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European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda
Working together to ensure Europe plays key role in Internet of the Future
Launch ceremony for Internet of the Future Public-Private Partnership
Brussels, 3 May 2011
The future Internet - when I hear this concept I think of the current Internet and how it developed: so fast, that we already speak of the need of a new Internet, an Internet of the future.
The explosion of creativity, communication and innovation that the Internet has brought were unimaginable some 15 years ago. Now we are in the middle of it. Social networking sites connect over a billion people worldwide and even help people to overthrow autocratic and corrupt regimes. New products and services are launched every day and new markets are explored.
The Internet economy is valued at €500 billion with a staggering 12% annual growth rate. It is creating more jobs and paying higher salaries than virtually any other market. This future Internet economy will grow to 5.8% of European GDP or almost 800 billion euros by 2014.
So why do we insist on a future Internet if the numbers are already startling for the existing Internet? Because we are only at the beginning of the Internet era. Where so far we have experienced the Internet of connected computers, and connected people, the Internet is now going mobile and it will connect a whole range of machines and objects.
We are heading for a world that is much smarter. Where information generated by people and our environments can be used productively in real time. For example, the company UBIMET today collects environmental data for weather forecasting. In the future Internet, this data will not only be used for making better and more accurate weather forecasts but to provide input for personal health information systems, or traffic management, or agriculture.
The current Internet is simply not capable of managing these future data streams, nor is it able to provide the desired accuracy, resilience and safety. Even now, with around one billion sensors, we are unable to make proper use of all the data they generate. How much potential will be wasted once there are 50 billion connected sensors? With such additional network capacity constraints, it's clear we must find new ways to handle this data.
This gap in capacity and capabilities is waiting to be filled. We need to grab this opportunity to ensure Europe's future competitiveness; but also to safeguard European values like privacy, openness, and diversity and to unlock European creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. So whether we look at it from a societal or economic or strategic perspective, Europe cannot fail to address the challenge of the future Internet.
If we don't do it first, many others will get there ahead of us. Consider ongoing developments in places such as Song-do in Korea, a brand-new smart city housing 75 000 residents and giving work to more than 300 000 people. Or developments in Japan, where after the earthquake cloud computing services were made available by Fujitsu free of charge to those who lost their homes, to store information, communicate with government relief networks or simply help to reconstruct the social fabric.
The Digital Agenda for Europe is our roadmap for advancing the digital economy in Europe and the European Commission has launched a number of initiatives to that end, building upon a considerable legacy.
At the core is a strategy for European Future Internet research which is instrumental in developing the basic Internet technologies, services and applications. This brings together more than 140 R&D projects and charges them with the responsibility to take Europe to the leading edge of Internet research in areas such as next generation mobile Internet access networks or more efficient multi-media content delivery networks, to name just a few examples. The Future Internet Assembly, together with the Future Internet Forum, provides a European platform for national actors and the European Commission to coordinate the complex web of European, national and regional activities.
In the more specific domain of the 'Internet of Things' we are probing deep into questions of ethics, data governance, privacy and standards, which serves as a precursor to extending such discussions to the future Internet as a whole.
And today we launch the Future Internet PPP (FI-PPP). This new and important instrument builds upon and will complement our existing efforts in a number of ways.
The Future Internet PPP is led by industry and driven by users, to address the challenges holding back Internet development in Europe.
It is supposed to break down the proprietary barriers that currently exist between different applications, platforms and sectors. It also addresses market and legal barriers.
It bridges the gap between private and public interests, between the technology development and its deployment and commercialisation.
This is a programme that must provide the flexibility and adaptability to public service infrastructures and business processes to enable applications to interact seamlessly with the Cloud and sensors and to make better use of the richer data that will be collected.
And let us be aware that this is not about technology alone; this is as much about how organisations cooperate and collaborate – the governance – and how it must be adapted. This is one of the reasons why this broad partnership is so important.
We have to recognise the fact that the design of the future Internet is not dependent just on the ICT industry., They are indeed the ones we rely on for our daily communications, but it is imperative that the requirements of real users, such as the transport community, energy providers, content providers and local authorities are taken into account for the definition of an open and standardised framework. And this is exactly what this FI-PPP facilitates.
Also it must be an EU-coordinated partnership. Only the EU has the convening power to bring together 152 actors from different sectors across the continent building the Internet of the future. Moreover, national borders will have little meaning in the service provision we are dealing with – this is building up cross-border markets from a blank page.
There is a distinct role for regional governments and municipalities in this public-private partnership. While they will be supporting the pilots that are foreseen in the various case projects, they act as users of future Internet services at the same time. They are instrumental in driving public sector innovation as they serve as platforms for a wide uptake of new services and products.
The FI-PPP should be seen as Europe's large scale experiment in developing a fully open Internet platform that delivers quality of service instead of the current best effort approach.
We are aware that this is an ambitious objective and that there is always a risk of failure, but we think it's worth it. Undoubtedly there will be disappointments along the way. But given the potential rewards and the solid commitment of the PPP partner organisations, it is a price worth paying.
What is the big prize? Well, in my mind it’s clearly the possibility of finding new ways to benefit from the wealth of real-time information generated by sensor networks, peer-to-peer communications, open data, and other sources. We are providing the digital nuts and bolts that will make the smart grids and smart transport systems work as they should, while fully exploiting them.
Given the current situation of widespread urbanisation - in 2025, over 2 billion people will live in cities of at last 1 million citizens - cities have no other choice than to transform their networks and optimise their resources, a point that is especially important since such resources are limited. The different elements of its networks (in a city, for example, traffic lights, public transport, parking, cars, or the citizens themselves) provide real-time information — collected using sensors — which can be exploited at any time. Digital cities and regions also have linked network components so that they can “speak to each other” and transform data into usable information; without transgressing individual privacy. It is precisely this digitalisation and interconnectedness that will give both citizens and administrators the ability to make informed decisions to improve overall well-being.
To continue with the example of cities and transport, the stakes tied to smart transport go beyond the simple concern of easing road traffic. They require sophisticated applications not only for transport users but for infrastructure operators as well.
Take the city of Stockholm for example. They have plenty of traffic monitoring cameras and sensors that so far only look at car number plates. How about turning their eye towards weather and road conditions or other challenges? Those are all crucial issues in Nordic countries. What if we also create a platform that allows that information to be shared and analysed? So that anyone from the city council to software developers in Cyprus could make a new economic activity based on this information?
As the PPP model is an open model we expect that users will play a key role in driving application-led innovation - with investment by all actors, notably industry, in Internet access infrastructure, in sensor and data technology and in Internet services applications for public and private sector, for consumer and citizens, such as agriculture, port management, energy and online content. So through its multiplier effect, the value created for Europeans will be much larger than the €300 million the Commission has assigned to this programme, which is matched by the industry partners in the FI-PPP programme.
This PPP is a bold but pragmatic experiment.
In a single partnership we are building up entrepreneurship, changing global expectations on this issue, and delivering concrete benefits to each citizen, business and government. And more generally this PPP will put European industry and government at the centre of an important Internet value creation culture.
At the end of this process we will have a networked innovation ecosystem that is more secure and resilient and inclusive compared to if we did nothing.
Of course, there will be hard work and hard choices before this concept becomes a set of tangible products. And we must constantly ask ourselves: is this better or different to what the market does?
It remains an experiment throughout its lifetime as industry ventures into exploring the answers to questions such as: is today's ICT industry tomorrow's Future Internet industry? What will be the new business models providing new revenues streams for the European Internet industry landscape? Will today's telecom operators be agile enough to grow into these new times? Can the ICT industry re-invent itself and invest beyond merely protecting their market share and next quarter profit targets? Can we all together motivate regional governments and municipalities to become the user innovation drivers, in today's times of financial austerity?
But I would not ask you to join this challenge, if I didn't think we could do it together. So we all seize the opportunity now laid out today, I am convinced the PPP will be a success.
EU funding will kick-start this process but in the end it's not the money that is most important – it's us, our co-operation and brain-power. The ideas from you with the right European regulatory environment!
I look forward to meeting you all in one year's time to critically review the progress made in this Future Internet PPP.