Vienna Musings

Posted: October 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Over the years, work and business has taken me to different places.

In early days of my career, I started out on sales calls locally, then to nearby places like Pune, gradually to Gujarat, and then to other parts of the country. There were contrasts to be studied at each new place, in terms of culture, behaviour, priorities, etc.

Export and import activities in my family business took me to Singapore and South East Asia few times, and then once we embarked on the story, US became a regular port of call.

When you look at things from a distance, you can club some places (and their people) into thematic groups. So Mumbai is one, most of second tier India may be grouped into another, S E Asia is different, and then US/Canada are different. The actual city or place aside, there are many similarities within a group.

This recent visit to Vienna, in that sense, introduced me to a different genre of place and people. Although a part of Western Europe, and having its similarities to an extent with the “western” world, I’d say, Vienna is different from the US. A lot.

Some pointers – Austria’s just about 8 mn in population, Vienna is 1.6 mn. A total of around 1 mn on Facebook, for the country. Twitter’s not hot yet. When you see directions from the city, to places like Bratislava and Budapest, when companies get their work outsourced to nearby Croatia or Romania, when companies do business in Georgia (the country, not the US state) and Turkey, it is clearly a different land.

Overall, Vienna’s a place full of history, from the great emperors of yore, to the World Wars, of palaces and gardens, of awesome old buildings, of churches and of coffee houses. Also of the great huge Vienna woods, of peace and quiet (no security outside the chancellor and President’s residences; the President drives to work on his own; saw the Mayor exiting out of a coffee house, just as we entered – no fan fare, no gun totting security men!), of a strong German influence, of innovation, of music, art and culture (museums galore, huge tradition of Mozart, Beethoven and the rest).

A couple of really interesting initiatives that I noticed..

1. The Car2Go concept: There are 500 smart cars under the Car2Go concept, all over Vienna. One joins the service and gets a smart card, that can open the door to any of these smart cars. When one wants to use the car, through a mobile app, one can locate the nearest parked vehicle. Go there, enter the car, the keys are inside, drive to where you want to go, and then park it safely, leave the keys inside, walk out and leave! That’s it.

You are clocked for the minutes of usage, and charged accordingly.

2. Handy parken – street parking made simple via mobile app: You go park somewhere on the street. You use your phone app and register the parking there, and pay for a few minutes. You get delayed in your meeting, from the same app, you register and add minutes. When a cop comes and wants to check if you have paid for parking, he uses the phone app, and checks for your car number.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Great application idea..

Speaking of amazing ideas, at the conference that I was speaking at, the only other English language speech was by the person talking about the Live Singapore project, which is an alliance of Singapore and MIT.

It was absolutely mind boggling. They are picking up the amazing amount of digital trail that we leave, to map and understand a whole bunch of things, e.g. mapping the presence of people (as understood by mobile location signals) and mapping the public transport system together, they are able to see where people are concentrated, and if public transport is planned to meet those people needs. Likewise they are able to see electricity consumption patterns mapped with rise in temperature, movement into and out of the city, changes that happen during large events (e.g. F1), etc.

Check this video – it is awe inspiring, and gives us a taste of the future:

Yes, all in all, it was an interesting 4-5 days in Vienna..


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