What is NextLab?

The MIT NextLab Program works closely with industry partners to design and deploy mobile technology platforms that catalyze new business opportunities.  These opportunities can take the form of intra-company innovation, the design of new business models, or the launch of new ventures.

These opportunities arise from dramatic shifts currently occurring in the mobile industry:

  • The exponential increase in cellphone adoption of recent years, having reached 5 billion subscriptions worldwide, as well as the expanding footprint of the mobile signal to all corners of the planet
  • The effect of Moore’s Law on mobile networks and handsets, opening a new era of ubiquitous data usage in the form of mobile broadband, applications, and services that is quickly replacing voice and short message service (SMS)-only usage.
  • The behavioral shift in global consumer markets, having transformed cellphones from niche technical devices to an “everyone’s most treasured and trusted” personal item – from the highest socioeconomic levels in industrialized countries to the base of the pyramid in developing nations.

Leveraging expertise from across the Institute, the MIT NextLab Program engages in four main activities throughout the year: research, teaching, development of mobile platforms, and on-site deployments worldwide. The program is designed to forge a close collaboration between industry partners and MIT staff and students.

How does it work?

Given the active participation of staff and students from various departments across the Institute, NextLab's activities are planned in accordance to the MIT academic year.  2010-11 is the fourth year of the NextLab program; it has produced 29 projects in 13 countries, and taught almost 150 students from 5 universities.  In addition to MIT, it has affiliate labs in Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, the Philippines, and shortly in Colombia.

The main activities planned for the rest of 2010 and 2011 are the following:

Oct – Dec 2010

  • Completion of first release of the AppLab Platform, an open source system currently being developed by the NextLab Program
  • Drafting of a system design for release 2 of the AppLab Platform
  • Integration of new Industry Partners, and initial collaborations to revise 2011 R&D agenda and the year-long activities that best fit Partner needs and contributions

Jan 2011 (MIT Independent Activities Period)

  • Final revisions of R&D agenda and year-long activities; structuring of projects for the Spring NextLab course based on business opportunities identified jointly by NextLab and Industry Partners
  • Design of summer on-site deployments with Industry Partners, in their field operations
  • Architecture of the next release of the AppLab platform, incorporating new modules aligned with the insights and operations of our Industry Partners   

Feb – May 2011

  • Running of the Spring NextLab course live, through distance education video link, and online services platform; scheduling of Industry Partner visits for the semester
  • Design and development of the AppLab platform
  • Annual NextLab Event Spring 2011 where all projects are showcased to Industry Partners and the MIT community at large (during last day of class)

Jun 2011

  • Preparation for summer pilot deployment in Industry Partners’ field operations
  • Invitations to employees of Industry Partners for collaborative stays at MIT to work on a specific mobile innovation prototypes, its business case, and the strategies for leveraging MIT’s highly developed incubation and entrepreneurship ecosystem to launch Partners projects into the real world  
  • First delivery of NextLab student team Deliverables to Industry Partners (mobile innovation prototype, business case, presentation materials, and online video)

Jul - Aug 2011 (summer)

  • Implementation of summer pilot deployment in Industry Partners’ field operations
  • Research activities to measure and analyze effectiveness of prototype in the field, and integration of a database with all performance metrics
  • Knowledge transfer seminars (re: prototype, business case, pilot deployment, etc.) with Partner’s top executives and staff, either at MIT, at Partner’s local offices, or video conference

Sep – Dec 2011 (Fall semester)

  • Consolidation of all pilot deployments’ databases; individual and aggregate analyses
  • Drafting of NextLab Industry Partner Engagement Reports
  • Completion of the second release of NextLab's AppLab Platform

Jan 2012 (MIT Independent Activities Period)

  • Release of latest version of AppLab Platform for use by Industry Partners
  • Official delivery of NextLab Industry Partner Engagement Report
  • Possibility of running a month-long custom-made activity at MIT or as an internship at Partners offices or field operations (TBD)

What are the key benefits?

Leveraging NextLab’s experience in the design and deployment of mobile technologies, it has built and tested a set of prototypes that form the basis of a groundbreaking mobile-cloud platform.  Deliverables for 2011 are designed to consolidate this platform as a flexible enabler of innovative mobile applications and services.  They are:

  • An AppLab prototype customized to Industry Partners’ specific business needs
  • A Business Case for the prototype, emphasizing implementation, scale and profitability for Partner
  • A project presentation to be used in the NextLab Event Spring 2010 as well as other events in which Industry Partners could present the project
  • An online demo video of the prototype
  • An integrated database with all pilot deployment metrics
  • Quantitative analysis of each Industry Partner’s pilot deployment
  • Aggregated quantitative analysis of all pilot deployments
  • A NextLab Industry Partner Engagement Report
  • The second release of NextLab's AppLab platform

How do I join?

Industry Partners are an integral part of the NextLab program.  Since 2007, we've worked with a wide variety of companies, such as Estafeta, Motorola, Google, Bank of America, Nokia, and Telmex.  From these collaborations, two ongoing MIT initiatives have spun off: m-Logistics and the Next Billion Network.  

Industry Partners join by making a two or three year commitment to a mutually agreed contribution to MIT.  This includes membership to the MIT Supply Chain Exchange, which provides access to MIT CTL research and reports, and enables interactions with Center faculty, students, and other partner organizations.  It also includes access to MIT Global SCALE (Supply Chain And Logistics Excellence) Network, an international alliance of leading edge research and education centers, dedicated to the development and dissemination of global innovation in supply chain and logistics.  SCALE has nodes in North and South America, Europe, and expansion plans into E. Asia and Africa.  Members enjoy preferential rates to events, seminars, and executive education courses organized by MIT CTL.         

Key members of the team

Jhonatan Rotberg
Founder, Director, MIT NextLab Program
Lecturer, MIT Engineering Systems Division
Visiting Scientist, Center for Transportation & Logistics

Dr. Edgar Blanco
Research Director, NextLab Supply Chain Systems
Executive Director, Center for Latin American Logistics Innovation
Research Associate, Center for Transportation & Logistics

Jen-Hao (Paul) Yang
Associate Director of Technology, MIT NextLab Program
M.S. MIT Systems Design and Management Program