Will privately- owned towns drive the development of smart cities?

A number of tech giants are now planning to build their own private cities. As these futuristic, digitally-equipped towns will showcase many innovations, the projects may well help to get Smart Cities up and running faster.

Whether we are talking about Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who recently announced plans to build a digital city in Arizona called Belmont, or Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google parent Alphabet, who recently unveiled the Sidewalk Toronto project, Web bosses seem to have been struck by a sudden passion for town planning.

Behind these projects, which are still very much in their infancy, there is however much at stake. The Smart City represents a huge future market which will soon gather pace all over the planet. Building their own cities, and injecting substantial funds, enables the major Internet players to experiment in real conditions, designing, testing, labelling and demonstrating to the wide world innovative technologies with the potential to help run the planet's megacities in the near future. However, it must be said that they are jumping on the bandwagon rather than leading the line, since a number of high-tech model cities constructed with private-sector money already exist in Asia and the American continent. So will all these projects really foster the speedy emergence of Smart Cities? From a purely technological point of view, this would appear a safe bet.

A full-on Smart City?

In South Korea, not far from Seoul, the futuristic city of Songdo has been built – at a cost of $35 billion – entirely with private funds. Covering 610 hectares and stuffed full of new fully-digitalized apartment buildings, Songdo boasts cutting-edge digital technology and an impressive set of environmentally-friendly systems. This fully operational Smart City, with 120,000 residents, is several steps ahead of its rivals. The local authority has implemented digital technology-based initiatives designed to optimise the way the city works and streamline the daily lives of its inhabitants. For example, auto traffic is managed using a state-of- the-art system. Every car licence plate is scanned as soon as it leaves its parking spot, and the data is then sent to a management platform that calculates the number of drivers on the road, or about to move out on to the road, in order to optimise traffic flows in real time. In the same vein, some 500 cameras are in place, backed up by an arsenal of sensors installed on street furniture, for the purpose of sending data on the number of buses in service and their precise location to the management platform.

The results are commensurate with the resources that have been deployed. There are no more traffic jams. Public transport is never late and always safe. Police can access the data gathered by the sensors and cameras so as to get to an incident as soon as it occurs. Songdo also stands out from its rivals when it comes to environmental responsibility: 99%of the city's parking is underground, and household waste is taken directly from homes and piped through to the recycling plant. The rainwater collection and filtration system is located beneath the golf course and all the buildings have solar panels. In addition, the city authority keeps a close eye on the energy consumption of each building with a view to limiting expenditure and pollution and redistributing any surplus.

In fact, Songdo can claim to top the list of Smart Cities, having amply demonstrated its ability to provide a connected response to urban problems. Nevertheless, the way it operates still raises some questions. As a privately-owned city in the hands of a consortium of investors, it fails to implement such democratic principles as data transparency and to foster civic dialogue. However, while some observers might be worried about the central surveillance aspects of Sondo's organisation, the town is exemplary from a technological point of view and its model may soon be exported throughout Asia. But it does highlight one rather disappointing aspect: it seems easier to build a Smart City from scratch than transform an existing town.

Building everything from the ground up

In the south of Florida, former American football player-turned multi-millionaire Syd Kitson is bringing to life Babcock Ranch, a futuristic fully-connected and entirely 'green' town. The electricity grid is 100% solar-powered, fed by a plant located on the edge of town, and the streets are lined throughout with photovoltaic panels, each feeding one house. As the owner of this miniature Smart City covering 370 square kilometres, Syd Kitson has decided to implement a number of measures designed to boost the environmental aspects of the venture. Petrol-driven cars are not allowed inside Babcock Ranch, electric vehicles are tolerated but quotas are imposed.

The idea is not only to avoid carbon dioxide emissions but also to keep the number of vehicles stable. The circular economy takes priority: fruit and vegetables are grown in nearby fields and orchards and are sold in local shops and used in the town's restaurants. If the whole approach feels rather authoritarian this is no doubt because Kitson is actually the sole owner of his town. But the results are undisputable: there is no pollution. By designing and building Babcock Ranch from A to Z and implementing strict rules of operation, Kitson has achieved much better than average outcomes and demonstrated that this method works.

In the same vein, but on a very different scale, Bill Gates' real estate investment group Belmont Partners is preparing to start building Belmont, a city that will have technology embedded in its DNA. Belmont Partners has just acquired a vast area of land in Arizona, around a hundred kilometres from Phoenix. Covering an area as large as Paris, the new town is intended to be a real laboratory for Smart City experimentation, testing out the latest technologies for self-driving cars and implementing a range of innovations involving incorporating green spaces into the cityscape, using renewable sources of energy for power and drawing on local food supply chains.

Bill Gates also intends to draw up a digitally innovative and environmentally-friendly roadmap for tomorrow's smart cities. And he reckons that it is easier to test and integrate the technologies which will be used in Smart Cities by building a new town rather than transforming an existing one. Existing cities usually have a long architectural legacy to cope with. In theory a blank canvas is easier to work with.

Google is dancing to the same tune. Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet's Smart City subsidiary, has announced a ground-breaking partnership with the city of Toronto to build a mini smart city focusing entirely on digital technologies. With this venture Google is clearly demonstrating its objectives in the smart city sphere. The Internet giant is planning to set up its own testing centre to hone technologies that work well in practice and can be marketed.

Public-private collaboration

Clearly a Smart City is not the exclusive province of governmental authorities. If it is to work properly, the private sector will have to come in and supply the necessary technologies. Public-private collaboration therefore seems essential and the Internet giants have clearly grasped this fact. Making Smart Cities the norm for urban development in the 21st century will be a huge challenge.

Let us hope that such cities, constructed from scratch and based on digital innovation, will in turn foster the emergence of a truly civic Smart City. After all, smart technology cannot be the only criterion for a functioning town in the years to come.

(Source: BNP Paribas – L’Atelier)


Le M-commerce impose sa loi et banalise l’achat

Menace ou opportunité pour les e-commerçants ? Sans nul doute bousculés par l’empire des tablettes et des smartphones, mais néanmoins obligés de se réinventer… Pour un acte d’achat de plus en plus anodin

Avec son éloge à la simplicité, Apple inspire ses concurrents directs et indirects. Ils prennent pour priorité la simplification à l’extrême du parcours d’achat.

Des géants comme Amazon développent tous azimuts pour assister l’acheteur et ne plus le lâcher. Pour la Fnac, le mobile doit simplifier au maximum l’acte d’achat. L’enseigne française s’efforce de rendre ses parcours d'achat full web et de les inscrire dans un usage drive to store en optimisant les usages multicanaux.

Rendre l'expérience la plus simple et efficace possible, c’est précisément ce que les marchands ont de la peine à réaliser, mais c’est pour eux l’occasion de relever le défi. .

Le M-commerce joue des coudes

Le mobile ne se contente pas d’être une ‘alternative’, il s‘impose : même de la maison, on achète sur sa tablette ou son smartphone. En France, le commerce mobile a doublé en 2015 et atteint aujourd’hui une part de 23,6 % de l’e-commerce. En 2016,15 achats seront effectués depuis un appareil mobile contre 10,5 en 2015.
Une fois installées sur le smartphone de l'internaute, les applications de commerce électronique natives garantissent un taux de fidélité bien plus élevé qu'un site Web responsive et offrent de belles opportunités pour tracer les clients via leur identifiant personnel afin de mieux les connaître et donc mieux les cibler.

Parcours d'achat réduit à sa plus simple expression

A l’ origine, Pinterest est une simple plateforme de partage social d’images. Aujourd’hui, Pinterest inspire Wish, Wanelo, The Hunt… Une nouvelle génération d’applications de commerce mobile. A la mode des buyable pins de Pinterest, elles ne demandent de l’internaute qu’un simple clic voire un effleurement de la photo du produit pour lancer la commande. Epoustouflant comme il devient facile d’acheter n’est-ce pas ? Pinterest n’a pas l‘audience de Facebook et pourtant, son public de femmes et l’engagement de ses membres attirent les marques de mode : 80 % de taux de ‘ré-épinglage’ contre 1,4% sur Twitter. Quant à son trafic, il dépasse largement, aux Etats-Unis du moins, celui de Google+, LinkedIn et YouTube réunis.

Choisir un produit via questions/ réponses

Plutôt que de consulter un catalogue, l’internaute peut choisir son produit à l’aide d’un chatbot, un agent conversationnel qui vous pose des questions et vous conseille des articles en fonction de vos réponses. Mark Zuckerberg vient enfin d’annoncer pour fin 2016 l'arrivée du paiement en ligne sur Messenger permettant de mener une transaction de A à Z. Avec 4 ans de retard sur WeChat qui brasse entre-temps les infos bancaires de 200 millions d'utilisateurs.

Bataille de coqs sur le marché de l’internet de l’objet

Amazon a déjà montré l’exemple en termes d’achats banalisés avec son bouton d’achat en 1 clic sur chaque fiche produit et la simplicité du parcours d’achat sur mobile ou Kindle. A présent, l’américain réinvente le e-commerce avec l’assistant Alexa (qui compte déjà des millions d’utilisateurs), installant le système de reconnaissance vocale sur sa console de jeu Fire TV ou l’enceinte Amazon Echo diffusant le son à 360 degrés.

La riposte de Google qui consisterait en une véritable interface vocale universelle pour l'ensemble des objets connectés de la maison serait plus ambitieuse que l'Amazon Echo. Et le Siri d’Apple bénéficierait bientôt lui aussi de son hardware. Qui sera le plus rapide ?

Amazon n’entend pas perdre son avance si l’on en juge les adhérents à l’Amazon Echo : les électroménagers de General Electric se pilotent à présent à la voix, qui peut aussi bien lire des tweets, la Bourse, commander un Uber ou lancer Spotify…

Acheter sans s’en rendre compte ?

Sur le territoire de l’achat sans effort, Amazon approfondit ses recherches et développe un bouton connecté aux marques, une solution ‘Push to Buy’ où le consommateur peut, via un bouton physique pour chaque consommable, commander à nouveau automatiquement son produit via son abonnement Amazon Prime.

Comment son concurrent, la Fnac, analyse-t-il cette nouvelle offensive ? La démarche est inverse, selon Ghadi Hobeika, Directeur Marketing Digital de la Fnac : Nous essayons de faire venir les clients sur nos canaux de vente, que ce soient les réseaux sociaux, les canaux digitaux ou physique. Amazon, quant à lui, s’installe dans le parcours de vie du client en allant quasi jusqu’à effacer le geste d'achat puisqu'il suffit d'un mot, d'un geste pour que l'achat soit réalisé sans aucun effort du consommateur.

Le client est-il dupe ?

Une étude de Slice Intelligence le révèle, peu d’acheteurs du bouton connecté Amazon Dash effectueraient un achat via ce bouton. Les consommateurs auraient du mal à s’y faire. Les marques par contre en sont folles : 50 nouveaux boutons et 150 enseignes représentées à ce jour.

Et nos pays, quand passeront-ils au bouton d’achat ? Juste une timide initiative pour l’instant verrait le jour chez notre voisin du sud et porterait sur du service après-vente…

(Source :


Trend spotting. A manual.

Would you like to know what people will want next? If so, all you have to do is look at successful innovations and the expectations they generate, according to David Mattin, trendwatcher at and co-author of the book Trend-Driven Innovation.

Any professional is long accustomed to the hyper-accelerated pace of innovation that sees new products and services arrive and disappear at light speed. With that comes the sense that consumer behaviours and mindsets change faster, more unpredictably — chaotically, even — than ever. Put together, it's an avalanche that can feel overwhelming.. That is, in summary, what David Mattin writes in his article How to spot a trend at

Still, being on board wih the latest trends or even anticipating them doesn't have to be the preserve of a chosen few with seemingly magical intuition, Mattin says. According to him, trendspotting can be a simple, replicable process that anyone can do. His article provides a model that answers the question that any start-up, CEO, marketing director or product developer struggles with: what will my customers want next?

Human needs

There are various methods to determine what customers want. Traditional market research is the most well-known method. Yet Mattin believes this method is inadequate to spot future trends in an environment of rapid change.

”After all, our job is to figure out what people will want before they want it. People often don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Observing potential customers with ethnographic fieldwork is another research method. This can yield deep insights, but it is hard, slow and expensive. Big Data can provide useful customer information, but it usually only allows you to optimise what you’re already doing. Big data rarely generates the radical insights that can underpin something truly new, Matting claims.

So what’s the answer? The key to actionable foresight lies in looking at the overwhelming onslaught of innovation — new brands, products, services, campaigns, experiences and more — that now parade before our eyes and across our screens every day.

Mattin: "The ultimate answer lies in the customer expectations those innovations are creating. In order to be successful, businesses must meet those expectations at the right time.”

In order to spot consumer trends, it is essential to define what a trend is exactly. According to the trendwatcher a trend is a new manifestation - in behaviour, attitude or expectation - of a fundamental human need or want, usually via a new technology or an economic or social change. In other words:, when an age-old human need: for connection, security value, excitement… is served by a new technology, this will most likely introduce a new trend. A good example of this is Napster, the well-known illegal music streaming platform from 1999 This innovation served the basic needs ‘novelty’ (more music) and 'convenience' (instant access). It was this innovation that has led to iTunes, Netflix and Spotify, all of which satisfy those needs and are extremely successful.

Learning from Uber

But there's still a piece of the puzzle missing. How does a cluster of innovations that serve a basic need in a new way become a worldwide trend? The answer lies in two words: expectation transfer.

David Mattin: “When an innovation serves a basic human need in a new way, it sets new customer expectations: it primes consumers to expect something new. Once created, new expectations spread across markets, industries, product and service categories.”

He refers to Uber as an example, with which the basic human needs of 'convenience' and 'low-cost transport' are served. The iconic innovation of Uber raised consumer expectations of one-touch smartphone fuelled services, and these expectations were served by others, such as Handy, an American on-demand home services start-up that earned 50 million dollars in just one month.

Mattin claims it is crucial to watch as many innovations as possible, as this allows you to tap the collective intelligence of the business crowd around the question: what will customers want next? When you spot a cluster of similar innovations, you'll know that you could be on to an interesting new signal of where customers are heading. The trendwatcher also emphasises to not dismiss innovations that seem niche or even ridiculous — they can often be weak signals of powerful new emerging expectations.

“Remember when couch-surfing was just for students and broke travellers? Now, Airbnb will let you rent the Villa Machiavelli in Tuscany for 5,164 pounds per night”, Mattin argues.

Goldmine of opportunities

The trendwatcher concludes that in order to spot trends, you should start interrogating every innovation you see for the new customer expectations it creates, and pretty soon it will become a habit.

“That habit becomes something more: a new way of seeing the world that turns the overwhelming flood of innovations into a goldmine of opportunity. Of course, you'll need to apply the trends you spot. That means turning them into winning new innovation ideas, and then executing.”

Read the whole article here




What will 4G Internet of Things and 5G bring to the company?

Proximus and Orange are ready. From 2017, their 4G network will be adapted to meet the challenges brought about by the Internet of Things, just as 5G unveils its first key benefits. We focus on new developments that will impact how companies work.

Proximus was the first operator to develop a solution for the Internet of Things with LoRa (Long Range), a network that transports small quantities of information between objects and systems with a lower electricity consumption. Some key applications include analysis of air quality in buildings, stock management and monitoring volumes in bottle banks, for example.

A few days ago, Orange announced it is upgrading its existing 4G network for the same Internet of Things market, thanks to the implementation of new LPWA layers on a national level. (NL version)

There's no need to reinvent the wheel, as it's simply a matter of updating the existing infrastructure. Indeed, the current Orange 4G network, which will soon cover the whole territory (currently 99.8% of the population), will be equipped with NB-IoT and LTE-M technologies in 2017. The benefits are bidirectional communication between the device and the network, better mobile coverage inside buildings and guaranteed connectivity abroad through agreements in Europe and elsewhere. In this new mobile world, the company's SIM card provides secure connection using unique authentication and strong encryption of transported data.

According to Frank de Weser, Business Marketing & M2M Business Unit Director at Orange Belgium, M2M applications will undergo major upheavals in the coming months:

"We are already working in transport ("track and trace") and mobile payment methods, but 2G still dominates at 90%. This development of 4G gives us new opportunities, with remote monitoring or smart metering (of electricity or gas consumption, for example). This market is going to explode, and fast. Our upgraded 4G network offers a battery life of 5 to 10 years for smart devices. The first commercial applications are planned for the beginning of 2018 for our business partners."

In line with this strategy from the Orange Group, mobile big data (NL version):

"Our network can already provide anonymous data to 'data scientists' to measure the presence and movement of mobile subscription holders. This is what we internally call crowdmonitoring. Using this, we can find out how many people are within a radius of 100 metres. Some cities such as Antwerp and Mons have already called upon us for tourism and security purposes, but this data can also be useful in the retail sector, for example to analyse the affluence of a given place before opening a shop."

Awaiting 5G in Belgium

On 14 November, Proximus invited the press to a demonstration of its 5G network of the future, planned for 2020 (standards still need to be defined) in collaboration with Huawei. (NL version) Equipment and staff made the journey from China for this event, which enables incredible data transfer speeds of more than 70 Gbps, with latency times reduced to their lowest level since the beginning of mobile data connectivity. By way of comparison, 4G currently offers average speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps, but these speeds are poised to triple in the weeks and months to come on 4.5G-compatible devices once the 4G/LTE network is updated by the three operators, including Telenet/Base. (NL version)

For companies, this explosion of available bandwidth will enable sites without fibre-optics and copper to be connected. It will theoretically be possible to connect a subsidiary, a remote plantation or an isolated laboratory in a large urban area at speeds equivalent to or faster than copper cable. One of the first applications will also involve driverless cars, which will need a permanent connection to mobile networks.

5G in infographic



Disruption : les 5 facteurs qui peuvent faire prospérer ou sombrer votre entreprise

Assertievere consumenten, nieuwe technologieën, andere manieren van distributie: dat zijn enkele van de hedendaagse disruptors. CEO Pulse komt per categorie met strategieën om als onderneming succesvol te blijven.

De meeste ondernemers maken zich zorgen om de zogeheten disrupties. Dit zijn belangrijke en fundamentele verschuivingen, bijvoorbeeld door een nieuwe technologie of een nieuwe soort concurrentie, die een hele industrie in een oogwenk kunnen onderuit halen. 

Doordat disrupties een enorme potentiële kracht hebben is het cruciaal om ze op tijd te detecteren. Om ondernemers daarbij te helpen, publiceerde CEO Pulse, de onderzoeksafdeling van Price Waterhouse Coopers, onlangs een studie met de 5 belangrijkste disruptors van het moment. Uit gesprekken met 

268 CEO’s destilleerden ze daarbij ook essentiële beleidsstappen om als onderneming niet alleen overeind te blijven, maar zelfs betere resultaten te behalen.

1. Distributie

Op dit moment zijn vooral de deeleconomie en het Internet of Things die enkele sectoren, zoals de automobiel-, de retail- en de hotelindustrie, opschudden. Zo weet elke CEO wat de gevolgen van Airbnb waren voor de hotelindustrie. Door zulke ontwikkelingen denken CEO’s vaak dat disruptie per definitie een negatieve impact heeft. Vaak zijn ze in de begindagen van zo’n disruptie ook verrast en geloven ze niet dat het een impact op hen zal hebben, stelt CEO Pulse. Maar door zo’n houding zul je heel snel ingehaald worden door concurrenten die de opportuniteiten eerder zagen. Volgens CEO Pulse ligt de eerste sleutel in het verbeteren van je capaciteiten om kleine veranderingen te herkennen en om vervolgens inspanningen te doen om in te spelen op deze transformaties.

2. Klanten

De krachtigste disruptieve kracht zijn volgens CEO Pulse de consumenten. 86% van de bevraagde CEO’s denkt dat klanten meer zullen eisen van producten en diensten de komende vijf jaar. De helft van de respondenten gelooft ook dat klanten één van hun producten of diensten zullen inwisselen voor een alternatieve oplossing. Het klopt inderdaad dat we van een door aanbod gedreven naar een door vraag gedreven economie geëvolueerd zijn, zegt CEO Pulse. Consumenten vergelijken tegenwoordig volop prijzen en zoeken informatie, ook over hoe ondernemingen opereren, en switchen sneller van merk en/of product. Dit bezorgt CEO’s de nodige kopbrekens over hoe ze hun klanten kunnen behouden en wat consumenten in de toekomst zullen willen. 

Het advies van CEO Pulse is om bij elke innovatie, of je er nu aan meedoet of niet, te kijken wat dit oplevert aan nieuwe consumentengewoonten. De manier waarop mensen een innovatie omarmen of juist verwerpen, en onderliggende logica daarvan, verschaft je informatie over wat ‘the next big thing’ is. 

3. Technologie

Vier van de vijf bevraagde CEO’s denkt dat ook productietechnologieën hun ondernemingen in de komende vijf jaar zullen veranderen. En driekwart ziet investeren in nieuwe technologieën als de belangrijkste strategie om met disrupties om te gaan. 

Als een nieuwe technologie de manier verandert waarop een gevestigde onderneming zijn kernproduct produceert, dan volgt er vaak disruptie. Een goed voorbeeld hiervan is additive manufacturing oftewel 3D printing, waarbij driedimensionele producten worden gefabriceerd, van bekers tot zelfs gebouwen.  Er wordt verwacht dat 3D printing, waardoor de ontwikkelingscycli elkaar veel sneller kunnen opvolgen, de fundamenten van productie zullen hervormen. Ook hier is het de uitdaging om de juiste technologieën te onderkennen, te ontwikkelen of aan te kopen, en te implementeren, stelt CEO Pulse.

4.  Concurrenten

Volgens het onderzoek is de helft van de CEO’s bezorgd om niet-traditionele concurrenten die hun industrie onderuit kunnen halen. Vaak komt een disruptie namelijk in de vorm van een bedrijf dat bepaalde producten en diensten anders en efficiënter aanbiedt. Denk maar aan hoe veel mensen hun mobiele telefoons nu ook gebruiken om rekeningen te betalen en om allerlei aankopen te doen. Dat soort ‘laterale concurrentie’, zelfs als die nog maar pas opkomt, is vaak een adequate voorspeller van een meer wijdverspreide verandering, zegt CEO Pulse. 

5.  Regulering

Striktere regels opgelegd door de overheid zijn een doorn in het oog van veel bedrijven. Vooral de financiële dienstverlening, de energie-, de onderwijs- en de transportsector zijn tegenwoordig onderworpen aan strenge regels. Driekwart van de respondenten van het CEO Pulse-onderzoek denkt dat nieuwe reguleringen de komende vijf jaar een invloed zullen hebben op hun werking. 

Als bestaande reguleringen aangepast worden, is de kans groot dat dit tot veranderingen leidt, aldus CEO Pulse. Zelfrijdende auto’s, die volgens experts dé toekomst zijn en waarbij gereguleerde relaxatie op komst is, zijn hier een voorbeeld van. Ze zullen voor een belangrijke disruptie zorgen in het openbaar vervoer, bij taxibedrijven, in de autoverhuurindustrie en in vele andere transportgerelateerde sectoren. Ook een strengere regulering kan disruptie brengen. Zonder de restricties op de marketing van tabaksproducten zouden e-sigaretten bijvoorbeeld niet zo populair geworden zijn. 


De fundamentele uitdaging is volgens CEO Pulse om in het oog te houden wanneer er een disruptie plaatsvindt en om dan een strategie klaar te hebben voor een nieuwe toekomst. Denken dat je ertegenin kunt gaan is vaak niet realistisch. Meestal zijn de disrupties zo omvangrijk dat het nodig is om jezelf als bedrijf te heruitvinden. Veel bedrijven zijn hier al mee begonnen. Een bekende case is hoe de Amerikaanse multinational General Electric zichzelf van een industrieel naar een digitaal bedrijf transformeerde. Ook General Motors is op dit moment zichzelf opnieuw aan het uitvinden en wil van een wagenfabrikant evolueren naar een bedrijf dat zich toespitst op persoonlijke mobiliteit en bijvoorbeeld autodeelsystemen aanbiedt. Wat je nodig hebt om op die manier de core business van een bedrijf succesvol te transformeren is kennis, de juiste instelling en een dosis lef, zegt CEO Pulse. 

Lees het volledige artikel


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