November 17, 2014 By John Jung
Change is inevitable. It is changing quickly and the drivers for it are not only structural, political, scientific and economic, it is also cultural and social. Behind it all of course is that it’s about people. So perhaps in the end, everything we are discussing here is not about technology at all, but about people. So put away your M2M’s and your Internet of Things (and even Internet of Everything) and let’s focus on people- The Internet of People.
November 12, 2014 By Robert Bell
In the Intelligent Community of San Francisco (Smart21 of 2007), about 3,000 people work in high-tech manufacturing. The city may be obsessed by software these days, but advanced manufacturing generates about $1 billion in direct and indirect revenue for the local economy.
It also saved a man’s life.
His name is Marc Roth. According to a wonderful article by Jason Shueh in GovTech, Marc was a successful entrepreneur in Las Vegas, where his patented touchscreen technology was used to process taxi fares. Beginning in 2008, however, the financial crisis ran through Las Vegas like a river in flood and took the travel industry – his customers – with it.
In 2010, Marc decided to repair his fortunes by moving to San Francisco. He was sure of landing a good software engineering job earning six figures, and his wife and children would then be able to follow him there.
Instead, he wound up living in his car. Entrepreneurship turns out not always to be a good thing on a resume. Potential employers believed that he would stick around only long enough to line up his next business opportunity.
He worked in a pizza restaurant until nerve damage from long hours on his feet made it impossible for him to do the job, or most other manual labor. One day, his car was robbed and all his possessions stolen. That night, in mental and emotional agony, he checked into a homeless shelter. It felt like the end of the road and he contemplated suicide. But day after day, he decided to put it off for one more sunrise.
On one of those dark days, he found an advertising flyer in a trash can that offered a one-month membership at something called the TechShop. Mark did not know it then but it is the hub of San Francisco’s Maker Movement, which supports community-driven manufacturing design and production. Marc’s flyer got him access to a facility with more than a million dollars in prototyping equipment.
Marc took classes, mastered the equipment, and soon found himself being hired by young entrepreneurs to help with their prototype projects. Then TechShop offered him a teaching position. Months later, a friend, whom he had met at Techshop, paid for him to move into a “hacker hostel” for tech entrepreneurs. Shortly afterward, an investor put money into SF Laser, a laser cutting and etching company that Roth had founded. Eighteen months after he first checked into the homeless shelter, Marc was finally able to bring his family to San Francisco.
Innovation is the lifeblood of the modern economy. Intelligent Communities pursue innovation through a triangular relationship between business, government and such institutions as universities and hospitals. (See our book Brain Gain for more.) The Innovation Triangle helps keep the economic benefits of innovation local, and creates a culture that engages the entire community in positive change. Maker spaces like TechShop often plan a vital part.
But sometimes, economic lifeblood turns out to be no different than the blood running through a man or woman’s veins. Marc Roth owes his life to TechShop – and in gratitude, he founded a nonprofit called the Learning Shelter, which teaches trades to people as homeless as he once was. San Francisco has gained something even more valuable than another startup – a citizen determined to leave the city better than he found it.
October 13, 2014 By Robert Bell
Say what you like about McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm. Say that they get magnificently overpaid to offer sensible advice. Say that they function all too often as a Band-Aid that CEOs and Boards of Directors slap onto their companies after they have gotten into terrible trouble.
September 17, 2014 By John Jung
It is well known that Winnipeg is at the epicenter of North America’s geography. Even its Centerport concept, a major inland multi-modal logistic initiative places itself smack dab in the center of North America. Nobody can claim that better than Winnipeg. As self-described by Winnipeggers, it is also a physically isolated city in the cold weather climate of Canada that has produced an interesting and unique culture that celebrates its diversity as well as its isolation. Some would say that this is the reason for its locally collaborative and internationally competitive “can-do” attitude. It is the capital of a province rich in agricultural and natural resources and has advanced infrastructure, including access to broadband and Wi-Fi mesh that a large city of its size would be expected to have. But as the largest and main city in Manitoba, Winnipeg seems to be much bigger than its 800,000 population would suggest. It actively pursues economic growth through innovation and collaborative industry, government and education partnerships.
For instance, Winnipeg has formed partnerships linking employers such as Canadian Tire to the University of Winnipeg and other public-private groups to improve and leverage its supply of young, skilled employees. Through these partnerships it also attempts to better equip its large and growing aboriginal population for opportunities to prosper. One of these public-private R&D partnerships, the Composite Innovation Centre (CIC) has developed high-performance composites based on agricultural materials such as hemp and flax, which reduces costs for major employers like Boeing and Magellan Aerospace. Through CIC’s success, a national consortium, Canadian Composites Manufacturing R&D was created to conduct pre-competitive R&D for multiple companies and training programs channeling new talent for these partnerships.
From a knowledge creation and innovation perspective, Sisler High School’s Digital Voices Project promotes traditional storytelling as a vital part of its aboriginal culture, while providing students with digital media skills training. The Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre provides aboriginals and immigrants’ access to computers and training while the Winnipeg Library and private sector programs similarly provide access to technologies and training. The First Nations also benefit from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) headquarters in Winnipeg. It is the first national aboriginal TV network and its social media offshoot, APTN Digital Drum, allows aboriginal youth to express their cultural identity and connect with each other. Winnipeg is also home to North America’s oldest ballet company, famous musicians and a vibrant center for the arts and culture movement, molded through its isolation and pioneer spirit.
So does its isolation help in creating Winnipeg’s “can-do” attitude? Certainly it reflects its focus on being ambitious and successful, despite its location “in the middle of nowhere”. It also gives it a unique position to be bold and seek its position globally as a city to be reckoned with.
I had an opportunity to visit Winnipeg earlier this year as part of the ICF Top 7 Intelligent Communities Site Visits. I was given first-hand exposure at this can-do attitude, from the exciting maker spaces for its new entrepreneurs to the wonderful cultural facilities of the First Nations. But nothing that I have seen in several years can compare to the audacious and controversial Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which will open its doors in Winnipeg on September 19, 2014. This awe-inspiring complex looms over this Intelligent Community like a cultural temple. This $351-million museum is massive in size (2230 square meters) and has been compared to the Guggenheim Spain in Bilbao for its potential impact on the city’s tourism industry and its global brand. I would agree. It clearly is humbling as you enter the building from below and rise to a crescendo into the bowls of the building with its airy interior and sculpted spire.
As ICF’s theme for 2014 was Community as Canvas, it was most appropriate to visit Canada’s first national museum to be built since 1967 in Winnipeg. As national museums go, they usually are located in a country’s capital or largest cities, yet here it was – the first national museum to be established outside the Ottawa region. The purpose of the museum is also quite inspiring. It is the only museum in the world devoted to engaging visitors in the topic of human rights as an issue and aspiration, as opposed to focusing on a specific event, movement or victims.
Designed by architect Antoine Predock, my hosts refer to its design as a reflection of the prairies and the mountains of this nation, its reach to the clouds and its important position on this historic site on First Nations treaty land. The interior is open and bright with exhibitions developed by some of the world’s top museum designers, such as Ralph Appelbaum who designed the Washington D.C. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Canadian Human Rights Museum also created new ways to design, bid and construct the complex through collaborative technologies. The extreme geometric complexity made virtual design and collaborative construction techniques necessary. High speed broadband capabilities, evolving technology and global collaboration became essential for detailed pre-planning and visualization of its complex construction.The project team overcame logistical challenges through real-time collaboration linking Winnipeg with Toronto, New York and even Mongolia, reducing travel time and costs and benefitting from expedited decision-making. The use of advanced technology and design concepts will also help to enhance the art of storytelling when the Museum opens this week, with the goal of leading to a better future. The Museum focuses on key topics such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and aboriginal concepts of humanity. The latter is showcased in a unique circular theatre with a 360-degree film. According to Martin Knelman at the Toronto Star: “Winnipeg needed a game changer and this museum could transform the prairie city into one of Canada’s unmissable destinations”. I agree that this complex could become a game-changer for Winnipeg, but Winnipeg’s “can-do” attitude will always be at the epicenter of its game.
September 9, 2014 By Robert Bell
Americans in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas are now using broadband at the kind of speeds once enjoyed only by South Koreans, Japanese, Hongkongers and, believe it or not, Latvians. As customers of Google Fiber, they can buy gigabit services delivering 1,000 Mbps service. That is 100 times the average American broadband speed reported by Akamai in April 2014.
About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.