Before we travel to the future, we must start with the present scenario.
The UMC – Urban and Mobile Computing – department that I coordinate, is the department that deals with the challenges of urban intelligence and urban computing. Therefore, it is the domain that effectively deals with the problems that the territory places on the introduction of information technologies that support society and the citizen.
Present – UMC areas
We are a department that is divided into 4 thematic areas, quite appealing in the domain of the territory.
- Urban intelligence: with solutions related to the intelligence of the most varied verticals of the cities and also with the involvement of the citizen in the process.
- Health: through telemedicine, which is still an area of smart cities – especially active aging.
- People and transport: also very geared towards urban computing, since transport is indeed a very important component of cities and their intelligence in the future, for example, the seamless integration of transport in our daily lives, that individual transportation is a problem in our cities. Other areas are intelligent transport systems, commonly referred to as ITS, and the simulation of vehicular networks in the context of autonomous driving and driving aids.
- Location: we are also specialists on location, with special emphasis on location in interior spaces. This is a problem of our times, where we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, where GPS does not work, opening up a universe of possibilities when we locate in these spaces.
Ubiquitous indoor location – Image of the presentation “The Applied Research Domains of the CCG: Present and FUTURE – UMC“
We have with us a team that actively collaborates with the Algoritmi Center, and more specifically with the UBICOMP and CCN groups, which has a group of specialists from the University of Minho (UMinho) side with whom we interact to bring the technology to use by the community, whether companies or territory. We have, in particular, bicephalous coordination, divided between a scientific coordinator and a development coordinator.
- The SAMU- Smart Autonomous Mobile Units project, with Bosch and UMinho, integrates the use of robots in an industrial context and all associated problems. The CCG has made an important contribution to architecture and location in interior spaces.
- Another project, the LSE – Location and Sensing Engine, is related to indoor location, which opens a universe of possibilities, linked to access control, among many others. Our point is to locate the user and provide that location if he allows it. Imagine the potential of having our resources indoors, whether employees or citizens monitored consensually, and from there we can draw useful lessons for various applications.
- The C4S (Connected Concessions and Citizen Centric Services) project is about quality of service on public transport, a very important area. Citizens have to be attracted to public transport to adopt them.
- We have recently integrated an international effort, an H2020 project in the 5G area and autonomous driving and driving aids using 5G technologies in cross-border corridors. I am talking about the 5G-MOBIX project where we are doing the technical coordination of the Portuguese part of the Porto-Vigo corridor. Therefore a very important mission in the area of communications and autonomous and automated vehicles.
- We are also involved in the living laboratories for the decarbonization of the city of Braga. This BUILD project has very interesting goals regarding urban intelligence, since it integrates the various new techniques and possibilities of the world of urban intelligence to face some challenges of society, in a territory that is very close to us.
Future: emerging challenges and possibilities
We now have a chance to glimpse what the future might be.
In order to speak of the future, we must consider the challenges that arise in cities. At the moment, when we look at a city, we encounter immense challenges. We have challenges related to parking, with mobility, with the adoption of soft modes, with the citizens’ conviviality, with all that is the capacities and functions of the city.
Cities and their potentialities – Image of the presentation “The Applied Research Domains of the CCG: Present and FUTURE – UMC”
And we have the challenge of bringing cities back to the citizens. All this can be done in a smart way, this is the future of our department because there is still a lot of work to do. Another area is mobility.
For the adoption of public transport to be seamless, it is very important that we adopt practices that transform public transport into transportation that is easy to use and attractive to people.
When we have that transport ensured in this way – whether for integrated electronic ticketing solutions or through intermodal transport – all this will facilitate in the future the adoption of mobility policies. An example of this is a recent effort, which the municipalities of the quadrangle are developing in the adoption of an integrated ticketing system that can effectively revolutionize the way public transport is used in this space.
— IoT. More than a buzzword, the interconnection of everything with the internet of things.
This is undoubtedly the future of this department as it deals with information sources that will provide urban computing and will, in turn, streamline all the processes that connect these billions of devices that all together will provide, transform data into useful information to society and that, therefore, are the minimum unit of information that we need to develop urban intelligence.
— We do not forget challenges like the issue of data reliability.
At this moment, when we consider having millions and millions of data, to be produced by the most varied sources of information, one of the challenges is: to what extent can we trust the data? One of the scientific struggles for the next few years is actually data reliability – a very interesting challenge.
— Another challenge is the question: if we have more data, do we have more information?
The process of turning data into information is also a challenge for the future. We will deal with the issue at the level of the sensors, but there will have to be in the future processing of all this information to materialize it in useful information for the society.
— Communications. At this point, it is essential to connect these IoT devices to all the systems we want.
These communications may assume various protocols already existing in the present, but will assume in the future what we believe to be the next big thing – the 5G communication. The 5G communications will solve a series of latency, bandwidth challenges with regard to power consumption to increase the autonomy of the devices. Even the location in interior spaces may be the target of improvements with this technology.
— I consider that the location in interior spaces is also in the future since it is not yet ubiquitous.
At the moment, if we want to use our phones to locate ourselves in a building, we would not be able to use GPS. In the future we would like that the technology of location in interior spaces could be a click away on our phones, to find us on the map and to have all the possibilities we have now in our cars when we go to a place. One challenge is to get out of a large building (find the exit), without being guided, for example. Imagine, therefore, the possibilities of having our location on the telephone and of being able to guide through it.
I leave this challenge: at this moment, every week, 3 million people in the world move to the cities. This type of demographic pressure will cause problems in the future that only mobile computing can solve. Thus, the future is smiling at the urban and mobile computing area of the CCG.
Urban computing – Image of the presentation “The Applied Research Domains of the CCG: Present and FUTURE – UMC”
João Moutinho has a degree, Master’s and Doctorate in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Porto. He is currently the development coordinator of D.I.A. UMC of the CCG. His research interests include indoor localization technologies, signal processing, electroacoustics, psychoacoustics, and acsessibility for the visually impaired.