A hackathon for a smart (human) city

Open Innovation Manager at Nokia

On December 9-10 2016, Paris-Saclay has hosted its first hackathon dedicated to urban mobility. Mathieu Sabourin, Open Innovation Manager at Nokia, tells us more about the origins of the event and its objectives.

–  What’s this hackathon about?

It’s about bringing together students, startuppers and hackers around movements or flows, of all kinds – not just of people, but also objects, vehicles, etc. – which characterize the city in the age of the Internet-of-Things. The challenge is to help humans within smart cities, by improving energy efficiency for example, in particular by optimizing public lighting based on the presence of traffic or people, or by adapting transport services according to the number of people waiting at bus stops, based on predictive management.

– I guess this hackathon represents a first step in a “program of connected objects in the smart city”…

That’s right. The ultimate objective is to improve urban movements by improving the inter-connection of objects and people, based on ideas from hackers and startuppers. We therefore want to move from the prototype stage to the proof-of-concept stage, using demonstrators across Paris-Saclay. The winners of our hackathon will therefore receive, most notably, mentoring and access to our resources for two months, including the platform we are currently designing. As you can see, our aim is not to sell more Nokia products in the short term, but to work towards a win-win situation for users. If we manage to demonstrate that solutions can be deployed easily and at the lowest possible cost, we will have achieved our aim.

– For a telecommunications specialist like Nokia, is this program a way of adopting a position as an operator in the smart city?

Nokia is certainly recognized within the telecommunications sector, both for the general public and professionals (we supply equipment to companies). But the company is involved with the Internet of Things (see the buyout of the e-health specialist start-up Withings), with the aim of designing platforms to facilitate inter-connections. As our slogan says: “Nokia, connecting people.” The program we are talking about is a response to people’s needs to inter-connect with ever greater fluidity while on the move. And more than this, reinforcing their ability to act. In this respect, the program forms part of Nokia’s new ambition, summarized in this other slogan: “Expanding the human possibilities of the connected world.” Until now, we have been product experts. Now we want to be recognized as service experts. This requires new business models to be invented, different ways of thinking the creation of value.

– … and joining the open innovation process.

That’s right. Joining forces with other experts is what will help us to devise the most appropriate solutions. This is what we have in mind for our hackathon. It has to be said however that the term may appear clichéd. We do not want to restrict ourselves to a role as a mere sponsor. What we are interested in is establishing links with all kinds of people who can contribute to improving movement around the city.

– Do you want to establish yourself as a major player at Paris-Saclay?

Yes, of course. As you already know, we have been a part of the ecosystem for a long time, it forms part of the name of the site: Nokia Paris-Saclay. A way for us to show our desire to contribute to the ecosystem and create value there.

– What are the benefits of the Paris-Saclay ecosystem compared with other ecosystems in which Nokia is involved?

On a personal level, I believe that Paris-Saclay has the potential to become a Silicon Valley, but with added French creativity. At Paris-Saclay you can find a wide range of profiles: students from prestigious graduate schools and universities, researchers from the R&D centers of large companies, laboratories, etc. All contributing to a collective intelligence that you can sense when you come here, and which makes it such a stimulating setting.

Stay in touch

Jérémy Hervé
Head of Innovation & Economic Development

Speaks : French, English, Japanese and Spanish

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