Amexus is organising a conference on digitisation in the energy sector, and more specifically in the energy transition. Earlier this week I was interviewed at home about the role of open data in energy transition and my work with Dutch provinces on this topic.

The video, in German, has already been made available.

Since the summer I am holding three questions that are related. They all concern what role machine learning and AI could fulfil for an individual or an everyday setting. Everyman’s AI, so to speak.

The first question is a basic one, looking at your house, and immediate surroundings:

1: What autonomous things would be useful in the home, or your immediate neighbourhood?

The second question is more group and community oriented one:

2: What use can machine learning have for civic technology (tech that fosters citizen’s ability to do things together, to engage, participate, and foster community)?

The third question is perhaps more a literary one, an invitation to explore, to fantasise:

3 What would an “AI in the wall” of your home be like? What would it do, want to do? What would you have it do?

(I came across an ‘AI in the wall’ in a book once, but it resided in the walls of a pub. Or rather it ran the pub. It being a public place allowed it to interact in many ways in parallel, so as to not get bored)

Today my old friend Max interviewed me in our garden. We discussed the role of digitisation in general, and of open data in particular, for the energy transition. This in preparation for the conference I will be speaking at in Germany next month. It was a good rehearsal as well, as I will be speaking in German, and I need to work on my German language jargon 🙂

Heute hat mein alter Freund Max in unserem Garten ein Video-Interview mit mir gemacht. Im September werde ich auf der von seiner Firma organisierten Konferenz sprechen über Open Data, und wie offene Daten eine Rolle spielen in der Energiewende.

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Max setting up his equipment, and borrowing some more equipment from Elmine, my in house video professional

Yesterday I visited CODAM, a new Amsterdam coding college. It’s part of the 42 network, which originated in France, and offers a free 4 year curriculum to learn how to code (one or more of unix, graphics, machine learning). The education is free, and aimed at those who didn’t fit or couldn’t afford the regular educational options, dropped out or never had the opportunity to opt-in. The commitment is however large. The first month is a heavy filter, expecting students to keep a steady rhythm, and afterwards a high attendance is expected (some 50 hours per week).

CODAM’s mission of allowing students from all backgrounds to increase their capabilities, using coding skills as a path to agency, has a good overlap with the IndieWeb’s ambition of allowing people to own their own on-line identity, be in control of what they publish and share, and connect and interact outside the silos.

A month ago CODAM’s Lisa Stamm, the community and communications person, offered CODAM as a venue for IndieWebCamp Amsterdam. Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit their location on the old Amsterdam naval yard, near Central Station. CODAM and their location are a good fit with IndieWebCamp’s needs, so the conclusion was easy:

IndieWebCamp Amsterdam will take place at CODAM on September 28th and 29th.

Registration is already open, and free of charge. Both the View Source conference and the Fronteers conference take place in the days after, so if you’re in web dev you could turn it into a full week in Amsterdam.

Some pictures of the CODAM venue, and its surroundings below


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Early September the Copenhagen Techfestival will take place for the third time. It brings over 20.000 people together for over 200 events during three days, to together explore, discuss and create the future of technology.

Having had to decline invitations for the first two events, I’m joining the Techfestival 150 during this year’s event. Thank you to the organisers for their tenacity in asking me for the third year in a row. This time I was better prepared, having blocked my calendar as soon as the dates were announced.

The Copenhagen Techfestival 150 is a thinktank of 150 people that convenes during the festival. It created the The Copenhagen Letter in 2017, the Copenhagen Catalog in 2018, and this year the aim is to formulate the Copenhagen Pledge, a set of guidelines for anyone working in or with tech to commit to.

It’s been a good while since I was in Copenhagen last, I had wanted to join the previous Techfestivals already, so I look forward to getting back to CPH and fully submerge myself in the Techfestival (described to me as ‘Reboot at scale’).

“People only complain about their availability.”

Alper points to a good overview of the system in English. I’ve mentioned the Dutch public transport bicycle here almost a decade ago, but this is a good reason to revisit that post.

Two people coming out of The Hague Central Station with a yellow and blue OV Fiets, just now as I walked past

OV Fiets, OV short for Openbaar Vervoer which means public transport, and fiets meaning bicycle, so PT bikes, was started in 2003 by the NS rail company at a handful of large railway stations. With public transport, especially rail, the last part of the trip, getting from the station to your destination is always the tricky part. Where walking is too far or inconvenient, buses or taxis might help but they take up way more time in inner cities, and buses still don’t get you to the door of your destination. Basically anything within 20 minutes by bicycle (meaning 7km or so), the bike easily wins over any other mode of transport. OV Fiets was set-up for those distances, as a way to stimulate more people to take the train. The reasoning is that if there’s less friction to get from the station to your destination more people will choose the train over taking the car. Everyone in the Netherlands already has a bicycle to get to the railway station from home, the need is in the last leg of a trip.

Since 2004 when my work meant much more travel, I use the train as much as possible. On a train I can still work (or blog, I’m writing this on a train that just left The Hague), which isn’t the case in the car . That more than makes up for situations where a car might be faster. I started using OV Fiets early 2010 when their availability was expanded to general availability at railway stations across the country, beyond just the first handful they experimented with and some other bigger cities. Currently all railway stations provide OV Fietsen, large railway stations from multiple locations, and increasingly fully automated.

You pick up a bike when you arrive by train, and return it before taking your train home. Over 20.000 bikes are available across the country.

Wherever I go in the Netherlands I can pick up a bike and be on my way well within 5 minutes from getting off a train. My (free) subscription is connected to my public transport payment card. I swipe the card and get a bike. Each time I pick up a bike I get billed just under 4 Euro’s, which covers 24 hours. Once a month I get e-mailed an itemised bill, which is automatically paid from my bank account. A subscription allows you to pick-up 2 bikes at a time, which also comes in handy when we have guests for a day or two, to provide them with their own bicycles through my and E’s subscription. Tuesday this week I used an OV Fiets with a colleague in Haarlem, where my client’s offices are located a 20-25 minute walk from the station, which can be covered by bike in 5-6 minutes. That’s a typical example.

In 2011 over 1 million bicycle pick-ups in a year were logged for the first time. 3 million in 2017, 4.2 million in 2018. The first 5 months of this year saw 2.2 million bicycle pick-ups already, a 30% increase compared to the 1.7 million pick-ups in the first 5 months of 2018.

When you get to public buildings or event venues it is very common to see a large number of the bright yellow and blue bicycles parked out front. All are numbered, and that number is also on your key, so it’s easy to find your own bike back.

In a decade of use I never had any issue with the public transport bikes. The only complaint is that sometimes, when I arrive shortly after the morning rush hour, large city stations may have run out of bikes. This happened to me a very few times. It is also the only common feedback on the system, as quoted at the top. Because bicycles are picked up and returned at railway stations which all have bike parking facilities, they don’t clutter up sidewalks and don’t require infrastructure on the city streets themselves.

More OV-Fiets
OV Fietsen in a railway station bicycle parking. (Image by Alper, license CC BY)