New public safety software and services shown at Motorola Solutions’ London Innovation Centre

Phil Jefferson, vice president for Western Europe and North Africa, and country manager UK and Ireland at ‎Motorola Solutions; said that the company had spent $553 million on R&D in 2016 and in the same year had spent a further $1.5 billion on acquisitions associated with new technology.

Eduardo Conrado, Motorola Solutions’ EVP – chief strategy and innovation officer (pictured below), added that the company invests in roughly 10-15 start-ups each year and looks for research that could be applied to the world of public safety. He drew attention to the increasing use of voice to access the internet (as seen in the growing use of Alexa and Google Home).

He added that one of the company’s design goals is providing consistency across platforms, both in terms of interface and the data that can be accessed by the user. Conrado also noted that a typical police officer’s time is split as follows:

  • • 60 per cent – proactive policing
  • • 15 per cent – dealing with incidents
  • • 25 per cent – post-incident (filling out forms and other paperwork)

He explained that Motorola is seeking to digitise as much of the post-incident work as possible, so that police officers are free to spend more of their time on proactive policing.

In addition, “We’re working on a full set of applications that enable communication and information sharing across [narrowband] radio and LTE networks and then on the backend [there’s] a lot of emphasis with our data scientists on looking at how we use artificial intelligence and machine learning, not only to improve efficiency, but in some cases to predict where crime will happen.”

He expects there will be greater use of video analytics with it being used to trigger specific actions. Motorola expects that in the near future police officers will be equipped with 360-degree body-worn cameras, augmented reality visors, biometrics and an audio “virtual partner”.

To illustrate the latter, Conrado showed a video in which a policeman had to question a member of the public who only spoke Mandarin and cloud-based real-time translation software allowed him to ask her questions in the same language and hear her translated responses. Conrado said that the company is looking to bring this feature to market next year.

He also discussed another use case in which video analytics can be used in combination with body-worn video to search for a missing person, in this case a child with brown hair and a blue t-shirt, through using the camera’s own processing abilities (intelligence at the network edge). Only when one of the body-worn video cameras in the field detects a match, is data sent back to the control room. Conrado adds that while it might be possible for the officer wearing that camera to initially miss the child, it narrows down their location and it could be possible to use voice/audio prompts to quickly tell the officer where to look. However, Motorola’s current focus is on optimising the processing taking place on the camera rather than the work flows associated with this feature.

He added that one of the issues associated with facial recognition is that it requires that the camera and the face(s) being analysed to be a particular angle to each other, and there are also certain lighting requirements.

Olatunde Williams, head of field & solutions marketing – Europe & Africa at Motorola Solutions (pictured above left) and his colleague, Adrian Parsons (above, right), senior technical architect, demonstrated a use case for AI combined with natural language processing software. It involved an officer (played by Parsons) in a police car pulling a suspect vehicle over for inspection, with the car’s radio system logging the switching

on of the warning lights and other actions. The officer can vocally request data on the vehicle using commands such as “vehicle check required on licence plate”, “Tell me more about [the vehicle’s registered owner]” and “Any active cases on that vehicle?” and then asking for more information on that case, so that the officer can best assess whether the occupant poses a threat.

Parsons later explained that the system could be configured to suit an organisations’ business processes and preferences. He also highlighted the current regulations that require police officers to have valid reasons for stopping vehicles and retrieving information about them and their owners, which have to be considered when drawing up these processes.

Parsons wore a radio in the form factor of a jacket (shown above right) and its man-down functionality by dropping it on the ground.

David Parry, Motorola Solutions’ director EMEA marketing, and one of his colleagues demonstrated a future fire incident command concept, that uses augmented/mixed reality. In it the incident commander wears an AR headset to see a 3D map of the building in which the fire is taking place (shown below), track the progress of a search within the building (searched areas turn green), view video feeds from cameras worn by the firefighters, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) flying above the incident and 360-degree cameras mounted on fire engines. The commander can via the same AR interface, view the status and movement of the vehicles as they approach the scene, while the status and health of firefighters within the building is shown using different icons.

Parry added that the system automatically tracks oxygen consumption, so that should a firefighter be close to running out of air, the icon will change, alerting the commander to the need to order them to withdraw. He notes that currently such timings are measured manually with stopwatches and that the in-building layout functionality requires 3D plans of the building where the incident is taking place to be available.

Martyn Parker, Lincolnshire Police’s IT Futures programme director (shown left), said that the force spent £2.8 million on a four year Pronto solution supported by 775 mobile devices (the Samsung Note 4). He added that the force is currently looking to upgrade to more modern devices. The force’s use of Pronto is typically saving an hour per shift and has reduced the time required to process road traffic collisions from 30 minutes per booklet to 10 and eliminated the need for paper booklets.

“We have to report on several annual data returns to the Home Office to make sure that our crime compliance, our management and handling of domestic [abuse cases] are accurate and Pronto gives us that security and ability to be able to put and mandate processes in place to make sure that we get compliance from our [frontline] staff,” Parker said. “They’re not always thinking about legislation and policy changes, we push those onto the mobile application…

“When an officer takes a photograph of someone who has been assaulted, a bruised eye or whatever the injury is and they take that picture, the Pronto application will produce that in a format that’s an exhibit, produce it into our records management system (RMS), which can seamless go through to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), ensuring that it has all the correct naming conventions, all the detail and accuracy which is required… without another human being needing to interact within the process – it’s really positive time saver for us.”

He said that the application also prompts users to take personal statements from victims of crime, “so they don’t have to continually remember the data they need to capture – the system is helping them do that.”

Parker added that the number of instances in which high risk referrals to the force’s partners for domestic abuse, stalking and harassment cases have been missed have dropped to zero since the process started to be managed by the Pronto mobile data application because of the automated process it used. Prior to its introduction, the force used to miss 7-8 per week.

He also said that City of London Police is deploying an instance of Pronto based on Lincolnshire’s solution. Motorola Solutions is developing a fingerprint solution to search the new Home Office Biometrics Gateway and introducing a mobile mapping and messaging solution integrated with Pronto.

Ian Williams, chief inspector and digital policing lead for West Yorkshire Police (shown above) said that his force is using Pronto for 28 processes, across 5,500 devices and has started using Bluetooth enabled folding keyboards so that officers can more easily enter data onto the system while on the move – they spend around 10,000 hours every month inputting data). He added that West Yorkshire Police wants its officers to be inputting data in locations where they are visible to the public such as a local Macdonald’s, regardless of how this might be portrayed by the tabloids.

He notes that Pronto is “much more timely. For example, someone gets arrested, they get brought back into custody, you’ve got a certain amount of statements and evidence, but you might want a little bit more – you might have missed something. So, you can dispatch an officer to take a statement, upload it and within a minute that can be disclosed to the defence, sent to CPS to get a decision… And we shouldn’t underestimate officers’ access to data [via Pronto], with that integration, you’ve got that full array of data that enables them to make really good decisions and look after the safety of themselves, the public and vulnerable victims.”

Williams also discussed West Yorkshire Police’s use of Pronto Forensics. “CSI integration is a really big one for us, on the back of what we’ve done [with Pronto] for the frontline, we’ve delivered [similar functionality to] crime scene investigators [across] the whole region, there are four forces in our region. Investigators now integrate with several systems, some of them local, some of them national… [allowing] them to collect all their evidence at the scene, bag it up, put it up on the systems and get results coming back before they’ve even left the scene…

“We have investigators who within an hour of [the] initial examination [of a crime scene] are identifying suspects to go out and arrest. We’ve had a murder where a gentleman was badly burnt and the only thing that was recognisable was his hand. We took the fingerprint from that and the result from that enabled us to identify him and subsequently a suspect, in that timescale….,” Williams concluded.

Both Williams and Parker highlighted the advantages of getting involved with suppliers to ensure that their products and services are best suited to forces’ requirements as possible.

Motorola Solutions’ innovations span cellular phones and systems in the mid-80s, to introducing the world’s first TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio) nationwide digital radio network, which is the basis for Airwave – the network went live in 2005 based on Motorola Solutions´ TETRA technology and currently powers public safety communications in the country. Motorola Solutions completed its acquisition of Airwave in February 2016.

In 1994, Motorola Solutions developed radio, cable and antenna systems for the newly opened Channel Tunnel between England and France, and in 1998 CityLink Telecommunications consortium, which included Motorola, was selected to replace and manage the radio transmission services for the entire London Underground Tube network.

Meanwhile, in 2004, Motorola Solutions was selected to provide more than 30,000 MTH800 digital radios for Metropolitan Police Service officers to use on the Airwave nationwide TETRA communications network. London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s command and control system went live in May that year and Motorola Solutions supplied and implemented the system.

In 2015, Motorola Solutions was chosen to provide user services, system integration and critical functionality for the UK’s next generation LTE Emergency Services Network (ESN).

Motorola Solutions moved its Europe, Middle East and Africa regional headquarters to London in 2017.

This Grand Theft Auto V Mod will Take You to London

This Grand Theft Auto V Mod will Take You to London

Ule Lopez


The world of modding will never cease to amaze people. From jabs at a certain spineless effort from Bethesda to entirely new games with re-used assets like in the Donut Mod. It certainly seems that we can go nowhere but up in the world of modding. The creatives will always be rewarded, and here’s the reward for one of the most ambitious projects I’ve seen in some time.

It’s time to go from Los Santos to London, with Project London. This project focuses on reworking textures and making a map overhaul to turn the city where Grand Theft Auto V takes place to London, England. They are trying to incorporate important set-pieces and landmarks such as the Wembley Stadium, the Metro stations and the biggest hospital centers.

Not only that, but the modder group has also overhauled the textures of some vehicles to reflect that of public vehicles in London. One of the modders decided to talk to PCGamer about the complexity of the project as well. “I got a message the other day,” says modder Kieran. “from some guy asking if the roads could be done—if the cars could be swapped to the opposite side in the style of British road networks. I sat down and calculated the work for that. I’m looking at 210 hours just for the roads.”

So, what’s next for the project? What can be added from now on? Well, Kieran decided to clear this up as well. “It’s a lot of work, it will take time, but whenever I’m finished one thing—I’ve just finished Heathrow Airport, for example—I add it into the pack, update it, and release it.”

It must be important to note that this is just a hobby of the group. Nothing too major because they have to focus on their financial resources as well with real jobs and other real life aspects. It will be a very long time before we see this project anywhere close to finished.

“Simply put, this project is something I love doing. It’s something that I’ve always loved doing. I think it makes the game overall more enjoyable. I think the standard, vanilla GTA is a bit lacking in certain areas, and that’s why modders do what they do.” Said Kieran.

Well, I certainly don’t care about how long they take. We can only hope that they manage to reflect the current city of London through this mod. This will be a very great transformation and add an entirely new layer of gameplay to GTA V.


Modders Are Currently Making ‘Project London’ For ‘Grand Theft Auto V’

Grand Theft Auto have been entertaining us for years and years now.

It feels as if we’ve grown up with the series, watching it develop from a bird’s eye view game, into the unbelievable open world game it is today.

Despite it’s legacy and rave reviews, it’s not 100 percent perfect. There will always be things people will find to niggle at.

Luckily though, there are a plethora of mods that help alter the play into something you can enjoy even more. A new mod, however, is set to take the piss.

“Project London” re-imagines GTA V as a, you guessed it, London inspired city.

Credit: GTA 5 Mods

GTA has been set in London in the 2D universe, though never been featured since the leap to 3D was made. This mod looks to remedy that, changing the cars, roads, police, and of course, land marks.

“I got a message the other day from some guy asking if the roads could be done-if the cars could be swapped to the opposite side in the style of British road networks. I sat down and calculated the work for that. I’m looking at 210 hours just for the roads,” ambitious modder Kieran Merrilees told PC Gamer.

With that already huge workload sitting on his shoulders, Kieran says that he’ll have to spend hours on Google Street View, as well as researching pictures and videos to get London spot on.

He, with his partners Raddz Modding and Albo1125, have apparently finished creating Wembley stadium, a few hospitals, underground stations and emergency vehicles, but there’s still a long way to go.

Credit: GTA 5 Mods

Kieran said: “Being part of various [modding] communities has made me realise that I’ve got an opportunity to do something.

“And that’s where Project London started. Compared to other games, GTA is easier to mod, it’s easy to get the files that you need in order to do work, and there are a lot of people who’re able to offer advice and help out. That fact alone spurs you on to do more.

“To be honest it was becoming aware of the modding communities that support Grand Theft Auto V that encouraged me to start doing the work I’m doing.

“Between [the three of us] we’re trying to push forward and see what we can do, and achieve as much as we can achieve.”

Credit: GTA 5 Mods

Having a career as a financial advisor for Lloyds Bank, Kieran admits that it will be a slow process, as there are times when working on the mod stops altogether.

Because of that he’s unaware of when it’ll be released, but the progress so far is promising.

Who’s going to be playing this, then?

Featured Image Credit: GTA 5 Mods

Project London is GTA 5’s most ambitious overhaul mod yet

Project London aims to build a London-like city in GTA 5. Can’t be hard, right? “I got a message the other day,” says modder Kieran. “from some guy asking if the roads could be done—if the cars could be swapped to the opposite side in the style of British road networks. I sat down and calculated the work for that. I’m looking at 210 hours just for the roads.”

The original GTA: London was set in the late ’60s, but his version is inspired by the modern city. He aims to install landmarks incrementally, before building the project out into a pseudo interpretation of The Big Smoke. Kieran tells me that doing so involves a fair bit of Google Street-mapping, researching real life videos and photos, and a touch of artistic license. Even then, Project London is an ambitious undertaking.

“It’s a lot of work, it will take time, but whenever I’m finished one thing—I’ve just finished Heathrow Airport, for example—I add it into the pack, update it, and release it. There are three of us working on it now, and while we strive to mirror reality, if we think something looks right in situ, and it still looks like London, then we’re fine with that.”

So far, this has seen Kieran—and partners Raddz Modding and Albo1125—recreate Wembley Stadium, a handful of London Underground stations, a host of the city’s major hospitals, and a range of British Emergency Service vehicles. Next, the threesome have London hotels in their sights, real life billboards, bus stops, police stations. At some point they plan to remove the base game’s iconic Vinewood hilltop sign “because, well, that’s not London, is it?”

As a financial advisor for Lloyds Bank, finding time between life real commitments marks Kieran’s biggest challenge. There are consecutive weeks where nothing gets done, he admits, but he hopes the recent formation of his three-person team can “keep the work flowing” into the future. His modding know-how is also self-taught and despite getting involved with GTA 5’s British modding community less than a year ago, the standard of his work—not to mention his output—is impressive. 

“Being part of various communities has made me realise that I’ve got an opportunity to do something,” he tells me. “And that’s where Project London started. Compared to other games, GTA is easier to mod, it’s easy to get the files that you need in order to do work, and there are a lot of people who’re able to offer advice and help out. That fact alone spurs you on to do more.”

Despite being less familiar with Grand Theft Auto’s first pre-millennium visit to Great Britain, Kieran tells me he became most involved with Rockstar’s satirically swiping series via its faux Miami, Tommy Vercetti-starring Vice City. He says he’s pored over every game since, but that GTA 5 marks his PC debut and thus the first of which he’s modded.  

“To be honest it was becoming aware of the modding communities that support Grand Theft Auto 5 that encouraged me to start doing the work I’m doing,” he says. “Between [the three of us] we’re trying to push forward and see what we can do, and achieve as much as we can achieve.”

I think the standard, vanilla GTA is a bit lacking in certain areas, and that’s why modders do what they do.

That’s not to say Kieran doesn’t appreciate the magnitude of the task at hand. As a hobbyist modder, his work is voluntary, part-time, and unpaid—and while he doesn’t lack motivation, he’s not yet in a position to even guess when the project might be finished.  

“I genuinely couldn’t tell you,” he says. “There are just so many files that need opened, tinkered with, replaced. The whole thing costs me money too—there’s a programme I need in order to do it. It’s just a lot of work, there are so many files that need replaced across the whole map—you wouldn’t believe the amount of files I’ve had to replace so far.

“Simply put, this project is something I love doing. It’s something that I’ve always loved doing. I think it makes the game overall more enjoyable. I think the standard, vanilla GTA is a bit lacking in certain areas, and that’s why modders do what they do.” 

While unable to commit to anything long-term, Project London is an exciting prospect. Following Grand Theft Auto 4’s imitative New York City and its successor’s artificial Los Angeles, a sizeable chunk of players have called for Vice City to take on real life Miami. I’d personally prefer the preconceived US trifecta eschewed in favour of something closer to home. And while I’ve no idea if Rockstar feel the same, Kieran and his team’s efforts could go a long way towards satisfying my appetite.   

No matter the timeframe, Project London is, for Kieran, strictly entertainment. I ask him if he’d ever consider a career in development off the back of something so ambitious.     

“That’s not something that particularly interests me, this is solely something that I like to do in my spare time. I love working with the GTA British community and working on something like this improves everyone’s ideas for mods and what they wish the game could be like. 

“I know there is a lot of us that wish we had a new GTA London and this project, ambitious as it is, goes a ways to realising that. There are a lot of us working to give the game a British-leaning look. We do a lot of hard work and I’m proud of that.”

More information of the Project London work-in-progress mod can be found via its GTA 5 Mods page. 

Uber rival Taxify stops operations in London after TfL investigation over license


Taxify
Taxify CEO Markus
Villig.

Taxify

Taxify, an Estonian ride-hailing app billed as a cheaper
alternative to Uber, has been ordered to stop operations in
London just three days after launching.

The firm
began operating in the British capital on Tuesday
— but
quickly ran into hot water over its licensing arrangements. It
isn’t registered as a private-hire operator under the name
“Taxify,” and London transport regulator TfL launched an “urgent
investigation.”

In an emailed statement early Friday, Taxify defended its
arrangements — but said it has “temporarily stopped operations to
clarify its legal position with the regulator.” (Two Business
Insider journalists tried to use the app on Friday morning, and
found it said no drivers were available.)

In a statement, TfL said that it had ordered Taxify to stop
accepting rides.

“Taxify is not a licensed privsate hired operator and is not
licensed to accept private hire bookings in London,” it said.
“TfL has instructed Taxify to stop accepting bookings and it has
done so.”

Taxify bills itself as “a technological platform for customers to
hail rides from City Drive Services,” which does have a license,
but said TfL raised this “as a concern.”

A Taxify spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business
Insider’s request for comment on when it expects to re-launch in
London.

Taxify says that 30,000 people in London downloaded the app since
launch, and that it has over 3,000 registered drivers on its
platform.

The company promised that it would be cheaper than Uber, which
dominates the London ride-hailing app market. It also takes a
smaller cut of the passenger’s fare than its American rival —
10-15%, versus Uber’s 20-25%.

Here’s the full emailed statement from Taxify:

Taxify successfully launched its London ride-hailing app on
Tuesday, with over 3,000 registered drivers and over 30,000
customers downloading the app in the first three days. This
incredible response shows the huge demand for greater choice in
the London ride-hailing market.

Taxify’s sole objective is to make London’s ride-hailing market
fairer so that better value is delivered for customers and
drivers alike. Taxify charges less commission than market
incumbents such as Uber, keeping prices low for customers and
improving earning potential for drivers.

Taxify is a technological platform for customers to hail rides
from City Drive Services, a licensed London based private hire
company. This has been raised as a concern by TfL and in full
cooperation, Taxify have temporarily stopped operations to
clarify its legal position with the regulator and reach a
resolution so that services can return to normal.

TfL have a responsibility to Londoners to make sure there is a
competitive ride-hailing market in the capital that strengthens
incentives for operators to improve quality and safety while also
bringing the overall cost down for customers. Taxify’s model does
just this having achieved significant breakthroughs in over 19
markets around the world, and we look forward to an open and
transparent dialogue with TfL in the coming days to resolve this.

Uber “Failed to Report Serious Crimes” to London Police

Uber has allegedly failed to report sexual assaults by its drivers in London, a claim that revives one of the oldest and most severe of the ride-hailing company’s many reputational problems.

The U.K.’s Sunday Times at the weekend cited a letter from Inspector Neil Billany, head of the Metropolitan Police’s taxi and private hire unit, as saying that the ride-hailing company has “been made aware of criminal activity and yet haven’t informed the police.”

The allegations could affect the outcome of a license review that Uber is currently facing in London, its largest European market with over 30,000 registered drivers. Transport for London, the body that regulates the company in the U.K. capital, is due to make a decision by September 30. TfL has called Uber’s alleged failure to report this criminal activity “totally unacceptable.”

Read: Benchmark Capital Shocked, Shocked To Discover Kalanick’s Flaws

The cases no reported included six sexual assaults, two public order offenses, and an assault. In one such instance, Billany said, Uber continued to employ the driver, who then committed a second and “more serious sexual assault” against a different passenger.

“Had Uber notified police after the first offence, it would be right to assume the second would have been prevented,” Billany argued.

In his letter, Billany sketched out a pattern of what he saw as misleading behavior intended to hide the scale of problems with its drivers.

“F irstly it seems they are deciding what to report (less serious matters/less damaging to reputation over serious offenses) and secondly by not reporting to police promptly they are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public.”

Read: Uber Has 3 CEO Candidates Left—And They’re All Men

Uber’s General Manager for London Tom Elvidge said in a blog post that “Uber does not routinely report incidents retrospectively to the police on behalf of others – we advise those involved to make a report themselves and then assist the police with any subsequent enquiries.”

“We believe the choice of whether or not to make a police report should sit with the reporter/victim, Elvidge said. “We understand that there could be all sorts of reasons why they may or may not wish to report the incident to the police and have worked closely with women’s advocacy groups on this issue. This is an incredibly complex issue and we always strive to get the right balance between supporting the police in their investigations, while preserving the rights of individuals.”

Pokemon Go NEWS – Zapdos weaknesses, new Pokemon Go event, rare Pokemon hit London | Gaming | Entertainment

Pokemon Go fans can now battle and capture new Legendary Pokemon Zapdos.

The latest addition to Pokemon Go Raids is only available for a short time, appearing from July 7 until Monday, July 14.

Of course, fans are already posting tips on how to beat the Legendary Pokemon.

Zapdos is an Electric and Flying type of Pokemon, which means Rock and Ice Pokemon are especially effective. Ground Pokemon will also take the least damage.

Golem is a solid starting point, as its Rock Throw and Stone Edge moves will do the most damage to Zapdos.

Tyranitar is a bit tougher to get hold of, but its Stone Edge move could give Raid parties the upper hand in this week’s Legendary Raid.

Rhydon isn’t quite as powerful as the aforementioned Pokemon, but is worth considering due to its attack properties.

Pokemon Go Trainers might also want to try Ice-type Pokemon like Jynx and Piloswine, as well as Dragon Pokemon like Dragonite.

Just be careful not to bring Water Pokemon into battle, because Water types are weak against Electric Pokemon. This rules out Lapras, for example.

Pokemon Go developer Niantic has just launched a new event, but only in Yokohama, Japan.

The Pikachu Outbreak event lets players discover specific Pokemon in certain parks, as well as alternative regional Pokemon, like Mr Mime.

Niantic explains: “During Pikachu Outbreak, Trainers will be able to explore two special Kanto and Johto-themed parks.

“At Red Brick Park, Trainers will more frequently encounter Pokemon originally discovered in the Kanto region in the Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue video games.

“Meanwhile, Trainers in Cup Noodle Museum Park will be more likely to find Pokemon originally discovered in the Johto region in the Pokemon Silver and Pokemon Gold video games!

“Pikachu Outbreak is shaping up to be an amazing event, so if you find yourself in Yokohama, make sure to visit the Pokemon GO Park events and explore the Minato Mirai area on foot!”

The Pikachu Outbreak event runs from August 9 until August 15, between the hours of 10am and 6pm.

And speaking of Pokemon Go events, UK Trainers in big cities are currently able to capture rare Pokemon in the wild.

Trainers in select cities across Europe will be able to capture the likes of Kangaskhans and Unowns.

According to Niantic, this will last until August 21.

“We’ve heard that as early as this weekend, some Pokemon rarely seen in Europe, including Kangaskhan and Unown, may begin appearing in certain European cities,” reads a Niantic post.

“This unusual occurrence is predicted to last until August 21.”

These Pokemon can be found in UK cities like Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, London and Manchester.

Samsung NEXT Choses Berlin over London

When Samsung NEXT announced that it would be setting up its European shop in the German capital city of Berlin, headlines focused instead on where it had chosen not to be. That NEXT, a $150 million tech fund, had decided against opening its first office in London prompted a lot of fingers to be pointed at Brexit, the imminent British exit from the European Union that has caused economic and business anxiety since its inciting referendum last summer.

But according to Felix Petersen, managing director of Samsung NEXT Europe, the choice to move into ‘Silicon Allee’ had far more to do with living costs than political chaos. Petersen, a native Berliner, himself admitted to the Times newspaper that London is “not really a fun place to live unless you are really rich.” And considering Samsung NEXT’s wishlist of tech sectors in which to invest, it’s no surprise that entrepreneurial overheads have played a key role.

NEXT, which raised its cash this January, is looking to put money into cutting-edge technology including, according to Petersen, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, IoT, mobility, cybersecurity and data analytics. These are all sectors in which Berlin-based startups have begun to excel, as the city’s tech scene moves from hype to high-valuations.

Despite this, Berlin is still hugely cheaper that London. Rents are 60% cheaper than in the British capital, and it is around 60-70% cheaper to buy property in the “poor but sexy” German city.

Berlin, with its diverse and thriving startup scene, was an intentional decision, but it’s merely our first foothold in Europe as we’re rolling out our expansion plans over the next twelve months,” Petersen told Red Herring. Samsung NEXT will soon be looking to open offices in London and Paris, he adds, “and other locations with a strong concentration of great companies focused on our key verticals.”

Samsung NEXT provides investment, coworking and mentorship to entrepreneurs. It also lays on an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, which lasts from six to 18 months, where startups can develop a product and move to the next stage of their development. Berlin is the fund’s sixth location. It has already set up offices in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea; New York City; San Francisco; Mountain View and Tel Aviv.

“For Samsung NEXT international expansion is all about thinking globally but operating locally,” says Petersen. “We are building a local team in Berlin who know the market, the systems and the people, and who will become part of the local startup ecosystem and help it thrive. Our plan in the next few years is to build local teams across the big European tech hubs, with London and Paris next on the list.”

Petersen and his team will be closely involved in Berlin’s growing tech events calendar, one of the highlights of which was this month’s Tech Open Air. Samsung NEXT featured on the judging panel for various pitch events related to B2B enterprise, hardware, future cities and finance. It will also soon announce its own events.

“Berlin is a great starting point for our European investments, as it is home to a powerful and fast-growing network in all of the different tech sectors we’re looking to invest in, particularly in the verticals of AR, VR, decentralisation and health tech,” says Petersen, whose own background includes having sold two startups, and a continuing stint as partner at Faber Ventures.

Many economists have predicted an exodus of tech and other companies from London, before Brexit comes into force in 2019. Several leading financial institutions, such as JPMorgan and HSBC have already announced plans to move to Germany, as Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU continue amid widespread confusion.

London has nevertheless attracted expansions by some of tech’s biggest players including Apple, Amazon, Slack and Snap. But Samsung clearly sees Berlin as a better bet when it comes to growing young, cutting-edge tech startups rather than established multinationals.

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Berlin’s not perfect, but Samsung is right: it’s more fun than London | Musa Okwonga | Opinion

Felix Petersen, managing director of Samsung Next Europe, reportedly says that his company will not set up its headquarters in London. It’s just “not a fun place to live unless you are really rich”, is the rationale. Instead, Petersen and colleagues will set up shop in Berlin, hoping to find a home that is both far more enjoyable and affordable.

As a Berliner, I can give Petersen some idea of what he can expect.

Certainly, there are things to say about London, where I lived for 14 years before moving to Berlin. The last time I was there, very recently, a signal failure saw the cancellation of all trains between Paddington and Slough in the very middle of rush hour. No rail replacement bus services were arranged: people were simply expected to trek home with the aid of suddenly exorbitant taxi fares. For one of the most expensive transport systems in the world, there didn’t seem to be much bang for your buck. It seemed to be a fitting metaphor for a town apparently desperate to become Geneva-on-Thames.

One can see why Petersen’s eye might settle on Berlin, for it has long been seen as a mecca for tech startups, with its lower costs allowing them to recruit and retain young talent. Samsung’s arrival may mark a greater maturity of that market, allowing younger companies to rebase in a capital more easily accessible than London or San Francisco.

Petersen and colleagues will find much to love in Berlin. There are parks, lakes and forests within a short train ride, nightclubs on which the sun never sets. There are theatres, food markets, streets of endless bars.

Yet Petersen should know that Berlin, though still a wonderful place to live, is not as much fun as it once was. Gentrification – in which I, as a newcomer, am complicit – is occurring at lightning speed. A few minutes down the road from me, one of the most popular local bars was closed after a succession of legal notices from residents who moved into a vibrant area and then complained that it was all too loud downstairs.

And though the local authorities recently introduced rent controls, the property prices are soaring here. Older residents tell me that the search for a flat, which once would last just a few days, can now take many months. As you turn up to view it, there may be dozens if not hundreds of other hopefuls.

Berlin, in short, is a victim of its own popularity. We are fortunate enough to live in a place where people travel to relax and to party. They have been joined of late by new young faces, decamping from different parts of the UK in advance of Brexit. Last year, a banner draped from a local building dubbed them “Brefugees”. Whenever I mention Brexit to my German friends, I see shaken heads, hear incredulous laughter, or – worst of all – receive sympathetic smiles.

Many of them speak two or three languages, learned through the school system. They can’t believe that Britain has voluntarily removed the right of its young people to live, work and love where they choose.

But this is also a place in flux, very much in danger of making several of the mistakes that has made London so unattractive to Samsung. In Kottbusser Tor – an area, incidentally, where the Turkish food is second to none – it looks as though dozens of local families will have to relocate at the behest of developers. Andrej Holm, for years the city’s leading anti-gentrification activist, was sacked in January from his role as Berlin’s housing minister, in a move seen by many as being politically motivated.

Of late, too, the city has lost some of its liberal sheen, with the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party having claimed 14% of the vote in the local elections. This was largely due to the arrival of 900,000 refugees in Germany in 2015 – a backlash which proved that, as ever, some expats are more welcome in Europe than others.

Significant racial issues are still to be addressed, with one of the largest Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Germany’s history moving through Berlin’s streets last month.

Yet that should not dissuade Petersen, for Berlin, like all cities, needs people with fresh perspectives and fresh ideas. As Samsung becomes the latest economic migrant to blend into the landscape seeking a fun, affordable lifestyle it cannot find in London, there’s thinking for us to do as well. Maybe this is a good time for us to seriously consider protecting the things that make Berlin special.

Samsung snubs London in favour of Berlin because it’s ‘not a fun place to live unless you are really rich’

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    Getty Images

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    Getty Images

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    Getty Images

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