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.

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Autonomous cars not around the corner

April 26, 2017

KITT_Knight_Rider2The car industry has its challenges. From being the ultimate provider of freedom, personal transportation and quality of life it now is supposed to solve the safety and sustainability issues it created. The very complicated and expensive cars of today are not utilised enough (5,5% according to my TeliaSense app), consume too much space, cause a lot of accidents and impact our planet badly when produced, used and discarded. It’s easy to suggest public transportation as an alternative but as soon as leaving the urban areas that is falling short. Intuitively the solution would include new ways of owning and using cars, electrical engines, even more safety features and cross-industry innovation within the car eco system. And since we can’t wait 10-15 years the cars already on the road must be included at least to some degree.

With this in mind I find today’s focus on self driving cars strange. We have continuous safety improvements in new cars, they are connected and loaded with sensors and most manufacturers have electric engines in some models. Also cars on the roads are being connected using the OBD port and offered services from the car eco-systems. But autonomous cars is what the industry, media and strangely enough IT companies are talking most about. I understand that manufacturers work on self driving cars since it’s a very complex challenge which will take many years to sort out, and it will bring continuous innovation to the cars down the road. But why talking so much about it already today? The technical challenges are big but not what will determine how soon we will see self-driving cars on the road. It’s culture, law and policies!

Take a look at airplanes. They are very complicated to make and fly but self-flying planes are here or at least around the corner depending on definitions. So are we ready for choosing flights with or without pilots? And which one would be cheaper? Imagine the first autonomous car running over a person or two in US, and what the penalties will do to the car maker involved. Some people argue we will have new infrastructure for self driving cars. But with new infrastructure I guess we could be more innovative than making cars without steering wheel.

The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) classification for autonomous cars has six levels, from none (Level 0) to fully automated systems (Level 5). Level 3 is a vehicle in which within known, limited environments (such as freeways), the driver can safely turn their attention away from driving tasks, but must still be prepared to take control when needed. Berg Insight estimates registrations of 16,5M new Level 3 cars and 7,8M new Level 4 cars and no fully autonomous ones (Level 5) 2030.

I’m sure we can make very good but not perfect self-driving vehicles a couple of years from now but can’t see them being used on public roads for many years, unless very limited in speed. There has been some early progress when it comes to regulation here and there but I haven’t seen any progress in the field of liability yet. And I guess a generation or two of drivers will probably have to disappear from the roads before it happens.


Inspiring example: Infracontrol makes cities talk

July 21, 2014

smartcityOne of the most talked about areas for Internet of Things is Smart Cities. Cities themselves invest to become one. Most of the large players in IoT focus on Smart Cities. There are events, predictions, articles and show cases everywhere and each and everyone use their own definition of Smart Cities. A city is a very complex and dynamic location which from an ICT point of view could be described as a system of systems. It is obvious that sub-systems could be more efficient using IoT solutions and that the overall system of systems could be improved if the data collected was shared cleverly between the systems. No wonder Smart Cities is a perfect topic to focus on both for suppliers and municipalities.

But how much smarter has cities become over the last years? Well, there are of course impressive reference cases here and there and a lot of sub-systems in a lot of cities have become better using IoT solutions. But the size and complexity of pulling it all together in a city is difficult to deal with both from practical and technical perspectives.

This is why I am really impressed by Infracontrol, their pragmatic approach to Smart Cities and what they have been able to do. They started about 20 years ago to help cities connecting mainly traffic related things like tunnel alarms, ventilation systems and traffic lights. As they grew bigger in several cities and with new applications they developed Infracontrol Online™ 2003 to connect cities and citizens for better services. Today they have 56 Swedish municipalities using Infracontrol Online™ and their first ones in Portugal in place as well. Their customers report 60% better service quality, 30% savings in maintenance expenses, a lot of energy savings and higher citizen satisfaction. Sounds smart to me! Needless to say Infracontrol is a member of  the Swedish SMSE-alliance!

Get inspired by Jenny Gustavsson’s 5 minute pitch on Infracontrol at Internet of Everything For Real™ 2014!


European connected cars standard is done deal!

February 18, 2014

0250.auto%20blog_9.16.13Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is one of the areas where M2M will make a huge difference in our lives. Transportation of people and goods will be more sustainable, safer, more efficient and more predictable. The communication required is complex and includes communication between vehicles, between vehicles and road infrastructure. The EU has invested over €180 million in more than 40 research projects since 2002 and last week the European standards organisations, ETSI and CEN, confirmed that the basic set of standards requested by the European Commission to make connected cars a reality has been fully completed. The European car industry is eager to translate these enabling standards to competitive advantages and we could see the first connected cars able to communicate with road infrastructure already 2015.

With some 200 million vehicles in Europe it’s easy to understand that proper implementation of these standards will make big impact on road efficiency, safety and sustainability. And if the initiated collaboration for global standards with the US and Japan becomes successful, the reward can be many times bigger.
This is good news and enables yet another area where M2M will make big impact on society here and now. And as always, there will be winners and losers based on how well organizations leverage this opportunity. And it definitely made the 10:th ITS European Congress in Helsinki, 16 – 19 June 2014, more interesting to visit.

Inspiring examples: Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems – TPMS

September 23, 2013

TPMSVehicles with wrong tire pressure cause accidents and consume excess energy. Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) were developed to prevent these issues. The first passenger vehicle to adopt tire-pressure monitoring was the Porsche 959 in 1986 and today it is becoming a legal requirement in more and more countries. Car manufacturers have been introducing different TPNS systems more or less voluntarily but in the United States, as of 2008 and the European Union, as of 2012, all new passenger car models released must be equipped with a TPMS. Similar laws are on their way in Asia-Pacific.

TPMS are definitely complex from an engineering, communication and product point of view and the combined investment, including equipment in garages and motor vehicle inspection sites, the sensors in the tires and the receiving part of the in-car system is very big. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US estimates that 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year are attributable to crashes caused by underinflated tires (Bob Ulrich, Editor, at Modern Tire Dealer) so it seems like well working TPMS can help save lives, money and the planet. But every system like this is always a potential hacker target and Rutgers University and the University of South Carolina released a joint study some years ago indicating that they had succeeded to hack a car through the TPMS.
In any case, this is a typical M2M application – it’s been around for years, many of us have them, they are not SIM-based and they deliver on the three M2M promises: safety, sustainability and efficiency.

EU moves forward towards EU-wide eCall solution

December 28, 2012

freeimage-5240129The European Union took yet another step towards an interoperable EU-wide eCall solution when the Commission just adopted a Regulation which establishes the specifications for the upgrading of the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) infrastructure required for the proper receipt and handling of eCalls. eCall is a key initiative to meet the target of halving the overall number of road deaths in the European Union by 2020 starting from 2010.

According to EU: Road safety is an issue of major concern across the entire European Union and for all of its inhabitants: 500 million citizens in the 27 Member States use more than 230 million vehicles on over 5 million km of roads. The purpose of the interoperable EU-wide eCall initiative is to introduce in all vehicles in Europe the minimum functionalities needed to ensure adequate handling of the emergency calls by the emergency response services. Currently, road journeys exceed 100 million annually across the various Member States and they are increasing due to further consolidation of the European Union (through the free movement of goods, people and services). Road safety is one of the major policy issues of Transport Policy in the European Union. In 2009 around 35,000 people were killed and more than 1.5 million injured in about 1.15 million traffic accidents on EU roads. In addition to the tragedy of loss of life and injury, this also carries an economic burden representing approximately EUR 130 billion of cost for society.

I believe this is a typical area where agreements on a standard infrastructure makes a lot of sense. We will save lives, pain, money, time and the environment while establishing an infrastructure which will support the development of the EU region for many years. A common PSAP could obviously be used for more than eCall and will set a standard for certain international services which will help us in the critical effort to make M2M an international business. 


Quantifying parking related problems

December 6, 2012

IBM-global parking index-650Most people have a view on parking. Typically not very positive. As more people continuously move to the cities – Stockholm received the equivalent of two loaded busses per day last year – taking care of traffic and parking is challenging. While doing the research for dynamIQ parking™ I came across a lot of facts and figures related to parking and I though it could be interesting to share some of them in my blog.

A great source of parking data is IBM’s Global Parking Survey 2011 with 8042 commuters in 20 cities on six continents surveyed. That is where I first came across the staggering data that more than 30% of traffic in a city is caused by drivers looking for parking. IBM claims over 1B cars on the roads worldwide which explains the scope of the parking problems. 27% of drivers in the survey respondents self-reported being involved in an argument with a fellow driver over a parking space within the last year. The average time to find parking is around 20 minutes and over half of all drivers in 16 of the 20 cities surveyed reported that they have been frustrated enough that they gave up looking for a parking space and simply drove somewhere else.

Commuting pain is also reflected globally as 69 percent of those surveyed indicated that traffic has negatively affected their health in some way. Some 42 percent of respondents globally reported increased stress and 35 percent reported increased anger.

In order to compare the situation across the globe IBM developed their Parking Index. The IBM Parking Index is comprised of the following key issues: 1) longest amount of time looking for a parking place; 2) inability to find a parking place; 3) disagreement over parking spots; 4) received a parking ticket for illegal parking and 5) number of parking tickets received. The cities scored as follows: New Delhi: 140; Bangalore 138; Beijing 124; Moscow 122; Shenzhen 122; Paris 122; Milan 117; Nairobi 111; Madrid: 104; Singapore 97; Mexico City: 97; Stockholm: 90; Johannesburg: 87; London: 86; New York City: 85; Montreal: 85; Buenos Aires: 80; Toronto: 77; Los Angeles: 61; and Chicago: 51.

According to EU (2008) 60% of the European population is concentrated in urban areas, with these areas producing almost 85% of GDP. Urban issues like traffic congestion and pollution is estimated to cost EU 1% of its GDP.

Another interesting fact is that Michael Schwarz, European Commission, claimed 2010 that goods of value of 7B€ is stolen from trucks in Europe which explains why safe and well organized truck parking is a priority.

Finally it could be interesting to know that Nissan cars got most parking tickets in Sweden 2010 compared to number of registered cars – 40.000 tickets translates to about 35% of all registered Nissan cars. BMW and Mercedes followed just behind (ref Vi Bilägare).


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