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TED Global 2011

Last week I was at TED Global in Edinburgh. The event felt different to previous years in Oxford, it was bigger, seemed to have a broader mix of nationalities and a larger contingent of TEDx’rs.

TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global not-for-profit organisation which aims to bring together inspiring, energetic, extremely smart or renowned individuals from different disciplines – art, business, politics, science and much more – to generate “ideas worth spreading”.

Stuff of Life

The mix of talks this year were themed around the Stuff of Life. Here are my five favourite speakers that I want to remember and recommend that you look up.

Maajid Nawaz - Age of Behaviour - 2
Maajid Nawaz [talk already online at TED]

Maajid Nawaz was the first speaker who got my mind racing thinking about the how the implications of what he was proposing might influence me. He spoke about the ‘Age of Behaviour’ and how transnational behaviours are influenced by ideas and narratives. Maajid grew up in Essex and as a teenager was recruited to the global Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir, rising into its leadership until being sentenced to 4 years in an Egyptian prison in his early 20′s. He left prison feeling that Hizb ut-Tahrir was hijacking Islam for political purposes and in 2009 founded Khudi, a counter-extremism social movement working to promote a democratic culture in Pakistan.

What struck me about his talk was the leadership role he had created at young age based upon a new technology base for sharing ideas. His talk provides some interesting insight into the potential for creating bottom up movements in an environment that thrives on cultural belief. Why do I find this interesting? I am curious to explore ways of building a new way of working within Arup focused on the organic development of the “new generation” in the firm. I suspect that a bottom up, activist based approach would work well in our culture. [quilliamfoundation.org, khudipakistan.com]

Niall Ferguson - ideas and institutions - 1
Niall Ferguson

I found Niall Ferguson’s introduction to the “great divergence” between east and west economic development fascinating. The ‘apps’ listed in the photo above were an interesting way of looking at the ‘ideas and institutions’ that provide the vehicles for our societal development. He also raised some interesting questions: are we deleting some of our apps? is the sequence in which we develop the apps important? can China do without the third app? Why do I find this interesting? I like the idea of thinking about how ideas are stored, shared and passed between generations. This is particularly relevant in a growing organisation and raises interesting questions around size, structure and leadership.

Mikko Hypponen - internetpol - 1
Mikko Hypponen [talk already online at TED]

Putting the excellently geeky presentation skills to one side (he ran most his presentation from the command line and ended his show using an overhead projector) this was a funny and scary presentation. Mikko walked onto stage and showed us code from the boot sector of a 5 1/4 inch floppy that contained one of the first computer viruses – ‘Brain-A’. In that boot sector he showed us the names and address of the hackers – Basit & Amjit – and then showed a photo of himself standing outside that address a couple of years ago, introducing himself to Basit & Amjit, brothers who still lived there. Why do I find this interesting? Viruses like STUXNET have come to my attention recently [see 'open source weapons' video] since they are starting to move into the world of PLC’s and by implication will soon start to become a bigger issue in the world of Internet of Things. Mikko was championing the creation of an ‘internetpol’ to support the defence of our networks from largely criminally driven hackers who create viruses – another example of the need for agency beyond borders.

Todd Kuiken
Todd Kuiken

I loved this talk for the ingenuity that only someone with training as both Doctor and Engineer plus 20 years of hard earned experience could deliver. Todd introduced a bionic arm created by ‘stitching’ nerve endings from an amputated arm into muscle tissue on the pectoral. This technology called targeted muscle reinnervation allows the brain to control the arm directly but also had the unexpected effect in some patients that not only can they move their new limb, they can also feel with it. Why do I find this interesting? I am intrigued by the combination of body and technology, and find the adaptability of the brain to ‘fix’ its understanding of the world in which it operates fascinating.

Rory Stewart - Afghanistan
Rory Stewart

This one was unexpected. I guess the label of ‘conservative politician’ made me jump to some conclusions. But his talk about his experiences in Afghanistan were insightful, articulate and at the same time made me frustrated. I was intrigued by his experiences of the light touch (he walked across Afghanistan in 2001/2002) vs the role of international aid and (the very funny) ’7 decisive years’ by 7 different leaders. Why do I find this interesting? He spoke of a ‘mountain rescue’ approach to problem solving where experts need local context and knowledge, plus they can intelligently adapt to the environment when it changes. I am not sure if we give enough focus to the right person being in the ‘right’ job.

In some ways it is hard to pull out a favourite 5 so here are a bunch of other talks to look at.

Justin Hall-Tipping – Nanoholdings – technology to drive the future energy neutral building.

Geoffrey West – Santa Fe institute – on bounded growth, sub-linear scaling (meaning as things get bigger they need relatively less) and why do cities live but companies die?

Kevin Slavin – Area/Code – on our new ‘Algoworld’, an increasing trend which sees various aspects of our lives being run algorithmically and with a complexity that we can no longer meaningfully understand.

Tim Harford – Undercover Economist at Financial Times – great talk on our ‘God complex’, our belief that we are right and a call for more trial and error experimentation in the workplace. Talk is already up at TED.

Mark Pagel - language - 3
Mark Pagel – evolutionary biologist – on how language provided the mechanism to allow cooperation in cooperative societies.

Joe Castillo - sand artist - 1
Joe Castillo – amazing sand artist

Ben Goldacre – Guardian – Bad Science author, really funny, slightly alarming, frenetic talk – definately worth 18mins of your life.

Daniel Wolpert – neuroscientist and engineer – on the brain, movement, sensory processing and tickling robots.

Nadia al Sakkaf – editor of Yemen Times – when she took over as chief editor in 2005 she sacked half of the senior male staff and replaced them with ‘women and younger men’ – diversity in the workplace, leadership and a VERY brave woman.

Bunker Roy – barefoot college – inspiring talk about making your own destiny and two of my favourite quotes: ‘a dignity of labour’ and ‘these [hand] puppets are made of recycled worldbank reports’

Alain de Botton – writer – on religion

Alison Gopnick
Alison Gopnik – child development pyschologist – on kids sphere of exploration rather than focus of attention (interesting ideas on play and innovation here).

Michael Biddle – MBA Polymers, plastic recycling – on waste, recycling of plastics and over ground mining.

Harold Haas – Edinburgh University – wireless communications via LED light using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. Geniunely impressive live demo that falters to show that it is real.

Markus Fischer – Festo – smartbird is a project to create an artificial bird capable of flying like a real bird. Inspired by the herring gull and inspiring factory automation products for Festo, this creature is awesome!

Links to all the speakers above will eventually emerge on http://www.ted.com/talks?event=tg2011

And finally, links to other resources that caught my imagination are tagged on pinboard with TEDlobal2011 and photos are on Flickr

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Urban Internet of Things Tokyo

The Urban Internet of Things workshop kicked off in the IBM Japan Hakozaki Headquarters “Solution Centre” with several presentations and demos including Arup’s Engin and Shane and Mayra presenting a well received “TenderVoice / TenderNoise: A two-faceted web-based community journalism and acoustic ecology project“.

IBM think - Tokyo RFID Service Centre

The discussion part of the event took place in the afternoon / evening at Tokyo Hackspace with prompts from several participants including the LIVE Singapore! project which has some interesting data which is going to be made public in the near future.

Tokyo backspace

The conference itself had keynotes by IBM and Cisco (IPSO) which probably reflects the general perception of where IoT work is taking place at the moment. Norishige Morimoto, Director, IBM Research – Tokyo spoke about “Advanced Technology for Smarter Cities” giving some great examples of the work IBM are doing as part of their Smarter Planet work and focused on stressing the collaborative nature of these projects.

Evolution of a Smarter Planet

Patrick Wetterwald, Smart Grid and IoT Product Marketing for CISCO (and IPSO Alliance President / European Community IoT expert group member) gave an excellent presentation exploring the CISCO view of end to end IP connectivity for smart objects and the current transition from “business and consumer” focus of the web to it’s “industrialisation”. He touched on many of the issues that are being addressed by projects such as SENSEI and the work that the IPSO Alliance are doing to communicate the work of the IETF on building the standards that will influence the basis of the future internet.

Industrialisation of IoT

Interesting discussions – what is the infrastructure to support and nurture connectivity? how to connect resources? how to discover resources available? lots of talk about RESTful architectures [several examples presented but this is a good summary] and interesting mentions for Pachube, sensor.network, dyser, MAGIC Broker 2

twitter feed from the event

photos on Flickr

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INTA 34 World Urban Development Congress

I presented our work on the Internet of Things at INTA34 yesterday. The theme was “Reinventing the Urban Environment” and discussion ranged from the philosophical to the practical and was interspersed with examples of work in progress (e.g. the nearby Port of Pasaia).

INTA34

I had great feedback on the Drivers of Change cards (again several people came and told me they had a set) and also on the Internet of Things work (the EU funded Sensei project and the new TSB funded YCT project). I also have a pile of cards from people requesting more info on the Arup Smart City report.

My favorite speaker at the event was Clara Gaymard – President GE Europe – she gave an interesting perspective on the future of urban development and work they are doing to help cities deliver the necessary infrastructure. One line from her talk I liked was: “a child today wishes for a computer for their birthday, their parents wished for a scooter or a car – why? They both want to be connected.” and she also made reference to nice idea i had not heard about – City of Melbourne public transport example of smoothing peak load at no extra cost; they made public transport free before 7am. Would love to hear more about that if anyone has references.

INTA34 interview location

The event was held in the Kursaal Convention Centre in the beautiful San Sebastian where we were also treated to a reception at the excellent Aquarium. I was in Santander a few weeks ago, not many mile down the coast. I was surprised to learn that both cities are going for Cultural City status in 2016 – tough competition – but was impressed with San Sebastian’s preparations. Weird highlight of the trip was being interviewed on data shadows in front of surfers out in the bay.

The INTA reporting is blogged here, there a few videos here and tweeted here. Lots of photos are here.

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TED Global 2010

After last years experience at TED I really wish this post was coming from me, but instead it is coming from our TED Global competition winner Salomé Galjaard.

While most people buy tickets for TED more than a year in advance, I only learned that I was going two weeks before the start of the event. By winning a ticket in an internal Arup competition, I got the opportunity to experience TED in real time, after seeing many of the presentations online. On Monday 12 July, there was an Arup tour through London that people could sign up to and that lead us the Royal Courts of Justice, the Darwin Centre and the Royal Albert Hall: a great way for a group of international TED visitors to already get to know each other.

biggest moth - Natural History Museum

When arriving in Oxford the same evening, the TED atmosphere was already present: hundreds of interesting people gathered, dying to get to know each other and share ideas. It was almost impossible to stop for a minute and think (and have some dinner) since there would always be someone who recognized you from the online attendees list, who was secretly trying to read your badge or who just came up to you for a chat. To me, this was really the most impressive part of TED: all these people that are truly interested, who have amazing stories to tell and who are an wonderful source of inspiration. It was, from the beginning on, truly a mind blowing experience. And the presentations didn’t even started yet!

Marcel Dicke - eating insects

Tuesday began with TEDUniversity, in which people who were not one of the main presenters got the chance to tell their story and share their ideas. Chris Luebkeman was one of them, with a story about context, and it got a lot of positive responses!

The afternoon started off with the first of an enormous amount of TED lectures. The dozens of talks were divided into 12 groups and would continue until Friday afternoon. The sessions were called for example ‘Found in Translation’ featuring data journalist David McCandless, ‘Human System’ featuring Matt Ridley describing what happens When ideas have sex, and the research of Tan Le who can learn a computer what our brainwaves mean (very useful to control for example an electric wheelchair).

All these presentations, and hopefully also the musical performances will be released on the TED website in the coming year.

Neil Gerschenfeld - Fabrication pioneer Peter Eigen - Transparency International Sheryl WuDunn - Women's Right advocate

Even though the TED-blues hit me pretty hard (as predicted by the organisation) I already know this has been a life changing event. The coming months will probably be spend on digesting everything I heard and experienced, which will definitely influence not only my personal life, but also my work at Arup. Take for example the story of Mohammed from Bangladesh: he has been invited as a TEDFellow (people who are doing extraordinary things, often in developing countries) to come to Oxford. He told me that the government has come up with the most horrible urban plan for his home town. It means that there will be too little space for everyone, no place for nature or good public transport. On his own, he’s on a mission to come up with a better plan. He has launched an international design competition and will fight the authorities wherever he can to keep his city liveable. I believe that Arup can help him: not necessarily with money, but maybe with good advice and some local support.

Prison Royal Courts of Justice

Hopefully I will be able to help Mohammed, not only because his website could use some help from an interaction designer, but also by linking him to people within Arup.

I must admit though that some of my time will also be spend on figuring out how I can be a part of the TED-family again next year.

Many thanks Arup!

Salomé Galjaard.

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Pervasive 2010 Helsinki

Gonzalo had a demo of his UCL / Arup CASE research at Pervasive this year and I was presenting at a workshop on “Energy Awareness and Conservation through Pervasive computing”. We had great feedback on the ambient displays with several requests for others to use the devices as communication media on their own projects. Next steps will be to make robust units with doorways into different datasets (e.g. resource use at Arup offices).

place stats on flickr

Place stat* demo

The workshop was an interesting mix of researchers but heavily focused on the domestic energy monitoring market which was a shame since i think pervasive computing has much to offer the commercial / public building space and will probably have a greater impact than the domestic. Notes are at the bottom of this post but of interest was the use of social norms to influence behaviour, the use of REST to interface data and the lack of looking at patterns in the data to understand meaning. All three of which are areas we are looking at with the internal “Seewatt” research project.

Also of interest was the keynote by Henry Tirri SVP and Head of Nokia Research – which had two key take-aways:

- 4.6 billion users of mobile services, 1.6 billion have bank accounts – what do the other 3 billion do? the demand for banking services via telcos in growth markets. I had heard this anecdotaly but the numbers referenced were very significant.

- on the issues of understanding energy management on mobile devices where transmission is major energy expense ie use cached local version or continually pull from cloud – the future is not about bandwidth or cost but the availability of energy to sustain device use. Whilst he side stepped the question on the commercial drive to get users to replace handsets on 2 year cycles it was interesting that they recognise the benefit in the research community developing methods for continually trying to use less resource.

And finally a great video from the conference on the Formamat project at: http://formamat.com/

Links at http://delicious.com/djdunc/pervasive2010

Photos on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/pseudonomad/tags/pervasive2010/

Notes from WP2 – Energy Awareness and Conservation through Pervasive computing

Andreas – Cyprus – interacting with smart meters using REST principles – using Web Application Description Language (WADL) to describe services. Using TinyOS nodes to simulate energy meters. http://www.webofthings.com/energievisible/

James Scott – Microsoft Research Cambridge – predicting occupancy to control heating and cooling of domestic properties – measured temp on boiler, outside and on at thermostat + using GPS to predict arriving home. Debate – INFORM OR CONTROL?

Jon Bird (Yvonne Rogers) – Open University – CHANGE project – http://www.changeproject.info, Tidy St (Brighton), “social norms” (life of brian – we are all individuals – i am not) boomerang affect – people gravitate towards the average – ie if they were below the average they tend up towards it – research done on beer consumption in US. Tidy St – displaying energy use of each house in the street – they liked the idea initially but then got slightly uncomfortable. http://www.caniturniton.com a project which says if the national grid is under stress or not (a one pound circuit will tell you the current frequency – also http://www.dynamicdemand.co.uk/). So compare national demand with tidy street average.

Jorn – Fachhochschule – matrix of types of usage (info, advice, automation) and data aspects (data sources, processing, interface, control / sharing)

Tatsuo – Waseda Uni – EcoIsland, game play to involve participants. Users add their behaviours and get recommendations for how to reduce resource use (from Japanese gov list of activities). Being used in 7 houses / families.

Matthias – Fraunhofer – energy awareness and self awareness – took measurements from an office / home and then asked inhabitants to review and describe their behaviour during that period. Not the graphs, it is understanding the graphs that is important – the behaviour. About events that occur not the readings themselves (the kink in the curve).

Karthikeya – School of Art and Design, Aalto Uni – Helsinki Energy Informer – video record usage of light switches (to see which ones were on) to monitor the use of lights in an office space – usage sent back to inhabitants via text. Drop in usage between 1st and 2nd week of trial “due to Hawthorn effect” of people being monitored. More activity in use of light switch in second week.

Daphne – TUDelft – a community based approach for engagement. http://www.livvinggreen.eu/ – changing beliefs, incentives, education, community mgt (Gardner & Stern 1996) – focus here on latter, community mgt.

Jorge Zapico – KTH – http://www.sustainablecommunications.org/ and an interesting hackday output to compare CO2 to other stuff “to try to help people understand what the measurement kg of CO2 means http://carbon.to/ and http://www.jorgezapico.com/

Giulio – Helsinki Inst. for Info Tech – iPhone app to feedback usage of appliances in lab and also survey / quiz to challenge people to think about resource usage BeAware – http://www.energyawareness.eu/

“Cialdini has an interesting take on persuasion” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Cialdini

“lots of talk about sensing and visualising but not much on data mining and making sense out of the data”

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The Well Connected City

I spent the day at Imperial College Business School as part of a Design London and Living Labs Global event to bring together the tech and public sectors to talk about connected cities and to launch the Living Labs Global report Connected Cities Handbook – “a book about opportunity and frustration” (Sasha Haselmayer)

The day was a mix of talks (mine is here), discussion sessions and elevator pitches: a great poem from TfL (on Design London website soon) and itiner.pl real time traffic info looked interesting (on living labs global showcase site). Below are my notes and points of interest.

Nick Leon – introduced Connected Cities education programme, an initiative between Design London at the RCA and Imperial College London and Living Labs global. The 3 day course introduces mechanisms for service providers to take ideas from concept to living lab to market place. Subjects covered include: well connected cities, transforming public services, the city as a system of systems, from idea to pilot to early market, true public private partnerships for innovation, innovation and new business models.

Dominique Laousse – RATP / Prospective and Innovative Design – “The mobility cocktail” how to make sense of the ubiquity of the mobile both from human ethology and urban ecology. Chronosapiens, promiscuity of the crowd, beta-city, wikipolis, metapolis. Trains, trams, buses in RATP for 30% of travelers it is their primary place to read – do we design for this? project Future en Seine – Re-enchant every day trips – leaving a trace, a narrative. project Musetrek – re-discover trip pleasure – info on stations? projects Social freight – with MIT – low cost delivery of small packages by existing travellers for elders, workers, ….

Andrew Davies & Lars Frederiksen – Innovation Mgt and Sustainable Cities

Case study of work with Arup on learnings from developing an eco city – Dongtan – shifting from industrial age to ecological age approach.

Erkko Autio – Prof. Qinetiq EPSRC Chair in tech transfer and entrepreneurship.

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor – mapping relationship between early stage entrepreneurship against GDP – interesting clusters of geographic regions.

“Entrepreneurship happens in cities”

Panel discussion.

Stephen Dodson DC10Plus

Victoria Thornton Open House London

Micael Gustafsson Oresund IT

Questions and observations floating around the room at the end of the day.

What is the most successful application of technology in the fabric of the city?

We need brave CIO’s who are prepared to push technology to solve problems?

Why is there a mismatch between the concepts being shown in the demos / elevator pitches and what we see in our local cities?

Are the leaders in local authorities empowered, accountable to their constituents, capable of delivering the kinds of systems being pitched.

Photos of the day are on flickr

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