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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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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