opportunities.

Exponential growth in device generated data

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This is the start. Connected devices are becoming ubiquitous to out daily lives, whether it is consumer devices like smartphones or smart TV’s, everything else is becoming smart as well, and everything is somehow connected to the global cloud. This applies also to most enterprise equipment.  From smart meters, to smart cars, ehealth devices, everything that benefits from a connection is today getting one.

The data generated by these connected devices is skyrocketing. In its report “The Digital Universe in 2020, IDC, a market analysis firm, predicts the amount of data produced by connected devices will grow to 40,000 exabytes by 2020. M2M is the biggest source of the data that will be generated in the coming years.

Much of the data produced by connected devices will be unstructured and gaining insights from this data will need a different approach than what we get from conventional databases and traditional analytics tools.

Gain insights and act on them or somebody else will…

Gaining actionable insights from the huge amount of data will be a key success factor for any company. With the right insights it will be easier to create value to a specific value chain. And with the right insights at the right point in time, service providers can get closer to their customers, companies can reduce cost, improve efficiency, deliver upon the needs and expectations of their customers. In the long-run better insights means improved competitiveness.

Digitalization has already lead to disruption in current value chains as we have for instance seen it with the music industry. Similarly bigdata will have a huge impact on current value chains. Companies embracing big data opportunities will gain a competitive advantage in the value creation game and will also use that to enter brand new markets. So let’s start to have a look at what these opportunities are and why bigdata is key.

Medical Data from improving healthcare quality to quantified self

Healthcare is probably one of the most interesting areas both due to the amount of data generated as well as the opportunities it creates. From reducing healthcare costs to improving life quality the opportunities are real.

eHealth

It is estimated that by 2015 the average hospital will generate about 665TB of data. 80% of this information will be unstructured data in the form of videos, images and emails. The amount of data is huge and untapped.

To put things in perspective a single CT scan represents about 1GB of data, while an X-ray takes about 30MB. Doctors around the world would benefit from instantly accessing patients records, comparing it with other patients.

Soon the analytical tools to mine this data will be there. The opportunities are in predictive medicine and preemptive measures. Predictive medicine will allow earlier and better treatment. Comparing data which is normally contained in different silos, will allow doctors and hospitals to infer new insights and improve the decision process. For instance, people genetically predisposed to certain diseases will get faster diagnosis and more accurate treatment. It will be possible to better asses the risk profile of patients and hence better understand the optimal time to release a patient from the hospital.  According to a Mc Kinsey report up to $70 billion could be saved by otpimizing discharging timings in hospitals. Monitoring different patient behaviors could also help doctors to recommend pre-emptive actions to avoid future illness or complications.

Telco’s are moving into healthcare value

Now with all this data neevideo_264_c_1307533420_rsf_orangeded to better process patient treatments and the increasing connectivity requirements between patients, doctors and hospitals, their is an opportunity for telco’s to play a major role in healthcare.

Orange is probably one of the best examples of how an operator has successfully managed to take a major role in healthcare. They are today providing data centers to doctors and hospitals to instantly share patient records including all imagery, they are working with hospitals to improve efficiency by improving supply management and are optimizing flow of patients by automatically delivering orders to staff and supporting vehicles. Orange is also providing telehealth solutions to improve the interaction and communication with patients.  The next level of value creation for telco’s will be the ability to create additional value through analytics as a service.

Healthcare going over the top…

Now beside the genetic predisposition to certain diseases, the lifestyle and activity a person performs has also a lot to do with how that person’s health develops. So how much information can we actually capture about these habits and behaviors that could really affect our health, and how much of this are we actually sharing with our physician?

Health-Score-OverviewSport brands and Fitness companies are probably among the first that recognized this. From Nike fuelband to fitbit, which boht started measuring fitness activity, there is now a whole range of companies that have gone beyond and have the ambition to become every consumer’s health and fitness partner (see for instance health score application from dacadoo.com on the left).  Sensors, self-testing devices are becoming reasonably priced and people start investing in their own health through technology rather than relying only on the existing healthcare system.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years from now a big part of the healthcare industry goes over the top. As an individual I might be investing in a number of monitoring devices, that will give me real insights on my health and might even give me more accurate diagnosis than my local physician, since I cannot lie to a device.  When connecting all of this information to the cloud, by identifying patterns and similarities between different users, a lot of insight can be collected and recommendations can be given, maybe even for free. If I am a device vendor/sensor vendor, I might just do this to boost sales of devices. This is similar to the approach apple has taken with its ipod and itunes and has that way disrupted much of the music industry.

One example of how such approaches could replace some of today’s approaches is food allergies. Proper allergy tests are still damn expensive but by recording for instance what i eat, how I feel, and comparing that with other patients records and foods databases, I am pretty sure you could infer mild form of allergies and treat them in time and with better quality.

This philosophy or starting to measure everything about yourself and sharing it in exchange of advice is pretty much at the heart of the quantified self movement. Quantified self is an interesting trend since it means that individuals are investing time and money to monitor themselves with the ultimate goal to improve their quality of life.

Finally, medical records, tests made, genetic profile could also be overlaid with earlier mentioned lifestyle related insights: combined with fitness levels, food consumptions, spleeping patterns or even mood or feelings could provide even more insights if analyzed and mined properly.

So in ten years from now who will be your first choice for healthcare?

My best bet is that it will be whoever gives me the best insights on what my health is, gives truly personalized advice and treatments, and interacts with me in a way that conveys both trust and empathy.

With global connectivity and emerging cloud services, this provider does not necessarily need to be local. Global connectivity and cloud means that the cost of providing diagnosis will fall and that might lead to traditional boundaries for healthcare slowly falling.  National and regional Healthcare providers will have to step up to the challenge and probably join forces with Telco’s to stay competitive.  If they don’t then movements like Quantified Self will sooner or later create the “Skype” or “Whatsapp” of the healthcare industry.

M2M and a Blue Ocean of possibilities…for Startups

There is now little doubt that we are about to see an exponential growth in connected devices. This will lead to what is referred to as the Networked Society or the Internet of Things.  Ericsson predicts that there will be up to 50 Billion connected devices by 2020.  What is more difficult to predict is who will shape this industry as the value chain is fairly complex and the eco-system is fragmented.

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Operators are today providing connectivity services and want to move up the value chain, either by providing service enablement functionality or industry targeted business solutions. Consulting companies on the other hand might try to keep it a complex system integration business, while specialized service providers focus on providing value in specific verticals.

I believe now is the right time to disrupt this M2M/IoT industry.

Take an OTT approach and put all your efforts on innovation and value creation. Why? Because the cost of developing, integrating and deploying new solutions goes down close to zero. Entry barriers for new companies are vanishing really quickly. Here are four trends that support this thought.

1 – Super Affordable Sensors, Device Gateways and Controllers

Today almost anybody can start prototyping to create connected devices at low cost. Arduino, for instance, is an open-source electronic prototyping platform allowing to create interactive electronic objects. With arduino you can create and control simple objects, sensors, all of this for a handful of dollars. For less than a hundred dollars you can even connect to the internet over a mobile network.

Similarly, for more complex control, it can be enhanced with cheap processing power, the Rasberry Pi is a 25 USD, credit-card sized computer that plugs into any HDMI TV and USB keyboard/mouse. It includes an ARM chip that is powerful enough to run Linux and a full Java Virtual Machine. The possibilities are endless.

Standardization is also moving to make things easier. ZigBee protcol and Zigbee alliance is an example of such a simplification initiative. ZigBee is an open global wireless standard to address the needs of low-cost, low-power wireless M2M networks. ZigBee applications include wireless light switches, electrical meters with in-home-displays, traffic management systems, and other consumer and industrial equipment that requires short-range wireless transfer of data at relatively low rates.

Technology is also evolving and supporting move innovations. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) appears to have solved some of the energy consumption problems of sensors since these sensors can last 1-3 years with the same battery. iBeacon, a technology derivative of BLE, is now also getting widely adopted. Some companies like Estimote, WiMoto or Blesh have quickly understood the potential and are provide sensors and toolkits that allow you to collect more data and create value.

There is a big shift in the industry that is happening as we speak and you only have check the number of Crowfunded projects to see how big this trend is becoming.   Now is the time for the emerging maker generation.

2 – Opensource M2M Plaforms / Cloud Platforms

Appearance of opensource M2M platforms like DeviceHive provide now also the communication layer needed to control multiple devices and sensors that can be used to develop home automation solutions, energy management solutions and much more. These M2M platforms provide also the basic functionality to provision, manage and control multiple devices that are part of an M2M enterprise solution. The platforms also support simple API’s based on HTML to address a large developer community.

Deploying an opensource M2M platform on a public cloud provides a very attractive go-to-market approach for anybody that wants to become an M2M specialized service provider. Not much is required to get started.

With the cost drastically decreased, more innovation will come from the end-users within each vertical. I could easily imagine larger communities like cities develop their own M2M solutions and manage it in order to optimize urban development and public spending. Why not?

3 – Application Design through Mashup and Integrated Communication

With the development provided by HTML5 we can now also embed real time communication capabilities in web pages. This allows for rapid UI design, clever mash-up and a complete new type of interactivity. WebRTC is part of these new communication capabilities that can easily be embedded in Web Pages. Whether it is voice, video, messaging or document exchange it can now all very easily  be provided from a web page.

I have now doubt that these technologies could easily be used to develop home automation or energy management solutions that can be controlled from a tablet or mobile device from anywhere in the world.

4 – Low risk and quick market feedback through crowd-funding 

I believe the Internet of things provides huge opportunities for innovation, substantial growth opportunities and an entry barrier which is fairly small. Beside the availability of open source technology to reduce production cost, operational costs can be reduced thanks to cloud. And why not use social media to build-up your M2M tiger team and for the funding try to expose your project to crowfunding platforms like Kickstarter.

In Kickstarter project creators get funded by the community. They set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. Kickstarter is very effective in creating momentum and rallying people around an idea. Backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not to profit financially. Instead, project creators offer rewards to thank backers for their support. Kickstarter takes a marginal 5% fee to the funds collected.

What industries to target?

I believe that with the current technology development, fragmentation of current M2M value chains the opportunity is there for anybody to take a strong position with niche industry solutions. The entry barriers are pretty low.

For the consumer market, applications like home automation and energy management are probably good places to start, but I think there might be huge possibilities as well in sectors like e-health and quantified self.

Enterprise segment might be difficult to enter for startups, since it is ofte about optimizing current business processes and using M2M to reduce costs. From telemetry, to POS, Securtiy or Vending machines the industry specific requirements will usually make it more or less easy to enter that particular market.

When it comes to industries to target there are plenty and the shipment of connected devices per segment is going to surpass 100 Million per year in a couple of years only, according to an ABI research report, so plenty of choice.

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A call to innovate and disrupt the M2M/IoT space

I believe now is the right time to disrupt this M2M/IoT industry: Affordable devices and sensors, reduced costs through cloud and opensource, Application design requiring less coding and finally crowdfunding allowing you to quickly validate and fund your ideas. All the conditions are right, now is the time to Make it happen.

Why Telco’s should invest in bigdata capabilities

new context

What is bigdata and what are key operator data assets?

In a nutshell bigdata is about getting actionable insights from data which is available in huge volumes, has high velocity and is often found in a big variety. These are the so called 3V’s of big data. While the volume definition is very clear, with velocity we mean data which is of value only for a short period of time, possibly a few minutes or less. The variety of the data is also a bit difficult to understand at first. Here we talk primarily about the huge amount of unstructured data which is today hardly harvested, as an example you can think of insights found in text, images and video.

Data amounts available to analyze are huge and grow exponentially. An IBM study showed that 90% of all data available in the world has been produced over the last two years only. Operators sit today on huge amounts of data themselves, but few have started to monetize that knowledge neither internally nor externally.

There is probably different ways to segment the operator’s data assets but the taxonomy I used below is simple enough so that anybody can get a feeling for the types of use-cases that could be monetized by Telco’s. This taxonomy is based on different types of contexts which provide value to the telco or to a third party.

  • Operators have today a good understanding of the situational context of their users (i.e. position information, whether I am in mall, in my car or in an movie theater),
  • they understand my behavioral context through my devices I am using (am I in a call, watching my IPTV or browsing the web and which sites)
  •  and they know about my social context (most frequent people I call, my preferences through the content I am consuming, the places I go, which social networks I belong to and of course my billing information)

Now for privacy reasons much of this data cannot be exposed without the consent of the end-user,  unless there is an opt-in close when subscribing to a service. In any case the data can most of the time be made anonymous and brokered as such.

The opportunities for Telco’s are numerous but can be seen as internal and external opportunities. Improving retention and revenues by becoming more customer centric and better managing the customer experience is an internal usage of these insights, while an external usage is to provide new services to enterprises that will help them to improve their own efficiency and decision processes. In this post I will only cover the external bigdata opportunities.

Targeting enterprises with BigData Services and strengthening cloud offerings

From a 2102 Gartner study you can see that most industries are in the process of investing or a planning to invest in Bigdata technology of the next 2 years. Rather than further increasing ICT spending and OPEX in the enterprise their is an opportunity for operators to provide cloud services and become the technology partner for bigdata.

Gartner-diagram

While telcos are probably a bit late to the market with cloud services compared to companies like Amazon, operators have still a privileged position when it comes to trust, security and service level expectations. Telco’s are still privileged partner for larger enterprises, industry verticals and government mainly because of their local presence. This is why they need to invest in this area now or necessity will take over to find alternative providers.  For Telco’s the opportunities in bigdata when part of a cloud offering, can probably count the folowing non exhaustive list.

Storage provider – Data-as-a-service

For enterprises that collect or want to collect data, they will rapidly have to consider how to store that data in a cost efficient and scalable manner. This is where telco’s data center could be used to provide elasticity and handle that demand in a cost efficiency way. Of course depending on the type of enterprise data, there are important questions to address when it comes to privacy, integrity and security of the data, but operators are probably well positioned to offer Data-as-a-Service to different industry vertical according to the enterprises expectations.

Analytics-as-a-Service Provider

The tools and processes needed to gain insights require major changes and investments in the enterprise. Now even if you have data and can store most of your data, it sill requires new tools and competences to be able to gain insights from that data. Telco’s  could play a major role in taking bigdata to the masses, especially toward the SME’s where efficiency and agility is so important. Providing business intelligence reports, visualization capabilities as well as dashboard views are few of the Basic mechanisms to put in place.

Data Enrichment and brokering – Enriched Insights provider

The data operators own has even more value if consolidated or federated with other data sources like social media, government or enterprise data. If this data can be exposed and analyzed it will provide further insights that a government, large enterprise or industry verticals will be ready to pay for.

Become a strategic partner for enterprises, industry verticals, governments and the public sector

A said earlier, operators have a privileged position when interfacing governments and regulators and should leverage that position. In order to stay competitive and sustain economic growth governments need to take faster and smarter decisions. This often means collecting and analyzing more data to improve the decisioning process. By leveraging on bigdata technology, federation and analytics, operators could find new means to address value chains for which they were today only providing connectivity and communications.

I won’t be able to cover all bigdata opportunities where telco’s could provide value, but nelow you will find a couple of examples where big data could be useful and it will show how that could help operators position themselves in new value chains.

M2M and BigData

A simple example that could be considered here is how an operator can use big data to combine multiple structured and unstructured data sources to provide additional value to vehicle fleet management solution.  Analyzing social media streams, outgoing calls or lack of movement along certain roads, can help provide real-time information that could be useful for redirecting vehicles or a whole fleet. In addition the operator can combine this services with automated communication to guide a track, bus or taxi toward the right destination in real-time. Automative industry, Health care, Telemetry and most industries using M2M sensors could benefit from bigdata and analytics to increase the value or services offered by operators.

Retail and Advertising

For advertisers and retailers targeting the right audience and the ability to prove that you can address the right audience is worth heavy dollars. The propensity to buy for a customer is heavily correlated to how much know about that person, it tastes and preferences. Operators have a lot of information about the user profile, but more could be collected through the various portals and even through packet inspection. By analyzing consumer likes on social networks, purchases on amazon or  zapping patterns on an IPTV system a lot can be learned and shared.

Urban Planning

Urban planning can certainly benefit from the insights operators have in terms of road traffic development and customer segmentation in order to improve build-out of new infrastructure, including roads, housing, schools and hospitals.

Security Services

Take the example of a mall where you have cameras monitoring everything that happens. Quickly analyzing what happens over multiple video streams to identify a theft and identify the person would require real-time processing and federation over multiple data sources. Operators could be a natural broker for this type of use-case.

… and many more industries can be addressed

Many more industries and verticals could benefit from bigdata investments, but it would be difficult top properly cover all of this in one post. If there is interest from the community I will write separate post on how big data can help Education and Healthcare, which are two topics that deserve their own analysis.

Finally, BigData as a means for Telco’s to become a community as well as a lifestyle provider?

For telco’s there is potentially more at stake. Bigdata provides opportunities for operators to become more customer centric and become more relevant in their consumer’s lives. If done right they could become this lifestyle provider they have always dreamt off becoming.  By strengthening relationships with governments and selected enterprises they could also take a more active role in the community and by that increase their relevance both for consumers and enterprises.