Broadband World Forum Day 3 round-up

The third and final day of the Broadband World Forum, had the theme of smart cities at its heart, and we heard from a variety of speakers on the subject.

First up was Pierre-Yves Senghor, the chief marketing officer of the M20 Smart City, a smart metering operator, whose technologies are such things as dream of the Internet of Things are made of. His discussion took in filling cities with smart sensors that would enable better network management, and do things such as monitor noise and air pollution in a city and smarter street lights. One thing that stood out for me was putting sensors into bins that know no when they are full, enabling a local authority to optimise waste disposal. Definitely not a rubbish idea, (though certainly a rubbish pun).

We then had Peter Molengraaf, the CEO or Amsterdam smart city operator Alliander provided a good summary of what smart cities are all about – using technology to improve the quality of life of real people.

Matthew Hall, Chief Commercial Officer, London City Airport
Matthew Hall,
Chief Commercial Officer, London City Airport

There was a pleasing honesty about Matthew Hall, chief commercial officer of London City Airport when he admitted that he operates knowing that his airport is not the destination for those who visit, but actually an obstacle that needs to be traversed for them to get to where they wish to go. With this in mind the various smart and clever connected technologies employed in the only airport to actually be in London itself are there to make that visit as painless as possible.

The airport mainly deals with business travellers, many of whom are of high net worth and for whom time is money – (it boasts a 20 minute windows between door to gate for traveller). Hall pointed out that the airport does not compartmentalise processes however, as there’s little point having a quick check in if the plane is then delayed. Travellers then get smart updates so that if that happens they know to leave later for the airport. He also demoed cameras that track the flow of people so that they know if there is a problem, enabling them to solve problems before they actually become a problem – if you see what I mean.

The airport also innovates in its use of social media, monitoring it constantly. One traveller called for help after spilling coffee on his shirt, and this was picked up by the Twitter team, who had a replacement shirt soon ready for him.

We then heard from Naoise Ó Muirí, a councillor for the city of Dublin, describing its ‘Digital master plan’, which includes installing fibre to every home by 2016.

The next three keynotes explained the first rate services and applications that are being created to make the best use of the networks that the industry is creating.

Daniel Danker, chief product officer of Shazam
Daniel Danker, chief product officer of Shazam

First up was Daniel Danker, chief product officer of Shazam, who explained why simply hashtagging in adverts is a poor idea for brands – as consumer will often find conversations of people complaining about said brands. A better approach is the new Shazam for TV – which puts tags into TV ads that then take you to custom microsites that can give users interactive features – such as the Jaguar ad that takes you into a virtual car, complete with engine noise. It’s about connecting directly to audiences he said.

Tristan Nitot, the principal founder and evangelist for Firefox was rather less commercial in his approach of describing a new digital world – but then Firefox is a not for profit organisation. Nitot was pushing Firefox OS, its open source, and HTML5 standards based OS designed for smartphones. He observed that Android is number one, iOS number two, but that no one really wanted to end up as a distant third. Firefox OS was not looking to be third place, but rather he wanted the web to be number one! This had a touch of the cop out about it to me, but we got the idea.

Firefox OS is built to HTML5 web standards, which should make it attractive to developers, and as it’s aimed initially at low costs devices, also attractive to operators looking for mass market adoption. This could be the perfect OS to get millions online in India, for example.

Finally, Michael Abbatista, Global Head of Telco Partnerships at Spotify took to the stage to describe the services’ meteoric rise over the last few years and to highlight how well the telco partnerships have been working for it. A key figure was the 80 per cent retention rate for Spotify of customers who had signed up via a telco.

Michael Abbatista, Global Head of Telco, Partnerships at Spotify
Michael Abbatista, Global Head of Telco, Partnerships at Spotify

He had special praise for KPN in the Netherlands, who he said really understood how to get the message of the value of streaming across to its customers, and for Vodafone in the UK, whom he said were ‘killing it’ (in a good way) since launching their Spotify 4G bundle a couple of months ago.

That’s it then for the keynotes over the three days of Broadband World Forum 2013. We’ve heard from a huge range of operators and vendors and various industry stakeholders.  From new network architecture based on SDN, and NFV, to fibre, to xDSL life extending vectoring and G.Fast, to the deals and apps that makes use of the networks and the politics of making it all happen. Fascinating stuff, as ever, and see you next year, in what will surely be an even more connected, and faster broadband powered world.

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