New Israeli NGO to set up data center with MIT to combat road fatalities

The Smart Mobility Data Trust inititative, announced at Davos in Switzerland, will set up a digital platform on which organizations can share data and projects

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Traffic on a Tel Aviv highway. (Craig Johnson)
Traffic on a Tel Aviv highway. (Craig Johnson)

A new Israeli non-profit organization has teamed up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to set up a new data center that aims to help cut back on the number of road fatalities and injuries.

The initiative, called the Smart Mobility Data Trust, was announced on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum gathering at Davos by Smadar Itzkovich, the founder of the new NGO, Israel Smart Mobility Living Lab (ISMLL).

The group’s aim is to use technology to improve public safety. This can be done through setting up public-private partnerships that share data and projects to create smart cities and reduce the number of fatalities on the roads.

Smart cities leverage technologies to improve the life of its citizens: their safety, their health and make the cities more user friendly by making them more efficient, said Itzkovich in a phone interview from Davos, ahead of her presentation at the Data For Good Forum at the gathering.

Smadar Itzkovich, the founder of the new NGO Israel Smart Mobility Living Lab (ISMLL) presenting her Smart Mobility Data Trust initiative at Davos on January 22, 2018 (Courtesy)

“The problem is,” she said, “is that no one really knows how to do this,” because cities don’t have all they need to make this happen. The data they need is often held by the private sector, along with the technology. Creating a platform where they both can collaborate – with the city providing access to its infrastructure and the private sector providing access to its data and technologies, “is a win-win” for all parties, she said.

The Data Trust concept has been developed by MIT Professor Sandy Pentland, founder of Connection Science at the MIT Media Labs. The idea is to create a legal, technical and governance framework that brings together organizations to securely share their data to create new value for their organizations and the public good, explained Itzkovich.

ISMLL will build the first Data Trust in the area of Smart Mobility, and aims to bring together data generated from various sources including traffic lights, cars and roads and will be stored in a publicly accessible data center, that will be open to startups, technology companies as well as municipal and governmental agencies.

For her initiative, Itzkovich has set up a consortium of international and Israeli technology companies, cities and academic bodies, which have agreed to join ISMLL in its efforts and cooperate to solve critical issues of smart and autonomous transportation, especially those related to public safety. The consortium partners include: General Motors Israel, NEC Israel, the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University the Ashdod, Herzliya and Netanya Municipalities. Startups such as No Traffic, Simplex and Waycare will also partner in the initiative.

At the same time, ISMLL has begun discussions to bring the idea of the Smart Mobility Data Trust to select cities in Singapore, Germany and India.

Along with the Data Trust, said Itzkovich, the NGO is also proposing to set up what she is calling an international “cooperation trust” – which will be a digital platform that will become a market place for companies, cities, academic institutions to safely share data, ideas, research and technologies, to work on joint projects with the aim of creating breakthroughs in road safety and smart mobility.

“It will be an open data platform that everyone can use, connected to cities, companies. It will be a bridge between the public and the private sector,” she said. “No one company or city can do it alone. We need to build a hybrid solution that can be sold around the world.”

For her new venture, Itzkovich is building on her experience as head of the Smart Mobility Living Lab in the Israeli city of Ashdod, where she helped form private-public partnerships to improve public safety on the roads. The city worked with companies such as Mobileye on a use case of reducing the number of accidents involving public transportation.

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