mobile technology

Layar

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtpNx7Y14d0&w=440&h=278] Layar is a mobile phone app-developing company based in Amsterdam.  The premise of their app, also called Layar, is augmented reality.  They’ve received two funding rounds so far for a total of €13.4 million with partial financial support from Intel Capital.  They were highlighted at Google Zeitgeist, named a 2011 Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum and TIME Magazine.  They won the title “Disruptive Innovatorat” at the 2010 Deloitte Fast50 and won Grand Prix 2010 at Netexplorateur.  Needless to say, if they’re not big now, big names think they’ll be big in the future.

So, what’s all the hype about?  If you watch the video above you’ll get a taste of it.  The real brilliance of this app is its simplicity.  Layar has taken an extremely complex topic (merging the virtual and real worlds) with infinite dimensions (history, future, gaming, education, entertainment, engagement, etc) and made it not only accessible but intuitive.  It makes you wonder, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’

In its current state, it feels like a fun toy, but I think it has the potential to be quite a game changer.  I’ve used it to check out crime in my area with SpotCrime.  From anywhere, I turn on the app and point my camera outward and Layar displays crime icons over the backdrop of my actual surroundings.  It’s really powerful, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  It’s essentially a platform for all spatial data, and we’re not just talking about shapefiles for a static GIS.  These data are real time, often created by you or your friends (e.g. Yelp, Flickr, Foursquare) or even by the local government (e.g. PlanningAlerts).

Use of Layar has the potential to engage more citizens more actively in their local surroundings.  It can help planners translate development proposals into real images that citizens can see while walking down the street.  It can enhance impact assessment, where developers, city officials, planners, and citizens can visualize what facilitating automobile use will do to congestion and to the public realm.  Check it out and see what you think it can do for you.

-Terra Curtis

Experience Stockholm's solution for visually impaired!

If you participate in our Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities you will have an opportunity to experience e-Adept, a groundbreaking accessibility solution at the cocktail reception taking place at the offices of Astando on May 11th in central Stockholm. E-Adept is a navigation, mobility and accessibility solution developed in partnership with the City of Stockholm. It enables visually impaired persons to navigate the city unattended - including public transport - through real-time urban data and digital map integration.

After several years of user-centric development working closely with visually impaired citizens, a group of users is now piloting e-Adept for 5 weeks as a full-life experience. You will be available to learn first-hand about the radical impact to their daily lives, provide detailed experience accounts.

Further, you will be able to try out the solution as well as meet project leaders from Astando and the City of Stockholm.

  • 161 million people globally would see their lives transformed by e-Adept
  • 30,000 citizens of Barcelona or 380,000 citizens in New York are severely visually impaired
  • E-Adept costs Stockholm only EUR 360,000 per year to maintain and creates EUR 17 million in value for the city
  • Also by Astando is Billy Bike, winner of the Future of Biking call by the City of Copenhagen in 2010
Our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities covers e-Adept in detail.

Experience Stockholm's solution for visually impaired!

If you participate in our Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities you will have an opportunity to experience e-Adept, a groundbreaking accessibility solution at the cocktail reception taking place at the offices of Astando on May 11th in central Stockholm. E-Adept is a navigation, mobility and accessibility solution developed in partnership with the City of Stockholm. It enables visually impaired persons to navigate the city unattended - including public transport - through real-time urban data and digital map integration.

After several years of user-centric development working closely with visually impaired citizens, a group of users is now piloting e-Adept for 5 weeks as a full-life experience. You will be available to learn first-hand about the radical impact to their daily lives, provide detailed experience accounts.

Further, you will be able to try out the solution as well as meet project leaders from Astando and the City of Stockholm.

  • 161 million people globally would see their lives transformed by e-Adept
  • 30,000 citizens of Barcelona or 380,000 citizens in New York are severely visually impaired
  • E-Adept costs Stockholm only EUR 360,000 per year to maintain and creates EUR 17 million in value for the city
  • Also by Astando is Billy Bike, winner of the Future of Biking call by the City of Copenhagen in 2010
Our Handbook on Service Innovation in Cities covers e-Adept in detail.

Mobile Services Forecast

It seems like every day we hear more about the endless development possibilities offered by mobile technology beyond the basics of connectivity and communication. “The Economist” recently offered a good round-up of some of the most innovative and clever new services being offered. Rather than complicated applications for expensive smartphones, these initiatives focus on offering solutions for everyday problems in poorer countries where cheap mobile phones are becoming increasingly popular.As the article points out, even in poorer countries about two thirds of the population usually have access to a mobile phone. This has sparked a rise in mobile services for cheaper phones that go beyond simple voice calling and texting, similar to the boom in mobile application development with the growing popularity of smartphones in wealthier countries. Though the article is quick to point out that the number of people actually using these services is still relatively small: “even among young people in South-East Asia (a tech-friendly lot) only 8% had used more than “voice-services” according to a poll by LIRNEasia [a think tank in Sri Lanka].”

Still, many of these services are growing their user base and given the convenience—and sometimes lifesaving—services they provide, it’s easy to see why. Here are a few of the mobile services that caught our eye: --mPedigree: Currently offered in Ghana and Nigeria, where the fake-drug trade is a concern, this service allows users to text a serial number on the packaging of their medicine and receive a response in seconds indicating whether or not it’s genuine and safe. Not only does the service have the potential to save lives, it’s also free for users; pharmaceutical companies foot the bill in the interest of stopping counterfeiters. --Dialog Tradenet: Among the many mobile trading platforms being offered, Dialog allows farmers in Sri Lanka to check prices and text in offers. Farmer’s Friend is a similar service being offered in Uganda. Though many of the earliest trading platforms focused on agriculture, newer services are beginning to branch out, some offering job listings or selling tickets to sporting and cultural events over the phone. --M-PESA: Founded in Kenya in 2007, this service allows users to pay for bills or receive their salaries through a mobile phone. In a region—Sub-Saharan Africa—where it’s more common to have a cell phone than a bank account, M-PESA currently has 13 million users. Similar services are already being offered in upwards of 40 countries.

Of course, this kind of mobile service development faces various challenges, a few of which the article highlights—bad regulation, bureaucracy, overreliance on donor money, no path towards growth. But, under the right circumstances, it’s the kind of mobile development that could eventually change lives in poorer countries.

Lagos: Will Service Innovation Secure the Future of Nollywood?

As part of our series of articles published in partnership with the Living Labs Global Award, Cluster.eu has just posted its very interesting Q&A on how to protect Nollywood's growth from video piracy, with Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Science and Technology of the State of Lagos, and Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet for Society of Banglaore. Living Labs Global Award Lagos 2011 Nollywood Piracy DVD Media Streaming

Read the Article on Cluster.eu

Lagos: Will Service Innovation Secure the Future of Nollywood?

As part of our series of articles published in partnership with the Living Labs Global Award, Cluster.eu has just posted its very interesting Q&A on how to protect Nollywood's growth from video piracy, with Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Science and Technology of the State of Lagos, and Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Centre for Internet for Society of Banglaore. Living Labs Global Award Lagos 2011 Nollywood Piracy DVD Media Streaming

Read the Article on Cluster.eu

Google's Next Steps

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently wrote a brief article indicating his company’s role in the “mobile revolution.”  As we have highlighted in our book Connected Cities, mobile technologies already have been responsible for and continue to offer further opportunity in market creation (to the tune of 256 billion euros).  The technology has only hit the tip of the iceberg, and Schmidt notes the next three places he intends to take it.

First, Google will focus on the underlying fast networks; second, on the development of mobile money; and third, on the availability of inexpensive smartphones in developing countries.  Of note in the second two categories are a few companies from our Showcase.  It appears that Google’s initial intents in regards to mobile money are for consumers in more developed regions; it’s near field communication, or NFC, technology enables smartphone users to pay for groceries, clothing, or other consumables simply by waving their phone near an in-store device. As far as I can tell, this technology would also be useful for things like mobile parking or public transit passes.  Park-line’s current model involves paying for parking by using your mobile phone to make a call to a processing center; NFC would make these calls unnecessary.  Similarly, Transport for London could move away from necessitating a physical “Oyster card” by enabling NFC.

The use of mobile technologies in developing countries is already well known.  We documented Mission 4636, which used mobile technology to facilitate the first responders to the Haiti earthquake.  Of course, their reach could have been much broader had the local population had access to more mobile phones.  Somewhat surprisingly, 90 percent of the world’s population already does have access to mobile networks, though this does not mean they actually own a mobile device, nor does it mean they have access to smartphone technology that significantly improves access to information.

The brevity of Schmidt’s article has attracted a fair amount of attention.  We’ll keep our eyes out for updates.

-Terra Curtis

Tech in the Airline Industry

I am writing this post aboard a small regional jet from my hometown in Bangor, Maine to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Unequipped with proper reading material to entertain myself, I picked up the US Airways in-flight magazine and began to flip through the pages. This issue opens with a letter from Doug Parker, the airline’s chairman and CEO.  Being the New Year, he highlights some tech innovations that will be launching in 2011.  These “innovations” range from the run-of-the-mill (Twitter and Facebook feeds, updates to the website) to the rather remarkable (check-in and boarding pass via smartphone). While not particularly revolutionary (I would call it overdue), another “innovation” they’re offering this spring is online rebooking services for those whose flight is interrupted due to inclement weather or operational difficulties.  For anyone who’s ever stood in one of those hideous lines waiting to talk to the one attendant serving a plane-full of people whose flight just got cancelled, you’ll understand the relief this tool will bring.

The last time I flew US Airways, I got stranded in Pittsburgh for two days and I vowed never to fly them again.  Lo’ and behold, here I am headed back to Pennsylvania.  Let’s hope it goes differently this time, especially because these innovative tools are not yet ready to roll.

-Terra Curtis

My war on regional digitized road and transport data in Stockholm

During the years 2006 – 2009 when working in the regional public transport I found an lucky opportunity to fill one of my companies most frustrating data black holes with ones and zeros. But you can’t win them all! Listen to my story. You are one year old when you learn to walk, you are five or six when you learn to ride a bike and at least 16 when learning to drive. All of us have as a primary means of traveling - walking (and here I include all in wheelchairs) and even motorists are occasionally forced to leave their car - at least to be able to refuel the car.

Although, since the modern era began, cities has focused on the car's traction, and to be frank , we have built cities such as displacing pedestrians as second-class citizens. When Sweden a few years ago legislated that motorists have an obligation to give way to pedestrians intending to cross the street - then motorists raged and state that this is a traffic hazard!

In wintertime all municipalities in Sweden are carefully plowing the roads. Although, in many of these municipalities leaders has decided that the property owners shall be responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks. How many property owners do you think it is along a normal Swedish roadside - and how likely do you make it a pedestrian is offered a safe and pleasant journey? And bike lanes often proves to be a perfect place for the snow brigade to put aside the snow.

In Sweden, the public exercise of power is highly decentralized and we have a very comprehensive municipal planning monopoly. But there is also very important to have a coherent national road infrastructure. Sweden therefore decided very early that it was important to establish a national database of road network. Yes, that is, the motorist road network, administrated by the National Swedish Road Administration. First on the runway by filling it with content was in fact the forest industry. They used this excellent almost free of charge resource to post their temporary forest roads so that their forest machines and trucks could find their way to all the remote and well hidden places where harvesting is currently underway. See there - an excellent commercial application of one of the society offered national data infrastructures!

In this decentralized Sweden, the municipalities are also responsible for the local road network. Therefore, also the digitization of the local road network has been a local affair and the Swedish Road Administration has therefore never been able to force any municipality neither to gather the data, nor to deliver it anywhere. Of course, the local politicians has limited budgets and if he / she has to choose among local public opinions, the one that demands for digitized road networks has never been particularly vociferous. In fact, even after 14 years of operation, this database NVDB has not yet signed contracts with all Swedish municipalities.

In fact, when NVDB established in 1996, bike lanes were not even on the horizon. Today as the National Traffic Administration offers the possibility after many years of nagging (not the least from me) quite many municipalities have supplied data, but there is still no one offering municipalities an opportunity to store a digitized pedestrian lane database.

I used to work in SL, the Stockholm County Public Transportation Authority, and there I was responsible for the development of Internet and mobile services. Such a core service is the travel planner. SL's network is an integrated intermodal network that spans 26 municipalities and, yes, you already understand the problem. All the county has actually delivered the digitized road network and that means that all players, especially yellow pages business and Garmin and TomTom etc have been able to develop great services. But in public transport you are totally dependent on that the footpaths are digitized - for all public transport passengers must get to and from stations and bus stops. For SL, the lack of an across municipal boundaries associated digitized pedestrian network the travel planner becoming increasingly a problem as customers always expect better and more advanced services.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw78Pwtg38w&w=425&h=350]

A few years ago when Stockholm won the opportunity to host the ITS World Congress, I saw an opportunity to change this. I put on the top of my (read SL) wish list a coherent and digitized route network for walking and biking. I quite easily in these collaborative surrounding of the National Swedish Road Administration, the National Swedish Rail Administration, The National Swedish Transport Administration, the City of Stockholm, the National Swedish Railway Company and many, many other stakeholders found friends of the mission, realizing the importance of this. Mobility services for people with impairments, police and rescue services must be found to the door even on local private pedestrian areas in closed yards, the postal service must even find doors in the z-axis, so this should be a easy piece, I thought. I built relations with ALL, and all agreed on the importance of access to such data - but no one was willing to either take responsibility or to share responsibility, this includes my former employer.

In despair I went to one of the largest commercial global players in GIS. They had a great interest - to map the inner city of Stockholm on the basis of the business traveler's perspective ... but could not see any profit to make in the mapping of walking paths in the Stockholm archipelago. No luck again.

Finally I found one guy with the same burning fire inside for the same thing as me, he ran the exact same question from one of the largest and leading infrastructure consultancy firms, actually he was the CEO of a large subsidiary specializing in GIS.

Today he is no longer there and still today you cannot find a coherent pedestrian and bicycle road network in this county.

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is my biggest carrier failure. And I indeed take it very personal.

- Åke Lindström, Market Director Kista Science City

My war on regional digitized road and transport data in Stockholm

During the years 2006 – 2009 when working in the regional public transport I found an lucky opportunity to fill one of my companies most frustrating data black holes with ones and zeros. But you can’t win them all! Listen to my story. You are one year old when you learn to walk, you are five or six when you learn to ride a bike and at least 16 when learning to drive. All of us have as a primary means of traveling - walking (and here I include all in wheelchairs) and even motorists are occasionally forced to leave their car - at least to be able to refuel the car.

Although, since the modern era began, cities has focused on the car's traction, and to be frank , we have built cities such as displacing pedestrians as second-class citizens. When Sweden a few years ago legislated that motorists have an obligation to give way to pedestrians intending to cross the street - then motorists raged and state that this is a traffic hazard!

In wintertime all municipalities in Sweden are carefully plowing the roads. Although, in many of these municipalities leaders has decided that the property owners shall be responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks. How many property owners do you think it is along a normal Swedish roadside - and how likely do you make it a pedestrian is offered a safe and pleasant journey? And bike lanes often proves to be a perfect place for the snow brigade to put aside the snow.

In Sweden, the public exercise of power is highly decentralized and we have a very comprehensive municipal planning monopoly. But there is also very important to have a coherent national road infrastructure. Sweden therefore decided very early that it was important to establish a national database of road network. Yes, that is, the motorist road network, administrated by the National Swedish Road Administration. First on the runway by filling it with content was in fact the forest industry. They used this excellent almost free of charge resource to post their temporary forest roads so that their forest machines and trucks could find their way to all the remote and well hidden places where harvesting is currently underway. See there - an excellent commercial application of one of the society offered national data infrastructures!

In this decentralized Sweden, the municipalities are also responsible for the local road network. Therefore, also the digitization of the local road network has been a local affair and the Swedish Road Administration has therefore never been able to force any municipality neither to gather the data, nor to deliver it anywhere. Of course, the local politicians has limited budgets and if he / she has to choose among local public opinions, the one that demands for digitized road networks has never been particularly vociferous. In fact, even after 14 years of operation, this database NVDB has not yet signed contracts with all Swedish municipalities.

In fact, when NVDB established in 1996, bike lanes were not even on the horizon. Today as the National Traffic Administration offers the possibility after many years of nagging (not the least from me) quite many municipalities have supplied data, but there is still no one offering municipalities an opportunity to store a digitized pedestrian lane database.

I used to work in SL, the Stockholm County Public Transportation Authority, and there I was responsible for the development of Internet and mobile services. Such a core service is the travel planner. SL's network is an integrated intermodal network that spans 26 municipalities and, yes, you already understand the problem. All the county has actually delivered the digitized road network and that means that all players, especially yellow pages business and Garmin and TomTom etc have been able to develop great services. But in public transport you are totally dependent on that the footpaths are digitized - for all public transport passengers must get to and from stations and bus stops. For SL, the lack of an across municipal boundaries associated digitized pedestrian network the travel planner becoming increasingly a problem as customers always expect better and more advanced services.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw78Pwtg38w&w=425&h=350]

A few years ago when Stockholm won the opportunity to host the ITS World Congress, I saw an opportunity to change this. I put on the top of my (read SL) wish list a coherent and digitized route network for walking and biking. I quite easily in these collaborative surrounding of the National Swedish Road Administration, the National Swedish Rail Administration, The National Swedish Transport Administration, the City of Stockholm, the National Swedish Railway Company and many, many other stakeholders found friends of the mission, realizing the importance of this. Mobility services for people with impairments, police and rescue services must be found to the door even on local private pedestrian areas in closed yards, the postal service must even find doors in the z-axis, so this should be a easy piece, I thought. I built relations with ALL, and all agreed on the importance of access to such data - but no one was willing to either take responsibility or to share responsibility, this includes my former employer.

In despair I went to one of the largest commercial global players in GIS. They had a great interest - to map the inner city of Stockholm on the basis of the business traveler's perspective ... but could not see any profit to make in the mapping of walking paths in the Stockholm archipelago. No luck again.

Finally I found one guy with the same burning fire inside for the same thing as me, he ran the exact same question from one of the largest and leading infrastructure consultancy firms, actually he was the CEO of a large subsidiary specializing in GIS.

Today he is no longer there and still today you cannot find a coherent pedestrian and bicycle road network in this county.

This, ladies and gentlemen, this is my biggest carrier failure. And I indeed take it very personal.

- Åke Lindström, Market Director Kista Science City

Connecting cities: a Cluster.eu interview with Sascha Haselmayer

Cluster.eu, a great online and published magazine, gave me some challenging questions about our book "Connected Cities: Your 256 Billion Euro Dividend". Read it here - Connecting cities: an interview with Sascha Haselmayer.

SoBi

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Edulm0xKIzs&fs=1&hl=en_US]
SoBi is the first public bike share system to rely entirely on wireless technology for tracking, locating and unlocking bikes,” reports Mashable. SoBi stands for “Social Bicycles,” a start-up that plans its first pilot run in New York City this fall.  SoBi has a fleet of bikes equipped with a GPS and cellular device, powered by a dynamo engaged with the rear wheel of the bikes.  GPS technology will allow potential users with online access (either through their computers, mobile phones, or one of several kiosks throughout the city) to locate an available bicycle.  SoBi also tracks the routes bicycles take, allowing administrators to create or redistribute hubs and users to track distance traveled, calories burned, and emissions saved.  It’s also got an element of FourSquare, allowing bikers to see their nearby biking friends.

SoBi also makes the claim that their system will be much cheaper to deploy than other bike sharing systems currently in place.  Part of this efficiency is due to financial incentives they offer the user to return the bike to a lower-density hub (minimizing the need for crews to go out and physically redistribute bikes themselves).  This, in turn, also makes the solution potentially cheaper for users as well.  If you return your bike to one of these locations, you could be rewarded with refunds toward membership fees or gift certificates from sponsors.  A win-win!

-Terra Curtis

I am Precious

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb1UwQfeZIk&fs=1&hl=en_US]
Breakfast, a New York-based group of techies and inventors, wants to bring internet to the real world.  They want a world that is somewhat reminiscent of science fiction.  The want the things we imagine in the future to be here today.

One of their projects, Precious, uses multiple technologies (including the Twitter API, GPS, SMS, and algorithmic analysis of various sensors’ outputs) to create a bicycle with a brain.  Every 5 minutes, the bike reports temperature, cadence, humidity, road grade, speed, direction, and location in a text message.  The text message is received and parsed by the Twitter API, and then analyzed by Breakfast’s servers.  The analysis is meant to replicate that of a human brain, giving the bike real character and personality.  (For example, if Precious is experiencing 90% humidity, 95 degrees Fahrenheit, a 10% grade and is heading due west into the prevailing winds, it might start compaining.  Wouldn’t you?)  The rider, Janeen, is riding across the U.S. to raise money for Team Livestrong. Besides building Precious, a great way to attract extra attention for a fundraising charity, Breakfast has also worked on other projects such as an iPad-controlled blimp (for which they ask, “Why not?”)

While some of their stuff seems a bit silly, perhaps indulgent, their philosophy is definitely applicable to innovating city services.  Why can’t we synthesize all the incredible technology that already exists, and simmer it down to something greater than the sum of its parts?  Tell me, why not?

-Terra Curtis

A Moment without Technology

My computer died tonight, just as I sat down to write my blog post. What you're reading now was written with good old fashioned pen and paper. Instead of dwelling on the catastrophic loss of technology, I decided to take a moment to reflect on just how pervasive it is in our lives. In other words, just how much have we succeeded in achieving technological solutions to our everyday challenges? Having just moved to a new town on the other side of the country, I'm highly aware of my use of the internet for local information. Maps, reviews of local restaurants, phone numbers, bus schedules, Craigslist, car share information -- these are just a few of the things I've used my wireless connection to find in the last 24 hours. So, for those few of us remaining without smart phones, when the computer dies, it feels like all lifelines are gone. Complete isolation.

Keep in mind I'm hardly isolated; I still have my cell phone, there are two other members of the household just downstairs, and plenty of neighbors are just a stone's throw away. But, that's part of the point: technology has become so ubiquitous that the moment it fails, everything seems foreign and distant.

Now, technology is a loaded term. Wheels were once technology. But, now it tends to refer to things like communications gadgets, computers (personal or otherwise), smart meters, or iPhone apps. And in a typical day, we cross its path countless times, almost never pausing to notice.

How about the credit card reader at the grocery store? The AC in your office? The app you used to check when the next bus was coming? The twenty-seven searches you asked Google to perform? The "check engine" light in your car?

Life is simply not the same without these advances. It's slower, less efficient, some may argue even less rich. I'm glad to have been forced to take the time to reflect on this -- to see how successful we have already been at solving everyday problems with technological innovation. However, we must keep in mind its fragility, and think ahead about how to solve that challenge.

-Terra Curtis

Nokia Pedal-Powered Cell Phone Charger

When I first read about Nokia’s new Bicycle Charger Kit, I thought of how perfect it would be for long bike tours.  Upon further consideration, though, I see the new device’s real value is achieved in developing countries. Big mobile technology companies have their sights set on these areas, recognizing big market opportunities in countries that have completely skipped wired-technologies and gone straight to wireless and mobile phones (who needs a watch, stereo, or television when it’s all available in one device).  But, how do they expect users to be able to use these battery-powered devices in areas where electricity sources are scarce and unreliable?  In these emerging markets, travel by bicycle is a way of life, so Nokia’s recent innovation seems a natural application.

The Bicycle Charger will work with any 2mm charger jack, and users completing a 10 minute journey at 6mph (10 km/h) will have produced enough power for a 28 minute phone conversation or 37 hours of standby time.  The kit also includes a holster to attach the phone to the bike while riding.

In developing countries, the kit is set to cost approximately 15 euros.  In western markets where cycling is more recreational, the price will be higher to account for lower demand.