Posts Tagged ‘Conference’
Paul Romer spoke at TEDGlobal on his new idea of ‘charter cities’. Charter cities are catalysts for economic development as they are the appropriate arena for new ideas (villages are too small and nations are too big). Economic development not only involves technologies (a main emphasis of Romer’s theories); it also involves rules. Charter cities are the ‘greenfield’ sites where new rules are implemented. As they succeed, cities nearby will become influenced and development will spread. Just as Hong Kong was a charter city which influenced Shenzhen and other cities, Romer proposes charter cities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (calling Canada to take a partnership there) and throughout Africa. Singapore’s experience complements Romer’s theory perfectly. I caught his attention with the idea of a TEDxCharter Cities to take these ideas further and encourage bottom-up discussion about the concept and its application. Something to think about…?
A quick update on the Innovation Conference in Helsinki. Day 1 was an Innovation Framework 101 session where many countries shared their experiences on research councils, incentives, org charts etc. Day 2 (where I presented) was about turning knowledge into strategy.
TEM (Finn Ministry of Employment & The Economy) and TEKES (Finn Funding Agency for Technology & Innovation) opened the conference with an update of key innovation issues in Europe. In Finland, one new focus was on demand-pull innovation. Then Brazil, USA, and the European Commission shared their views on innovation policy and research.
Next was a panel session about evaluating national innovation systems – Finnish, Flemish and Austrian. The panel was interesting, in particular the on-going project by the ETLA (Research Institute of Finnish Economy). It worked with a team of foreign and local experts to review the Finnish National Innovation System.
An unintended message that came across was how to innovate for the growing mass of 4bil consumers out there. Four speakers (incl myself) alluded to the idea of No-Frills or BOP innovation. Innovation policies have thus far been looking at high-end consumers. Is it time to think about the other half of the world, and innovating for them – for their needs or to help move them out of poverty?
Day Two/ Three/ Four of 2009 O’Reilly Etech Conference in San Jose
It is interesting to note that wherever you look, you will definitely spot someone using either a Macbook or Iphone…
Anyway, day two kicks off with a presentation by Alex Steffen on the topic of Sustaining the American Family. In what was related to as a “Massive Inter-generational Ponzi Scheme”, we are in danger of reaching the tipping point in peak population, peak carbon emission (No prize for guessing who is the greatest Ponzi of all time!). He reckoned that the world would be in ruins if the developing countries (poor) followed the path to richness as experienced by the Western developed countries. While America is in no position to stop the poor from seeking a better life, there is a need to educate them on the risk, else it would be difficult or impossible for anyone to sustain their current way of life. Hence there were talks on 1) energy efficiency and CO2 admission – by introducing electric cars, and how we can measure our energy footprint/ consumption, so as to better improve and optimize usage; 2) Design and Density – moving toward closed loops design, so as to have 100% recyablity (e.g. Crocs shoes) as well as urban homesteading/ clustering to share common resources as well as eliminate unnecessary traveling. There were further discussion in the session by Gavin Starks (founder and CEO for AMEE) on Energy Identity – Interesting to note that 2½ Kg Mac laptop has a 460 Kg CO2 emission footprint (Yap! Guilty faces of all the geeks/ techies in the room!). Energy identity is best describe as a digital embodiment of a user’s physical consumption. With 20 largest cities consuming up to 75% of the world’s energy, and more than 600 million people moving into cities over the next five years, we need rapid innovation in energy efficiency technology, service transformation (high carbon prices/ tax would result in business shift from products to services, i.e. having more efficient public transportation system, reducing car ownership, etc), as well as redefining how our communities’ perception to understand and enjoy quality of life through simplicity rather than money.
Elizabeth Goodman’s topic on Urban Green Space Planning had a different twist, in which people from the same community can register to form a working group to grow and maintain their neighborhood plants (Landshare) as well as reap the benefits/ fruits of their labor. This is no easy task, especially when most of us will have no prior knowledge in the art of farming, and you may need one to have good project management skills to schedule and plan resources to ensure the that plots are well maintained. Then there is the talk on Urban Homesteading by Mark Frauenfelder (Make Magazine) on the seven guiding principals leading to a successful urban farming: 1. Grow only useful things; 2. Region matters (understanding your surrounding environment); 3. Build your soil; 4. Water deeply and less frequently; 5. Work makes work (i.e. work with nature, not against it); 6. Failure is part of the game; and 7. Pay attention and keep notes. Mark also taught about rearing chickens, which I reckon it makes no sense to talk about it here…
In a slighter different light on urban planning, Brad Templeton shared how Robot Cars may be able to solve everything. Well, almost… He wanted a robotic car that parks, delivers and refuels itself, and would definitely be a great hit in countries such as Japan, Singapore, etc… Went on to share video of the DARPA grand Challenge, where competitors compete against each other through a series of test runs, both through urban as well as country-side driving. In addition to the fundamental issue of battery lifespan clouding the development of electric cars today, Robotic cars will bring about a different set of problems such as reliability/ safety, political, national security (terrorism).
Mary Lou Jepsen (recently named as one of the hundred most influential people in the world by Time Magazine – May 2008 for her work in creating Pixel Qi) speaks of Low-Cost, Low-Power Computing in order to reach out the billions of youth in developing countries, deprived of proper education, in her “one laptop per child” project. Though her project fell short of achieving the production target of 8 million laptops last year (actual production figures not disclosed), Mary is still hopefully that the recent downturn would help to drive material/ production cost down in her bid to produce small inexpensive laptops. On the technology front, she claimed that the war for more powerful CPUs are over, laptops are now being widely used as a medium for reading. Hence the development lies in having a low power, sun-light readable, high resolution screen.
We also get the opportunity to see Carl Taussig (HP Lab) introduce flexible paper-like screen, and the technology behind how roll-to-roll manufacturing. In time to come, we will be holding such flexible screens to read our news…
And the theme of Networking with Smart Sensors, which create quite a stir w.r.t. data ownership/ IP and the invasion of personal space. On Wednesday, Tony Jebara (Sense Network) talk about how Mobile Phones Reveal the Behavior of Places and People. With social network portal such as Facebook, Flickr, Gmail or mobile phone with wireless capability (Iphone, blackberry, etc), laptops/ desktop with IP addresses, tons of data are being transmitted and collected at any given time. On one project, they monitored people working in San Francisco financial district, using mobile signals to track their activities (such as working hours) and the correlation to stock market (Though there were questions raised as to how to determine if those monitored are actually bankers, clerks, janitors, etc); on the other project, they tried to map out and cluster group of individuals with similar interest who frequent certain type of restaurants, bars, etc (flow analysis). The latter was deemed to be useful as companies can use these data for their advertising, marketing, strategy planning/ churning (if a few members from the clustered groups start switching to a different network, they would promote themselves to the remaining individuals of similar group to retain their service); demographics; collaborative filtering.
In another session – Real Time City by Andrea Vaccari (Senseable City Lab), he showcased the visualization of mobile traffic between New York and other countries, which gives us a pretty good picture as to how New York is connected to other parts of the world, and social network portals like facebook, flickr, which will reveal the location of the users (I posted in my facebook that I will be in ETech this week!), and then Nick Brachet educated us on how we are being “tracked” daily (sounds like some James Bond movie…) – three nodes to identify location and a fourth to synchronize timing (based on the theory of six degree of freedom).
Though we now know how our digital footprint is revealing information of us at all time, it seems that the application of such data sounds rather trivial and non-conclusive. It would take a lot more (Political, regulations, signal networking, etc) before we establish more use for such technology.
Lastly a special mentioned on the session with Lisa Katayama (blog: TokyoMango.com) and Fumi Yamazaki on Japanese Tech Culture. Interesting to note that just this week, Hatsune Miku music software created a digital song (i.e. sang by computer) that tops their music chart (#2) – Makes you wonder what’s installed for the future of artists…
Oh, I forgot to mentioned that we are treated to the music of Zoë Keating on Wednesday night. Cool!
Day One of 2009 O’Reilly Etech Conference in San Jose (March 08, 2009)
Here we go, my first post with team (FG)… Sat through more than 25 sessions listening to 56 speakers. Hectic week? Below are some of the interesting topics.
(Tutorial/ Workshop, Keynote Address, Ignite Etech)
Brady Forrest (Chair of ETech) kicks off the conference by giving a brief introduction to this year’s theme of “Technology of Abundance and Constraints”. Main focus will hover around open source software/ hardware, energy identity/ urban planning, low cost computing, and smart sensors. It is also interesting to note that Etech is handing out RFID tag for the first time, which can be used to explore fun interactive projects, such as photo booth, personal info collector (to replace exchanging namecards), etc…
They have eight workshops running concurrently (four each in morning and afternoon session) on day one. Attended Holistic Service Prototyping: Sketching Hardware and Software presented by Matt Cottam of Telart, where he shared the transformation of America’s focus from agriculture to manufacturing to services. Consumers are demanding more than just the ownership of a product but the suite of related services that co-exist with the product. An easy to understand example would be Apple’s IPod – Not only is this a media player, but it also provides users the option to download music from iTunes. He then moved on to share this interesting project he did with elevator maker, OTIS, where tenants are able to use their IPod/ Iphone to communicate and control their elevator system, merely by the touch of an Icon – Doesn’t this sounds cool! Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to have the elevator/ cab/ train wait for you instead? Optimization at its best… Designers/ companies in this emerging field must develop new approaches for communicating (thru smart sensors, RFIDs, low power signals, etc) and conceptualize comprehensive service offerings to meet the demanding needs of the future consumers… Ended the workshop by participating in an exercise to brainstorm how the use of sensors can benefit future consumers… E.g. The future of guidance systems for the blind would include a proximity sensor shoes, coupled with force pressured belt linked to a GPS system (with RFID capabilities) to provide direction and suggestions of where to dine, shop, etc. Similar technology could be adopted to fit the collar tag of your pet so that you never lose a dog again!!! Hmm, you wonder wonder wonder!!! Good fun and great interaction opportunity with the crowd!
As for the afternoon session, I initially wanted to attend the workshop on 3D Printing by Zach Smith, but unfortunately this was cancelled. Ended up attending the workshop with Rob Faludi, who is the co-creator of Lilypad, XBee. Again, another workshop on how we use sensors (point to multi-point) in this new era of low-bandwidth, low cost, low power wireless network to device communications technologies that changes the way of life. However the content of the workshop hinges mainly of the product XBee (Open sourced hardware – more of this topic will be in Day Two session), where attendees installed the XBee (which can be purchased on the spot, if you wanna keep’em) into our laptops to communicate with the rest of the field, and also performed simple programming to compete and see who get the monkey clapping… Unfortunately, rather boring as my Macbook was one of the three laptops using Mac OS X software, which conflicted with the software installation… Sigh! Sat through the session looking over the shoulder of the guy beside me – It’s like learning to drive without getting your hands behind the wheels. Anyway, the entire exercise was merely to exhibit the ability to use low cost, low power, multi-point networking to communicate or transmit signals.
The highlight of the day would definitely have to be Tim O’Reilly’s take on how we should focus on the Stuff That Really Matters, especially in times like these where the world’s economy is falling into ruins. He then quoted how the creators of Facebook are spending time in developing application for one to “throw a sheep/ poke a friend”, which in his point of view has not much value. He urges us to relook at how we live our lives or model our business case, not only from the financial/ economic aspects but as a social venture (More Es – Ecological, Environmental than F – Financial) – how we can reinvent the future to take on the imminent challenges (such as global environmental issues) that we are facing today.
In short, two key takeaway from his speech – 1. Work on something that matters to you more than money; and 2. Create more value than you capture. If we are to innovate, allow flexibility for the system to evolve and in return, be friendly to those who extend you…
Lastly, the late night special – Ignite ETech. Backed by popular demand, after great review from last year’s session. There are a total of nine speakers, each having 20 slides for 15 seconds. Sniplets of the more interesting topics below:
Free Space (Jane McGonigal): Not really an emerging technology but merely a platform to sniff and generate innovative ideas from the crowd in a forecasting game based on the scenario in 2020 that custom satellites are cheap to built and cost only $99 (iSAT). What would be your strategy?
Cloud Efficiency (Niall Kennedy): Techie term for internet efficiency. With the rapid expansion in Internet usage in recent times, more is required to regulate and perhaps develop a efficiency rating for each website, so as to ensure efficiency use of data resources. Interesting idea to adopt similar concept of energy efficiency rating on Internet usage…
Arduino (Tom Igoe): Announced the launch of Arduino MEGA which has evolved with improvement in memory, pins allocations. Fyi, Arduino is the next generation of open sourced electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware. Is this the next Intel???
Paradox of Identity: Cloud Computing is Evil (Brad Templeton): Brad discuss how users are gradually shifting from the use of local PC (data stored in your hard disk) to time sharing (Network/ internet based). Personal data/ information are now being shared in the Internet, simply by having a user signed up to gmail, yahoo, facebook, etc. Now that your data is out there, where is the security in all this? Will there be any policy regulating the use of such data? The bigger question here would be: Who owns the data – you?
It is the first time we are attending the LIFT Conference held annually in Geneva, Switzerland. As always, there are hits and misses. Some of the pre-conference workshops and conference presentations are flops, and we try to spot the gems. Pictures from the conference are uploaded. Videos of sessions are online.
One of the interesting workshops was one on Lifestream Data Visualization. The presenters were from Nokia and Experientia, and shared their work on visualizing large quantities of data in the form of beautiful meaningful patterns that supported cognitive processes. The key question was how to store data in ways that would help future ‘memory’ retrievals.
The participants were then split into small groups to draw up either utopian or dystopian scenarios around how data would be accessed in 2020, stored, the ethical, privacy and security issues. My group talked about the storage of personal health data in our bones, which would by default be public information (ie. non-traceable to the individual). Governments could then use the mass of real-time data for health policices, interventions, and research purposes. Eg. if the average blood pressure in Zurich was higher than in Geneva, that could be a potential topic for research. To personalize the data (ie. link it to the individual) during, say a visit to one’s doctor, one could activate a personal signature to encrypt or identify the data. In short, my idea was to go with a default situation of mass data availability, and ‘tag’ it when needed. Rather than the inverse (and current thinking) of keeping everything private, and releasing access with approval.
The utopian scenario was easy – for instance, people could be given real-time health advice based on their location, eg. potential allergies walking down a street and getting suggestions for alternative routes. The dystopian version was an overly automated ‘policing’ system where computers overrode one’s decisions. For instance, being refused at the supermarket to buy XXX product because it was bad for cholesterol. Or worse, being turned back at airport immigration due to bad health.
Other groups had ideas where one’s intelligent house would respond to one’s mood, eg. having curtains lowered with sombre music during unhappy moments. If you wanted to share the unhappy story with a friend, simply call him and his house would replicate yours. ….. (Hmmm… I am positively sure that I do not want random people to call me and ‘spam’ my house!). Another group came up with the “Trust Glasses” that would give you a trust/ reliability rating of the person you were talking to. For instance, getting an opinion or recommendation from John, the glasses might tell you ‘poor rating’ because John had a bad day and was not thinking straight.
My personal take was that every technology could be utopian or dystopian, depending on our mindset and use of it. For some, real time health advice could be a welcome service. For others, freedom to decide our own actions is sacrosanct.
I spent last week at the European Futurist Conference in Lucerne. The conference was a good platform to network with interesting futurists from the universities, public adminstration and private companies. Most of them were from Europe, with a handful of us from Asia.
Day 1 of the conference was rather mundane, the only spark being a presentation on The Illicit (Deviant) Economy by Nils Gilman from Monitor Group. The BRIC presentations in the morning, IMHO, were rather superficial and merely sketched an overview of the economies. Perhaps it was because we in Singapore were very familiar with China, India, and to a smaller extent, Brazil and Russia. The sessions could have been better called BRIC 101 instead of offering any keen analytical insights. However, many co-attendees found the BRIC sessions very interesting. There was some animated discussion amongst the BRIC representatives on the use of traditional economic indicators (GDP, GNP, productivity etc) as the benchmarks for a city/ country’s economic success, and if we should move towards new indicators to that capture happiness and well-being of a place (eg. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index).
Day 2 was much better. We started with a session on Europe consumers 2030 and their perceptions on values, products, income, education, security and so forth. The survey results were tracked by European countries. I got the sense that whilst Europeans were aware (and acknowledged) the fast growth of developing countriest, the competitive threat was less imminent than what we feel in Singapore (being in the hotspot of Chinese and Indian growth). There was a certain ‘yes I know China products are everywhere, but I’m not overly concerned about the rise of Chinese economy’. This confidence (or misplaced nonchalance?) was also felt strongly when I chatted with some Swiss investors. They were very certain that there was no way China or India would overtake Europe (Switzerland) for many years to come. Those economies, in their view, had a lot more to learn and catch up in terms of quality of growth and products and services, before surpassing Europe.
Day 2 also saw some practical sharing of foresights work in established companies. Of particular mention was the presentation by Bayers Materials AG, and how it continuously used foresights research to innovate new products. Google shared on its innovation culture (the 20% free development time, hard-nosed evaluation by numbers, peer-based reviews). Those steps were well-documented in HBR articles, so nothing new there. What was interesting, though, was that Google managed to re-create the same innovation culture in Switzerland/ Europe, as that in Mountain View, USA.