How urban data reveals the hidden life behind cities

Routes taken by a student in the XVI district of Paris, by Chombart de Lauwe. 1952

According to a recent survey by the EFPS (European Foundation for Progressive Studies) and the Felipe González Foundation, online privacy stands as one of the main worries for our young generation alongside gender equality and climate change.

Our personal data (our “digital fingerprint”) can be used, as Black Mirror demonstrates, to make our life impossible. It can also be used to do business with us, the consumer, and sell us goods which we never even knew we would want. Or, as we now know from the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, to try to convince us to vote against our own interests, that is, against ourselves.

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Cómo los datos urbanos nos revelan la vida oculta de las ciudades

Itinerarios de un estudiante en el distrito XVI de París, por Chombart de Lauwe. 1952

Según una reciente encuesta de la Fundación Europea de Estudios Progresistas y la Fundación Felipe González, la privacidad on-line, junto con la igualdad de género y el cambio climático, es una de las tres primeras preocupaciones de nuestros jóvenes.

Los datos personales, nuestra huella digital, pueden usarse, como nos muestra Black Mirror, para hacernos la vida imposible. O para hacer negocio con nosotros y vendernos los productos que ni siquiera sabíamos que queríamos comprar. O, como sabemos a partir del escándalo de Facebook y Cambrige Analytica, para tratar de convencernos de votar contra nuestros propios intereses. Es decir, contra nosotros mismos.

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Innovation Districts: From Barcelona to Dublin, This Is What I Know

Elections for Mayor are a-coming. With the aim of shaping my contribution to the approaching campaign, I have been reflecting lately on innovation districts. Ours, the Digital Mile (Milla Digital) is unfinished. One tends to think that all innovation districts are, by definition, unfinished. But, seriously, the Digital Mile must be one of the more unfinished innovation districts in the world, and I’ve known a few. Planned ahead of its time, built too late, never fully understood.

District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona's 22@

District layout at Poblenou and Barcelona’s 22@

I know that innovation districts are big real estate operations in the first place. Land owners, developers and construction companies are the first and primary beneficiaries. To shift the urban economics from construction to innovation we need bricks, glass and concrete. And a delicate urban planning, too. See the delicacy in Barcelona’s 22@ urban fabric, the first innovation district I knew back in 2002 and a place I have visited many times since.

In it, the legacy of Cerdà’s urban layout serves as a landing track for Castells’ discoveries about digital economy. Jane Jacobs would have approved: perfect block sizes, mixed uses, walkability. And a focused management structure, that soon shifted its efforts from urban development to economic development. The result: more than 100.000 new jobs (many of them high-skilled) and an overall impact of 15% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the city. Continue reading


Open, Agile and Lean Startup Principles for Urban Innovation

Progress towards a more open and agile urban innovation is a must for city halls. The case could be named “Google versus City Hall”. Yes, cities change rapidly, but on too many occasions those changes are powered by the giants of the “new economy”: Google, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber… City Halls just lag behind those changes trying to control damages in the local economies and communities. We reckon that the smart city is built between a multiplicity of agents. The city hall, universities, local startups, big corporations, and, mostly, citizens. But also that a new type of conversation between cities and big corporations can happen. Continue reading


Las matemáticas del consenso en el diseño de ciudad


Fotografía de

Post anterior: Herramientas matemáticas para comprender la ciudades.

Existen multitud de procesos, fuerzas y agentes involucrados en el diseño de ciudad. Cuando no hay un urbanismo fuertemente planificado, las ciudades crecen orgánicamente a partir de pequeños grupos de población que se van extendiendo según caprichosas reglas. Como hemos visto en el post anterior, los fractales representan bien este tipo de procesos “auto-organizados”. En lado opuesto de un planeamiento urbanístico fuerte, los procesos de diseño de ciudad se conducen de “arriba a abajo” (el caso de Brasilia es un ejemplo paradigmático de ese “planeamiento urbanístico” rígido). Sin embargo, cada vez más, el diseño urbano es consecuencia de complejas interacciones, de intrincadas correlaciones de fuerzas entre diversos agentes: políticos, económicos, cívicos, etc. La ciudad de hoy se planifica de arriba a abajo, se diseña desde variados ángulos y se construye en un zigzag de creciente incertidumbre e imprevisibilidad. En todo caso, y ciñéndonos al apartado del diseño de ciudad, casos como el de Gamonal (Burgos) demuestran que la capacidad de tomar decisiones con un cierto grado de consenso es fundamental en nuestro tiempo. Continue reading


Herramientas matemáticas para comprender las ciudades

Post anterior: Fundamentos matemáticos de la complejidad urbana.


Grafo bi-partito con diferentes cantidades de flujo entre nodos. Fuente: Michael Batty.

Como escribíamos en el primer post de esta serie, comprender las redes y sus flujos, bien sean de tráfico, sociales, financieros, o energéticos, es necesario para comprender las ciudades, pero no es suficiente. Las redes están relacionadas unas con otras, en una superposición de niveles que dista mucho de ser estanca. Por ejemplo, la distribución de energía en la ciudad tiene relación con la actividad comercial, industrial, y ésta, a su vez, con la movilidad. Se trata de redes interrelacionadas. Para comprender la ciudad es necesario, por tanto, considerar relaciones entre redes, o grafos, distintos. Continue reading


Smart lighting, public space and urban innovation


Photo by Carlo Ratti Associatti

The Italian magazine “Luce et Design” interviewed us for its April 2016 number. We talked about topics such as urban innovation strategies, smart lighting, digital art, public space and… refugees. We share a translation of the interview in English.

Luce Et Design: What was your training course?

I had my masters degree as a Telecom Engineer at the University of Zaragoza, back in 1997. After almost twenty years of practice I added to my training a masters degree in city sciences by the Politechnic University of Madrid.

LED: On which essential techniques and strategies did you base your intervention to turn Zaragoza into a Smart City?

Zaragoza’s implementation of its own unique Digital City model will at a particularly difficult time for the both city and its inhabitants have the concept of open source as its connecting theme: open data, free software, accessible networks and open government, meaning a truly transparent and participatory administration.

In addition to this, it shall have an open code architecture which gives rise to reconfigurable buildings (“open place making”), new digital public spaces that are made up of, used and reconfigured by the public itself; spaces where they exercise their participation, grow in knowledge and strengthen their digital links with the city. Continue reading