Building together Smart Cities – First IEEE Smart City Summer School in Natal, Brazil

Building together Smart Cities – First IEEE Smart City Summer School in Natal, Brazil

The City of Natal welcomed the first IEEE Smart Cities Summer School, on 6-11 August, 2017. A good opportunity for students, professionals and municipality representatives to work together on real use cases, and find ways of improving the daily life of the citizens.

Located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator in the southern hemisphere, Natal in Brazil has a warm climate all year long, and is a good place to enjoy Brazilian beaches. The city has been recently affiliated to the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative, as a result of the expressive advances and strong engagement between academia and local government. Natal is on the way to be the cradle of a technopole focused on Information Technology. A project is involving the university and both public and private sectors as a propitious environment for diffusing science, technology, and innovation, besides contributing to the economic and social development of the city.

Close to the city centre, the Ponta Negra dune, Morro do Careca, became emblematic, and is now a worldwide trademark of the city. This is why it was reused to be on the logo of the first IEEE International Summer School on Smart Cities.

Opening on Sunday, August 6, 2017, and closing on Friday 11th, this event was hosted by the Metrópole Digital Institute (IMD), located on the campus of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN). With the financial support of the Brazilian Computing Society, the IEEE Smart Cities Initiatives volunteers have been working for almost one year. They welcomed for one week more than one hundred registered attendees, including 23 graduated students, 46 undergraduate students and 47 professionals (including professors and city representatives, most of them from Natal) that registered.


11 international speakers were giving keynotes during the 5 days of the course, addressing the technological, societal, political, innovative and entrepreneurial issues to be solved by Smart Cities.

A selection of students was able to submit papers (22 selected) and posters (9 short papers), as in IEEE conferences. They will be published in the Summer School proceedings. Topics range from ICT infrastructure to support smart cities to different applications, including mobility and transportation, agriculture, health care, open data, IoT, and so forth. Four prizes rewarded the two best theoretical papers and the two best application papers. They will find future applications in CO2 monitoring, smart parking, agriculture and cyclists security.

In parallel, OrbiCité was organizing an Innovation and Entrepreneurial module, including three introductory keynotes (Smart Cities, Innovation, Entrepreneurship) and a series of collaborative working sessions based on real use cases. Thanks to Natal municipality, nine were submitted, expressing 12 different problems to be solved for the city.

8 groups of students were constituted and were asked to work a selected problem from an entrepreneurial point of view, as if they were creating their own startup, and presented their project at the end of the summer school during a pitch session. Because of the attendance of many delegates from the City of Natal, it was a real co-construction effort that was performed by the groups.


One of the groups, with the contribution of Derrick de Kerckhove and Álvaro de Oliveira, worked on a case focused on the rehabilitation of the Ribeira neighbourhood, the historical centre of Natal. They developed a particular community engagement approach, based on the full integration of the refurbishment plan with the local population, and all the associated architecture, culture and tradition heritage. The action plan presented at the end of the summer school was mature enough to be the starting point of future actions.

Three prizes awarded the groups with the best contribution to Citizen Empowerment, Community Engagement and Data Visualization.

This very short event showed that innovation can be dramatically improved and accelerated when teams work with people of multiple skills and professional profile. And when stakeholders are associated in the process, it results in accurate problem analysis and fast actionable solutions, to be experimented and validated within a short period of time.

Gilles Betis

TrocWine & eBikeLabs, two scalups looking for investors

TrocWine & eBikeLabs, two scalups looking for investors

English summary : For wine lovers and electric bikes fans, two startups are raising funds. With TrocWine, winelovers can swap their bottles and enjoy friendly events [invest here]. With eBikeLabs, you can choose the bike you really need, adapted to your physical abilities, and share your rides and your experiences with a dedicated community [invest here].

Two startups, now in the acceleration and fundraising phase, have recently attracted my attention. These are TrocWine and eBikeMaps. Very different from each other, they both have interesting differentiators and potential.

TrocWine connects wines and spirits lovers wishing to exchange their bottles, to complete or diversify their cellar. On the recommendation of Sébastien Touchais, co-founder and CEO of ServeBox and also partner of TrocWine, Arthur Tutin contacted me to introduce his company and to present his fund-raising. Arthur is also one of the co-founders of La Winetech, which has set itself the goal of federating the innovative companies in the wine sector.

Considering the price inflation of bottles after a few years, TrocWine allows to diversify its experiments of tasting at less cost. You expose the bottles to exchange on a virtual cellar visible to the other members, you can discuss the modalities of the exchange and agree to meet at the listed meeting places and relay points. Today, TrocWine sees a very strong enthusiasm for the organized Swao-parties, not only conducive to exchange, but also to meeting and tasting. Six hundred members organize themselves in collaborative and local networks to simply access exceptional bottles and share their passion. It is worth noting an opening to the professional actors of the vineyard environment, since 3 partnerships have already been signed to date.

The objective of fund raising is € 100,000. It is possible to invest from 2500 €, which will allow you to hold 0.5% of the company. These funds will allow the development of a new version of the platform, commercial development and communication / event support. For more details and to finalize your investment, go to SparKup.

In a very different way, eBikeLabs is a Grenoble based startup which has set itself the objective to speed up in a technological and collaborative way the development of electric bikes.

I knew Maël Bosson when he created eBikeLabs in 2015. Initially there is a reflection on the management of the autonomy of electrically assisted bicycles, as well as the choice of the right bike, adapted to cyclists’ needs and ability. Today, their offer guarantees an optimal user experience during the choice and purchase phase of the bike. Then, during its use, they allow to share  experience with other users in a community rich in 7000 passionated people to this day.

The eBikeMaps Controller allows you to increase the autonomy for long journeys by up to 100% and to reduce the elements needed for its construction (torque sensor, screen and buttons, etc.) while improving the use of electric bike for consumer.

The eBikeMaps Totem is a sales support tool for professionals in the bike sector (retailers, rental companies, local authorities). It is an application, installed on a tablet, which is inserted on a metallic stand-up support.

The application and the social network make it possible to share / organize journeys and trips with the community, to choose the right bike adapted to your profile, and finally to calculate the possible routes according to your bike, the topography of the terrain and your physical capacities .

A broad consensus emerges today to highlight the essential role of the electric bike in improving our mobility in cities. Regarding the impact on public health, work is under way with Grenoble University Hospital (CHU) to evaluate the therapeutic benefits of the practice of electric bike. In this context, the eBikeLabs controller is an essential element of personalization and adaptation to very specific needs.

(video in French)

The entry ticket for investors is € 500, for a total fund raising of € 550,000. These funds will enable the company to recruit sales and back-office staff, carry out a communication campaign, support their working capital needs and start their internationalization. This fundraising is supported by the European platform of crowdfunding Raizers.

Post originally published on LinkedIn on April 25th, 2017

See you at

See you at

You have an appointment in La Défense at a specific address, but the pedestrian paths are such that the entrance of the building where you must go has nothing to do with what Google Map, Plans or HERE WeGo tells you?

You are waiting for the delivery of an urgent parcel, but how can you tell the deliverer which entry he will have to use among the four accesses that your industrial site has? And how to direct him to the entrance of the good warehouse?

On the brand new R&D campus of this multinational, you were given a plan to access the entrance of the building where your contact awaits you. Despite this, you have been walking for ten minutes looking for access to the Blue Building Topaz. The signage has really to be reviewed …

The weather is nice and you decide to meet for a picnic with friends on the lake Daumesnil or in the forest of Fontainebleau, but how to clearly indicate the place of the appointment?

You might also have faced similar problems in a village whose streets are neither numbered nor named, or in a city where addressing is done in blocks rather than by streets. The UN estimates that 4 billion people do not have a reliable means to designate their home.

To provide an answer to all these problems, what3words provides a way to very simply define the position of any place, and share it without any risk of error with those who need it. They divided the world into 57 trillions of 3m x 3m squares and assigned to each of those a unique combination of 3 words. Better yet, what3words will use your language. Well… one of the 14 languages ​​currently offered, others are planned to come soon, like Korean, Norwegian, Greek, Indonesian and Malaysian. Or you can use the language of the person to whom you want to transmit a geographical position to get the 3 magic words that will allow you to succeed your picnic or receive your visitor at the right address.

There are many applications: Navigation and Mobility, Automotive and Transport, Deliveries, Logistics and E-commerce, Postal Services, Travel and Tourism, National Infrastructure and Government, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Humanitarian Aid, Emergency Services, Events, Property Management, GIS.

What3word provides a mobile app on IoS and Android, and can also be accessed from their website. They also offer access to developers from APIs. This is what the Navmii navigation and navigation application did.

Of course you can always exchange geographic coordinates, but, once you are sure that you share the same geodetic system, is it easier to give an appointment tosublet.metro.payback ( or 48.858614, 2.293887? From the app, you can start guiding with Maps, Google Maps, Waze or Citymapper.

Countries such as Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Tonga and Saint Martin have adopted this addressing system. This is also what companies like Aramex or Deliver Addis do for their deliveries.

Deutsche Bahn, meanwhile, have just concluded a partnership supported by an investment (100 million euros by 2019) with what3words. Let’s bet that this will be a fundamental step to develop this universal addressing system, and that this will allow an acceleration of this British startup, co-founded by Chris Sheldrick and three other associates.

When is a system such as this one accessible also Indoor?

Meet them also on Twitter @what3words, @ChrisSheldrick2, and on facebook

Post originally published on LinkedIn on April 26th, 2017

Road User Charging in Smart Cities

Road User Charging in Smart Cities

On Wednesday, March 8th, I was invited to participate to a panel during the 14th annual Road User Charging Conference in Brussels (#RUC17, more details available at The panel was moderated by Keith Mortimer from Wyeval (@Wyeval) and two other guests were on stage: Johan Schoups, CEO at Viapass Belgium (@Viapass_BE), managing the Kilometer Charge for trucks of +3.5 tons in this country, and Samuel Kenny (@samkennyis), Policy Officer at Transport and Environment, whose mission is to promote, at EU and global level, a transport policy based on the principles of sustainable development.

The main topic of the panel was to discuss how to meet congestion and environmental challenges, and about the role of RUC in smart cities. Let’s try to report and to develop what was presented during this session.

As mentioned in many other presentations during the day, road tolling is a great opportunity for the cities to get additional revenues. This additional money can be used then in various ways, to improve road and public infrastructure, road safety and various mobility services. Regarding the traditional way to raise taxes on car usage, which is mainly based on fuel taxes, road user charging has many advantages and is a good way to anticipate the changes forecasted with the introduction of electric mobility.

Compared to fuel taxes, road tolling allows to develop flexible and accurate charging policy, depending on location, time, vehicle type and owner, pollution measurement or special events. Incentives and adapted regulations may be designed to foster new behaviours and new usages.

In Norway, the Road Traffic Information Council stated that the sales of electric cars accounted for 17.6% of new vehicle registrations in January 2017, and that hybrid cars accounted for 33.8%, for a combined 51.4%. With such a huge figure for the penetration of electric vehicles, the traditional tax base on conventional fuel will decrease in an inverse proportion to the increase of electric cars. Then Road Users Charging become a fair and convenient way to compensate for the losses in the collection of fuel taxes.

However, there is a logical and big temptation to provide electric vehicles with significant discounts or even exemptions on tolling fees, since it is generally though that it will be a good incentive to accelerate the transition to a clean mobility. From a global tax base point of view it would generate serious drawbacks to have those discounts or exemption, leading to a mechanical decrease of available financial resources for the cities and regional governance bodies. Other incentives should be preferred, either based on the buying price of the vehicle, or on parking fees.

One justification to reject excessive discounts on tolling for EVs is that road tolling is not just about pollution. It is also about congestion and urban planning. A vehicle, whether it is powered by gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity or hydrogen take the same space in the streets, roads or in a parking lot. Tolling can provide good incentives to change behaviours and mobility habits. Fostering practices like car pooling, car sharing, peer-to-peer car rental, biking, walking, use of collective transport means are ways to reduce the number of cars we need in the cities. Autonomous vehicles will provide in the future additional capabilities to diversify our habits. The cars we are using now are parked 95% of the time. Using them during 50% of the time will allow to divide by a factor of ten the number of cars that are needed.

There was a very good question at the end of the panel, asking about the impact on the industry if we divide the number of cars by a factor of ten. This industry is employing so many people that it may have a significant effect on the economy. This s a very good question, and many things can be answered. As a preliminary remark let’s state that I do not consider as a desirable future for me and for my kids, to live in a city crowded with cars in the streets, on the sidewalks, etc, monopolizing almost all of the public space, even if they are electric or whatever. But let’s think from a less personal point of view.

  • First point, the car industry has been highly impacted by automation for the previous decades, and for sure this trend will continue. So, anyway, car manufacturers will have an issue with workers employment due to the increased number of tasks that robots will be able to perform.
  • Second point, if fewer cars are needed, the same, or even increased, number of kilometres will have to be covered by all of us. Even with communication technologies that allow to work from home or in third places, or with e-commerce, there is not a clear decrease in physical mobility requirements. Then, if the number of cars is divided by a factor of ten, each car will have to run 10 times more kilometres, and will roughly have to be replaced at a ten times higher rate. Ratios are probably not so simple to compute, but that’s the general idea.
  • Third point, the vehicles we’ll use in the future will need a completely different design. A car sharing operator buying thousands of cars will need a different design, adapted to multiple successive users, providing a different user experience, allowing an intensive use and an easy maintenance. These requirements are very different from individual car owner requirements. When Bolloré Group launched his Autolib’ service in Paris, they designed a specific vehicle, the Bluecar. Today many important breakthroughs in the car industry does not come from historical car manufacturers, but from newcomers, like Google or Tesla.

So the car industry has to adapt, one way or another way, or will leave the floor to newcomers.

When talking about tolling, a paramount issue is the social and the public acceptance of tolling rules. It seems that a highly shared idea in the panel is that acceptance is linked to the perception of the benefits to the actors of the smart city. More broadly, what is the value created by the urban road tolling for the city users (inhabitants, visitors, workers, economical actors, entrepreneurs), for the city services operators and for the city governance? Less traffic jams, predictable journey duration, less pollution, less noise, less stress, better quality of life, better public health, more economic and touristic activity… Multiple metrics, not only financial, have to be setup since the beginning of the project to measure initial situation, define objectives, follow the progress and allow an agile adaptation versus recorded results and feedback.

Another unanimous idea from the panel is that urban road tolling cannot be considered as a separate and an independent project, but need to be integrated in a holistic plan to improve mobility services in the city and to increase global value creation for the city. If the impact of road users charging, is to transfer people from their car to public transport or to other mobility services, then those alternative services to private car usage must provide the expected service quality and user experience. Which needs investments. Thanks to the revenue generated by the tolling fees, it must be shown that the benefits for the global ecosystem are worth the effort needed for implementing the transition.

Gilles Betis is an Independent Consultant and is the Chair of the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative.

Cet article a déjà été publié sur LinkedIn le 10 mars 2017 – Post originally published on LinkedIn on March 10th, 2017

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