Global Forum sharpens focus on smart cities

Global Forum sharpens focus on smart cities

The 25th Global Forum, an annual policy and strategy conference sometimes called “the Davos of ICT,” was held this week in Eindhoven, a smart city and technology hub with a rich industrial past.

Eindhoven, Netherlands -- The 25th Global Forum, an annual policy and strategy conference sometimes called “the Davos of ICT,” was held this week in Eindhoven, a smart city and technology hub with a rich industrial past.

Eindhoven was the original home and de facto company town of Philips Electronics, one of the world’s leading technology giants. Then, under pressure from Asian and global competitors, Philips began a long process of exiting its historic lines of business.

Eindhoven suffered an economic and psychological blow when in 1997 the company moved its headquarters to Amsterdam.

The resulting economic and social disruption challenged Eindhoven to reinvent itself. The community focused on research and innovation (R&I), and built upon its Philips legacy to become the industrial design center of its country and the European region.

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Starting in the 1990s, through the catalyst of a collaborative enterprise called “Brainport Eindhoven Region,” the city built a smart-city future and earned international recognition as Intelligent Community of the Year in 2011.

Now, according to Mark Bressers of the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Eindhoven is representative of a nation that has one-third of its economy based on ICT and digitalization. At the national level, the Netherlands is third in the world in ICT research, after the USA and South Korea.

The Global Forum often previews world trends in the information and communication industries. Delegates came by invitation-only from countries representing all the continents.

Keynote speaker Marta Arsovska-Tomovska, Ministry of Information Society and Administration for Macedonia, said, “Since the year 2000, over 55% of Fortune 500 companies are gone, by digital disruption.”

She spoke of Macedonia’s population of 2 million people and outlined their ambitious plans to build a digital future.

The Minister says they have four main strategies:

  • Digital by Nature
  • Digital by Design
  • Digital Together
  • Digital but Still Human

Macedonia plans to double the number of computer science and engineering graduates rapidly, and increase the quantity and quality of its technology schools and teachers. They intend to orient students to technology from early childhood through university level, including the foundation of a dedicated ICT university.

Smart Cities take the spotlight in the global urban future

As it has repeatedly done in recent conferences, Global Forum dedicated an 11-member panel to Smart Cities. The topic is burgeoning yet becoming more diffuse and in need of strategic focus and concrete demonstration.

On the panel, John Jung spoke on the challenges of managing traffic as cities grow. He is a founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, a think tank based in New York City, which awards the “Intelligent Community of the Year.”

Jung lives in Toronto, and notes that gridlock in Canada’s biggest city costs its citizens $11 million annually in lost productivity.

Some solutions may evolve from autonomous transport. Singapore is experimenting with driverless taxis. Eindhoven has a driverless bus under test, which is allocated its own dedicated traffic lane.

Columbus, Ohio, the Intelligent Community of the Year for 2015, has put together a $140 million transport grant to advance its smart-city status to the next practical stage.

Eric Legale, from Issy-les-Moulineaux in the Paris region, listed the most congested cities in Europe. The five worst are London (33% more congested than any of the others); Stuttgart; Antwerp; Cologne; and Brussels. Moscow is sixth. Paris is 15th, yet they are embarking on “new automated metro lines for more than 200 kilometers and 68 new stations to be built by 2030.”

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Mika Mannervesi, of the city of Salo in Finland, presented on their project for smart lighting. Salo was the birthplace of Nokia mobile phone manufacturing, and has extensive technical expertise.

Salo has replaced city street lighting with LEDs. For further efficiency, a successful field test programmed the lights to turn off when there is no traffic movement of any kind, “so that empty streets would not be illuminated.”

Eikazu Niwano of NTT in Tokyo said Japan is driving for the realization of Hyper Smart Society (Society 5.0), an initiative by the government of Japan beginning 2016.

Society 5.0 is so-named to indicate the new society created by transformations led by scientific and technological innovation, after the hunter–gatherer society; agricultural society; industrial society; and information society.

NTT envisions a “Hyper Smart Society Service Platform using cyber security, IoT, Big Data, AI, Device, Network and Edge Computing.”

Niwano says many Japanese companies are pushing forward on these concepts for ICT-based solutions, preparing for the next 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be hosted by Tokyo.

Dr. Sylviane Toporkoff, president of Global Forum, led the 2016 conference, along with Vice President Sébastien Lévy; Founding Partners of sponsor ITEMS International.

The next Global Forum will be held in fall 2017, probably in Canada for the first time in the 25-year history of the event.

Jay Gillette is professor of information and communication sciences at Ball State University, director of its Human Factors Institute, and a senior research fellow at the Digital Policy Institute. He also served as Fulbright-Nokia Distinguished Chair in Information and Communications Technologies at the University of Oulu, Finland for 2014-2015.

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