Social Good

REFLECTING ON 2014: THE BIG ISSUE, THE BIG IDEA, AND THE BIG WIN

Urthecast

Every Canadian technology startup that’s delighting and delivering value to its customers, while creating a meaningful workplace culture, is a story worth sharing. Every entrepreneur earning the opportunity to keep the lights on another day deserves a high-five.

I’m not big on picking favourites. So with a twist on the usual list-bait, here’s a look at the year that was by reflecting on the biggest issue, the biggest idea, and the biggest win.

These words are homeless without the internet. Despite being 25 years old, the promise of an open and free internet seems like a pipe dream. The architect of the world’s information network, Tim Berners-Lee, believes that “we need diversity of thought in the world to face the new challenges.” Yet the social value of today’s internet is being challenged and undermined everyday by the actions of deceitful of governments and plundering corporations. OpenMedia-11-of-17-1050x700

Former Google developer advocate Tim Bray has lent his voice to this biggest of issues, and his words resonate throughout: “It’s OK to be Pro-Privacy Without Being a Crook, Pervert, or Terrorist.

I imagine being with my kids and marvelling at the beauty of a rainbow revealing itself after the dark deluge of a winter storm blasts through, and it passes as our conversation about climate change. Talk about fleeting and borderline delusional thoughts. I do imagine a world where our relationship with fossil fuels isn’t driving the climate change debate.

Rather than just imagining how such a world will look, Dr. Michel Laberge and his General Fusion team is working towards delivering “the Promise of Clean Energy.” This is not only the biggest idea of 2014, but it’s possibly the most meaningful endeavour for our children I’ll never know.

john

It was a shot in the dark, emailing info@ in the hopes in securing an interview with one of Vancouver’s more successful startup entrepreneurs. On the heels of raising $42 million in new funding for a business completely off my radar, I figured the odds of catching up with Stewart Butterfield to get the story of Slack was firmly entrenched between slim and negligible.

The personal reply from Butterfield caught my attention. More so, our conversation left an impression and no accompanying sense of shock when the news dropped he’s now leading Vancouver’s newest billion dollar company. Raising $120 million for this new communication platform counts as the biggest win, and confirms “This Guy’s No Slacker.

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Orange jumpsuits aren’t my idea of high fashion. I’m fond of suggesting good entrepreneurs have to be rule breakers, or makers of new rules. Just not breaking them to a felonious point. Being true to my word and breaking my editors rule, there’s a fourth Vancouver startup story that’s of the big “pie-in-sky” variety.

Actually, it’s a two big HD cameras in the sky story that caught my attention. Like our tenuous and tempestuous relationship with the internet or re-imaging the powering of our world, Urthecast is changing how we can see our planet. Maybe if we look at our world from a different point of view we’ll start treating it and ourselves better. Let’s move forward into 2015 taking action for good and being most mindful that “We’re All in This Together.”

This story was originally published in BetaKit

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#NoFilters. Social Media, Representation and Responsibility

No filters

It’s time we stop prefixing media with the word “social.” It’s media. It’s also a free-for-all, that’s both filtered and unfiltered. Everyone with an internet connection has access to the platforms and ability to use the applications of their choosing. Everyone is free to participate, create and communicate.

Everyday at BetaKit we get to celebrate, question, and sometimes deride, technology. Thinking about, talking with, and writing stories about the people behind the technologies empowering us to communicate in ways unimaginable even 10 years ago is an opportunity I’m grateful for.

For instance, it’s staggering to consider that we’re uploading and sharing over 1.8 billion photos each day according to KPCB analyst Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends report (see slide #62). How tall would that stack of polaroids be?

Technology is more pervasive than ever. There’s a deluge of stories to share and sift through, and no shortage of shiny new gadgets to communicate or consume media with. Yet everyday I find myself thinking more about the meaning of representation. I ask myself about what representation means with respect to context; or how does representation come into play in terms of my understanding the relationship between an object or a subject. Most importantly, I think about how representation comes with responsibility.

It’s worth remembering, representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else. It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements. Signs are arranged in order to form semantic constructions and express relations.”

Generate Kris Krug

Images coming from the filtering app Generate jumped off my Facebook feed one day. It was Galiano Island photographer and entrepreneur Kris Krug’s creative touch applied to TEDxVancouver that pushed me to thinking more the relationship between technology filters, representation, and responsibility.

Is the representation and therefore our relationship or understanding of a person, a group of people, a place or thing, impacted by the filters we apply to any medium – be it visually, through our choice of words, or the soundscapes we create?

Any images, words or sounds we digitize and submit to the public domain puts us in the position as both a creator and communicator. As a creator and communicator what is your responsibility? It’s one thing to misrepresent yourself, but it’s altogether another issue when you’re misrepresenting the world around you.

Using filters, or changing the appearance of an image is nothing new. The history of photography and film is one of alteration through development techniques, and using different materials such as paper and chemicals. The difference between then and now is cost and accessibility. Then, you had to be a professional or well-heeled amateur to own the equipment. I wonder if photographers like Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, or a National Geographic contributor like Jim Brandenburg would use #nofilter?

Think about it, photoshopped is now an adjective, but photoshop the application is barely 25 years old. As well, it originally cost $1000.00. Today we have sub ten dollar to free photo apps at the disposal of everyone carrying a smartphone. It was overwhelming scrolling through the app store at the number of photo-filtering apps; I quit counting at 35.

Instagram has over 200 million users, and you can apply filters to pictures with the mobile Facebook, Twitter, and native iOS camera app. So mainstream they’re the source of some great humour like this Oatmeal cartoon, and this YouTube video.

All joking aside, it’s important to think about representation as related to what we see. Consider the intent of what’s being created and communicated. Is there a relationship between representation and some form of truth and reality? Does the use of a filter make that person an agent of change? Does it potentially alter our relationship or sense of reality?

Generate Kinder Morgan Protest

Is some regards the filtering of a visual experience can be adding commentary to our reality. Are we filtering an angst or dissatisfaction with reality? Blurring the lines of reality? Could we also be representing a filtered sense of joy, marvel, or perspective of what could be better or more beautiful?

Science is largely about the study of objects, whereas much of what’s populating our media feeds are people, places, events, food, and funny animal tricks. I’m all for sharing the subjects of our interest, desire, and love. I’m all for using filters as a form of commentary or creativity.

When there’s a lack of rigour and thought behind what’s being represented, it then becomes a potential act of objectification. Simply put, our world needs less objectification. It’s at the root of so much tension, misunderstanding and anxiety that pollutes our conversations and narratives.

The tools of communication might be free and we’re all free to use them, but it shouldn’t mean we’re free use them free of responsibility. It’s worth pausing and asking “why am I thinking this, why am I saying it,  or why am I seeing it this way?” before pressing submit and post.

“How strange painting is, it delights us with representations of objects that are not pleasing in themselves!”
– Eugene Delacroix

Photographs courtesy of Kris Krug.

This story originally appeared in BetaKit

Charles Montgomery, Talks Technology and the Happy City: Part II

Charles Montgomery I

It was thinking about the relationship between people (individually and collectively) our space, and built environments that motivated this conversation with Happy City author Charles Montgomery. It’s envisioning a post-combustion engine, congestion free, non- pollutant spewing transportation grid. It’s future where people not cars claim primacy to the urban experience. This is an idea worth turning into action.

Borrowing lessons from the ancient world, he writes about how Athens captures a human-centric approach to design. “The city was more than a machine for delivering everyday needs; it was a concept that bound together Athenian culture, politics, mores, and history… Anyone who did not concern himself with public life was himself less than whole” (p.19).

Looking at our 20th century car-centric design thinking and urban planning, the detrimental societal and environmental effects are on full display. There’s nothing social about meltdowns in gridlock. There’s also nothing sustainable about a melting planet.

Asked about a future for the self-driving car, and the potential that a vehicle will simply become a node on a distributed transportation grid, Montgomery thought “it’s an exciting possibility.” He added, “because of the errors, the catastrophe of modernist city planning throughout the 20th century that many existing neighborhoods, particularly on the fringes of cities simply can not support public transit.” Something that simply looks like a human driving an expensive automated bus isn’t going to improve a system of infrastructure built for yesterday.

“At the same time I think that the tech fetishes out there fail to see that traffic and congestion are a natural occurrence in vibrant thriving cities,” he pointed out. In other words, having driverless cars is not going to solve the problem of congestion. Montgomery said “as along as individuals insist on traveling alone in their vehicles whether they are driving or a computer is driving, they’re going to get stuck in traffic.”

He thinks, “driverless cars will be useful, even as part of the public transit system in helping people in dispersed areas access say transit nodes or suburban villages so they can reach high quality, high status shared transportation. Ultimately, it still doesn’t solve the problem of squeezing all of these separate vehicles into the limited space in your thriving central city.”

He reported being impressed with Arlington Virginia as a city that’s creating happier experiences. Saying “they are converting boring, blank, horrid, what some people call car sewers into livable neighborhoods. The subway nodes are surrounded by low and mid-rise with building of shops and services and bars and fun with great sidewalk.”

More impressively, Arlington’s transit authority has dozens of people working on transportation demand management. Montgomery said, “what this means is engaging in the good work of changing hearts and minds.  When we think of cities, movement and technology we keep looking for some holy grail that’s going the fix the problems, when really the biggest issue around transportation is in the firing of our own neurons.”

He doesn’t hesitate saying “we habitually and predictably get it wrong when making decisions about our own happiness about maximizing utility. We all do this everyday in making decision about how to move.”

Public health experts and psychologists are doing robust studies on how moving affects life happiness. According to him, what they’ve found out is “that when people switch from driving their cars to active transportation like walking, biking and even taking transit they get happier. This was a shocker, because most people report in surveys that they don’t like taking transit, and that they feel more fear, rage and sadness than in any other mode.”

We need to envision a system of movement. “It’s a system of life choices that occurs whenever individuals decide to move in a different way, so a transit journey or transit lifestyle isn’t just about getting on a bus. It’s about walking through your neighborhood, and the getting on a bus, and then walking through another neighborhood,” he pointed out.

Coming back to Arlington, “what their commuter services is doing is hacking the minds of commuters in their town. Simply by not showing them data but showing them new stories about how peoples lives are changing when they decide to move differently, that’s all.”

Montgomery said they’re succeeding. “More and more people are choosing to move differently, what that means in Arlington is even though they have tens of thousands of people moving to these new transit neighborhoods there are no more cars on the road. Life gets easier and cheaper for everyone, and the municipality ends up paying less for road improvements.”

TEDxVancouver Signage - JonathanEvans

As we both call Vancouver home, I had to ask his thoughts about it’s place on the Happy City continuum. “You can see we’re doing many things right,” he offered. “Those of us who are lucky enough to own here get to drink from that sweet fountain. But, it’s false to rate a cities happiness simply on questions of livability. You also have to ask yourself the question of equity, of fairness and the question is really very simple; is your city really happy if most people can’t afford to live there?”

According to Montgomery this is where the city has failed. “We’ve failed to anticipate and deal with the effects that the global economy would have our city and on our lives. I’m talking about affordable housing. The big question for Vancouver is not how we can be greener, but how can we extend the riches of city life to more people who want to live here and to the people who already live here and are being pushed out.”

I’m grateful for the opportunity to write about technology and to share stories about the dynamic people making Vancouver a thriving community. But I also 100% agree with Montgomery when he says “guess what, technology is not going to solve that problem. It means finding new forms of tenure. New ways of owning property that makes it less attractive to speculative buyers, and it means finding new ways of adding supply in our neighborhoods. The kinds of housing supply that again aren’t attractive to speculative buyers. The solution to that problem is policy.”

Technology can be enabling, engaging, and empowering, but will accomplish none of this if it’s not designed for people first. The machine, it’s bits and bites are soulless. More than ever we need to keep humanity front and center in our conversations about technology.

“Whatever creates or increases happiness or some part of happiness, we ought to do; whatever destroys or hampers happiness, or gives rise to its opposite, we ought not to do.” Aristotle, Rhetoric

This story was originally published in BetaKit

Charles Montgomery, Talks Technology and the Happy City: Part I

Charles Montgomery -JonathanEvans

Massive urbanization on a global scale is inescapable. It’s not just a trend, it’s happening. Some research suggests that by 2210 nearly 87 percent of the worlds population will live in a city. This future will undoudtedly highlight both the best and worst of humanity. I don’t harbour visions of the Blade Runner like dystopian future. With meaningful policy, purposeful planning, and the infusion of humanity into technology, I’m hopeful of seeing our collective best.

I’ve written about topics like the connected city and urban mobility. It was a significant consideration for the TEDxVancouver team to arrange a conversation with Charles Montgomery. Reading Happy City was a seminal experience. Montgomery works with the BMW Guggenheim Lab, the Museum of Vancouver and other institutions. He creates experiments that challenge us to see our cities—and ourselves—in entirely new ways.

Asked if a city can be happy with technology attempting to make it smarter? “An interesting question” he suggested. “I’d turn it around. I think we need to be asking how is the smarter city going to make us happier? How can it? It may not always.”

Montgomery offered that “there’s a relationship between the use of information and technology in urban systems that may make our lives a little easier. But I’d like to also talk about limitations.”

Mobility’s importance starts the smarter cities conversation. Considering public transit, Montgomery commented that some of the greatest anxiety for transit users involves a sense of uncertainty. “If you don’t know when your bus or train is coming and if you don’t know about making connections, stress levels spike.”

Reducing this stress on shared transit systems isn’t rocket science. This is where information and technology can play a key role. “Just by give people better information make a huge difference,” he said. “When institutions curate more information for customers, doing things a simple as including information or light boards at train and bus stations telling you when the next bus is coming is found to decrease stress.” People feel more in control just having the perception of a shorter wait time.

He talked about the growing number of jurisdictions offering open data. This is allowing app developers the chance work with around transportation systems to give people the information they want in their own pocket. As a Radar user for the Vancouver transit system, he said, “it’s terrific. It shows me where my buses are. It’s not about projected arrival times, I find cognitively that it’s more reassuring to see where the bus is.”

The open data movement can also be empowering for people who just need to get around town. Montgomery sees “it’s powerful for both transit and sharing networks like ZipCar and Car2Go.” He added a unique take on Car2Go, likening it to recycling a pop bottle. Find a car with an app, pick it up, use it, and toss it (leave it curbside). “I think our mobile technologies are essentially enabling these new systems of sharing that are making us more free in cities,” he says.

But he highlighted an important limitation, musing that “we have so far to go.” Recounting a conversation with a leader of the Paris bike sharing program who said, “we know we need to shrink our environmental footprint, and the good news is that it can actually make our lives easier.” He kept returning to this theme of freedom, “what we want is to be free, to move unencumbered through our cities” he said this without mentioning any specific technology or specific mode of movement.

There was a stated desire that more and more Parisians, “want to leave the front door, and want to reach a destination using any mode they please without having to think about it.” Montgomery said further that “he suggested the problem with the old fashioned model of mobility is that you need to own a thing, typically an expensive thing like a car or even a bike. It’s useful for only a few minutes or up to a couple of hours per day, and the rest of the time you have to worry about maintaining it, storing it, and even protecting it.”

The wondrous thing about the Velib bike sharing system in Paris is that it brought a new kind of freedom. A freedom from having to own things, which sounds like Socialism to “us”, but he was talking about valuing experience more that stuff. And guess what, the psychologists and behavioural economists are now telling us that experience is the key to happiness.”

Touching on Aristotle’s notion of Eudaimonia he offered that, “happiness is feeling empowered to reach your full potential. So the question is, how can our cities help us get there? How can they empower us so that we can take on the great challenges of everyday life, and thrive?”

There are current technological limitations relating to shared mobility supply, demand, logistics and fulfillment. Montgomery points out, “in some ways open data and mobile technologies are helping us get there, however I don’t think we can detach ourselves from the realities of the material world. By that I mean, as wondrous as a bike share system or a system like Car2Go is, all you have to do is look at your bike share or car share app to see that at certain times of day there are no vehicles in your neighborhood. They all disappear in the morning, and they all come back at night. So this tells us all the data in the world is not going to fix the issues arising from urban design.”

He talks about intensifying the mix of uses right across the city. “Some people might not like the sounds of this, but if I had more offices, or auto body shops near my house I would have more cars available. And I think the smarter city of the future is necessarily a city of fine grain and mixed uses”

The self-driving car, plus interesting examples of what the cities of Arlington VA, and Vancouver, BC are doing highlight Part II of our conversation.

“It’s impossible to separate the life and design of a city from the attempt to understand happiness, to experience it, and to build it for society.”Charles Montgomery, Happy City

This story was originally published in BetaKit

Fusing Compassion and Technology. Notes from Siggraph 2014

Siggraph crowd shot

In his opening address Siggraph 2014, Dave Shreiner said “this event is all about technology to enhance peoples lives. But more importantly it’s also about compassion.” Being at conference that was putting people above the technology was a revelation. For the chairman, compassion is the narrative that matters.

Siggraph Dave Schreiner

He introduced everyone to Paulo Henrique Machado from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The computer animator attended Siggraph for the first time despite being confined to a bed and hooked to an artificial respirator 24 hours-a-day. Shreiner’s own iPad adorned Machado’s telepresence robot that allowed him to experience the people, the sights and the sounds in real time.

Machado shared with the SIGGRAPH team that the robot, “gives me the freedom that I physically can’t have.” Shreiner offered to the audience. “SIGGRAPH is a community. Paulo is part of our community, and we take care of our own.”

You can learn more about Machado from this BBC feature story.

The compassion theme was further amplified in keynote speaker Elliot Kotek. As chief of content and cofounder of Not Impossible Labs he’s a storyteller of the highest order. But he’s also a driving force behind a team whose core belief is that technology has to exist for the sake of humanity.

Read also: Not Impossible Mobilizes the International Maker Community to Save Lives

Kotek highlighted a number of projects the Not Impossible Labs team is currently tackling, as well as their commitment to a philosophy of shared innovation. He highlighted stories where open source platforms, hackers and do-it-yourself makers are fusing a community together and improving the lives of others with a mindset of “permission-less innovation.”

The genesis for Not Impossible Labs was the Eye-Writer project. For Tempt, a world renowned L.A graffiti artist fully paralyzed because of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), this amazing “hack” now allows him to draw and communicate using only his eyes. It worth watching Kotek’s partner Mick Ebeling’s TED talk.

Time Magazine proclaimed that it’s “hard to imagine any other device here doing more to make the world a better place,” as Kotek’s team leveraged open source CAD files and 3D printing technology to meaningfully transform 14-year-old double-amputee Daniel’s life. Living in war ravaged Sudan, Daniel lost both of his arms during an air raid.

Siggraph Elliot Kotek (1)

Kotek spoke of Daniel despairing about his future and about being a burden to his family and village. By creating a 3D-printed prosthetic arm the impact of seeing Daniel simply feed himself for the first time in two years was massive. Project Daniel was born. Now in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains they have set-up what is likely the world’s first 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility.

The team’s goal was to teach and empower the local community to use this technology and help the too many victims of similar tragedies. Kotek credits Richard Van As for making the  prosthetic hand an open source file. At a cost of about $100 in materials, the needed hardware a little teaching time with people whose education is the equivalent to about the 4th to 6th grade learned in fours days the process to make these prosthetic arms. He pointed out that this is “proof of a process transcending the tech savvy. Most importantly the project lives on!”

Even with an exhibit hall overflowing with the technology that’s driving the visual brilliance we’ve come the enjoy from our games, movies, and animation, as Shreiner later shared with me, “for the Paulo’s, the Tempt’s and the Daniel’s of our world, this is what it’s all about, we make these marvellous things so we should be using them for good.”

There was no shortage of inspiration at Siggraph 2014. Seeing the very tangible results by fusing compassion with technology will hopefully be a catalyst to transcend inspiration into mobilization.My imagination goes into overdrive thinking about what this collection of exceptionally talented people will do in creating an even richer human experience.

 

Human Communication is the Heart of a Connected City

Nora Young
“We at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.”Richard Feynman 

The From Now conference gave over 100 people an opportunity to learn and discuss how technology is integrating into, and changing our societies and culture. Conversations both formal and informal ranged from smart cities, wearables, the internet of things, the quantified self, quantum computing, big data, grassroots tech movements, the maker movement, apps, mobile, robotics, cyborg anthropology, philosophy, bionics, user experience, the impact today and the future of where our tech-led world is taking us.

However, the theme stayed true to keeping humanity with technology. The speakers delivered thoughtful, thought provoking, entertaining topics with each warranting a feature story in their own right.

Nora Young’s (Journalist and host of CBC Spark) morning keynote ‘Design for the Internet of Things: An Urban Utopian Fantasy’ had a deep resonance. For the past 34 years ‘the city’ has been my home, and Young’s talk spoke to the roles that cities play today and how they’ll be the future home to more and more of the worlds population.

The evolution of the connected city has to be more than the applications designed for the efficient delivery of services. Technology can increase citizen engagement, but should also give us a deeper sense of local connection. Asking “does it all have to be known?” Young suggested “we need our digital cities to have a place for the unstructured, unplanned, discoverable, and with room for surprise.” Young cited the great example of Bristol, UK, being a ‘playable city’ with their “hello lamp-post project.”

“We need to actively plan and think seriously how the digital world will influence our physical spaces,” said Young, reminding everyone that we are and will continue to be part of the digital city. The language of the smart city can’t be driven and dominated by the soulless, technocratic, neo-liberal discourse. Touching on her conversation with Adam Greenfield and his work “Against the Smart City,” it served as further reminder about the importance of creating a better human experience.

There’s the need to think locally, and as Young offered to build on the unique “placeness.”

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By taking a distinct approach to urban information she asked “what’s the data personality?”

“What’s the digital difference between Toronto and Vancouver?” she asked. “Consider how we experience our spaces, and to look at something like the Murmur project, illustrating how located media can play a role in connecting us to place.”

There’s a place in the language of the connected city for the vernacular, or to reimagine our spatial relationships through the experience of augmented reality. As citizens we can take ownership and claim to build our own digital and data environments. Young sees this as creating “the democratization of space making in the urban environment.”

Citizen engagement should be about advancing our collective creative and intellectual capital. Within this fabric of citizenry, Young pointed out that “partnerships are needed in the politics of the city.” Conversations should be happening around how we define the notions of “data civics and the data commons.” She shared the importance of spreading of ideas, and how Social Physics can act as a mechanism of change.

Technology can’t be about creating individual bubbles and it can’t be about cutting people off or creating isolation. Isolation only creates more despair. Taking a moment, pausing to wipe away the tears, Young reflected on a friends recent suicide. “Technology should be about the removal of obstructions. The city can be a place of accidental sharing, bumping shoulders, unexpected connections, and place to just hang out. Let it encourage empathy. How do we see ourselves better? Other people better? How do we see each other better?”

Defining the type of cities that we want to call home is “a moral and spiritual issue. The city should be a platform for improving the human experience.” Technology isn’t the savior, it’s only the enabler. We’ll get the cities we want by asking more of ourselves, not by asking more of a city government. Revolutionaries we’re not.

The evolution we should want will happen, as Young said, in true Canadian fashion “by taking to the sidewalk in an orderly fashion.”

Originally appeared in BetaKit

Car2Go is at the Heart of an Entire Transportation Platform

BikeShop

 

If you call Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, or Montreal home you’ve most likely seen Car2Go’sSmart “fortwo” vehicles parked or on the move. The service’s North American debut was in Austin, TX (March 2010), and followed launching in Vancouver (June 2011).

Vancouver is now home to their largest fleet, with 650 vehicles and over 55,000 members, serving a home area of 110 sq. kilometers. The Car2Go footprint is growing globally, servicing 26 cities and over 700,000 members.

Making it easier to get around the city is nice, as is going car free altogether. But more importantly we’re looking to a future where an estimated 70 percent of the world population will live in cities by 2050. Increasing global urbanization is an issue. Car2Go, is essentially one part of a much bigger strategy for addressing the future challenges of individual mobility.

At IBM’s Impact2014 conference Nicholas Cole’s (CEO, Car2Go North America) keynote address introduced everyone to Moovel. It’s a platform that IBM mobile and cloud computing technologies are playing an important role in developing and deploying. With an intuitive smartphone application, Moovel bundles the offers of different providers for the optimal path from A to B, and is linked to public transport.

BmUn_SkIIAAlkYFThe platform is being tested in Germany right now, but there little question that we’re moving towards transportation as a platform. I spoke with Cole about Daimler’s bigger vision. “It’s not just about our own services. We’ll be connecting people with bike sharing, integrating the platform with city transit services, a limo like service such as Blacklane, and air travel. It will be one stop to arrange and book all of your mobility requirements,” he offered. Moovel will also opens up opportunities for third party development with the future release of an API.

I joked about the challenges of making a trip furniture shopping to IKEA in the Smart fortwo. Cole had heard that one before and mentioned that Europe is rolling out Car2Go Black, “it’s a natural progression being able to offer a bigger car, and longer duration of use. At trip’s end, the vehicle is returned to one of the dedicated parking stations – including those in another city where car2go black is available. There’s no return time required during the trip.” In Europe, the car2go black network will be based solely on the Mercedes-Benz B-Class.

Cole talked about the evolution of their business saying, “you just can’t drop a few hundred cars into a city and expect it to work, it’s important to be part of the community fabric.” Working with the city administrations is critical to the success of any urban transportation efforts like this, but so is working with business. “It’s the residents of every city who are the heart of our business, but we do see growing opportunities to work with companies too. We’re looking to do more with local businesses who have campus size footprints in a city.” While it’s a natural fit, he highlighted how they’re working with Daimler Trucks North America in Portland.

Waterfront

Five years ago the idea of allowing car sharing service vehicles to flow through the city, versus simply being allocated a set number of parking space, was met with no shortage of resistance. Conceiving a new vision for personal mobility within the bureaucratized city transportation grid and revenue generating model didn’t align with many cities in those early days. According to Cole, “thankfully cities like Austin and Vancouver said lets discuss it, and see what makes sense. Today, cities are approaching us.”

We also touched on how the car can eventually just be another sensor. There’s no reason our cars shouldn’t be telling us what’s happening around us, like the air quality, emissions, traffic conditions, road conditions, and where to find parking. As he noted “technology is getting closer to where cars will tell you what roads to avoid. With the integration of apps like Waze is where we’ll have the ability to know the best ways of getting around in real time.”

The transportation network is a key to creating more livable cities of the future. Envisioning a network that’s integrating more mobility options, that’s more efficient, less congested, flowing more efficiently, and spewing less carbon is a good place to start.

This story originally appeared in BetaKit

Jacqueline Novogratz Leads Conversation of Audacious Action

Jacqueline Novagratz

“The humility to see the world as it is, and the audacity to imagine the world as it could be.” — Jacqueline Novogratz

That’s the mission statement that drives Acumen’s CEO Jacqueline Novogratz every day. She’s the founder and CEO of Acumen, a non-profit group that raises donations to invest in entrepreneurial projects that tackle poverty around the world.

A Vancouver audience had the opportunity to hear Novogratz’s thoughts on impact investing as part of a conversation organized by the Vancouver Acumen chapter and the Simon Fraser University Radius program.

“Bright Spots & What’s Missing,” focused on what’s working and what’s missing from social enterprise.

Sharon Duguid, (director and family enterprise advisor, Center for Entrepreneurs and Family Enterprise at PwC) moderated the discussion with Novogratz and Kevin Royes, serial soulcial-preneur and youth entrepreneurship educator.

Entrepreneurship is about going over, around, under or right through obstacles. It’s not for the faint of heart. Duguid asked, “How do you approach the naysayers, the tight-fisted, the policy people, how do you keep the momentum going?”

“Start and let the work teach you,” said Novogratz. “It’s too easy to wait until everything is set up perfectly before you try to move.” She shared the story of four guys wanting to change the ambulance industry in India: “We thought they were crazy. It was such a big, broken, corrupt, bloated industry, but still said why not give it a try. Over time, very quickly we saw how a tiny, no-name, ethical, entrepreneurial organization could navigate this morass.”

Ziqitza Healthcare has grown to the second largest ambulance company in Asia. She shares more of the story in her winter 2014 letter.

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She offered that if “you’re entrepreneurs, you can’t wake up in this morning thinking you can anticipate everything that’s going to happen. The standing on the shoulders of others, learning from it, and the willingness to move from a place of moral authority with fearlessness, to take on challenges, sometimes with soft power, and sometimes by playing hardball. It’s about not being afraid of either side.”

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In terms of priorities, and doing what’s right, Novogratz isn’t wearing rose-coloured glasses. While offering that in many regards it’s a great time to be alive, she also cautioned, “I think there’s a risk that with so much wealth being concentrated in one tiny, tiny, tiny pinprick of a corner, we’re actually at risk of losing empathy.”

“I don’t know if we’re only going to get it through this one-to-one relationship model,” she added. “I think we have opportunities as social entrepreneurs to be thinking about the kinds of solutions that can really humanize great innovation.

“We’re seeing the next coolest app getting ridiculous multiples, but we’re not seeing the kind of innovation we need to get water to the right places. The more we can somehow make that sexy, and celebrate entrepreneurs who are using innovation to create change the more things will change for the better.”

She talked about building ethics, by citing a story about a Ziqitza employee who found a wallet on the Indian roadside with about $50 in it. He took the wallet to the hospital and personally gave it to the patient once out of surgery. He trusted no one to do the same, and was held up as a public hero.

“We have to consider another metric for success,” Novogratz suggested. “It’s not just the one who has the most money wins. It’s how much are you giving? How much dignity are you giving? How much are you enabling others to gain?”

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Duguid asked Novogratz and Royes what the most compelling issue they face in their daily mission.

“We have be careful when looking at a tree with some diseased leaves for instance,” said Royes. “Our tendency is to go to the leaves and try to fix them. I’m constantly driven by this idea of creating the biggest amount of change with the least amount of effort.”

Novogratz answered, “At the heart of it, is how do you navigate these complex and interlinking systems of finance, venture capital, philanthropy and the very poorest people on the planet in a way that moves from respect for everybody. And, that can really tear at you in a lot of different ways. How do you keep that core, so that everybody will have a place to play in this growing ecosystem.”

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Entrepreneurship was at the heart of the conversation. “How do you cut past the distractions, and focus on what needs to be done right now?” asked Duguid.

Royes talked about reading “Mastery” and suggested, “There’s a period of apprenticeship before we start to settle in, start to make sense and see the bigger picture. We have to appreciate that we’re going to be making mistakes in business that I’m going to learn from. That’s part of it, and I even have to accept the possibility of failure. That’s OK because it’s part of becoming an apprentice. We have to get in the game, we have to start taking some action, we have to start somewhere.”

He touched on the fact that by 2025, millennials will make up 75 per cent of the workforce: “That’s a good future to look forward to.”

As well, he pointed to the recent Deloitte Millennial survey saying he’s excited by the prospect that “70 per cent see themselves working independently.” This could be a good trend, because clearly there are no shortage of employers feeling unprepared for this new generation of leaders.

In terms of key social trends like collaboration, sharing, and a growing global connectivity, that are reshaping our markets, Royes talked about this being “a people to people time. Big institutions are moving very slowly, and people are creating so much change outside of it.

“People are caring way more about where things are coming from. Part of our jobs as creators is to consider how we’re connecting with the people in this world and how they’re spending their money. It doesn’t matter what the initiative is, if we don’t connect why the person is buying something in the first place.”

The story originally appeared in the Huffington Post BC

Photos by Thompson Chan and Nikki Koutsochilis

“It’s OK to be Pro-Privacy Without Being a Crook, Pervert, or Terrorist.”

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OpenMedia.ca invited a group of people from Vancouver’s technology, philanthropy, and social enterprise community to join an evening conversation entitled, “Propelling our Connected Future Forward.”

The community-based organization is focused on safeguarding the possibilities of the open Internet. They’re creating informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights. They support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy based on five basic principles set out in the Declaration of Internet Freedom.

Read Also: Canadian Indentity-Privacy Pioneer Austin Hill Has a Message for the Founders of Whisper and Secret

Michael Tippett (co-founder of NowPublic, now director of new product for HootSuite) and Tim Bray (former developer advocate for Google, cofounder of Open Text Corporation and Antarctica Systems) lead the conversation.

Tippett was very clear about his reasoning for being part of the evening. Thinking back to the late ‘90’s and being part of one of Canada’s first digital agencies Tippett said, “I’m part of this GenX malaise, thinking life is gloomy and we’re going to be worse off than our parents. A real bummer. And then the internet came, and it was like we’re saved!”

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The early internet days were seen as a kind of utopian vision. It represented an open, free, democratic, and revolutionary force. Tippett added, “it changed a lot of lives, my life, and is now changing my kids’ lives. The reality is that those heady days are behind us, and that original vision is under threat. A great internet is more than just having fast download speeds for a better Netflix experience, it’s about ensuring we have an open, free, and democratic society.”

Bray said “there’s a lot of things we need to do to make sure the internet stays open. We have to worry a lot about things like net neutrality, pricing, and bandwidth. The one thing that worries me most of all is privacy. You can’t have an open internet unless you can close down parts of it, namely the parts you don’t want to share with everyone else in the world.

Having private by default internet, one which can be truly open and people can be themselves without fear doesn’t have to be a utopian vision. Ultimately, there needs to be a counter position to those who think, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why do you need privacy anyhow.” Wanting privacy isn’t about having nefarious intentions.

According to Bray, “it’s ok to be pro-privacy without being a crook, pervert, or terrorist.”

The people who are spying on us on behalf of your government are just people. Most are well-meaning, underpaid, dedicated public servants who passionately believe they are protecting you and me from bad guys who want to do terrible things. However, a small proportion of them are inevitably stupid, insane, corrupt or just crazy. People who are in that position with that much access to information can wreak havoc on your life in a lot of different ways. Thus it needs to be regulated, watched, and the amount of snooping needs to be minimized. And there’s nothing wrong with asking for that.”

With the proliferation of mass surveillance and an emergence of an accompanying sense of police statism, Bray suggested that “while we have to cherish and protect the members of our law enforcement community, we also have to watch them like a hawk. We have to limit their actions, and preserve our privacy, because by default there’s nothing wrong with being private. Most of us are not terrorists.”

Read Also: BetaKit at #SXSW: Kiwi Wearables Does Not Want to Perform Science Experiments On Your Personal Data

The supposed goal of all of this pervasive surveillance is to protect us, and prevent bad things from happening to us. Yet as Bray said, “if you look at all of the bad things that could happen to us and the amount of money, resources, and technology being put into pervasive surveillance, it’s ridiculously out of balance. This record and watch, read, or listen to everything later is profoundly not cost effective no matter how you look at it.”

“Privacy is not a means to an end. Privacy is an end itself. It is a virtue of civilization, as opposed to living in a primitive culture,” Bray concluded. “We should cherish and protect it, and we shouldn’t ever have to explain why.”

It makes one question our current government priorities, when they’re in the process of building a new spy palace. By some estimates elevating the role of our surveillance state will cost the Canadian taxpayer somewhere between $1.2 billion, and $4.2 billion dollars. Curious what kind of investment is being made to help close our growing digital divide, and improve our national productivity and competitiveness?

It’s not the Orwellian Big Brother vision that’s worrisome. With government invading our privacy it’s the Kafkaesque version of this story that raises the biggest concern. When I close the door to my home I have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Yet, when I open my laptop or turn on my phone, that expectation is completely violated. While corporatism isn’t necessarily making the world a better place, at least Google, Facebook or Twitter can’t audit, indict, prosecute, jail or break me.

He realized at once that he shouldn’t have spoken aloud, and that by doing so he had, in a sense, acknowledged the stranger’s right to oversee his actions.” Kafka – The Trial

This story originally appeared in BetaKit

Photos by Tyson Dziedzic (http://klixphotography.com)

How Wellness Can Save Health Care

Train wreck is a term used by medical professionals in both the literal and figurative sense. There’s literally treating the injured survivors of a real train wreck. Then there’s treating those people who are simply a walking train wreck of personal neglect. Inactivity, obesity, smoking, alcohol and drugs, poor diet are the health care system’s apocalypse.

The numbers (from 2010) don’t lie according the Public Health Agency of Canada: “More than half (58 per cent) of all annual health care spending in Canada is for chronic diseases, at a cost of $68 billion a year. Chronic diseases cost Canadians at least $190 billion annually (2010). More Canadian adults of working age (34-64) are living with chronic diseases which are affecting their health and wellbeing. Chronic diseases can increase income inequities, deplete household wealth, increase health spending and lower labour productivity.”

The founders and clinical directors of Vancouver’s Connect Health, Dr. Ashley Riskin and Dr. Lawrence Cheng have witnessed countless preventable train wrecks as ER physicians.

“By the time things reach me in the ER it’s already too late. I’m dealing with the end stages. Yes we could do some heroic things like save part of someone’s heart muscle from a massive heart attack. But the more I thought about it, if we could have intervened much earlier and much more upstream in the persons life, we could have changed the trajectory of how their life had been. They wouldn’t be in the ER department at 2 a.m.,” says Cheng. This experience is pushing them into forefront of practicing medicine in a new way.

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This is not a two-man show, this is a team of professionals who have a new vision for health care. Wellness is leading the conversation. The seven-minute discussion along with a prescription in hand is replaced with the doctor and patient becoming equal partners. Healing is a very fine and delicate art form. Connect Health is delivering an integrative andfunctional medicine approach, that’s rationally combining western and non-western modes of healing.

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The doors officially opened in June 2011. The journey hasn’t been easy. The regulatory environment was not an encouraging one for physicians to work with non-physicians. It’s proven to be a big jump for these two groups of professionals and practitioners to work together. Albeit slowly, the regulatory situation is improving, making for a more positive climate to operate this type of clinic.

It was an introduction to each other by Andrew Weil in 2008 that laid the foundation for Connect Health.

“We call it a health care system, but it’s really a disease care system. We know, that even by conservative estimates 50 per cent, maybe even 70 per cent of most chronic diseases, which are largely responsible for clogging our already overcrowded emergency departments everywhere, are largely preventable,” says Cheng. “I needed to think about how I was going to practice, and how I could be more effective in helping people.”

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Connect Health is a non-profit clinic with a proactive approach to address complex chronic conditions. It’s comprehensive, holistic and empowering. This model represents the potential future of healthcare.

There’s an illusion that health care in Canada is free. It’s not. Just because there isn’t a bill for every visit or every treatment doesn’t mean it’s a free service. Every single treatment, procedure or prescription drug doesn’t come with guaranteed coverage. A visit to Connect Health does come with a bill. But maybe it’s time we start putting a value on our good health.

Riskin points out they spend at least a full hour with each patient. “Our intake form is 27 pages long. It goes through everything, and we actually get a chance to know the patient even before we meet them,” he says.

“These visits aren’t covered by MSP. Even though we charge for that hour, and the public perception may be that we’re making tons of money, the reality is that we’d be better off doing walk-in medicine. Ultimately the goal is to come up with a sustainable model where physicians aren’t having to take a pay cut to work in a clinic like this. That’s how it’s been up to now, but we’re all interested in making a model like this work.”

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Think about the stuff we don’t hesitate to buy: toys, gadgets, devices, distracting experiences. We don’t hesitate investing in extended warranties for big ticket items, insurance or investments to secure our financial futures. Yet, investing in changing behaviours and investing in good health doesn’t resonate with many people.

Shifting the conversation as Dr. Riskin offers is about offering positive reinforcements: “As Dr. Dean Ornish says, if someone with heart disease is sitting in their wheelchair and choking down a cigarette, telling them to stop smoking because they’ll die, quickly ends the conversation. They likely reply ‘I’d rather die than stop smoking.’ It’s much more powerful suggesting that they’ll be able to hold their grandkids, and walk again.”

 This story originally appeared in the Huffington Post BC