For Mobility-as-a-Service to save the planet we need to focus on people and infrastructure not technology and gadgets

November 29, 2018

181129 Le Point articleUrbanisation continuously increases the challenge for cities to be good places to visit, live and work in. Cities today are more or less always designed around cars and today it is impossible to add roads and parking to meet the ever-growing demand. Investments in public transportation, bicycle lanes and streets for walking to reduce the number of cars in the cities are expensive but even worse, takes long to implement. Since each city has its own unique situation the responsibility to deal with the issue has fallen in the knees of city administrations rather than nations. But at the same time traffic infarct in cities has severe sustainability impact to the country and the planet.

It is clear why Urban Mobility is on the agenda today. According to EU over 60% of European citizens are living in urban areas of over 10 000 inhabitants. Urban mobility accounts for 40% of all CO2 emissions of road transport and up to 70% of other pollutants from transport. Congestion in the EU is often located in and around urban areas and costs nearly EUR 100 billion, or 1% of the EU’s GDP, annually. There we go: global warming, pollution, frustration, waste of time and waste of money are just some of the problems caused. At the same time I’ve learnt from my years with Springworks that average trips with cars are 3-4 km and takes 9-10 minutes, and cars are typically used less than 4% of the time. In essence we ruin the planet when we make cars, use cars and trash cars. In between they are standing in the way and cost a lot of money.

A couple of years ago the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) was invented as the remedy to all these issues. Ever since cities have been flooded with new fleets including bicycles, scooters, cars and everything in between, and they come in different versions including roaming, stationary, electrical and combustion. This has definitely not improved the situation, rather the opposite since we continue to add vehicles instead of improve the utilisation of the ones we have and start remove vehicles. In Stockholm where I live we have colourful roaming bicycles and electrified scooters all over the place. Operators of fleets come and go and some even leave some “vehicles” behind when leaving. Car2Go abandoned Stockholm late 2016 with some 5000 users and 250 cars and DriveNow left Stockholm some weeks ago both blaming parking cost, road tolls and too few customers. There are similar stories in other cities including the mother of electrical car pools, Autolib in Paris with over 4,000 cars, 3,200 docking stations and 150,000 subscribers, which was shut down this summer. But even when these vehicles are used it is by people who already are in the city and it primarily replace use of public transportation, cycling and walking. And since each of the mobility services are operated in isolation they don’t contribute to MaaS yet.

I am deeply worried about our planet and have decided to focus my efforts on the Urban Mobility issues since I believe there we can make a big and quick difference if we really want to. The challenge is complex but enormous amounts are invested in the mobility space why I believe the key to the solution is cities orchestrating all components and initiatives using a systematic approach (in Sweden we say make everyone pull in the same direction) aiming at MaaS.

One of my core beliefs is that each city need a Mobility-as-a-Service platform to start gather different transportation related services on and make them available to companies who develop transportation services to citizens, visitors and organisations. A service platform like that needs to support all types of urban mobility related services, multi-lateral business relationships, data integrity, financial transactions and have to be very agile, secure, robust and scalable. I’m not aware of any platform meeting those requirements today but the Springworks SPARK platform meets all except the financial transaction support and we are continuously looking for more partners and cities who want to be among the first to deploy their first versions of MaaS IRL.

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Disruptive days call for an inside-out approach

May 21, 2018
business-as-usual_dead-endThe next big thing is here even if it is hard to see. It’s Internet again, this time with the real world added to people and organisations already in place. That process is often called Internet of Things – IoT where the “T” refers to the physical world. And this time the impact on society, organisations and people will be even bigger than what Internet had last time since the real world most often is missing from the processes we try to digitalise today. The stock exchanges went through its digital transformation years ago since documents traded was digitalised, brokers on the floor was replaced by systems and money flows freely in cyber space. The remaining connection to the real world includes the companies themselves and some individuals still trading as well as the distance between the computers with the trading systems and the robot trader agents.

We started digitalise in the fifties but it is only when a process is fully digital the benefits appear. And most processes touch the real world why IoT is required to complete most of the digital transformation. When a process is digital, end to end, we can harvest, but more importantly we can add turbo functionality like artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision to them and make many times better gains in speed, cost, efficiency and quality. The impact of that can easily be a drastic change in an entire industry (like when selling books left the book store era) and will for sure eliminate a lot of white and blue-collar jobs.

We are just in the beginning of this fundamental change of rules and games which probably will go on for the next 20 years or so. And who the winners will be on the other side is hard to tell but I believe there are some things that will characterise the good candidates:

Entrepreneurs with open minds, good ideas and fantastic ability to execute together with the resources needed can build from a clean piece of paper and skip all legacy related challenges. Most will fail but some of the winners will absolutely come from this category either on their own but more often as part of a bigger organisation. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
Financial muscles enables clever investments and some of the winners will be clever and lucky enough to buy themselves a winner’s position. Timing, people and resources are the key issues for them to master.
Some organisations of today will master this entire race – yes it’s like 10 marathon races back to back and even if you are in the lead after race number eight you can easily fail completely. Think Netscape… Ability to change is always a matter of people and processes. A winner in this long race will have to secure solid processes and a well unified and motivated team throughout the entire race even though the distance and where the goal is remain unclear. Constantly changing processes and people during the race, in worst case even bringing in external leaders and people, will not create the ability required. No, a well working team with solid leadership and the core competences over time can make it. Such team can react to news, changes, threats and opportunities in a much better way than others. And they will learn while going thus know things others don’t know. Systematic innovation is an organisational ability required to tackle very complex challenges. Motivation, inspiration, engagement, care, love, trust, health, experience, ethics, well-being and fighting spirit are things that will be found in the companies that made the digital transformation successfully. And they will have strong brands with attributes that todays youngsters will appreciate.

Established organisations who want to master the digital transformation well has to start their journey immediately and rapidly get beyond strategies, plans, innovation managers, Powerpoint and Excel. Among the first things I suggest needs to be in place are very strong support from executive management, activities to inspire, engage and include staff, rapid prototyping capabilities in place and establishment of new relationships with a host of new companies and people who each master something that might be of great importance onwards.

It is already difficult for companies to master their own domains these days and with challenges coming from everywhere, a much wider view is required. And even more challenging: the golden rule of “asking the customers” – the outside-in approach – becomes obsolete when technology provides completely new opportunities. Like when internet came last time we’re now entering yet another era where inside-out is the name of the game.


No, self-driving cars are still not around the corner

March 20, 2018

Self-driving carAutonomous cars have been a hot topic for a couple of years now. It is indeed a very interesting and complex technical challenge connected to potential resolution of very serious problems and innovative use cases. But it is also about culture and liability which I believe always takes very long time to cope with.

The tragic news that a car in an autonomous trial in US killed a woman yesterday can’t be a surprise to anyone. There has been a lot of accidents with autonomous cars before, traffic is very dangerous and cars kill people every day. Each accident is followed up carefully to understand what happened, why and who is to be blamed for what. Traffic rules, law, policies, insurances, vendor responsibilities etc are in place to help deal with these tragic events. Here is the core problem with autonomous cars – when a car make a mistake, who is liable? And, do I want to meet self-driving cars on the road or fly airplanes without pilots?

Already in the Reuter article we start to see arguments about who owned the software in the car, which brand it had, if the car actually did anything wrong or if a person driving would have been able to avoid the collision. Also that the woman seems to have walked outside the crosswalk, that she had a bicycle and that she might have been homeless. But truth is that it is unclear who is responsible and for what.

I remain convinced that we will not have self-driving cars on normal roads together with other traffic and in normal speed until you and I are ready to have our kids walking to school meeting those cars. My best guess is not before 2030. And given that “rain, snow and ice are particularly challenging for autonomous cars” maybe we just should forget about it in Sweden.


Even if we can, maybe we shouldn’t…

February 17, 2018

sky-earth-galaxy-universe.jpgInternet has enabled a new type of business opportunity where an internet based “business system” is used to collect, organise, manage and market a lot of small and local businesses or individuals, across boarders. Popular examples today are taxi, food delivery and renting of private homes. This is obviously a very efficient way of re-organising a business (think replacing hundreds, thousands or millions of business systems and people) and it provides the users with some really neat new features (think use the same taxi app wherever you go, get rated drivers and pay automatically from your credit card). It also provides the people who actually deliver the services advantages (think efficient marketing, rated customers and maybe low barriers to start their business). The most common issue raised by Uber drivers and hotels that I have been talking to lately is that the commission is high (maybe 20-25%). No wonder that investors are working hard to figure out who the winners will be in different market segments.

The hotel booking market is another one where the internet giants have added great value and taken over huge parts of the global market. I use Hotels.com and others might use Booking, Momondo, Trivago, Expedia or Agoda to name some. But few are aware that almost all are owned by Expedia or Priceline (Expedia has spun out TripAdvisor to Nasdaq so let’s leave them out for now) who together turn over some $20B with some 40.000 employees. Expedia and Priceline control over 90% of external hotel bookings in Sweden (Sydsvenskan Oct 2017). The combination of price pressure and high commissions makes life difficult for hotel owners and many fear the next recession.  

I’m missing a sober debate about these types of businesses because it is easy to see potential problems around the corner. Very successful internet services tend to have very little competition when market dominance is created, and economies of scale and strong internal currency based on their stock market valuation makes it almost impossible to build an alternative. Monopolies or oligopolies and market economy don’t go hand in hand, which is why this is serious. Another area to consider is how these businesses impact the local society. Just because we can create an internet “business system” for renting out apartments globally, it might be that it goes against laws, culture and objectives in a local community. On that note I’ve come across neighbours who find the building they own together almost turned into a hotel, parts of cities where schools, shops and such services have closed since too few locals remain, tax related issues and sometimes very low salaries and poor working conditions. When Uber Pop was shut down in Sweden 2016 at least 60 drivers were reported convicted for illegal taxi driving (I’ve heard some lost their driving licenses) and I hope that Uber helped them in a similar way a local employer would have had to do. A journalist from Breakit worked two weeks in May 2017 for Uber Eats in Sweden and after 18 hours of bicycling and 172 km on his own bike he made around $5/hour before tax (the compensation has been changed after the publicity). Does these internet businesses have the same objectives as we have locally when it comes to sustainability, work ethics, city planning, social responsibility, equality, privacy, tax and so on? Our national tax systems are not ready for global internet companies (Sweden is supposed to lose hundreds of millions of $ from them) and the international bodies including EU have not sorted this either.

Please don’t get me wrong! I love Uber, Hotels and Airbnb and use them frequently especially when travelling between countries. And I love technology driven innovation. But I do believe we have to take control over the society we live in, ask questions, discuss and ensure it becomes and stay what we want it to be. So even if we can, maybe we shouldn’t do everything technology allows us to do.


Corporate Innovation – Here we go again!

January 17, 2018
Corporate InnovationThe rapid growth of Internet some twenty years ago brought massive innovation across countries and industries. Creative and ambitious people of all sorts gathered around the opportunity followed by enormous amounts of money, people leaving their established employers for startups and a gold-digger style era.

Web, Startups and VC’s was all of a sudden words used by the masses and in almost no time we had thousands of startups and hundreds of VC’s in Sweden alone. A couple of years down the road came the enterprise response: corporate innovation. Companies started their own VC’s, incubators and M&A activities, but some years and a lot of dollars later most of them realised that this wasn’t as easy as it first appeared. Finding the right companies to work with and integrating their solutions in the existing operations was just two of the challenges that often were singled out as difficult. Another common issue was the objective of the investments in startups: strategic or financial. Both are equally good reasons but require very different efforts and skills. At this time I was working as a partner in a VC with experienced people from the industry focusing on wireless technologies – receiving a lot of calls from enterprises who wanted us to take over their portfolio of startups.

Now, roughly ten years later, Corporate innovation is back! This time it’s the two new buzzwords IoT and Digitalisation that are driving the renewed interest. But let’s step back and look at what this really is, and maybe demystify the two terms a little bit.

IoT is all about connecting the real world to the Internet where we already have people and organisations. It is harder to connect physical things to the Internet than developing services in cyber space which can be rolled out across the globe in almost no time. And it’s even harder if those vehicles, ventilation systems, machines or dishwashers are already out there and have to be retrofitted with connectivity. Still the development follows the same phases as when we connected people and organisations to Internet – connectivity, operational value and strategic value – so we can learn from history.

Digitalisation started in the fifties and is nothing new. Enterprises have digitalised bits and pieces of processes with some value. It’s like building a bridge with the last few meters missing. But the real value appears when a process is fully digitalised – when the real world, IoT, is included. Smart electrical meters are fine, but of little value as long as the energy companies still print the bills to send home to their customers. But more importantly – we can apply turbo mechanisms like machine learning to a fully digital process and that suddenly changes everything.

Digital Transformation is what it’s all about and this is a journey which has to start and continue in-house with our own people and processes. It is nothing one can buy from a consultant or from M&A activities – there are no short cuts. If you don’t have the right culture and processes to support the transformation you urgently have to change, top down. It is a well-known fact that people and processes, rarely technology, cause the problems of change. Technology driven innovation has to happen in small sharp teams, but massive value creation requires large established organisations. Corporate innovation programs are needed but startup activities are only going to work if they are implemented well and seriously backed by the entire organisation, top down.

500 Startups recently released a study among more than 100 corporate executives and found these five best practices for working with startups:

1. Build credibility by solving the short-term problems of their stakeholders. As a result, their stakeholders listen when they approach them with disruptive ideas.

2. Take a portfolio approach and de-risk their innovation efforts by running many startup experiments.
3. Set specific innovation objectives that guide the kinds of startups they look for and how they work with them.
4. Remove the red tape and create a fast-track process for working with startups.
5. Understand that partnerships are a two-way street and figure out how to add value to their startup partners.

I like the five points above, but would add a more generic one: M&A, incubation, acceleration and innovation programs are all difficult to master, so partner with organisations who already have figured it out. And remember that the best way for a fantastic startup to become successful is to help them work with several customers and not only with you.

We created THINGS in Stockholm 2014 to collectively learn “how to transform innovation in small sharp companies to massive value creation in large ones” and have today some 40 enterprises in our efforts and a community of some 200 relevant startups including the more than 50 member companies we have at THINGS. Last year we created Ignite Sweden together with two leading incubators, STING and LEAD, where we tried to find a light version of what we do at THINGS. We ended up arranging 614 manually prepared meetings between 37 corporates and 138 startups in 9 match making events and by now 16 commercial collaborations have been established. Based on the immediate success we just launch Ignite Sweden 2.0 with more incubators and improved preparation and follow-up after the meetings. We had some international corporates joining us last year and are looking to expand that as well.

Let’s make a joint effort to make corporate innovation 2.0 a success! 


From Smart to Great Cities

November 22, 2017
most-beautiful-cities-barcelona-cr-gettyMost cities have jumped on the Smart City train and it is considered an important and good thing to do by virtually everyone. But it is unclear who drives that train, where it is going and when it will arrive. I prefer talking about Great Cities since that is something we all understand, can argue about and contribute to. A Great City to me is a safe, sustainable and efficient city where people are healthy and happy. A place I would like to live in, work in and visit. It takes systematic and continuous innovation to become and stay a Great City, and systematic innovation requires infrastructure and scalable platforms to be in place.

It is obvious that technology is a key tool to continuously make our cities better especially in terms of efficiency, sustainability, safety/security and convenience. These are the key deliverables of IoT so no wonder IoT is hot today. By connecting the physical world to the Internet of people and organisations already in place, IoT enables us to make processes completely digital thus more efficient and ready for “turbo effects” from things like Machine Learning. This drives digital transformation and the impact on people, businesses and cities will be as big as when internet arrived.

But this is not enough to make cities great. It is still primarily human beings living, working and visiting the cities why “core platforms” like decent infrastructure, healthcare, social care and education for all is required. So is an environment where people feel safe and can breathe fresh air, drink fresh water and enjoy their human rights. And not the least enjoy nature, art, design, good food and time with people they love and care for.

With my definition of Smart Cities as Great Cities I unfortunately can’t think of any. Many make progress on the technical side but when it comes to “core platforms” there is a lot more to wish for. The “core platform” we have in Sweden is relatively good which I believe attracts talent and explains some of the quite successful startup community we have, but we have ways to go.


Digital Transformation, not Digitalisation, is what’s new

July 7, 2017

ai-cropped-640x353Digitalisation is frequently used as the name of the game today. But digitalisation, i.e. conversation from analog to digital representation of information, started some 60 years ago and has been going on ever since. When a process is fully digitalised, from end to end, the process will be much more efficient than before. But most processes today are only partially digitalised which is like building a bridge and leve some meters here and there. Let’s take the example of a smart electricity meter, where the collection of usage data is digitalised and hopefully the receiving systems at the energy company. But then the processed details often are put on paper and sent to the customer who hopefully pays in a digital fashion or god forbid calls customer service.

A fully digitalised process is quite efficient but more importantly it is a great starting point for artificial intelligence in any form or shape to be applied. Imagine that we could move the simplest 30% of the decisions in a process from people to computers. What would that mean to your organisation’s cost, quality and speed of execution, and not to forget your competitiveness? What if we could add an algorithm making our system self-learning thus provide qualified decision support for the remaining decisions made by your staff and maybe even advise to your customers. This is what Digital Transformation is about and that is what we should talk about rather than digitalisation. 

It is IoT that adds the last meters of the digital bridge. By connecting the real world to the Internet where we already have people and organisations we can start complete the digitalisation of our processes – a sensor that tells when a door is open, where a car is located, when it’s time to repair a fridge or when the level of carbon dioxide is too high. And this is exactly what the more progressive organisations are working on right now. And since organisations and processes are quite unique there are a huge amount of opportunities for companies to develop algorithms to support specific processes. I already have many members in my alliance for Swedish IoT startups working with machine learning including Ekkono, Watty, Aifloo, CombiQ, BellPal and Imagimob

The effects of Digital Transformation will be massive in all industries and large-scale redundancy will definitely hit white-collar employees as organisations get their act together. I miss awareness and a serious debate about this in Sweden since it limits our chances to come out of this transition strong, the longer we wait to address the challenge.


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