Sharing big data to deploy smart energy services

londonEnergyBusesBNOn Jan, 29th 2015 we spoke at the “Smart energy UK & Europe Summit” in London, where we had the chance to discuss and develop the idea of advancing towards a “data sharing economy” at the urban ecosystem. What we were presenting, basically, is how a new kind of organizational relationship between urban players could eventually lead both to the creation of new social, scientific and economic value at the local scale, and to the development of new business prospects in those industries willing to play the game.

Cities have faced challenges in history with innovative ways of transforming the materials at their reach into innovative solutions. Whether we are talking about limestone, wood, brass, concrete, copper, or electrons, engineers have effectively used technology to provide security, access to drinkable water, sanitation, wired communications, or energy to households and people. Today, data is the new material upon which we can continue to develop innovative solutions to deal with the “bugs” or impracticalities (in Jane Jacobs’ words) of urban life. Continue reading

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The art of city making. Charles Landry

artOfCityMaking“The art of city making”, by Charles Landry, is a brilliant attempt to understand cities with the declared and simple objective of making them better. In its pages, the reader should not expect to find a step-by-step recipe of how to make cities from scratch. The book is targeted at those readers concerned, instead, with reconfiguring existing cities so they can fulfill their role of solution providers for its own people and, ultimately, for the world.

In an increasingly urbanized planet, understanding cities has never been so high in the agenda. Cities are the result of a multiplicity of relationships, flows, interests, layers, forces, all intertwined in intricate networks where phenomena from a variety of domains like psychology, physics, sociology, culture, politics, or biology combine to make every city unique.

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Making the urban innovation spiral happen. Why, how, where

smartravelPortugalBNOn 4th, December 2015, we spoke about “the urban innovation spiral” at the Smart Portugal event in the beautiful medieval city of Bragança, province of Tras Os Montes.

As many urban practitioners, we are increasingly interested about cities as solution providers to problems. The aqueduct of Segovia (Spain) is an example of how cities, in the Roman era, solved the problem of access to drinkable water thanks to a smart invention. Today it attracts hords of tourists while giving a distinct identity to the city. In the middle ages, city walls, like Lucca’s (Italy) gave shelter to people threatened by insecurity and pillage. In the 21st century, that wall is one of the city’s main attractions, its upper promenade offering a shady tour of the city in the hottest days of summer. But overall, in the past as well as in present times, cities have represented the quest of prosperity. Few names illustrate this pursue better than the name of “La prosperidad”, a Madrid neighborhood originally populated with migrants from southern rural Spain under the dark times of Franco’s dictatorship.

World urbanization rate grows in parallel to the decrease in illiteracy level and life expectancy. Those are fundamental, aggregate indicators. Literacy is highly correlated with our future. Life expectancy speaks mainly about our past. But, while urbanization fixes the bigger picture (famine, extreme poverty or violence, access to sanitation), it creates bugs: inequality, obesity, isolation… Many refer to the process of addressing these bugs through technology as the transition to becoming a “smart city”. Continue reading

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Game theory in public policies: the unaffordable cost of risk aversion

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Daniel Kahneman. Source: howtoacademy.com

On Dec, 2th 2015 we spoke at the “Smart cities for smart businesses” event in Córdoba (Spain), where we presented some of our latest ideas on public policies for urban innovation: specifically, on advancing towards sharing agreements between the key urban players that allow to place urban big data at the service of building sustainable engines of social and economic value.

Unexpectedly, the afternoon debate sparked an intense discussion about what the city of Córdoba could do to speed up its transition to a knowledge-based economy. We were fortunate to witness an inspiring discussion between some of the innovation stakeholders of the city: universities, entrepeneurs, researchers and City Council on the assets and opportunities that lay ahead of Córdoba’s desire to seize a more innovative future. Our contribution was targeted at dismantling some of the false clichés that might slow or paralyze such a necessary process. Continue reading

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Measuring urban innovation

SmartCityExpoBCN19NovOn 19th, November 2015, we spoke at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona about the slippery subject of applying KPIs to measure urban innovation.

Somebody said: “What can’t be measured, probably does not exist”. He or she was probably an engineer, like most of our audience. But take for instance love and wrath, hunger or joy, selfishness or cooperation. Those concepts do exist, are as real as us, humans, and they will probably escape from the engineers’ measurement capabilities still for a long time. Continue reading

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Ciudad 9000

coffee_grinderUna de las cosas que aprendimos los que nos criamos leyendo ciencia ficción, es que para que algo suceda, es necesario imaginarlo.

Todos conocemos obras en las que aparece un súper computador omnipresente y omnisciente que es capaz de servir y atender a los humanos, desde HAL 9000 de “2001, una odisea en el espacio” (del que toma el nombre este artículo), Multivac, WOPR, etc. Dejando aparte el mito del Golem que se rebela contra los humanos tan usado en estas obras, podemos decir que este ordenador empieza a existir. Es el conjunto de servicios en una ciudad.

Así que vamos a plantear una propuesta:
“Quiero que mi cafetera me despierte 20 minutos antes de que haya una bici de alquiler disponible. Y que la reserve en la parada a mi nombre” Continue reading

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Designing the Hubble of cities

hubble

‘Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science’

Edwin P. Hubble

Cities are one of the most complex ecosystems in nature, one of the closest to us, humans, and one of the least understood. The different urban disciplines (architecture, urban planning, social sciences, traffic engineering, telecommunications, urban economics…) have been traditionally devoted to study the city as a collection of either physical objects or human livings.

It was Jane Jacobs who first pointed out the misalignments derived from the ‘narrowness’ of these approach, providing a broader understanding of the relationships that govern the mutual feedback between humans and objects in cities. A public space entomologist like Jan Gehl followed and performed sound observations about interactions between people and ‘physicalities in cities’. Gehl’s empirical discovery ‘first life, then spaces, then buildings’ anticipates the thought that places are a result of interactions, and not the opposite. Manuel Castells introduced the concept of flows as a governing phenomena to study thoroughly for a better understanding of cities. His influential socio-economic perspective of the city-verse as a ‘space of flows’ is at the basis of the new science of cities that contemporary pioneers like the geographer Michael Batty is trying to build. Continue reading

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What if Google collapsed?

basuraElectronicaGoogleWell, in the first place, in case of a Google collapse I probably wouldn’t be publishing this post through the ‘Google friends’ WiFi network from the Starbucks I am sitting right now…

Google going into chapter 11? Can you think that? And even… I am thinking of some examples of high tech giants of the past and how they collapsed, some with thunder, others slowly fading in silence. I still recall the case of Nortel (Northern Telecom), the all-mighty Canadian ATM leader (for newcomers, ATM stands for Asynschronous Transfer Mode, probably the best thought communication protocol ever and one of the less succesful), whose shrinking stocks ended by turning into dust not so many years ago.

Here are some of the biggest bankrupcies in history. Job losses aside, when an airline company shuts down, passengers stop flying, assets (airplanes, buildings,…) are auctioned. When the telecom provider Worldcom went into chapter 11 clients just flew or were migrated to ther providers, its transmission equipment engrossing the second hand markets (and spirally contributing to the ruin of suppliers like Lucent or Nortel). If Coca-cola vanished, someone would probably buy the brand and the secret recipe. Our life wouldn’t change so much, many drink Pepsi after all…

But… what if Google broke down? Continue reading

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