The adventure began with a private letter from the Palace. Hexagon’s Geospatial division received an invitation to accompany the King and Queen of Belgium to the Republic of Korea for a state visit.
State visits occur twice per year, and the objectives are to show the host country the best that Belgium has to offer and to deepen existing relationships.
The Palace also selects academic and industrial representatives to attend the prestigious event through a private selection process. Representatives are chosen based on reputation and potential connections to the host country. Our company has had a long and successful relationship with the Trade Attaché (a diplomatic official) of the embassies in Tokyo and Seoul, which likely led to the invitation.
Before the visit began, attendees received a short briefing about travel arrangements, including one special rule to follow: upon meeting the King or Queen, we must never initially address Their Majesties. We could only answer questions they asked us.
Once onsite, I had the opportunity to meet other attendees. The entire delegation included 200 people, and the business delegation consisted of 92 CEOs and managing directors. It was an honor to attend, as being part of the delegation shows the world that our company is among a select few in receiving such public recognition of success.
Invited companies also included beer brewers and chocolate manufacturers (both obvious choices for Belgium), plus a strong delegation from the pork industry. You might ask, as I did, why the delegation included so many pork farmers. Well, the answer is simple: 75 percent of Belgium’s bacon exports go to Korea. I’m not sure why, though I do know that they don’t mix the pork with chocolate. As for mixing the pork with beer, I’m not sure.
Learning from Seoul, a Leading Smart City
The state visit included a Smart City seminar hosted by the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, which was quite interesting. The mayor and his team explained that Seoul is a Smart City that focuses on Smart Infrastructure, Smart Service, and Smart Citizens.
An example of a Smart Citizens concept in Seoul is the idea of combining census data with mobile phone locations to determine the differences between the official population census and where people actually are, or the “de facto population.”
City leaders can use the de facto population to optimize location and availability for public services. For example, municipal services should be available where people are, and when they are there. So, operating hours for a public service building can be altered to make sure the services are available at the right times, and are in the best locations, for citizens.
In Belgium, there are certainly ways that Smart City technology can improve public services. For instance, government organization in Belgium is extremely complex, especially for the city of Brussels. Brussels is both a region and a city with 19 precincts, but it is also the capital of the Kingdom of Belgium and home to the federal administration.
This organization can be a hassle when you want to pay for street parking in Brussels. To pay, you must know in which precinct you are, because there are almost as many management systems for parking as there are precincts. I have five smartphone apps to pay for city parking, and very little help to tell me which one I need to use in the moment. This process could certainly be simpler with the implementation of a smart solution.
I think Seoul could be a great Smart City example for Brussels, especially as they engage citizens in new initiatives.
Exchanging Histories with Industry Leaders
During the event, the Federation of Korean Industries also hosted an industry seminar.
Ilham Kadri, the newly appointed CEO of Solvay, a giant Belgian chemical company, kicked off the presentations with the history of her company. During the presentation, she also described how the company’s founder, 19th century industrialist Ernest Solvay, organized annual conferences for the greatest minds of his time to promote the advancement of science and education. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr was among the attendees, and Bohr’s quantum theory was even accepted following heated debates at one of the conferences.
During my own presentation at the seminar, I explained why Luciad Portfolio solutions, which were originally developed for the Defense and Aerospace industries, are now critical components for operations across industries.
For instance, twenty years ago, Defense organizations were already in need of a solution that could combine data from different sources – such as satellite photography, digital elevation models, UAV video, and radar – into a common operating picture. Data from other industries was more static at the time and came from a smaller number of sources.
Now, many more industries require technology to combine multisource data, such as social media and real-time location information, with other logistical information. Luciad Portfolio solutions answer these requirements, and the same solutions that can be used for military operations can be used, for example, to manage a chemical plant, or improve transportation networks in a Smart City.
Wrapping Up the Visit
The last major event of the state visit was a Belgium-sponsored concert for the Korean people, who were represented by President Moon Jae-in. World-class musicians performed classical music, and the Belgian drink that followed was equally enjoyable. The King and Queen of Belgium honored us with their presence later in the evening as well.
The next state visit will be to one of Belgium’s neighboring countries in Luxembourg. I look forward to seeing the results of this visit as well and hope it is just as successful as the visit to South Korea.
Ready to pack your bags for your own adventure? You can check out our upcoming events, and register for one near you to reserve your place. We hope to see you soon!