At the close of its second think-tank event called the Networked Society Forum (NEST), Ericsson announced its commitment to promoting industry-wide collaboration to improve city life.
The theme of NEST was “Reinventing Urban Life,” and for two days, a range of leaders from government, planning, public opinion, and telecommunication, including Don Tapscott, Steven Levitt, Jimmy Wales and more, joined Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg and one hundred ICT industry leaders to consider how the combination of mobility, broadband and cloud could offer solutions in aspects of urbanization.
“With one million people moving into cities every week, urban life represents some of the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities. ICT is an integral and natural part of everything we do in this urbanized world, and Ericsson has once again gathered a leading group of thinkers and doers to help point the way forward for our industry,” Vestberg said.
Ericsson released its 2013 Networked Society City Index report, which looks at how cities benefit from ICT in order to achieve sustainable progress. The report ranks Stockholm, London and Singapore as top three cities, all showing high ICT maturity and good triple bottom line performance. At NEST, Ericsson invited city officials including planners and politicians as well as leaders in the business world to join the City Index endeavor, hoping to spread the study base from 31 cities to the 450 cities of the world that host populations of one million or more.
“To solve systemic issues of traffic congestion, CO2 emissions, trash collection, residential crowding, and more, collaboration is the only way we will bring workable solutions to cities,” said Vestberg. “ICT cannot solve anything by itself. If we can bring together representatives from public and private domains, we will surely find unexpected, innovative ways to have a positive impact on city life.”
Another initiative announced at the event was a planned three-year partnership with UN-Habitat, the agency mandated by the United Nations to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities. For the next three years, Ericsson and UN-Habitat will embark on collaborative research and specific initiatives which aim to provide valuable insights for city leaders and policymakers.
“Ericsson’s role will be to contribute with technology and to be the ICT advisor. We expect to gather case studies on improving living standards, incorporate a big data element to track urban trends, and improve public awareness of the post-2015 sustainable development goals. We also hope to engage other thought leaders in the industry in this work going forward,” said Vestberg.
Dr. Joan Clos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director, said: “Over the next thirty years, the urban population of the world will increase by at least 2.5 billion people. How we plan and manage our towns and cities will have an economic, social and political impact and will be directly connected with reduction of poverty and the increase of equity. We need key partners to bring innovation to solving the world’s urban challenges, and welcome this future partnership with Ericsson as a concrete step in that direction.”
In vast research including some reports from Ericsson ConsumerLab, traffic and transportation are regularly cited by residents as the most challenging issues in a big, growing city. EU research estimates that about 1% of GDP annually is lost on traffic congestion. A study from the US calculates that 70 million hours per year are spent finding a parking space. And globally, inadequate road safety is estimated to cost USD 518 billion, the equivalent of 1-2% of an average nation’s annual GDP. Traffic accidents kill nearly 1.3 million people each year and an additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled.
Dr Catherine Mulligan, Research fellow at Imperial College Business School, explained: “There is growing evidence that digital and energy infrastructures are needed for intelligent transportation systems, enabled by common connectivity, device and service enablers.”
To create a concerted effort to enable creation of safe, sustainable and efficient transport systems in the market, Ericsson is launching an Intelligent Transport Initiative. The intent is to reach stakeholders from road authorities, research institutes, public transport operators, logistics providers, and service providers to analyze connected transport from several aspects.
“Mobile communication is expected to reach 9 billion subscriptions by 2019. This would never happen without unity and collaboration across the entire ecosystem. We need a similar drive now that we will see industries such as transport take advantage of mobility, broadband, and cloud. We’ve seen wonderful innovations by leading companies but in order for these ideas to scale across the globe, we need to collaborate,” said Vestberg.
Some of the major trends in transport are autonomous driving (driverless vehicles) and the uptake of electric vehicles. During 2014, Ericsson will lead a study across several disciplines to increase understanding of how an intelligent transportation system can best be provided. This work will look at aspects like innovation, safety, quality of service, business models and value chains, and standardization will be analyzed. Ericsson will hold a series of subject-focused roundtables throughout the year. The expected result aims to propose actions to stimulate progress, eliminate barriers and generate new business.
“Together with global experts and industry leaders, we aim to inspire, develop and create actionable ideas that can expand opportunities for our industry, at the same time making a tangible contribution to society at large,” Vestberg said.