She’s 43, married with two children, and a smart city believer. In fact, she is convinced that behind this concept lies the key to making life better for people. She has been the director of the SCEWC. Yet, recently she felt the need to get back to projects development…
You’ve been SCEWC director and now you are back to a project development unit…
Yes, people may consider it a downsizing but I find it very interesting. I work on projects rather than on the smart city concept, on projects where you can see and feel the benefits of the smart city philosophy. I think I can contribute more.
What kind of projects are you developing at the Smart Cities Innovation Business Unit at i2CAT Foundation?
i2CAT Foundation is a non-profit research and innovation center which promotes mission-oriented R+D+I activities on advanced Internet architectures, applications and services. It aims at becoming a key international R+D+I partner in the field of Internet technologies helping companies to foster their innovation and generating a new digital society and economy.
The center stands up for a new open innovation framework, fostering the collaboration between companies, public administration, the academic environment and end-users. In cooperation with these partners, our unit, together with the i2CAT research areas, wants to produce technologies and solutions with the aim of converting Catalonia into a leading global smart region in a smart Europe, with a flourishing added-value economy and an innovative society. To achieve this goal, we are working basically on mobile, fixed line and media. We do think that innovation has to be social and user-centered. There is no other way to do things.
How can cities articulate participatory and collaborative models to develop this user-centered innovation?
The Internet is still based on a distributed, end-to-end open network architecture. This favors co-creation and user-centered processes which offer a pathway for radical new innovation models. i2CAT embodies some of the new principles that the Internet is bringing into innovation systems. And its Quadruple Helix model (collaboration between Academia, Research entities, Private Companies and users) is theoretically now the reference model for deploying the new Regional Specialization Strategies that the European Union is proposing for all regions for 2014-2020. The secret is developing new methods for user engagement based on a mixture of traditional applied anthropology techniques and new approaches. These are designed from techno-anthropology theories and considering the user as a key-player. I2CAT has pioneered this activity. Last but not least, we have to work on this model with kids at school as of now. Waiting comes at a huge price.
In this context, how do cities of the future have to be configured?
Intelligent cities will consist of a set of new technologies like open big data, software defined networks, crowdsourcing, augmented reality or wireless sensors networks, finally organized around a city operating system. We understand the city as a software defined territory based in user-controlled and reconfigurable networks, based in the collective intelligence of their citizens.
How do you balance the need for ‘sensoring’ the city and collecting data with the citizen’s feeling of losing their privacy?
Ingredient of smart cities is data, the lifeblood of smart solutions. Almost every aspect of our personal lives is captured in digital data that is stored somewhere in the digital ecosystem. So, we must work hard to protect privacy. Yet, it’s worth pointing that many smart solutions use anonymized data. So, when is the user’s privacy really compromised? I think the problem is more business driven than city driven. Yet, it is a great challenge.
There are different examples of future cities in the world, such as Masdar City (Abu Dhabi, UAE), a hub for cleantech companies, or Songdo (South Korea). Are they ideal cities or high-tech utopia?
Each city has its own intelligence. Masdar is an interesting project, but most people would agree that building a city in the middle of the desert may not be a smart idea. Europe is a well-developed continent and it might seem complicated to integrate some technology in cities standing out for their design, but it is possible. In Barcelona, the basic services that a citizen needs are at their fingertips. So, I would say this is a pretty intelligent configuration. In the end, intelligent means making the most of your configuration. But there is not a unique and only way to do things. It depends on each area.
What is the challenge to face within the next 10 years?
The Internet of knowledge and creativity is the new challenge to face. Within the next 10 years, we will live in a networked smart world, based in a new generation of networked intelligent technologies and systems, a co-creating platform between machines, people and the environment for a sustainable and smart future.
How can a congress like SCEWC help develop smart cities?
The congress does a very good job to promoting the smart city concept and generating business opportunities. Moreover, showcasing success stories allows us to be aware of what we are, where we want to go and how we believe we can get there. It is very important because there is no single, universal definition of a smart city, but we do not have to reinvent the wheel. We can learn from each other.
Rosa Paradell, Smart Cities Innovation Business Unit manager, i2CAT Foundation