Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2014: Startups in Sustainable Mobility

Written by Suneet Agera, Lead Solution Architect, APJ Region

As one walks through European airports, one is greeted by large hoardings showing a lovable picture of the panda Po (refer to animated movie ‘Kung Fu Panda’) with a tagline: “Half of the Fortune Global 500 Are In My Hometown. Can Do! Chengdu!” This, the excitement of being in the hotbed of smart cities and vehicle innovation , and the fact that Chengdu happens to be the capital of Sichuan province of China (known for its wonderful cuisine) made me look forward to an exciting 3 days at the Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2014 (MICB).

Startups@MICB

“This is a young city and people have jobs. We enjoy our life here.” was what my driver told me in slow, yet clear English on the way to my hotel. Over the next few days, I could see the busy economy in action, powered by the gleaming infrastructure of Chengdu, yet the number of vehicles on the roads made the infrastructure look insufficient. Needless to say, traffic jams at peak traffic time and vehicular pollution marred the otherwise serene surroundings. This brought to fore the central topic at the MICB event – sustainable mobility for transportation systems. I was part of the jury of the Michelin Startup Challenge, and had the privilege to listen to some outstanding pitches of some really innovative ideas. Connected cars, smart cities, tapping renewable energy, CO2 reduction and open source vehicle packages that could be plugged in to anything moving – the ideas were amazing. And some of the startups went into areas behind the scenes – improving supply chain, risk detection, improving manufacturing processes etc. which indirectly lead to huge cost savings and positively impact sustainability. The winner of the startup challenge was a Chinese company that built an open source package that could be plugged on to anything that moves (a skating board, your pet, a wheelchair, a shopping cart … just about anything on wheels). Wow! Personalization, creativity and open source bundled into one winning idea.

Three startups in the SAP Startup Focus Program were at the event – Semantic Visions, Imagenistics and GreenCosmos – and their solutions were on display at the event’s Startup Village.

Semantic Visions showcased their solution VEGA – a Supply Chain Early Warning System. VEGA allows risk managers to track their suppliers’ network around the globe and detect supply chain threats – in real time – before they disrupt production lines and impact costs. The crux of the solution lies in the semantic engine that combines the intelligence of a state-of-the-art web mining system and the power of in-memory computing provided by SAP HANA.

Imaginestics had VizSeek on display – a cloud-based shape search solution based on proprietary shape signature technology. VizSeek can be used to shorten design time, reduce quote turnaround time, get accurate should-cost data, and find duplicate parts, thereby opening a window to industrial users’ design and manufacturing data. Vizseek is powered by SAP HANA, which allows the solution to do very quick shape based searches from 2D, 3D, and image files, using doodle, 2D, 3D, image or text as input.

One of the announcements by the Michelin Challenge Bibendum committee at the event was the launch of 5 game changers, one of which was organizations focusing on setting ambitious CO2 reduction targets. With this backdrop, the Realnatics solution of GreenCosmos was extremely relevant. Realnatics tracks, analyzes and optimizes energy usage from smart meters deployed at multi-site businesses, manufacturing industries, hospitals, institutions etc. Based on their energy consumption and location, the organization helps customers optimize their rooftop solar panel installations.

Conferences like MICB are the perfect places for forging new partnerships and creating exciting new possibilities for businesses. As a case in point, GreenCosmos signed a partnership with Powerdale, an energy monitoring and electric mobility startup, in which GDF Suez has invested. The partnership allows GreenCosmos to extend its solution to businesses that do not have smart meters, as PowerDale offers the capability to convert analog to digital data.

The partnership between GreenCosmos and PowerDale also found mention in the Closing Ceremony of the event.

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My key takeaway from the event was that Michelin is right up in the forefront for fostering innovation in the area of sustainable mobility and transportation systems. Startups are key catalysts in fostering this innovation and SAP HANA may just be the technology that they need to build game changing solutions that will form the bedrock of sustainable businesses, smart cities and a healthy living.