The EU RED (Radio Equipment Directive) comes into life next June. The RED comes in for substituting the R+TTE, which is the previous EU directive on radio equipment in place since 2000. In some sense, it is not really a substitution, but an evolution of the R+TTE in light of technological innovation. In fact, elements of the R+TTE have been included in the RED. The RED was voted in 2014 by the European Parliament and officially in place in 2016. A transition period was conceded from June 2016 to June 2017. There is some anxiety among vendors about the coming deadline. Some organisations such as ETSI are discussing with the European Commission for postponing the deadline. Probably, there will be no concession, but, vendors should be vigilant in understanding the progress of that attempt. REDCA, an industry-related association focussed on RED (http://www.redca.eu/index.htm), is the most appropriate place to understand more about RED.
We had MWCs full of dreams in which the attendees were flying from one hall to the other on a sort of magic carpet of unbelievable things to see and use in a matter of days. The shows did not really say how those marvellous things would happen and work. The importance was the hype. Thankfully, in the last two editions, the community has realised that Utopia is a good place to dream of, but if you want to live in Utopia you need to have the right infrastructures, the right integration of systems, the right policy and regulatory conditions, and skilled people for building securely that Utopia. This MWC is about all this.
There have been strong moments of nostalgia, probably, to use history for building the future. The enormous attention on LPWAN and 5G brings back the momentum on connectivity and related services as an essential infrastructure block for Utopia however you imagine that world; the world of low data applications and the world of connected cars and VR/AR. The return of Nokia and Blackberry resuming their history through “vintage”, some critics have said, devices is another moment of reflection. Nostalgia, if not taken to the extreme, invites you to think about the past, appreciate the present, understand the limits of the present, and build the future, hopefully, in a better way. And in the case of the MWC community, that is a good approach to reflect about unsolved issues: IoT platforms, business models for IoT solutions, system integrations, understanding the specific features of verticals, building the new skill sets for the IoT, making clear that regulatory conditions will be increasingly relevant because the IoT will influence directly people through the transformation of contexts and spaces. I have had conversations on all this and I see organisations prepared to discuss their approach along those issues. And I saw these also in the Hall of Dreamers (Hall 8.0), the best Hall of all. Dreamers (AR/VR, AI, Graphene among others) are dreaming, but they are real because they know they have to be for making their dreams our dreams.
I liked this MWC. I liked the practical view of the business and technological context we are living in. I liked not having magic carpets, but, having extraordinary ideas thought with care and with a critical mind.
Next week, from Monday, I will be in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, the largest event for the mobile communications industry, but, increasingly for the Internet of Things and advanced technology communities. I am expecting the usual endless walks from one hall to the other. But, this time, I will look at the MWC also from a policy point of view. On this site, I will share my impressions and ideas in a sort of diary. For the moment, I put in rhymes what I believe I will see.
An Ode to MWC
What will there be at MWC?
ask Artificial Intelligence to see.
We will discuss and debate connectivity,
and the pros and cons of 5G.
There will be long range and short,
both regulated and free.
And data, both big and small,
good for video and monitoring your hall.
Multiple platforms will come to the fray,
with all the stack, just some layers or plug and play.
And all for the God of IoT,
more than just a connected cup of tea.
But be aware, oh engineer,
not all is understood by your peers.
Not all is safe and sound,
and security guidelines should be bound.
So roll up, roll up for MWC,
and more surprises that we cannot foresee.
Forming new skills is an important task for facing the changes emerging technologies are bringing in society and businesses. It is also critical to promote equality in the work place through skill formation. Equality in the work place is not just an ethical issue, but, it also enriches the overall capability of the organisations. This is the mission of Women of Wearables (WoW). Michelle Hua and Marija Butkovic, the founders of WoW, using their entrepreneurial experience in the high-tech sector, are encouraging the presence of women in the Internet of Things, wearable technologies and AR/VR space. We have met them to hear their story and their ideas.
Saverio Romeo (SR): So, tell us what WoW is about?
Marija Butkovic and Michelle Hua (MB and MH): Women of Wearables (WoW) is UK’s and Europe’s first organisation aiming to inspire, support and connect women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR industries. Its mission is to encourage more women and diverse teams to participate in building hardware and software products as designers, product managers and developers or being founders of their own companies, as well as create more jobs for women in STEM.
WoW has a growing community of female founders, product and UX designers, developers, smart textile designers, executives and managers, all working in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR industries, not only in UK and Europe, but also worldwide.
We are WoW founders, both ex lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs, passionate about women in tech, the world of wearables, fashion tech, IoT and VR/AR. After being in the wearable tech industry for the last 3 years founding our own start ups (Note: Michelle founded Made With Glove and Marija co-founded Kisha Smart Umbrella), we found a lack of women and diverse teams in this industry which is the very reason we co-founded Women of Wearables.
SR: Which types of activities is WoW running?
MB and MH: WoW supports its growing community of women and girls in tech space through monthly events, breakfasts and mentorship in Manchester and London.
WoW also delivers workshops to girls between the ages of 10-18 to make their own wearable and e-textiles projects. This encourages more girls to enter the wearables industry by equipping them with the skills they need to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. It also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted to making a tangible product that is wearable and uses e-textiles. Through this, WoW helps the gender and diversity gap that is apparent in these industries and encourages and inspires young girls to choose STEM subjects for a career.
SR: In your opinion, what should be done in order to increase the presence of women in the high-tech sectors?
MB and MH: Only by collaboration and education we can empower more women to participate in tech. Our aim is to create opportunities for women in this industry to connect with each other and help ensure not only their businesses and ideas to succeed, but for the wearables industry to succeed. This means that everyone in this industry has to be involved – schools and universities, research companies, investors, startup incubators and accelerators, industry experts, etc.
But first of all, ways of thinking need to change. Throughout the hiring process companies need to be careful not to discriminate anyone, including men, but there are female tech groups that ought to be approached as part of the hiring strategy. Technology corporations and conference organisers have a duty to ensure there is a diverse range of speakers (including men, women and people from different backgrounds) to allow equality and opportunities for everyone.
Although we are women-in-tech organisation, we welcome everyone into our community as participants and speakers, because this problem cannot be solved without everyone participating. We also need more female role models. You cannot be what you cannot see. So, we are hopeful that we will not need as many women-in-tech groups in the future because gender equality will have been reached. Same goes for diversity in general.
SR: What are you planning for the future?
MB and MH: In 2017, Women of Wearables will deliver workshops in London and Manchester to girls between the ages of 11-18 to make their own wearable and e-textiles projects. This encourages more girls to enter STEM by equipping them with the skills they need to reduce the gender gap in the wearables industry. It also shows them how intangible skills such as coding can be converted to making a tangible product.
Our plan is also to become the world largest talent and knowledge pool for wearable technology. It is a very ambitious plan, but we have already achieved so much in terms of size of our community and partners involved, that I do not have any doubts we will achieve that too.
Get in touch:
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) entered into force in May 2016. However, the new data protection regime will be in place in May 2018 giving organisations the time to absorb the new framework. This is certainly valid for 27 EU member states. We should wait the evolution of the negotiations between the UK and the EU in order to understand if GDPR will be also valid in the United Kingdom.
The EU GDPR includes some important changes in relation to the previous EU data protection framework. Those changes will impact organisations substantially, therefore, the attention on GDPR should very firm. The assessment of the impact of the GDPR should revolve around three key points of analysis:
1) Identifying the new obligations relevant to the organisation;
2) Identifying gaps between the current state of compliance and the standard required by GDPR;
3) Assessing the changes, also organisational changes, required to meet GDPR requirements, the time for doing those and the associated cost.
GDPR impacts emerging technologies and the IoT vision greatly. Some key points of reflection are:
1) Putting systems and policies in place for reacting quickly to any data breach.
2) Embracing privacy by design as a cross-organisation modus operandi and culture.
3) Designing clear and easy-to-absorb privacy policies in the engagement with customers and all along the value chain.
4) Having firm in mind the rights of the data subjects (for example, personal data retention, the right of being forgotten).
5) Establishing a framework for accountability in the organisation.
6) And, finally, being aware that the GDPR defines heavy penalties for infringements and incorrect application of the regulation (up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover).
Fortunately, the Internet of Things community is moving away from the hype towards addressing issues that make IoT strategies and IoT solutions able to face business issues and solve operational problems. There are a variety of challenges, technological ones, business model ones, but also organisational ones. The multidisciplinary nature of the IoT affects the entire company structure. It introduces new tools and new modi operandi. Those require new professional profiles and new skills. The latter has been widely debated reaching the doors of governments, which, are trying to put in place strategies – educational and industrial – in order to enable the creation of those skills. That challenge is not addressable by a single stakeholder, but by the cooperation among academia, government, and companies. In innovation studies, the Triple Helix model is used to analyse the roots and the drivers of technological innovation. It is then used as a model for promoting innovation. A similar approach should be used for forming new skills in emerging technologies that are dramatically changing business systems and living environments. It is not an easy model to roll out, but, there are movements towards that. On Wednesday the 19th of January, I saw an example of a Triple Helix process coming through. I was invited at the Industrial Advisory Board at Birkbeck, University of London. The meeting is organised by the Department of Computer Science with the aim to share with the industry their teaching and research activities. But, the Department of Computer Science wants also to know if their activities reflect the needs of the industry. It was a good moment of interactions. And, it was refreshing to see how academia is responding to the need of the industry. In fact, the Department presented two new initiatives. The first one is the Birkbeck Institute for Data Analytics (BIDA) that aims to develop interdisciplinary research in Data Analytics and Data Science. The second announcement was the MSc in Data Science. Inspired by the UK government initiative in promoting new skill formation, BIDA is looking to collaborate with companies in order to engage MSc students with real problems, but also to promote research projects. If you want to know more and get involved, more info at https://www.dcs.bbk.ac.uk/research/research-groups/bida/ or contact Dr.Alessandro Provetti, Director of BIDA (https://www.dcs.bbk.ac.uk/about-us/people/academic-staff/alessandro/).
Looking at the Internet of Things, the technology policy community has several challenges to face. Despite the 2017 wish list is long and complicated, there is a desire that cannot be procrastinated or treated weakly. That is the adoption and the impact of the Internet of Things vision for small-sized enterprises. We refer to companies with less than 50 employees and with a turnover less than €10m as defined by the European Commission (http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/business-friendly-environment/sme-definition_en).
There are two key sides of a Small-sized Enterprise IoT Policy. The first looks at the meaning and, consequently, adoption of the IoT in small-sized enterprises. If we all agree of the importance of the IoT for those types of companies, how do we move them towards the adoption of the IoT? Notoriously, the small-sized company is entirely absorbed by their core business. There is very little space for exploration for change, even if there is great desire for that. Therefore, what type of policy framework should we put in place to make that desire becoming reality? Being European, and not only, economies and labour markets largely based around small-sized companies, using the IoT as a modernization tool for those types of companies is a key policy topic to face.
The second side of a Small-sized Enterprise IoT Policy regards the developers of IoT solutions. This regards the IoT start-up movements, but, more in general the entrepreneurship and innovation capabilities of small-sized IoT solution providers. Large private organisations have played an important role in that direction setting-up accelerator programmes, incubators, and living labs in order to support start-up based innovation. Competitiveness and business development government and inter-government departments have followed that sentiment encouraging start-up formation and entrepreneurship in the IoT. However, has the public support been strong enough to enable the life of start-ups? Do we need to coordinate public-private-academia initiatives? Are we trying to increase the life-time of start-ups? Do we want to use the start-up mode as new labour market tool – job creation – or do we want to use the start-up mode mainly as a learning tool or both? Is public investment enough and targeted to the difference phases of start-up? Is public investment focussing on management coaching and mentoring activities? Are we dealing efficiently with cost management such as working space renting? Are we investing in skill formation? It is difficult to see an IoT entrepreneurship policy that systematically address all these questions. It seems that we are in front of policy fragmentation that, often, does not address the needs of entrepreneurs. IoT start-up policies should systematically look at the life of start-ups in all their moments and needs with the objective of making the start-up strong enough for the next phase, whichever that might be.
At the beginning of the year, we are all ready to change what we did not like in the previous year. We are then absorbed in the daily life and the desires get a bit lost in our routines. But, we should be vigilant on this. Small-sized companies are too important for our economies. We need to nourish them and the IoT is a phenomenal instrument to make them healthy and wealthy. Let 2017 be the year of the Small-sized Enterprise IoT Policy!