Nice long NPR piece on Stantander

Posted on 4th June 2013 in cities, government, Internet of Things, transportation

One of my sons turned me on to this long NPR piece this morning about Santander. Thought it did a good job of covering the mix of top-down (the city’s installations of sensors) and bottoms-up (the active involvement of citizens through apps to report potholes, etc.) that a make up a robust IoT program.

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Have no doubt about it: the Internet of Things will transform government, affecting public security, defense, environmental protection, transport, and health.  If you’d like to be part of the community planning how to help government capitalize on the IoT, please join my new GovLoop community on the topic!

London will have first Internet of Things airport!

Posted on 6th May 2013 in cities, Internet of Things, transportation

I’ve been arguing for airports as ideal laboratories for advanced, free wireless communications ever since a 2002 op-ed in the Boston Business Journal in which I chided Logan Airport for charging for wi-fi. It seems to me that airports, with such a high percentage of sophisticated users with advanced mobile devices combined with complex logistics, are perfect places to apply the latest innovations.

That’s why I was delighted to see that London City Airport, the city’s downtown, business-oriented one, will offer the first Internet of Things enabled services.

The services will be developed by Living PlanIt (“technology for sustainable cities”) and retail developer Milligan  (“..creates places where people like to shop”) in cooperation with the UK’s Technology Strategy Board.

According to Robin Daniels, Living PlanIt’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, the project’s goal is all-encompassing:

“Everything that’s uncomfortable, inconvenient or just a pain in the neck about traveling, we’re trying to turn into a more pleasurable experience,”

Among other services, the “The Living PlanIT Urban Operating System™” will:

  • track passengers through facial recognition and crowd-sourcing software plus GPS
  • automatically deliver food to people who pre-order food online or through their smartphone
  • let someone who pre-booked a taxi step right into it
  • track luggage in real-time (if someone misses their flight, their bag won’t be loaded).
  • retailers in the terminal  “will use a combination of cameras and sensors to monitor buyer behavior and to get a better sense of what types of displays work. They will also be able to offer shoppers customized offers based on previous purchases.”

The system will observe privacy concerns by making the services opt-in.  However, Evangeis Ouzounis, the head of the secure infrastructure and services unit at the European Network and Information Security Agency, worries about possible vulnerability to hackers:

“They might jam a smart device to make systems not available in the airport, or play with the bar code of flight tickets, so that you can have access to a space you shouldn’t have access to.”

I don’t know about you, but I find flying post 9/11 to be the most stressful activity imaginable. If there are adequate security and privacy protections in place, I’d gladly opt-in for IoT services!

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Meeting Usman Haque: a shared vision for the IoT

Posted on 3rd May 2013 in cities, government, Internet of Things

We had our second successful Boston/New England IoT Meetup last night, with some great speakers (more about them later). Thanks to my co-organizer, Chris Rezendes of INEX Advisors, for putting together a great program!

For me, the high point was getting to meet one of the IoT’s real pioneers: Usman Haque, who created Pachube, now Cosm, Ltd. By creating this

Usman Haque

easy-to-use, affordable platform to connect devices and apps to securely store and exchange data, he made it possible for solo IoT innovators and start-up companies to offer viable IoT services without major investments in infrastructure. Bravo!

Haque told me that he is now concentrating on “urban projects” for Cosm. While he wouldn’t be more specific at this point, he did say that he’s working with New York City Digital on some new services.

Since the time when I worked with former US CIO Vivek Kundra when he was pioneering urban data access as the CTO for the District of Columbia, I’ve been a huge fan of the work going on in cities such as New York, Washington, San Francisco, Vancouver, and right here in the Hub, with the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. It seems to me that the way these cities are not only creating their own digital services, but also making their data freely available to citizen-hackers using open standards and engaging in both collaboration and friendly competition building upon each other’s innovations is in many ways ahead of what the private sector is doing (I wrote upon this phenomenon at length in my book Data Dynamite).

Our chat revealed that we share a vision for the future of “smart cities”: while companies such as IBM are doing some important work, what makes great cities isn’t just making things such as transportation function more efficiently. What really makes great cities is the way they bring together innovators who bump into each other, talk, and cross-fertilize each other’s ideas. This bottoms-up fermentation, facilitated by sharing mechanisms such as Cosm, leads to real progress and innovation. Let 1,000 apps bloom!

Thanks, Usman, for both the inspiration and the tools to make great cities.

PS: His girlfriend, Natalie Jeremijenko, is doing some pretty cool environmental stuff — my other passion, especially when it is base on “citizen science”

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