Archivo de la categoria ‘Smart Cities’

An App to transform mobility in Barcelona wins the ECIM BCN Hackathon

The BcnPlus Team with Victoria Cochrane, from ESADE

BcnPlus, a new solution for mobility in Barcelona won the ECIM Hackathon final held at the ESADE Business School. The new app wants to unify all the public transport cards used in Barcelona and bring them to mobile devices, that will become the “door” for these services using the recently developed Visual Light Communication (VLC) technology.

The solution, developed by Roberto de Arquer, Carlos Quintanilla and AndrésHernández, aims to offer the users of all the public transport in Barcelona an easier way to access to their cards, by integrating them through an app in their smartphones.

There, Users would be able to choose between the cards they have purchased anddirectly access the different mobility services provided by the administration, from Metro, buses or even Bicing, the popular public bike service.

Roberto explained that the app, besides introducing the new VLC technology, offers the users a full set of services related to mobility issues using the ECIM platform, including updated information offered by the service providers.

“We’re convinced that we can build a business venture, and winning would be great because there are some things that escape our knowledge and the assessment offered by ESADE as part of the prize will be really helpful.”, told Roberto just before the announcement of the team’s win.

Roberto and Carlos, both students of Multimedia Engineering at La Salle University, met Andrés at the Mobile World Congress, and he encouraged them to start a business together.

Victoria Cochrane, Pelayo Méndez and Pedro Lorente

The runners-up where Pelayo Méndez and Pedro Lorente, who designed an app to connect citizens and city services according to the user’s preferences and habits. Their app aims to unify all the services offered by public administrations and offer them in a useful way for the citizens, solving the myriad of apps currently tackling these problems one by one.

“We come from the era of App solutions, in which everything had an app generating loads of applications. Our proposal is something of a change of paradigm because if offers a good data service which it maintains, increases and allows other developers to work with,” explained Pelayo regarding the integration of the ECIM services.

The European Cloud Marketplace for Intelligent Mobility (ECIM), funded by the European Comission, aims to create smarter mobility services across Europe. Building on the success of the European Platform for Intelligent Cities (EPIC), ECIM uses the power of the cloud to create a marketplace for transport solutions where service providers, data providers and developers can come together and co-create innovative applications for citizens.

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Smart Cities 2016: 7 innovations that will change your world

Making predictions is always difficult and risky. If we are already finding it hard to see eye to eye on our past and present, imagine the trouble we have with the future – blank canvas that it is.

Despite the fact that predictions are risky (and that we don’t often get them right) they do help us to analyse the trends that could unfold, or will simply give us a lot to talk about over the coming year.

In fact, there have been few times when we have seen so many areas in which changes are so imminent and have so much capacity to affect the lives of so many people so quickly, as we’re seeing now. And many of those changes have been brewing over the last year.

Who would have imagined only a year ago that we would be talking about self-driving cars, not as fiction but reality? Who would have dreamed that someone would seriously suggest introducing basic income? Who would have thought that the number of smartphones on the planet would reach 74% of the population? And what about the start of physical money disappearing, and black money with it? Who would have even dreamed that developments such as the Hyperloop would be planning to relegate most high speed train networks to the archives of history?

Doesn’t it feel like an exciting year has just begun?

I have attempted to put those trends that I think hold the most interest, the most promise and have the greatest potential to change the world, into 7 groups. As you will see, this is not about predicting the future but talking about it, and imagining the potential that could lie behind each of those seven opportunities.

1.- Cars transform cities once again

The car has largely defined cities as we know them. If you take a look at the space we dedicate to them, you’ll see that it is huge. It is a space that is in definite contrast to their use, which is not more than 5% of the time on average; space for parking, space in the street, space in the layout of the city and space in our aspirations and dreams.

All of that is changing, and changing very fast. One of the triggers has likely been the certainty that, pretty soon, cars will be self-driven and electric. These two vectors come hand in hand with the cultural transformation in iconic cities such as New York which has seen the car shift from being something aspirational to being simply a utility.

A self-driving car does not need to be parked outside – you call it and it comes to you; it enables changes to be made to the traffic rules we have today which are designed for people, who are slow and can sometimes be more concerned with flouting them than following them. A self-driving car can also drive at any time without a break (for road transportation at night, night-time home delivery, etc.).

An electric car sends the variable cost of transportation into another dimension. Charging the battery of an electric car costs between $1 and $4 depending on the country, and $0 with solar panels; without paying the sun tax, of course! For that money, we get 160-300 km of mileage. It is another dimension in which the only costs of transporting people and goods are paying for the vehicle and extremely low variable costs.

All of this means that the design of cities is more focused on shared cars and public transport along the lines of Uber, with a self-driving, electric future in mind. In the future, we are going to need just a fraction of the space that we now dedicate to transport and it will be cleaner, more efficient and a whole lot cheaper.

The change in mentality is also important. New generations do not dream about having a car; travelling by bike, scooter or electric bike is cool. A city that walks, that exists as a meeting point, results in a city that is designed for moving around by car.

Cars – or the change in our perception of cars – are dominating city design once again, only this time in the opposite way to how it was done in the 19th century.

2. Sharing economy: less sharing, more economy and more Gigs

The sharing economy emerged with the promise of sharing, but is fast becoming about mobilising idle resources through platforms that allow them to be marketed with very little effort. One such example is airbnb, which allows easy marketing of a room or apartment without having to promote it personally. Then there is Uber, along with many others.

This element of available recourses being able to enter the market with very little effort has allowed a high number of anonymous people to penetrate areas that were previously closed off behind significant barriers to entry. This is the case in the example of apartments and taxis. It has forced the level of competition higher, to the point where driving a taxi or having a hotel room is no longer enough. You have to do it well, provide a quality service and innovate if you want to stand out.

This has had a remarkable effect on the market. This month, Yellow Cab – the biggest taxi company in San Francisco – has declared bankruptcy, and the number of great value-for-money apartments on offer has grown enormously all over the world. The market is more of a market, and less dominated by a few companies that determine the offer and conditions. On another hand, these platforms have become global businesses in an economy dominated by ‘the winner takes all’, from which it is almost impossible to escape.

These platforms have also managed to organise their work in a way that is independent and dispersed, and have had a decisive impact on what we understand a business to be. A business is now divvied up and many tasks that used to be done internally now sit outside of it: this is the Gig economy; the on-demand economy.

This invasion of the platforms, in their two forms, is changing everything: our perception of work, the structure of cities, etc.; and we need new legislation that responds to those changes.

Any attempt to stem the tide and turn the clock back or cage in these platforms is destined to fail completely or turn cities or nations that try to ignore the course of history into North Korea. We need to confront it and design regulation for this market that combines social aspiration with the opportunities presented by new technology.

3. Participation: more than a word

Just as technology has torn down barriers to market entry for many people, it has also enabled mass participation and consultation.

We still work with political systems that were thought up 300 years ago, while the rest of our lives and relationships have changed drastically. It is clearly only a matter of time before citizens demand that these systems be updated, and that is going to happen sooner or later, whether we like it or not.

Everywhere, we are seeing a multitude of experiments in which participation, the use of technology as sentiment analysis, or binding or non-binding consultations play a leading role. These experiments will undoubtedly crystallise into practices that will not only be accepted, but become basic rights, whereby unilateral decisions made by governments will be less accepted, less justifiable and seen as less democratic.

4. Invisible money

This year, Denmark is intending to eliminate physical money, while transactions with Alipay in China in 2015 represented $519 billion, with 350 million users. With Alipay, you pay electronically or show a QR code generated on your smartphone, which lasts for one minute in the supermarket. New players such as Apple, Google or Transferwise are either redefining payment methods, or trying to.

However, the opportunities do not end there. Blockchain – the bitcoin protocol – ensures complete traceability and secure confirmation without the need for a mediator. How long until we see a version of Blockchain introduced for electronic money? Probably not very long.

Denmark will be successful, and other countries such as Sweden or even Germany intend to follow in its footsteps shortly; but in China, Alipay is what young people use and ApplePay is great.

5. The ability to store energy changes everything!

Tesla has presented its domestic batteries, and all over the world we are witnessing a fierce race to reach the Holy Grail – a battery with a greater capacity, shorter charge time, lower cost and longer duration.

In a world where the cost of solar panels is decreasing fast as their performance improves, a good battery would be the catalyst for energy at zero variable cost; and that is a whole new world.

The efforts made by Tesla on graphene batteries or on substituting lithium for higher performance compounds could enable us to make current batteries 2 or 3 times better. This would give us batteries that charge in around 10 minutes, allow us to drive over 600 km at half the cost, and that are lighter weight and longer lasting. This is the frontier that would really launch the electric car and distributed energy production in many places; this is a frontier we could cross in 2016.

6. Internet and invisible infrastructures

Not long ago, we were happy with 20MB, and 300MB or 1G was a dream. Well, that dream has become reality.

This is the year that this dream goes further; the year we see the internet become something like electricity, where important areas are connected at speeds approaching 1G.

This is also the year of the Internet of Things (IoT).

In any case, the most important thing is most likely not connectivity, but what we can do with it. Nowadays, that means the creation of infrastructures that connect people, create markets and make it possible for them to operate virtually.

The creation of markets is what makes platforms like Uber and airbandb possible and gives them their value. However, digital platforms need not be restricted to markets; their potential goes beyond that, allowing real invisible infrastructures to be created that could allow citizens to participate in public life, speed up and start projects, or accelerate business proposals.

These invisible infrastructures contribute greater value than real ones, if that be possible, because they do more than enable and create capacity; they are directly linked to action. It is not about creating empty buildings, but rather bringing together people who want to do things and helping them to do it.

7. Basic income and Evidence Based policy

For many years, policy has been justified based on ideas, beliefs and values. A more just society required further reaching redistributed policies; a freer society, the abolition and simplification of regulations.

However, as society becomes more complex, it is difficult to be sure that a certain policy will lead us to the desired objective. On the contrary, more often than we would like we find ourselves confronting the bitter truth that policies that have been fought for tirelessly lead to ends that are completely opposite to those intended.

A good example of that is the issue of basic income. Its advocates declare that it will help make workers more competitive by allowing them not to have to accept any offer and to be more selective. On the other hand, its critics argue that many part-time employees who make us more efficient will be lost and we will be less competitive. In reality, nobody knows for sure what effect it will have.

As some countries will be taking a more serious look at introducing basic income in 2016, we will soon know more.

This situation demonstrates that our method of designing policy doesn’t really work, and works badly. When contexts were less complex and the causes more evident, it wasn’t so challenging. However, with the current levels of complexity, endlessly discussing aspects that nobody actually knows and attributing causalities to policies whose impact is little known is not very productive.

Luckily, less dogmatic methods that rely more on experimentation and data obtained from measureable results are gradually gaining ground. It is this, rather than the doctrine or vision of governments, that determines how good certain political measures are. Tools such as Big Data and data analytics will play an essential part in this transformation.
play an essential part in this transformation.

Article originally published at IDEAMERICAS Blog

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Sunshine Challenge: an opportunity to promote innovation in energy efficiency

 

Today Europe is faced with the challenge of adapting to new technologies and innovation processes which would make cities more inclusive, competitive, efficient and, most importantly, more livable. The SUNSHINE project organizes an open, European-level challenge that this year is about promoting innovation in energy efficiency through two tracks:

The Energy efficiency initiative of the year track recognizes the contributions of public administrations or planning bodies to the transformation of our cities and neighborhoods towards greater energy sustainability. Governmental initiatives, submissions from cities and regions, as well as projects of urban and regional planners are welcome.

The Innovation in smart urban services aims at promoting these technologies in terms of best practices and innovative products in all stages of development which contribute to achieving the concept of smart cities. The project leaders are looking for solutions coming from industry, SMEs, researchers and Universities which have the potential of drivers for change, in European and local markets as well as the research landscape.

If you’re interested in participating in the Sunshine Challenge, visit the project website for more information!

Sunshine- “Smart UrbaN ServIces for Higher eNergy Efficiency” is a research project at the Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Management supported by the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) 2007 – 2013. SUNSHINE delivers innovative digital services, interoperable with existing geographic web-service infrastructures, supporting improved energy efficiency at the urban and building level. Specifically, SUNSHINE delivers a smart service platform accessible from both a web-based client and an App for smartphones and tablets.

The project is now halfway through its last year of implementation, and its solutions are being tested in eight pilots that are currently running at full capacity, testing and assessing the three SUNSHINE scenarios: Energy mapping and pre-certification, Building energy awareness and Remote control of lighting networks. Their success in achieving a valuable socio-economic impact, as well as in developing a short and long-term exploitation plan are currently being analyzed.

For more information, stay tuned and check the last newsletter!

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Entrepreneurial Cities should become Urban Labs

Remember the days when Nokia and Motorola owned the phone market? They are not so distant, only a few years ago. Yet how many of you have a Moto or a Nokia now? Let me guess: none!

If you are sceptical about the power of innovation for shaping markets and destroying fortunes, these two examples are a reminder of how fast things can go. But they tell us more; they describe a change in the way we compete.

Not so long ago, firms competed on price. In a way all societies started here, taking advantage of low wages, natural resources or any other factor that might provide a sustainable advantage, difficult to replicate. As we know now, these advantages were far from sustainable. Low wage countries, if successful, became richer, raising wages. Shifts in extraction technology, such as fracking, made extraction advantages less relevant, and so on. So, let’s forget about sustainable, ok?

Competing on innovation needs early adopters, experimentation and fast market validation of proposals.

Productivity replaced low costs as the main form of competition. Knowledge became the new buzzword. Nowadays however, knowledge is everywhere and while some sectors strive to maintain their knowledge advantage, engineers in India or China have become just as competent as their rivals in Europe or America, and with them the productivity level of these different societies is levelling out.

We are no longer competing on productivity. Some of the biggest, most thriving companies such as Apple, Google, Airbnb, Tesla, Facebook, GE, Amazon and Apdo still compete on productivity of course, but they earn their huge surplus and tremendous market share from innovation. They compete not on making similar things more efficiently but on transforming the world with completely new products and services.

This Copernican change in the way we compete has huge implications.

Competing on cost doesn’t need much. Competing on productivity needs good engineers and labs, it is the territory of incremental improvement. Competing on innovation needs early adopters, experimentation and fast market validation of proposals.

Cities are becoming the medium for this experimentation to take place. New proposals for smart cities cannot be validated in labs; they need real-life spaces and the interaction with citizens for validation.

Barcelona, for example, put in place quite some years ago the idea of ‘urban labs’: a simple idea with a difficult implementation. Put simply, firms were invited to submit their proposals for experimentation and, if selected, they were allowed to use the urban space for testing, experimentation and as a showcase for their new technologies. At the same time, Trentino, Manchester and Helsinki worked on similar concepts from the point of view of Living Labs and the facilitation of citizens’ involvement in innovation.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? It certainly is, but implementation has been complicated because you have to navigate a maze of permits, economic incentives and costs. Moreover, user experimentation is at the firms’ expense and many firms are not – to put it politely – up to speed in this area. Therefore the project ends up being badly done or not done at all, greatly diminishing the whole purpose and value of the urban lab experiment.

After some years’ experience of urban labs, their flaws are well known. Pilots such as the Barcelona example are great, but continuous programmes are better. Spaces should be prominent if they have to function as showcases. Global awareness is a must and user-driven development and co-creation should be facilitated by the programme. Finally, many firms, particularly the small ones, the most innovative ones, need support and resources to implement their programmes, either from the city, crowdsourcing or regional government. If not, probably most of the really innovative ideas won’t even be attempted.

However, in spite of all the problems, urban labs have been a success and it has been proven that they are the right way to go. We need cities that once again want to become places where ideas are born and developed.

Nevertheless, for that to happen we need change. Not only in the companies themselves but also a complete change of mindset in the cities and their policymakers. They need to embrace, facilitate and foster open innovation – innovation that is not coming from the city but to the city. They need to be proud of helping this process to thrive, to be facilitators in this new transformation of cities into entrepreneurial spaces.

This change of mentality will go far beyond the businesses, empowering the entrepreneurial spirit of citizens and changing the government’s role to that of an ecosystem orchestrator instead of trying to solve everything with the provision of resources and services.

Fostering this change is our job; it is everybody’s job.

Originally published by Esteve Almirall in Illuminated Minds

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