EIT Digital interactive workshops

The EIT Digital interactive workshops were designed to stretch participants' thinking in the particular topic areas and to build a network of people interested in pursuing these ideas together. Workshops were carefully moderated and facilitated by Lisa Friedman, Co-founder, Enterprise Development Group EDG and Co-author of The Dynamic Enterprise and Herman Gyr, Founding Partner, Enterprise Development Group EDG

Four workshops were carried out:

  • Future of Urban Life
  • Future of Education
  • Software Defined Networks
  • Bridge for Entrepreneurship Between Silicon Valley and EU

Each workshop started with short lightning talks from several "provocateurs," whose role was to present one or two compelling examples of emerging trends and signals of the future in the specific topic area. Participants then worked in small groups to explore the opportunities in more detail. After each team brought their thinking back to the others, the group as a whole identified the highest impact ideas and next steps to move forward.

This very short process of "exploration" - "idea development" - "value optimization" - and "rapid implementation planning" created the kind of collective intelligence and enthusiasm that makes Silicon Valley what it is: a place where people rapidly engage and bring their best thinking to expand what's possible. The result was a series of very lively sessions that left everyone energized.

One of the most transformational trends in the networking industry, Software Defined Networks, (SDN) sparked a wide ranging and provocative discussion. Representatives from the network equipment manufacturing industry, telecommunications operators, and business users debated the benefits and challenges of adopting this new architectural approach.

SDN seeks to separate the software that controls network equipment from the hardware itself allowing software developers to write code that can manage and control any network equipment, regardless of manufacturer. This will enable the development of more flexible networks that can integrate disparate network equipment and enable faster and more flexible network configuration.

This new way of operating networks is not easy however. SDN is still in its infancy, requiring significant developments in both hardware and software, as well as major changes in operational procedures for the communications service providers.

Allowing independent software to control the underlying network, while the original intent of SDN, is only half the story. The breakout group discussed more sophisticated and far reaching implications of SDN. Several members of the group described the true power of SDN as its ability to connect business applications to the underlying network. This needs to be a two-way connection:

  • Allowing the network to report critical data about activities and events happening at the network level up to the business applications. For example, traffic volume, or security alerts from motion cameras
  • Enable the business applications to control the network, instructing it to establish network services as needed by the business

The promise of this bi-directional interaction, enabled by programmable APIs, will enable telecommunications operators to establish services more quickly and efficiently while also allowing the provision of a new range of services. According to Rick Hutley, VP Global Innovations Practice at Cisco and one of the provocateurs in the workshop, these new services will enable business applications to determine their network support needs based on real world data insight provided by their network.

They will then be able to direct the network to provide the services required to meet their business needs without the need for human intervention. The discussion explored longer term implications of SDN where the line between the network, data center processors, storage etc. no longer exists. Rick Hutley pointed out that while business applications can benefit from being able to control the underlying network to meet their needs, the long term goal will be to enable these applications to control the whole technology infrastructure. SDN is merely the current step on a much larger journey towards what Rick called a "Software Defined Environment" - enabling a dynamic ICT infrastructure that will be directly controlled by business applications.

"Software Defined Networks, along with Network Function Virtualization is bridging the telecom industry paradigm with the computer industry paradigm and is bound to steer the network evolution, hand in hand with the 5G by the end of this decade. The workshop took this for granted and discussed how a transatlantic cooperation can both accelerate and leverage on this evolution. Education, new ways of designing and operating networks, applied research; simulation and interoperability tested on distributed EU and US test bed, and innovation through startups are concrete steps that will be supported by the opening of the San Francisco Hub. A first plan is now available and it will be refined in the next two months to be executed early next year”, explained Roberto Saracco, workshop chair of SDN and Director EIT Digital Italy.

“Our Urban Life and Mobility workshop focused on engaging citizens to make our cities smarter and developing sustainable mobility services. It was seen that EIT Digital can plan a significant role in improving social cohesion across cities and propagating the best solutions across USA and Europe. The role of open data and harmonized APIs was emphasized to enable a wide ecosystem of service developers. As a result, the planned collaboration programme will concentrate on air quality monitoring, participatory budgeting and mobility-as-a-service innovations. In the starting phase we will connect three cities: San Francisco, Paris and Helsinki”, commented Marko Turpeinen, Node Director EIT Digital Helsinki and chair of the workshop.

"Discussion went on the possibilities of online education to personalised and individual learning - a learning that everyone will need in a fast moving society and labour market. Several questions were raised”, said Anders Flodström, Education Director EIT Digital. What are the possibilities to reach out to many? What chance to provide better pedagogy and quality that does online learning provide?

The workshop on Bridge for Entrepreneurship between Silicon Valley and EU generated big interest. "ICT ecosystems are often compared against Silicon Valley, or the San Francisco Bay Area, and for a good reason. It continues to be the premier hotspot with highly innovative ICT companies, fast-moving and strong entrepreneurial culture, world-class universities, and a very rich set of financing tools and investors looking for "the next big venture”, says Klaus Beetz, Business Director EIT Digital.

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