Friday, 28 March 2014

Report on the Future Internet Assembly 2014

By Vladimir Bataev of EsperantoXL

The most reliable way to predict the future is to invent it, maintains the old saying, but since this activity can take time, one who shapes the future should not underestimate the importance of regularly informing a curious public about what is waiting for them ahead. That was the raison d'etre of the Future Internet Assembly 2014 that took place in Athens, Greece between March 17th and March 20th. It combined a series of workshops together with an exhibition of the most prominent technology projects that have been funded by the European Commission.

The workshops, panels and plenaries covered a traditional range of subjects: from next generation networks and hardware that will physically enable the future internet, regardless of the shape it will eventually take, to the applications and services that will be built on top of this infrastructure. Key trends of the past year - internet of things, ubiquitous computing and increased mobility - merged into one ├╝bertheme: "smart cities" and it was rare for a presentation not to mention it.

Smart cities remain a tricky subject. Lots of pilots and living lab projects have been implemented and some of them, like the CitySDK project in Amsterdam, have produced tangible results that citizens can make use of and in this case even featured in the Economist. However, as one of the panelists noted, very few, if any, of these pilot projects have been transformed into a larger scale implementation. 

There are several reasons for this and the most obvious one is the lack of a sustainable business model. Even CitySDK still has to get the commitment from participating municipalities to keep it alive beyond the project end date this year. The search for such business models was the focus of a half-day workshop. Its conclusion was that so far only large vendors of platforms to monitor city traffic and companies building actual hardware sensors were able to find such business models.

Commercialization of technology is one of the strong points of the MobiCloud project, which already has multiple trial cases running commercially. Two of these examples were demonstrated and explained at the MobiCloud booth by myself and Vincent Dollet of Appear.

The MobiCloud booth was on the VIP route and was very well attended - several delegations stopped by, as well as Zoran Stancic, Mario Campolargo, Ken Ducatel and Maria Tsakali from the European Commision. Neelie Kroes was expected, but only had time to visit FI-WARE, one of the largest and most heavily funded projects, which offers interesting collaboration opportunities for MobiCloud as well.

The MobiCloud team appeared on local television and you can see the interview with Vincent Dollet here. We were also invited to present the project during the EC-Mexico collaboration workshop. This brought together industry representatives and researchers to find the common problems to work on in 2014.

You can find out more about FIA Athens on the official website. You can also contact Vincent Dollet or Vladimir Bataev via the MobiCloud website for more about MobiCloud and their involvement.

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