Living labs: including communicators in the quadruple helix ecosystem

Last 26th of June, we organised a session at the European Conference of Science Journalists (ECSJ2017) in Copenhagen, Denmark. The session was titled ‘Citizen Experience as a powerful communication tool: Open Innovation and the role of Living Labs in EU’ featuring key speakers who presented a novel way of crafting citizen innovation: living labs.

Our aim was clear: to explain that there are new ways of communicating science through experience, implementing a quadruple helix ecosystem. But most importantly that we need journalists within this equation. How? We did not know, but that was precisely what we wanted to explore with our European colleagues at ECSJ2017.

The session was presented and moderated by Alexandra Canet, communications officer at the Computer Vision Center and had the intervention of three panelists: Emiliya Hubavenska, a communications professional working for the Open innovation 2.0 team at DG CONNET; Lasse Bundgaard, industrial PhD at Copenhagen Solutions Lab which is implementing the Copenhagen Street Lab, a living lab that is in charge of testing the latest technology for Smart cities within Copenhagen, and Fernando Vilariño, associate director of the Computer Vision Center and codirector of the Library Living Lab, a technological laboratory located within a library with the aim of discovering new ways of connecting technology and culture, and who is, furthermore, associate director of the Computer Vision Center in Barcelona.

Two real examples of living labs were presented, very different the one from the other. The Library Living Lab is an initiative which was proposed by neighbours from the city of Sant Cugat del Valles, right next to Barcelona. It is a project thought by citizens and for citizens. It all started with a request from the neighbourhood association, who wanted to create something new in the library that the town council had planned in the recently built Volpelleres neighbourhood. A community formed by young, educated people, with their families. With this proposal, they managed to involve different agents: University, Public Administration, Businesses and Citizens, in order to create a project in which everyone could be seated at the same table and thus decide the challenges that would be taken upon together within this space, the Library Living Lab.

From there, the Library Living Lab has hosted many activities, for different publics, and has found ways of putting the citizen in the center of scientific innovation. How? We were asked by our colleagues in Denmark: Identifying a number of challenges; presenting prototypes and trying them out with citizens; developing workshops, such as the 3D printing course, which then shifted into the 3D club. The neighbours engaged highly within this activity, organised their own meetings and started gathering every Friday afternoon. This club has experimented with 3D printing and robotics and has ended up building a remote control formula 1 car, a drone (that flies), and more recently, a catamaran. A true example of citizen Innovation and engagement.

On the other hand, Mr. Lasse Bundgaard presented the Copenhagen Street lab. With a different approach, this living lab is oriented to the needs of the Copenhagen Town Council and the businesses which operate in the city in order to test the initiatives that will make Copenhagen a Smart city. Here, citizens also play an important role, but in a divergent way. They participate when collecting data, but are not currently proposing challenges or needs, an aspect which, according to the session’s public, and identified by the Copenhagen Street lab itself, needed to be worked on.

Ms. Emiliya Hubavenska’s preceded both presentations and gave a brief insight into the European Commision’s strategy of Open Innovation. Not only did Ms. Hubavenska explain that the science communicator’s job must be as inclusive as possible, but that the role of the Communicator and the profession is evolving, and we start to have the need of expertise in areas such as citizen innovation and living labs, which are essentially open ecosystems in which Business, Public Administration, Academia and Citizens must learn to work together with a clear and defined strategy. This might be the only way to work on the scientific and technological challenges that we have upon us.

Our colleague journalists, those who came to our session, helped us to identify the challenges that living labs arise for communicators. To communicate effectively and be catalysers of the technological and scientific experience which takes place within Living Labs. The questions that sprung up: do these spaces substitute the communicators’ tasks? How do we, as journalists, complement them if experience is the channel? How do we make communicators feel interested in living labs? What online and offline tools can we make use of in order to engage citizens and make them part of the experiences offered in these innovation spaces? How to finance this all?

The initial question, though, was left unanswered: how to include journalists in the process is still unknown. We collected ideas, new questions, but not a guide. What we did all agree on is that there is the need for a specific training that gives journalists the context of open innovation and its strategies and thus relate them to the communicator’s actions, giving them an adequate tool in order to make use, in an effective and coherent way, of living labs. Only then, will we know how to integrate communicators within this process.

Journalists are normally committed citizens, and what we all agreed on is that we must be the ones promoting these strategies in which citizen engagement in research projects is crucial from the beginning, actively practising RRI. This will only happen if RRI recommendations are applied in a correct, effective and well communicated way.



Boosting entrepreneur projects within Smart mobility

In order to highlight the key technologies and thus respond to the challenges of smart mobility and promote entrepreneurship, the UAB Research Park (PRUAB), the Computer Vision Center and the UAB School of Engineering, have organized a course dedicated to smart mobility and enterpreneurship, the “Intelligent Vehicle and Business Opportunities” program, with the direct support of the Department of Enterprise and Occupation of the Generalitat of Catalonia (Departament d’empresa i ocupació de la Generalitat de Catalunya), through the Catalunya Emprèn Program.

The course’s Demoday took place on the 27th of June, and the whole program counted with the participation of 38 students with different profiles, such as researchers, entrepreneurs, engineering students, designers and various professionals. During six months, the students have received training on emerging technologies in the area of smart transport and business management and new business models. Concurrently, they have worked in their own project, designing new solutions accompanied by technology and business experts, who have been giving them support in order to bring their idea closer to the market. 

Innovative projects for sustainable mobility

The six projects developed throughout the Program were presented on Tuesday 27th  of June at the Eureka building (UAB Research Park) in a Demoday and evaluated by a specialized jury: Felipe Jiménez, Director of the Intelligent System Unit at the Institute of Automobile Research of the Polytechnic University of Madrid; José Manuel Barrios, head of the department of Innovation of the company Applus+ IDIADA; Eduardo Urruticoechea, Director of Innovation at IDNEO, Antoni Espinosa, associate professor at the UAB and researcher in the field of the autonomous vehicle, and Meritxell Bassolas, head of Technological Transfer at the Computer Vision Center.

The selected project and winner of the event was CheckUp, mechanism for the automatic diagnosis of damage in rented cars. Currently, car rental companies stil rely on the visual perception of their staff for the vehicle inspection, registering the damage manually and on paper.  The solution proposed by CheckUp is based on automating and accelerating this process through computer vision in order to maintain the customer’s confidence and the impartiality of the company.

This project has obtained a prize of 1,000 euros, sponsored by the accelerator mVenturesBCN.

The other developed projects are:

Apparka: a web and mobile platform for the management of shared electric bicycles, which allows users to find, rent and unlock a bicycle through a mobile application. Furthermore, the application analyses and manages the data registered in the routes in real time, such as distance, time, consumed calories or the state of the battery of the bicycle, proposing the users the optimal route. This project is born to offer a new concept of mobility, being a great complement for public transport and replacing private transport.

Accsint: a system for helping the driving of electric wheelchairs for people with reduced mobility. The mechanism incorporates sensors and satellite connectivity to detect obstacles, slopes, holes, etc. and notify emergency services in case of an accident.

Urban Charge intends to make private electric vehicle recharging points profitable during the time frames in which they are empty. It is a collaborative platform that connects users seeking for parking and recharging their electric vehicle in available private charge points.

Drivvisor focuses on the driver and proposes a monitoring system in order to evaluate its state during driving. Their idea is to develop a mobile application based on computer vision that detects the tiredness and the distractions of the driver, issuing alerts in real time.

Finally, Smart Clean Technologies proposes to use autonomous vehicles capable of cleaning large surfaces autonomously. Its innovative characteristic is that the robot knows in every moment where is it located and thus reaching all points. Moreover, the system is flexible and non intrusive.

Continuous support

Although the course has reached its end, the projects will continue receiving support from the UAB Research Park in order to effectively reach market. Most of the projects have already developed a fist prototype and have attracted the interest of different institutions.

You’ll find all the Demoday pictures here:

Computer Vision and Robotics at Barcelona’s Maker Faire

The CVC was present last Weekend at Barcelona’s Maker Faire at the Italian Pavilion at Fira de Barcelona. The Center presented four projects: the first of them, an open source air hockey robot created by Dr. Alicia Fabregues, from the IIIA institute and UAB professor. This air hockey robot works with a simple app containing computer vision which detects the robotic arm and the player’s movements in order to planify the next move.

The second project was Memory Fields, a prototype that turns simple toys into useful tools, also using computer vision. With this, the camera located in the base of the prototype analises the user’s movements and interaction with the toys and thus gives a command to the computer. This project has been developed by Daniel García Pampín, and supervised by Dr. Fernando Vilariño, CVC’s associate director.

Thirdly, a self erasing board, called Erasinator 9000, created by engineering student Lakshminarayanan Sriram, which erases the board according to will by recognising hand gestures. And last, but not least, a robotic hand created by a group of UAB engineering students and presented by Daniel Herbón.

Have a look at all the pictures here:

Xarxes project presented today to the archivist community of the Barcelona metropolitan area

The Xarxes project was presented today to archivists from different locations of the Barcelona metropolitan area at the Regional Archive of the Baix Llobregat region. The goal of the meeting was to explain the project and give archivists the tools in order to implement the project within their Archives, how to motivate volunteers and the final objective of creating a global historical social network.

The event was presented by Enric Cobo, Catalunya’s general archive Coordinator; Jusep Boyà, Catalunya’s general archive Director and Jordi San José, Sant Feliu’s Town Mayor. The project has been introduced by CVC’s director, Dr. Josep Llados, and has then been explained by Dr. Alicia Fornes (CVC) and Dr. Maria Joana Pujades (Barcelona Demographic Center), the latter being the co-directors of the project.

Xarxes is a project funded by Recercaixa, a research grant awarded by the Obra Social La Caixa and ACUP, the Catalan Association of Public Universities.

Find the pictures here:

Related article: XARXES: Connecting The Lives Of Our Ancestors

Pattern Recognition at Barcelona’s Science Festival

Dr. Jorge Bernal presented yesterday pattern recognition and how computers learn how to read handwritten documents at this year’s Science Party at the Parc de la Ciutadela in Barcelona. The session took place Sunday morning from 12 to 13 and it helped children comprehend the importance of pattern recognition within Computer Science and, specially, within Computer Vision.

The Computer Vision Center is always present at this Festival, trying to captivate the public with new workshops each year. Last year, we presented our Library Living Lab along with different technological demos, such as our augmented songbook or our European Project Five Centuries of Marriages.