Throughout last year I worked on a European Standard called CWA 17796 Responsibility-by-design – Guidelines to develop long-term strategies (roadmaps) to innovate responsibly, for the CEN. It is now available to download and use.
CEN is an association that brings together the National Standardization Bodies of 34 European countries, providing a platform for the development of European Standards and other technical documents in relation to various kinds of products, materials, services and processes.
This is what they say about themselves: The CEN works together with national standards bodies to create documents established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that provide, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.
This document is a workshop agreement that provides guidelines to develop long-term strategies (roadmaps) for innovating responsibly, thereby helping organizations to achieve socially desirable outcomes from their innovation processes. The roadmaps encourage a “responsibility-by-design” approach that integrates considerations of technical, ethical, social, environmental, and economic aspects all along the research, development, and design process leading to an innovation.
After an introduction, the agreement offers an overview of principles for Responsible Research and Innovation, (reflection, anticipation, inclusion and responsiveness), before moving on to a section detailing the framework proposed.
The agreement closes with a series on annexes in which easy-to-interpret tables offer examples of RRI actions, tools, guideline applications, SWOT analysis for implementation in industry, tools for stakeholder analysis, methods for stakeholder engagement, criteria for impact analysis and key performance indicators before concluding with resources from other initiatives and a bibliography.
The idea is that it is a guide, offering suggestions on possible approaches that might help to make innovation strategies more responsive and responsible, following on from years of research and policy suggestions promoted by the European Commission.
Here in the Netherlands the University system just reopened after a short lockdown (again). There are still restrictions on how many people are allowed into rooms however, a maximum of 75 in any single space. This ruling was introduced last year, and led to some developments that might be of interest to technology fans (and privacy fans I should add).
Counting people manually as they enter and leave a room is a time consuming and expensive approach, so two universities had the idea of using cameras and artificial intelligence to check how many people are in buidings and individual spaces.
Utrecht University ran a trial, while Leiden placed 371 cameras on the walls above the doors to each space.
The Leiden approach however caused a bit of a stink. The cameras were all placed and set up while the students were locked out of the building, the ideal time we might say, to be having people up ladders in front of doors. But such an approach can also be seen as trying to do something without too many people noticing.
And that is how some of the students saw the arrival, and a couple started to investigate for an article in the weekly University student magazine.
Counting entries and exits, well nobody could be against that! The University has to do it by law. So discussion grew around the methods and the cameras and the data.
The university had bought 371 cameras from the Swiss manufacturer Xovis, 600 euro a piece. So the question is what can (and do) they register?
Now these types of cameras are already in use in airports and shopping centres, to minimize waits (among other things) and to try and calibrate advertising and work out the actual moment that someone choses to buy something. So such data does offer broad analysis possibility.
The slogan used by the manufactures maybe lets the cat out of the bag a bit: ‘Way more than people counting.’
The cameras can of course be set to different levels of data collection and privacy, from level 3 fully anonymous (just numbers of people), to 0, which is a livefeed of the images.
Now I am no expert, but one problem seems to me to be that the system records lots of data, that at some point someone filters before providing their dataset to the customer. Who, when, under which circumstances, who manages security of access, there are a lot of issues here. But they are not all negative. Such a system may be of use in a terrorist incident for example, or other sorts of emergency. You could see why something more expansive might be chosen over a system that just counts movement. But there is a moral as well as practical dilemma in choosing such an overkill solution to a simple problem.
The report the student investigators published in the weekly university magazine showed lots of security issues, and there were protests from the students who wanted the system taken down. Both Utrecht and Leiden have now stopped using the cameras.
But that is not a good result from a responsible innovation perspective. Lots of money was wasted, many people got upset, two sides of an argument were constructed that are at loggerheads with each other.
A change in public participation techniques might have avoided all of this. A lesson to be learned I feel. Informing without debate doesn’t work.
You can read the student report here and a local newspaper report here. All in Dutch though, so you might have to use some translation software.
This is going to sound nuts, but I believe the most important company of this decade will be a “car” company. Specifically Tesla.
Here are my thoughts.
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”
That’s a direct quote from Tesla’s website. It’s what their founder, CEO and Technoking (yes, that really is his title! 😂) Elon Musk believes, so much so, that Tesla’s patents are open-source – the goal being so others can benefit from the advancements Tesla have made.
Elon believes that even with access to Tesla’s intellectual property, competitors still won’t be able to compete, thanks to the companies software and manufacturing excellence.
The first step to becoming a great organisation is having a mission people truly care about and believe in. In my book, there aren’t many missions stronger than trying to make the world a better place to live.
Tesla’s diverse business(es)
It’s a great misconception to believe that Tesla is a “car company”.
It’s in the servicing industry, providing the parts and labour required to maintain all Tesla products 🛠️
It’s a rapid-charging network, with more than 25,000 Supercharging stalls globally ⚡
It’s an insurance provider, providing cover for those driving it’s cars 📄
It’s a software company, designing it’s own mobile apps and the in-car interface ⚙️
It’s an AI robotics firm, developing the code for Full Self-Driving (Level 5 Autonomy) and the Tesla Robot 🤖
It’s a supercomputer manufacturer, building the most powerful computer of all time, to support it’s AI 🖥️
It’s a currency trader, holding Bitcoin and selling in multiple currencies around the world 💱
All-in-all, Tesla has a huge number of areas of speciality, and is vertically integrated to the extreme!
Tesla aims for the moon, in EVERYTHING it does
Tesla has a culture of being the absolute best in class at everything they do. Tesla doesn’t settle for second best, if they commit to something, they’re aiming to be the best.
They didn’t just aim to make a fast electric car, they aimed to make the fastest production car in the world – and they did!
They wanted to build safe cars, and they really did – when released, the Model 3 was the safest car the NHTSA had ever tested! The Model Y received top marks too.
They aren’t satisfied with a Gigafactory, they’re aiming to be able to produce 10 terawatt-hours of battery capacity by 2030. VW is a leader in electrification among the legacy automakers, “boldly” aiming for 240 gigawatt-hours of capacity by 2030. Tesla is aiming to produce that (and another 10gWh) from their new Berlin factory alone… in the next few years!
They aren’t aiming for gold standard driver assistance aids, they’re working on fully autonomous vehicles, which are already 10 times safer driving than a person. Entertainment centres on wheels, with Netflix built-in, and no need for steering wheels.
They aren’t even satisfied with the cars as they are when they sell them, so they’re constantly tweaking, enhancing and upgrading them with free, over-the-air software updates. Extras include: entertainment upgrades like the YouTube app and Fallout Shelter game; Sentry mode, a security camera recording system; power boosts and range improvements; faster charging speeds; mapping upgrades and charge station updates; and much, much more.
The entire fleet provides data to Tesla and their neural nets are constantly learning and improving features, be that airbag deployment safety, automatic wipers sensitivity or full self-driving accuracy.
They weren’t happy welding individual parts together, and now use a Gigapress/gigastamp, which speeds up production and improves quality – stamping car bodies out like toy cars! This helps them to produce a car every 2 minutes!
They have Elon Musk
Whatever your opinion of the man, he’s a visionary, with extraordinary determination, and the ability to galvanise a cult-like following. He’s had huge success in the past with Zip2 and X.com (which became PayPal), and his current companies are doing pretty well too!
In September, SpaceX sent four regular people into space. They orbited the Earth for 3 days, higher than the ISS and higher than any human has been since we went to the moon. The Starlink satellites are rolling out rapidly, offering high-speed, low latency internet globally.
Having multiple companies which can integrate and share knowledge is a huge bonus. For example, what other car manufacturer is able to send a car into space – like Elon did with Starman in his Tesla Roadster.
His approach to a problem is to make the product ten-times cheaper through relentless efficiency and looking at the problem in a new way. One example can be seen at SpaceX, the view there was that throwing a rocket away after each launch was a big contributing factor to its cost. Elon often likens it to throwing away an aeroplane after each flight, it’s madness! So SpaceX engineered self-landing rockets, a phenomenal idea, cost saver and huge achievement!
Musk also owns The Boring Company, which is creating tunnels under major cities to enable significantly faster transportation – another service Tesla cars could benefit from.
The knowledge sharing across his companies is a huge advantage, Tesla’s competitors just don’t have.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few months now, and started working on it in September. This was before Tesla’s huge Q3 deliveries and financial results, and the massive stock growth which followed – making them the 6th biggest company (by market capitalisation) in the world! It seems like these developments further support the thinking that Tesla will be the biggest company in the world this decade.