LeWeb 2012 tidbits

LeWeb 2012

I have just attended my third LeWeb internet conference in Paris, my two previous were in 2007 and 2008. I was lured back to LeWeb due to their theme for this year: “Internet of Things”, a rapidly growing sector that I think will affect our society and businesses just as much as the current Internet has done so far, and where I see many new business development possibilities.

I am somewhat overwhelmed with impressions from my three intense days here, so this will only be some tidbits of what I found interesting and some feedback on the conference format.

My overall impression of LeWeb is that it has grown into one of the world’s biggest and most professionally organized internet conferences. There were a very mixed crowd from all over the globe attending and the topics of the talks was very varied as they should be, I was pleasantly surprised by some unexpected speakers.

Talks that inspired me at LeWeb 2012

Here is Sen.se Rafi Halidjian founder,  he was the guy behind the innovative and funny wifi-connected rabbit Nabaztag (mine is still in my bookshelf, though sadly dead)
His announced his original vision:
Step 1: Connect rabbits
Step 2: Connect everything else!
Enjoy his visionary talk, he is creating a very interesting platform for Internet of Things.

James Park, founder of Fitbit (I like mine!)  talked about how hard it is to develop hardware “There is a reason it is called hard-ware” Check out his talk here

Anthropologist Amber Case gave a very good talk  about cyborgs and uses for real-time location tracking and Quantified Self. I totally agree with her about the Tower of Babel interoperating problem with Internet of Things. (Note the very professional video mixing between her and the audience, illustrating her story very well!)

I was surprised to find myself crying at LeWeb, with salty tears flowing all over my face. This happened when by serendipity I was experiencing the talk by Scott Harrison, Founder & CEO of charity:water
First I thought: “this is a really good speaker with an amazing life story, but what has clean water shortage in Africa have to do with the Internet of Things?”
Then I became totally absorbed in his storytelling and the way he transformed charity work with state-of-the-art social media tools. And they are using GPS-equipped well-drilling trucks that tweet their donors when they are drilling water wells i Africa!
And then he showed the video about Rachel and my tears started flowing. So I urge you to watch his talk

If you don’t have the 45 minutes to do that, see only the 5-minute video about Rachel a 9-year old with a borthday pledge. If you don’t cry when seeing this video, your heart is made of stone!

Another surprise was Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission and responsible for the Digital Agenda. She is 71 years old and seems to be more sharp and updated about everything Internet and politics than most people. I was impressed by her wisdom and ability to give clear answers. My faith in the EU somewhat restored!

Overall there were many smart women on the stage, for example the TechCrunch editor Alexia Tsotsis was a very skilled interviewer and the chairwoman Chris Chipley of the startup jury impressed me.

Brian Solis, pricinpal at the Altimeter Group, check out his talk

Sigfox introduced a new type of global wireless network for Internet of Things: low power, long range (tens of km!) and low cost. Will be very interesting to see how this develops.

DoorBot from the company Edison Junior, one of many mobile controlled door bells, but this one is beautifylly designed and can be bundled with equally cool Lockitron remote-control for any doorlock, also presented at LeWeb

Reallocate.org,  a nonprofit that gathers developers to improve the quality of life for people with needs, great inititative!
The winner of the LeWeb startup competition was  QunB, a German company with an advanced tool for visualizing and analyzing data, their tag line: Broadcast your data!

The Swedish Trade Council organized a booth for Swedish startups, it was a great success with lots of visitors and media from all over the world interviewing.

Kudos also to LeWeb for the super-professional video and audio on all the stages. I have never seen any better video projection, and the music video jingles and intros were state-of-the-art too, as you can see in the LeWeb videos below.

This picture does not show the splendor of the stage and video screens, but you get a hint. Here is Gestigon presenting their cool gesture-interpreting middle-ware platform.

When you listen to all these inspiring talks and meet lots of high-intense people you need fuel for the brain. LeWeb served the best of conference foods and drinks, here is a small taste of the abundance we enjoyed:

French food at its best. Conference organizers of the world, learn from LeWeb!

Things that LeWeb can improve

As is too often the case with trade conferences, there were too many talks that were just sales pitches. This should be banned, each talk must give something of value to the audience that they cannot find on the speaker’s corporate web site.

Also I feel that Loic Le Meur is a charming and energetic host, but he is doing too much back slapping of his friends on the stage and too many “Oh, that is awesome!” to everything being presented, even the quirky stuff. It would be more interesting with a more journalistic style, where the moderator asks also a bit tougher questions.

I also think there was a little too much focus on American speakers, it seems that we Europeans are mesmerized by all Americans that are famous, forgetting that we do have our own stars in Europe and also the main part of our business usually comes from European customers.

The mingling and networking is always very important at events like this, but there were way to few tables and chairs for this at LeWeb.

The LeWeb website is inexplicably lacking most of the basic stuff an event web site must have, such as: search, descriptions of the speakers and their talks, a list of the exhibitors with descriptions of what they are showing, the videos from the talks etc. It doesn’t even have a proper map of the venue and the exhibitions, where it is located in Paris, and you cannot search for it in Google maps since the street address given is not searchable.

I recommend LeWeb to give their web site a complete overhaul and start using a suitable online networking tool that facilitates networking among the participants before, during and after the event. LeWeb is using a tool called Presdo Match, which I found totally inadequate. I stumbled on a much better tool at LeWeb, the Danish startup Conferize that looks promising.

So based on all this I have updated my post about “Conferences Do’s and Don’ts with my findings from LeWeb.
Check it out if you are interested in how to organize state-of-the-art conferences.


My framed 1993 premiere issue of Wired, hanging on my kitchen wall.

The first issue of Wired magazine from 1993, now free on iPad

I was very happy to see that Wired magazine has published its iconic inaugural issue on the iPad as a free download. I stumbled on the premiere issue at the Design museum in London, when I attended a HyperCard User Group meeting as a representative of my own company Ahead Multimedia AB. One of the organizers of this meeting was the TV journalist Max Whitby, who then run the Multimedia Corporation, a BBC company in London. Max had written an article in the premiere issue: “Is interactive dead?” (Check out his wonderful TEDxLondon talk and his talk on ebooks at Ebook Lab Italia)

Wired has been with me ever since that premier issue in the spring of 1993, I have so many memories from it. Here is an early commercial that sets the mood back then…

One interesting thing about Wired’s premiere issue is that internet was only mentioned twice. This was deliberately, as they wanted Wired to be about everything digital and how it transforms society. But internet would soon become an important subject for Wired and they also launched their own internet services like the search engine HotBot and their online magazine HotWired where they ignited the banner ad format.

I do feel that Wired has lost most of its original quality since 2001 when the editor Chris Anderson took over and steered it away from the long essays on tech and societal development and converting it more into a guys gadget magazine. But I still read Wired online and sometimes find inspiring pearls. But I stopped buying the Wired iPad edition since I find it annoyingly similar to the old CD-ROM format that I produced so much of in the 90s, I wrote about that in my post: iPad media apps: CD-ROM revisited.

This is an important historic document!

I do encourage everyone interested in internet history and future digital development to read the Wired premiere issue on an iPad. Turn on the wonderful annotations where you get inside information and today’s perspective on all the articles and ads.

19 years with Wired, what’s next?

1993 is 19 years ago.  This was just before Internet became mainstream, here is what the web looked like back then:

Mosaic, the first “visual” web browser.

GSM mobiles had just emerged, but were still seen as expensive “yuppie toys” by most people. So in these 19 years we have seen a big transformation of our society and the ways we live, work and communicate.

Do you think that the next 19 years will show less or more progress? I think much more! The development curve is getting much steeper now that we have so much infrastructure in place in the form of broadband mobile networks and inexpensive development tools and sensors.

I see four main transformational technologies in modern history:

  • The electricity in the early 20th century.
  • The mainframe computer in the 60s and the personal computer in the 80s
  • The internet and the web in the 90s
  • The connected smartphone revolution that started with the iPhone in 2005

I believe we are now in the beginning of another just as big transformation:
the Internet of Things, M2M-communications,  Connected devices
These are silly names that will disappear shortly when we start taking for granted that “everything” is as connected to internet as we are. The benefits and possibilites are endless when our machines, gadgets, bodies, cars, tools and environments are all online, communicating both with each other and with us humans.

The new breed of really inexpensive sensors and wireless data connections enables creativity to flow in all kinds of areas. For example in the medical sector, where my focus is, there are already numerous personal health and fitness tracking devices and mobile applications, in a few years they will transform health care as we know it.

Still not convinced this is going to be The Next Big Thing? Read what the tech blogger Robert Scoble is thinking and why he is writing a book about it: The coming automatic, freaky, contextual world

So I encourage everyone to read this historic issue of Wired with the annotations.
Then engage yourself in discussions on how we can learn from this history and make the best of all the exciting digital possibilites lying in front of us!






M2M for Health

This is a summary of my talk at the M2M for Real seminar in 2012

Internet of Things? Machine 2 Machine?

It’s all about people! And health!

M2M is really taking off now after years of hype. But most user cases until now have been about logistics and monitoring devices. The goal of the seminar, as stated by the moderator Magnus Melander was to highlight many new types of uses for M2M solutions that exist today.

M2M usually means Machine-to-Machine communications, smart little devices that can connect with each other and internet. In reality it is often about Man-to-Machine (us controlling machines) och Machine-to-Man (machines reporting to us). But for me the social possibilities are equally important, that we can create valuable connections between people using wireless sensors and mobiles to facilitate Man-to-Man communication.

Internet of Things is also a somewhat misleading term, as there is only one internet that is used by both people and things, devices, machines. What’s new is that there is now an enormous number of inexpensive and smart sensors and platforms that make it very easy and inexpensive to connect things to internet and share the data in the cloud, thereby creating new types of services.

I see the possibilities with Internet of Things as the fourth digital revolution, just as important as the first three: microprocessors and the PC, internet and smartphones.

This revolution has already started in personal health, here are some examples:

Case: Excercise

Problem: Excercise is boring. Step counters are boring and you don’t bother noting down your steps per day or take up any challenges from your work mates.

Solution: FitBit weighs 10 grams and has a battery that lasts more than a week. It automatically tracks not just how many steps you take, but also how many stairs you climb, how many calories you burn, how far you walk and even how well you sleep. It wirelessly uploads your activity data to your smartphone and Fitbit web page:

Result: Increased motivation to change your behaviour and excercise.

Notice the flower display? This flower grows if you are active, shrinks when you are inactive, (Tamagotchi-style!). Sounds silly? Stanford researcher B J Foggs says in this New York times article:

“The little flower growing represents anticipation and hope that something good will happen, which is the flower growing,” he said. “When you push that button and see the change, it’s instant feedback, a reward.”

“Even though the device seems simple, it’s tapping into a complex psychology that changes people’s behavior,” he said. “It hits the right button.”


Here are my FitBit stats for a week. I thought I was rather active, but here I see that I was sedentary for 88% of my time wake…


Case: Body scales

Problem: We don’t use our bathroom scales

Solution: The Withings wifi body scale logs your weight, body fat and BMI automatically. As soon as you step off the scale, your data is uploaded via wifi to your Withings mobile app and your Withings web account. The ability to upload sensor data data automatically is a key factor for success!

Result: You start monitoring your weight in a much more useful way when you see your change over time in diagrams, making it easy to see changes during your vacation, when you start excercising etc.

Here are my diagrams for weight and body fat. I have been struggling all my life to gain weight, haven’t succeeded yet…

Here is another more detailed report from the Quantified Self blog: Lisa’s Tales of Weight Tracking

Case: Blood sugar measuring

Problem: Diabetics struggle to log their blood sugar levels and insulin treatments.

Solution: Glucodock is a blood sugar measuring device that is attached to your iPhone. You measure you blood sugar level as usual by letting a test strip absorb a drop of blood from your finger, but the result is immediately shown on your iPhone screen and logged in the app.

Result: Your blood sugar and insulin diary integrated into your mobile, giving you a good overview. You can also email your data to anyone, for example your doctor. However, there are no other ways to share your data online, which is a major drawback in my view.


Patient empowerment

There is a strong trend in medical care, moving the focus from hospitals and doctors to the patients themselves. The patients are getting involved in their own treatments at a much higher level than ever before, especially for chronic diseases.

Case: Sara Riggare

My project partner Sara Riggare has had Parkinson’s disease since her teens.

Problem: Sara lives a good life, but she is dependent on taking 6 medications in 6 different combinations 6 times per day in order to suppress her Parkinson symptoms. She recently began noticing an increased stiffness in her hands around lunch time daily. So sara asked herself: “How can I optimize my medication to minimize my hand stiffness during the day?”

Solution: Sara started to monitor her self. She found the iPhone app FastFingers (1$ in the App Store):

With FastFingers you tap as quickly as you can with your fingers on the screen for 30 seconds. Sara did this once every hour and logged the results in a diagram:

The four bottom curves are Sara’s right and left hand tapping tests for two days. The top two lines are from her control group; her husband.
Sara noticed that she has a dip around 11AM and that her stiffness decreased when the effects of her 11AM drug intake of Madopark kicked in.
So she decided to take her Levaxin a bit earlier in order to even out this midday dip.

Result: Sara in this way managed to optimize her medication over time to improve her health. Sara of course collaborates with her neurologist, he encourages her and  says “Sara, you know more about Parkinson’s research than I do!” Well, that is because Sara is of course very motivated and she now has these kinds of smart tools.

Read more about Sara and watch her more complete presentations of this on her appropriately titled blog: “Not patient – but impatient

My conclusion

We are only in the beginning, the whole health sector, from fitness and excercise to chronic disease treatments is changing now becauseof all these new possibilities with M2M sensors and apps and the user empowerment.

There is a very big chance for us in Sweden to be a global catalyst for this disruption. We have a forward-looking public sector, global telecom companies, world-class researchers and highly competent hardware and software developers. Let’s do it!

You can also see the talks here, (in Swedish):

My 9-minute talk starts at 1:15:30

If you are interested in tracking data about yourself, join the Quantified Self Stockholm Meetup group that my project partner Ola Cornelius has started together with Sara Riggare and me, Henrik Ahlen.

We started in April and are already 100+ members that meet and test new gadgets and share tips about all sorts of personal data tracking.