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Swedish telecommunications colossus Ericsson delivered a fascinating and thought-provoking presentation on the role it intends to play in relation to providing mobility solutions via connected transportation for Smart Cities. Ericsson hosted the event which was entitled Ericsson Mobility Day: Connected Transportation for Smart Cities at Sofitel the Palm, Dubai. The presentation featured a host of high-profile speakers and experts within the field of mobility and examined the changes that may result from the large-scale uptake of a shared and self-driving fleet of vehicles into urban areas.

The keynote speakers at the event all highlighted the key trends in mobility - and discussed the issue of the acceleration of urbanization. By 2030 it has been predicted that almost 82% of the population in developed countries will live in urban areas - which inevitably means the demand for mobility alternatives will have doubled. Attendees were informed that travel behavior patterns had to change, and an effective way to achieve this change in behavior was by offering mobility in smart cities.

Wojciech Bajda, Head of Industry and Society, Middle East delivered his keynote presentation and spoke of a 'networked society' - a term which reoccurred throughout the event. Bajda revealed that it is Ericsson's vision to help create a society that is connected all of the time. Bajda said: "A 'networked society' is where every person that can benefit from a connection will be connected. It's about connecting devices, people, places and machines - and then everything will be transferred to the cloud. In simple terms, what we mean is that everything can talk to each other and can communicate and exchange information. It will require interoperability which will need different systems to understand each other and talk to each other, basically at Ericsson we're striving to create a society that is connected all the time and that has access to information."

Ericsson's Head of Industry and Society for the Middle East then made an intriguing point in relation to 5G - he declared that 5G should be seen as a 'business platform' and not as the next release of radio, stating that 5G is not for me and you, but instead for major industries. In addition to this, he said that while the speed of 5G will be exciting, he reaffirmed that the most important feature of 5G technologies will be latency.

Badja said: "In my opinion 5G should not be considered as the next release of radio. In the past we've spoken about 2G, 3G, 4G as being next releases of radio, but 5G should be seen as a 'business platform'. 5G is not going to be for you or me, 5G is going to be for industries. Take for example the mining industry, if there is a deep tunneling project and management of the project are reluctant to send people down - then 5G can allow them to use machinery which they can operate via remote management. It can be done thanks to 5G because the latency will be so minimal. While everyone is excited about the speed of 5G, and yes, speed of course is very important, but for me it's all about latency. Latency will also be the driver for autonomous cars."

Andrea Petti, Head of Intelligent Transport Industry and Society delivered a presentation, which was again utterly insightful and engaging. He passionately outlined the benefits of evolving to advanced mobility systems in which he said will enable us to 'get our cities back'. Touching on the issue of urban congestion and the need for us to introduce mobility solutions to combat the on-going mobility challenges facing major cities across the world as urbanization accelerates. Petti believes that by transitioning ourselves towards a future of shared transport and autonomy will not only give us back our cities, but will also give us so much more time to do other things.

Petti said, "The biggest impact around moving towards a future of shared transport and autonomy is that areas used today for car parking - both on street and off street, can be transformed into parks and green areas for us all to enjoy. We will also be significantly reducing traffic and there won't be a need for large car park facilities. In addition to this, most importantly in my opinion is that we will gain back time. Time normally spent in traffic will be eradicated which will ensure that you basically have so much more time to do other things. That's what I mean when I say we can 'get our cities back' if we evolve to advanced mobility systems."

Petti pointed to a survey which highlighted the glaring issues of urban congestion. A global survey conducted by Ericsson found that on average we spend 6 and a half hours per-week commuting to work. According to Petti 'this is a disaster' and we've got to start developing mobility solutions in order to erase this issue over time, as he warned that if we don't fix the problem, it will only get worse. He stressed that in order to improve the situation immediately - we can do this by providing information to the public.

Petti said: "The immediate thing we can do is start providing information to the public. It's not going to solve the issues right away, because you're not attacking the root cause - but if you start sharing information at least you can know there is congestion - that traffic is delayed and that there's major disruptions. Information enables you to make educated choices, we need to inform people."

Petti identified some of what he deems are the biggest trends in urban mobility and stated that he can see a 'generational divide' in relation to the adoption of a shared transport economy. Petti believes the younger generation has no problem sharing bikes and cars, but that the older generation is slower to adapt to these changes. He also added that another trend on the increase is application driven integration.

Petti said: "Urban mobility trends differ from cities to cities - in countries with a green initiative you see a lot of experimentation with driverless cars, but it's all really experimental, electric and driverless. In Dubai, gas is cheap, so I don't envisage a huge decrease in ownership of vehicles to happen for quite a while. In other cities you see a shared economy where residents engage in shared bike and car initiatives, but this is being adopted by different demographics of the population. There is a generational divide, the younger generation seems happy to engage in these transport sharing solutions, whilst the older generation have been slower to adapt. Another trend is that we live in a society which is application driven, a click on our phone can order us a taxi - or book us a service, but this is only surface integration and it needs to be reduced."

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