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NextGen 2013: Live coverage from Wembley

NextGen 13 was the sixth annual conference seeking to bring better broadband to the UK.

ITProPortal provided live coverage of the event as it happened. We attended "look forward to the future" with Rohit Talwar, futurist and CEO of Fast Future, and checked out the experiences of the Intelligent Communities forum around the world with co-founder Robert Bell, as well as breaking down the latest technological innovations from across the board.

Coverage included insights into new markets, what the Internet is used for (with Oxford University's Prof. William Dutton) and updates on the challenges facing community leaders as they grapple with local economies.

The conference built on earlier conferences Digital Scotland and Intelligent Cities, as well as providing the focus to take forward the UK's digital access requirements debate.

We followed events live as they unfolded throughout the day.

  • 15 October
  • 12:59

    Unfortunately, that's all we've got time for today - but make sure join us next year for coverage of NextGen 14!

    Don't forget to tune in tomorrow for coverage of IP EXPO in Earls Court.

  • 12:21

  • 12:18

  • 12:17

    Great talk on security by James Blessing - a funny guy, with an affable presentation style. Scary stuff, though!

  • 12:12

    Blessing: "Information gets scary when it's piled into one place, and lots of people have access to it. And that's even before hackers get in and try to access it."

  • 12:11

    Blessing: "It's bad enough that companies in the UK are shifting all their information overseas."

  • 12:10

    Blessing: "stuff is going missing. Every email that goes through your Gmail account is scanned and analysed."

  • 12:09

    James Blessing of the Internet Service Provider's Association: due to TEMPORA, "every time you send a Lolcat to your friend, GCHQ can see it, and put it aside and look at it later. Why should we be worried? Because the UK has a terrible track record when it comes to enormous IT projects."

  • 12:05

    Mersh: "There isn't any such thing as a completely converged service, where you could send media from the mobile network to your TV, say. That doesn't exist - not today, anyway."

  • 12:02

    Mersh: "we're still living in a DSL world, and that's not at all a bad thing. There's still a lot of DSL in our broadband, since it proved itself so successful at providing broadband coverage."

  • 11:52

  • 11:52

    Robin Mersh, CEO of Broadband Forum (opens in new tab) , talks to us about "horizontal integration". Broadband Forum have worked to design protocols and multi-service platforms so that everything easily works with everything else. We'll be talking about cyber-security later on, and whether users are now more cautious about sharing information and integrating applications.

  • 11:32

  • 11:32

    In a smart city, the workmen would presumably know not to make so much noise when there's a conference next door. Just saying...

  • 11:28

  • 11:28

    The stadium's looking beautiful today. People already arriving ahead of the match later...

  • 11:10

  • 11:08

    Rashik Parmar: "Information is value, if used in the right way, but it's also risk, if it's misplaced or misused."

  • 11:06

    Taylor: "it's estimated that 35 per cent of cars driving around a city are looking for a parking space. This is the kind of area where smarter cities will make a massive difference to people's lives."

  • 11:03

    Ian Taylor: "We all have phones that give some kind of location details to someone. The point about data is that it's there. Now can it be used to help you, or will it be wasted?"

  • 11:02

    Rashik Parmar: "Open data is the basis for innovation. It's the bottom-up way of creating innovation."

  • 10:59

    Michael Fourman: "I think you're being a little complacent about people's anxieties around data. What's the role of data in smart cities and what data should be made open?"

  • 10:58

    Léan Doody: "a majority of CCTV cameras installed are completely useless, and aren't used for the purpose that they were installed for, representing an enormous waste of money. We shouldn't be building more surveillance infrastructure like this."

  • 10:49

    Taylor: "data is useless if it's not analysed."

  • 10:47

    Ian Taylor: "There's no such thing as a smart city - yet. There are traditional cities with smart applications built into them."

  • 10:42

    David Cullen, of Prism Business Consulting: "shouldn't we be talking about 'smart communities', rather than 'smart cities'?"

  • 10:36

    Panel discussion now, with Rashik Parmar and Léan Doody from Arup, Kathryn Vowles of Intelligent Infrastructure and Ian Taylor, chairman for LivingPlanIT SA. We're getting to the bottom of strategies for smarter cities.

  • 10:34

  • 10:26

    Parmar: "we need to rethink the place of cities, and how the place adds value... each of the city's resources has to be made sustainable."

  • 10:24

    Phew, some intense debate from those guys. Now we're onto a talk by Rashik Parmar, President of IBM's Academy of Technology, on the issues surrounding the creation of "smart cities".

    Our own Aaitf Sulleyman caught up with Rashik last week. Check out our interview (opens in new tab). If you couldn't make it to NextGen, it's the next best thing.

  • 10:21

    Fourman: "You can't phone up a business nowadays without extreme difficulty. Government is making those channel shifts too, in order to save money on providing public services. Offline people can't access these businesses, and this is making the digital divide worse. This isn't about getting people online so they can sign in to Facebook."

  • 10:19

  • 10:18

    Prof. WIlliam Dutton: "when we came to the UK in the early 2000s, people thought they didn't need broadband. Speed does matter."

  • 10:15

    Fourman: "Resilience is definitely a problem at the edges of the network. We had one instance of someone digging up a fibre because they thought it was copper, and worth stealing - whole swathes of the Highlands were taken off the network for weeks."

  • 10:11

    Prof. Michael Fourman: "Those people who don't do a lot on the Internet are increasingly in the lower economic brackets, and those people who do a lot are increasingly in the higher brackets... there are huge divides there, and the challenges of moving people across those divides is becoming similar to how we moved people across the literacy divide in the past."

  • 10:08

    Lord Inglewood: "In the world we live in, if you can't read, you're at a serious disadvantage in life, and the same thing is starting to happen with digital literacy. If we're not there now, we're getting there very fast."

  • 10:06

  • 10:04

    Lord Erroll: "At the moment, if you say 'digital' to Cameron, he falls asleep."

  • 09:59

    This next talk is being chaired by the Earl of Erroll. The morning has taken a surreal turn...

  • 09:57

    Lord Inglewood: "We're going to get there in this country, but in the Great British way, we'll get there stumbling along. But it's better late than never at all."

  • 09:56

    "What is happening in this area of technology is a revolution of extraordinary proportions, that will change the way we live our lives. I find this revolution very exciting, as it offers all kinds of possibilities for the future."

  • 09:51

  • 09:49

    Inglewood: "The European Union supports, and I believe rightly, in as open networks as possible. The more open a network is, the more competition you will have across that network, which I believe is the single driving force behind economic development."

  • 09:46

    Inglewood: "You cannot judge a network of this kind simply in terms of speed."

  • 09:45

    Fascinating stuff! Now for a touch of class with Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications (opens in new tab).

    Inglewood: "I find Internet use something like driving. I don't get any particular pleasure from driving a car, but by God it's useful."

  • 09:40

    Dutton: "Somehow, age is of more dramatic impact in the UK than it is in the US. In the States, older people are making up a large proportion of new Internet uptake."

  • 09:38

    "The Internet is an 'experience technology'. You have to experience it to find out why it's important, and the people who don't like the Internet or don't think they need it are overwhelmingly those who haven't experienced it before."

  • 09:37

    Dutton: in non-Internet users, "age is the primary factor... The most common response you hear when you talk to people who aren't online is, 'I'm not interested. I've not used it all my life, and I'm not interested now'. It's primarily a cultural divide."

  • 09:36

  • 09:32

    "Adigitals are often carrying a tablet with them, or a smartphone, but they still don't like it."

  • 09:32

    Dutton: these groups "are not merely a surrogate for demographic data. The born digital idea is pretty much a fallacy. 26 per cent of E-mersives are young people and students, but most students are moderates...The most powerful variable we have in our data sets is culture."

  • 09:28

  • 09:27

    Are you an E-mersive, Techno-pragmatist, cyber-savvy, cyber-moderate or adigital? William Dutton breaks down the common types of internet users.

  • 09:19

    Welcome back to day two of NextGen 13, coming to you live from Wembley. If you thought yesterday was good, we've got some surprises for you. Starting off is William Dutton of Oxford University's Internet Institute, presenting the survey we covered earlier this month (opens in new tab).

  • 14 October
  • 17:12

    Well, that's it for today from NextGen 13 in Wembley. Join us tomorrow morning as we pick up the thread again with our exclusive updates. Thanks for joining us!

  • 17:08

  • 17:05

    The lovely guys from Emtelle, Simon Wade and his assistant Mark, showed me some amazing fibre optics, and even peeled off the casing on one of the wires so we could get a look inside. We took this snap of the wire compared to a 1p coin. That's 50 microns thick!

  • 16:57

    David Craddock of HPC Wales: we are "breaking down barriers" with supercomputers in Wales. "We're putting companies in contact with academic researchers, securely and confidentially... we can basically provide a try-as-you-buy service, so companies can make sure that our capability is right for their business."

  • 15:47

    Michael Armitage of Cotswolds Broadband: "With the efforts of everyone here, the imbalance will soon be redressed... the demand is so high and the failure of supply so shocking, if someone [in a rural area] rolled up a van labelled 'superfast broadband,' pretty much everyone would want a slice of that."

  • 15:44

    Simon Wade of Emtelle used the case study of Broadband for the Rural North. Fed up of slow internet, citizens of rural Lancashire have taken to digging their own fibre-optic cables. 40 miles of it! B4RN is one example of how the digital divide is one of this century's biggest movements for social justice.

  • 15:44

  • 15:36

    Someone needs to tell the Wembley Park workers that now is not the time to do some drilling and hammering. There's a conference on! Though maybe they're installing some superfast broadband...

  • 15:32

    Carey: "those who think that capacity is a greater priority than coverage risk making the digital divide even worse."

  • 15:30

    Roger Carey, of Village networks: "Broadband is the electricity of the 21st Century."

  • 15:19

    Quintain are getting ready to take us on a tour of Wembley Park, to prove their point. It is "the largest integration project in the UK's history and arguably the most technically advanced stadium in the world." You can fit the London Eye under its arch. Just about.

  • 15:17

    Quintain: London Designer Outlet in Wembley will be a "smart" shopping mall. Retailers are attracted due to increased advertising opportunities, and complete connectivity: the ability "to close a sale at the point of advertising, frankly."

  • 14:58

  • 14:46

    Tough audience!

    "I've done my research, and I can say I've never heard of SES before today."

  • 14:46

  • 14:43

    Michael Fourman, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Chair of the RSE Digital Scotland report: "There are 300,00 premises that won't be served by the Step Change (opens in new tab) programme. My understanding is that satellite couldn't cover that scale."

  • 14:37

    Mike Locke reminds us of the John Wanamaker quote: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

    In the case of satellite broadband, Locke says, it's 95 per cent!

  • 14:33

    David Cullen: "It's not that the technology's time has come, it's that the technology is in a position to wake up into a new market."

  • 14:22

    Is satellite broadband being overlooked as a NextGen access technology?

    David Cullen: "Why are we still looking at satellite as simply filling in the gaps for 2Mb?"

    Adrian Wooster: "There's nothing wrong with your logic... but WiFi and satellite were once both classed as complimentary technologies. Then the EU stopped classing WiFi as complementary."

  • 14:16

  • 14:12

    Onto the afternoon, and satellite broadband possibilities. Armin Neumaier of SES Broadband (opens in new tab) says that "satellite is seen as a niche that is not cared about". But could it be the solution for the future of Internet connectivity? Could broadband in every household be a possibility? Let the man speak!

  • 13:52

  • 13:51

    The guys at Webro (opens in new tab) aren't messing around...

  • 13:00

    Loyalty in Spectrum-covered areas is fantastic, says Phelps. If BT rolled up and tried to dig cables in the area, people would say "well, you weren't here 7 years ago, and we don't need you now." Ouch.

  • 12:52

    David Brunnen, chairing: "the more we accept generalisations, the less we understand."

  • 12:51

  • 12:46

    Next it's Giles Phelps, from Spectrum Internet (opens in new tab), which is redressing the "digital divide" in rural Wales. Go on, my son!

  • 12:37

    Now is the chance for the industry to "look, learn and innovate" in the effort to spread broadband to rural areas. "Everyone I talk to says 'we need it now'," says Bolton.

  • 12:28

  • 12:24

    Graham Bolton of Cambium Networks (opens in new tab) breaks down the challenges of getting the "rural economy firing on all cylinders". Broadband is "driving every facet of our lives," says Graham. What's more, 90 per cent of new jobs will require IT skills by 2015.

  • 12:21

    As we break out into sessions, the tough choices begin. Rural economic revitalisation or the new-build property market? Satellite broadband or network design? There aren't enough hours in the day.

  • 12:10

  • 12:10

    Not to mention a hands-on display of how the interface for smart cities might look in the future. It's brightly-coloured and shiny, apparently.

  • 12:09

  • 12:08

    Time for refreshments, and a crazy display of fibre optic cables, courtesy of Emtelle (opens in new tab).

  • 11:41

  • 11:36

    Mark Kellett, CEO of Velocity1 (opens in new tab), says Wembley should be one of the hubs of new cleantech clusters (opens in new tab) cropping up around the world. James Saunders, COO of Quintain (opens in new tab), joins us for a Q&A about the new developments happening in Wembley and across Brent. Hint: it involves a lot of optical fibre.

  • 11:24

  • 11:00

    How long it took these technologies to gain 50 million users:

    Radio: 38 years

    TV: 13 years

    Internet: four years

    iPod: three years

    Facebook: 200 million users in less than a year

  • 10:59

    "Disruptive is the new normal", says Talwar. He asks how, in a world where even a McDonalds drive-thru can guess your order with 80 per cent accuracy based on your car (opens in new tab), we can ensure the responsible proliferation of smart technology?

    Robert Bell, co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, is chairing an interview next, with Stokab CIO Anders Broberg about Stockholm's Open Fiber Network. Check out our exclusive interview with Robert Bell (opens in new tab) from last week.

  • 10:55

  • 10:54

    Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future (opens in new tab), opens with a brilliant keynote. The noted futurist talks us through developments around the globe, from crowdfunding infrastructure to neural implants in the human body. We have reached an "event horizon", and we need "enlightened leadership" if the challenges of the future are to be properly met.

  • 10:48

    Councillor Muhammed Butt kicks off proceedings with a speech about the forward-thinking policies of Brent council, which put them at "the forefront" of UK technological development. Apparently they have a Cortana-style holographic assistant called Shanice (opens in new tab) to help visitors around the town hall.

  • 10:46

  • 09:42

  • 09:32

    NextGen 13 is officially underway, and this year promises to be a pretty wild ride. We kick off in half an hour with a talk by global futurist Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future (opens in new tab).

Paul Cooper
Paul Cooper

Paul has worked as an archivist, editor and journalist, and has a PhD in the cultural and literary significance of ruins. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The BBC, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Discover Magazine, and he was previously Staff Writer and Journalist at ITProPortal.