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Changing urban equations


January 14, 2014  


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TOKYO– Ericsson has developed a cellular radio small enough to fit into a person’s hand that delivers mobile broadband access to users via standard Internet LAN cables. Japanese car manufacturer Honda is beta testing Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) technology in which a pedestrian’s smartphone and nearby vehicles “establish a communications channel” to determine if the pedestrian is in danger of being struck by an oncoming car.

Meanwhile, the OpenStack Foundation, the open and scalable operating system for public and private clouds that was created by Rackspace and NASA three years ago, continues to gain momentum with organizations of all sizes signing on to the movement.

At the 2013 Ericsson Business Innovation Forum (EBIF) held in November, all three were highlighted as examples of initiatives taking place in the networking, mobile and cloud computing space that are not only changing individual industries, but society as a whole.

“This year’s forum will look at what urbanizations brings to business, people and society and what role ICT plays in this development,” Douglas Gilstrap, Ericsson’s chief strategist wrote prior to the event.

“Having those discussions in the world’s largest metro area with some 35 million inhabitants is the perfect location.

“Beyond the sheer size of its population, Tokyo also represents one of the world’s most advanced technology markets. In addition to global electronic firsts here is where mobile Internet over 3G was first launched. And with that, Japan was an early mass market for mobile apps.”

Speakers included Charley Watanabe, deputy-director general with Japan’s ministry of information and communications bureau, who said the Japanese government is investing heavily in ICT in areas as diverse as caring for the elderly and “building resilient towns against disasters.”

The ultimate goal is to produce the world’s most sophisticated ICT infrastructure through a combination of big data, sensor networks, cloud computing and smartphones.

Statistics released by Watanabe revealed that one-quarter of all sensors in the world are used here, the amount of all digital data will reach 40 zettabytes – which is equal to one billion terabytes – by 2016, the cloud computing services market will be eight times larger than it was in 2010 and the number of smartphone subscribers will reach an estimated 94 million by 2018.

Worldwide, the most recent Ericsson Mobility Report indicates that by 2019, mobile subscriptions will reach 9.3 billion, of which 5.6 billion will be smartphones.

“It took more than five years to reach the first billion smartphone subscriptions, but it will take less than two to hit the 2 billion mark,” said Gilstrap, “Between now and 2019, smartphone subscriptions will triple.

“Data is driving the ecosystem now.”

Gilstrap added that on top of the 9+ billion subscriptions, there is also the machine-to-machine market to consider: “These two forces will drive innovation and lead to what we believe will result in the networked society. Usage will drive how people live and work with mobility.”

In a video on how mobility is shaping the ICT industry released in early December, Ericsson chief technology officer Ulf Ewaldsson said that “more than 90% of all the traffic in mobile networks globally is now data. That is changing the industry profoundly and it is also affecting the way operators see their role. They become the enablers of other industries to be connected rather than just providing voice.

“Mobility is changing the ICT industry in a way that it becomes the most significant technology in terms of traditional communication. These networks that were originally built for voice are now completely data-centric.”

In an interview with Connections+ he said that during the past 12 months since the last EBIF was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, much has changed. “Here in Tokyo we are describing a world where demand from the network is coming from other industries,” he said. “That is a big shift and will continue to do so even more.”

Another major shift, says Ericsson, is how mobile networks have evolved through 2G, 3G, and Long Term Evolution: “As mobility becomes part of the mainstream digital lifestyle, the next step is for the network to be the vehicle of cloud evolution.”

Regardless of the type of application, Gilstrap said, the traditional form of processing of transactions will have to change.

“We think the operators and the end users themselves want content, computing power, storage, transactional computation closer to the end user so that they have quicker latency,” he said.

“If you are on your phone and want to grab a video you don’t have to go across the world or if you want to grab an online game it is stored in regional pods, it is stored in regional footprints. The computing power and the transaction power is in the footprints within the network.”

 • • •

The late Donald Richie, an American expatriate who was considered a leading authority on Japanese film and culture would have been intrigued by findings contained in a new Ericsson ConsumerLab report issued at the EBIF.

“Londoners actually want to live in the suburbs where they have a bit of space, a spot of green,” he once wrote. “Tokyoites, however, want to live in Tokyo, always have, always will. For them the suburbs… and the long commute exist only because they cannot afford to live in crowded, expensive Tokyo.” Smartphone users in the Japanese capital as well as in São Paolo, Beijing, New York, and London were polled about their interest in, and the potential development of 18 new services relating to assorted aspects of city life.

All four are megacities, defined as a metropolitan area with a total population in excess of 10 million.

In the study, individuals were asked to evaluate new service concepts related to the areas of city life they are most satisfied with – the availability of shopping, restaurants, and leisure facilities.

Examples of new services include social restaurant guides, a digital real-time trainer, situational shopping recommenders, mobile menus and table reservations, and same-day goods delivery.

Respondents were asked if a restaurant ingredient checker service was of interest and while only 8% think the service is available today, 61% expect it to be a normal service available within three years.

They also indicated they are looking for better services and improved communication from authorities via their smartphones.

“Mass demand for new ICT services can change city life, beyond what we recognize, in just three years,” said Michael Bjorn, head of research at ConsumerLab.

“Smartphone services related to shopping, eating out and finding entertainment can drastically improve people’s satisfaction with life in cities. Smartphone services can also alleviate dissatisfaction, and expectations are high on the market to make these services available.”
Society, he told a group of reporters on the first day of the EBIF,
is changing.

John Rossant, founder and chairman of the New Cities Foundation, expanded on that the following day.

“Half the world’s population lives in cities and this is heading to 70% by 2050,” he said.

“It is changing how we live, think and breathe air. ICT is giving us unprecedented tools to make cities better and allow human beings to enjoy it more and be more efficient.

“I don’t think any politician is going to lose votes coming out strongly for smart cities.

“I can think of some mayors around the world who have made it a battle cry and who are really focused, be it Gregor Robertson in Vancouver, Mike Bloomberg in New York City and Boris Johnston in London.

“When you make the transition to networks and smart cities, in many cases you have to change the regulatory environment. In North America, Europe and Asia it is based on 19th century concepts of utilities and things like that. It is very ill adapted often to smart initiatives.”

According to Rossant, it will take a collective approach.

“Particularly in this area of cities, the problems and the challenges are too vast for any one company. Almost by definition companies have to collaborate with one another, often times when they are
competitors.

“We are all breaking new ground here so we have not seen that before. Also, the public and private sectors have to collaborate.”

Rossant, who founded the Swiss-based non-profit organization in 2010 as a means to generate “new perspectives on the future of cities,” referenced recent citizen uprisings in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul and Stockholm as an example of how ICT has evolved into a purveyor of change.

He calls it Urban Spring and just like the Arab Spring that preceded these protests, “it is a sign of how digital media technologies are being used by urban citizens to speak up.”

“People want more bandwidth and they absolutely have to get it,” said Rossant.

“They have a total thirst for it.”

Urban change was a primary theme of an Ericsson think-tank called NEST, an acronym for the Networked Society Forum held in November in Miami Beach, Fla.

At the event, the company released its 2013 Networked Society City Index report, which examines how cities are and can benefit from ICT.

“With one million people moving into cities every week, urban life represents some of the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities,” said Hans Vestberg, the firm’s president and CEO.

“ICT is an integral and natural part of everything we do in this urbanized world.

“To solve systemic issues of traffic congestion, C02 emissions, trash collection, residential crowding, and more, collaboration is the only way we will bring workable solutions to cities.” C+

 


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