[MIT TR35] Rand Hindi places the user back at the centre of data analysis

By April 14, 2014
Rand Hindi

Data scientist Rand Hindi has just been named Innovator of the Year in France under the ‘TR35’ awards for innovators under 35 years old run by the MIT Technology Review. L’Atelier first reported on this talented young man last June and we now offer you another chance to get to know the founder of smart city-oriented startup :Snips, who created the Tranquilien passenger flow tracking app for French national railway company SNCF.

L’Atelier: So what have you achieved over the last year or so?

Rand Hindi: During these last eight months, my team and I have been thinking much more deeply about data in general so as to understand its value and applications. We came to the conclusion that smart cities are just one context for data, and that in reality the underlying phenomenon of all this is ‘ubiquitous computing’ – the idea that both the physical world and our everyday lives are going to be ultra-connected. So we need to go further than the smart city concept and provide anyone and everyone with technology that will enable them to understand and take control of the environment in which they find themselves. This is what is known as ‘context awareness’. So the radical change in our view of things is that we’re no longer infrastructure-centric but user-centric. We want to put the user back at the centre of everything we do. Basically all of this must be to the benefit of the user.

What have you learned from your collaboration with a major company, namely SNCF?

In fact this project was fairly representative of what people like to see from technology – open data, big data, crowdsourcing, plus open innovation collaboration between a major corporation and a startup. On top of that, it addressed a very real problem: the public transport issue in the Paris region.  At the end of the day, the collaboration has been beneficial for both parties. We have become more professional, we’ve learned how to work with a major corporation, with a lot of different people involved and so on. And in my opinion it has also done SNCF some good in terms of helping with their future relations with startups. And by the way I also think this collaboration project could serve as a case study for other startups thinking of working in partnership with a big company.

Any new projects in sight?

Well, :Snips has not been resting on its laurels. We’ve continued our collaboration with other companies, one notable project being with the Post Office with a view to predicting peak footfall at post offices, based on the catchment area plus contextual information. We’re also working on a road safety project in the United States – trying to anticipate the risk of road accidents by looking at the spatial environment – street configuration, buildings and venues in the vicinity, plus such information as the weather forecast.  We’re also in talks with automobile manufacturers about creating a connected car dashboard. This would be the first time ever that a car would actually be able to react practically to the situation confronting it.  

See also our 2013 portrait of Rand Hindi and our report on the Tranquilien public transport app:

[Portrait of an Innovator] Rand Hindi wants to turn the city into an algorithm

Our Innovator of the Month is a data scientist. Forget all the dusty clichés about Professor Calculus. Rand Hindi, founder of :Snips, is an urban algorithm architect.  His watchword is: bring the data into play in order to adapt the city to the needs of citizens.

Tranquilien Combines Open Data and Crowdsourcing to Streamline Public Transport Flows

Every day, three million people use the Transilien line and RER express commuter trains in the Paris region and half of them are equipped with a smartphone. These passengers are now being encouraged to make use of a special app to feed information back from their train with a view to improving everyone’s general comfort.  

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