About half of my time is now being spent on the Sensing City project. As a result updates to this blog will be infrequent as the project gathers pace. In the meantime you can also monitor progress on the Sensing City FaceBook page. Thanks.
In 2011 the Prime Ministers office in Singapore sponsored a week of foresight conversations. This year saw the next iteration and I was invited back to the conversation. Once again there were about twenty of us from around the world that were invited, and the diversity of the conversation was only trumped by the quality. My notes are in mind-map form, and therefore I’m going to post some images from the event along with some insights and summation.
Firstly – the pictures:
Insights (in no order)
To try to summarise the week is to fall into the trap of thinking conversation is a linear process. The discussions were so varied it’s almost impossible to bring it together, however the most important points for me related to foresight, policy and governance:
The world is becoming increasingly complex, and as a result leaders need to be adept at understanding that decision making can not always be causal. In order to make good decisions you need firstly to understand the environment you’re working in and Dave Snowden provides guidance here with his framework:
If you find yourself on the left hand side of the framework then you need to understand complexity theory, and acknowledge that there may be no right answer. That’s not easy for decision makers raised to believe that they need to make fast decisions based on minimal information.
I’ll close with a wonderful analogy that was provided in a conversation about the work of Karl Popper: you can begin to understand complexity through the lens of clouds vs clocks. You can take apart a clock to understand it, but to understand clouds you need to look at many different variables. Clouds cannot be taken apart.
This week I’m in Singapore in a series of workshops that I’ve been invited to. It’s been a fascinating first day, exploring how to evolve the next generation of horizon scanning tools. I’ll blog some of the more interesting insights over the next few days, but in the meantime here’s the workshop today and key insights.
Yahoo is carrying a useful article from Aljazeera that makes reference to some very credible resources. Essentially it points to early signals of the Shell Scenarios ‘chaos’ scenario starting to bear out. At the risk of descending into industry jargon, this is not good.
In March, for the first time, Director of National Intelligence James R Clapper listed “competition and scarcity involving natural resources” as a national security threat on a par with global terrorism, cyber war and nuclear proliferation.
If you’re remotely interested in a plausible future for where the world is going, then this is a very sobering read that links water and food scarcity to global unrest.
It’s been a long and very rewarding journey working with the Canterbury District Health Board (Christchurch, New Zealand) and the fruits of the labour are starting to be born. One of the latest projects to come out of long term transformation thinking was featured on a local news channel, and can be seen below:
From the excellent Futures Group in the Singapore Government comes this short video entitled The Age of Turbulence. It covers off four drivers of change that the team has identified, and the first of these is most relevant for The Sensing City initiative for Christchurch.
To give more context, it references the fact that over the coming decades there will be a huge demand for the development of new Tier 2/3 cities, and that many of these will be financed privately. This in turn will require the development of new technologies, processes and techniques for managing the complexity of cities. If you’re pushed for time, watch the first few minutes:
A quick link to an article in The Economist on a topic that we’ve explored many times for different clients, starting back in 2007 for the Shell Technology Futures programme.
The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation—and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.
One of the most common questions asked about the Sensing City concept is the availability of commercial sensor technology. There are a range of technologies around that can be used, and the most mature offering in this area appears to be from a Spanish company called Libelium. It has developed a series of sensors that can be used in a range of different environments, and has just released an new series of sensors that make the Sensing City concept significantly more achievable. This short video explains them in detail:
For more information check out web site of Libelium.
Last night I talked on the phone with a very senior official about how Governments use data. He was fine to talk on the phone but asked that his name not be blogged for a few weeks. Given the sensitivity of the conversation here’s the highlights.
He thinks that the Sensing City is “the way of the future,” and was a unique concept globally. His view is that that the whole area is in it’s infancy but will explode in the next two to three years. The aim of such initiatives is to use data to be proactive about how cities function.
He sees data as the new currency of the city.
In a previous role he was heavily involved in promoting the release of data in civic organisations. As such he recommends that each local government department has a data officer who spends their time reviewing data and understanding the implications. The aim of this investment is to reduce the cost of running a city by enabling things like proactive maintenance (e.g. when will a water pipe need maintenance based on actual road traffic, as opposed to waiting for the pipe to rupture and closing the road to fix it).
He thought that there were four main reasons why a city should invest in initiatives like the Sensing City:
In December I’ll update this to add his name and position.