Smart Cities for a society of longer lives

“We are currently in a society where people live longer. Smart cities are a response to this.” said Laurent Abadie, CEO of Panasonic Europe. His words are clear, smart cities are not only about technology and the environment but also about people’ well-being, about which services we can offer to people and make their lives better. In other words, we do not need to forget to reconcile all the three pillars of sustainability.

This speech came out after the commissioning of the self-sufficient city in Fujisawa, Japan, by the  multinational enterprise Panasonic. The Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town is a big neighbourhood with 1000 households, green areas and solar panels everywhere. They are not developing a town only based on advanced-technology but, in their own words, “based on actual lifestyles”. Electric cars and a rational use of energy (it has amazing street lamps! LED lights that only turn on during the pedestrians’ tour) have helped to reduce 70% of CO2 emissions. Also with water reuse installations they have achieved to lessen 30% of water consumption, and residents interact, bond and exchange ideas and objectives for achieving better lifestyles in mobility, security and well-being.



This utopian city but is actually a high-functionality reality. However, it is located in Japan, and this country has the advantage of having “a culture very used to manage their own resources because the land is very scarce” said the Spanish architect Pich-Aguilera. Plus very dense. Have other countries the possibility to replicate this example and become a success, as well? Pich-Aguilera thinks that it is possible, and about his country, Spain, he believes that however nowadays the law is against the renewable energy, Spanish people are close to a great change. The reason is because this country has a great potential in energy-terms. First, because the climate, obviously, and second because the great potential in attaining a good and efficient energy management in cities.

The path is steered but we still need to work in better deals between the public administration and private initiatives for inversions. So come on, multinational corporations, follow the Panasonic and Apple example (they are working together in a second residential sustainable area in Japan) and the planet and people will thank you. It’s hip to be green!

If you would like to know more about the Fujisawa project, here you go! There are very good schemes and infographics about the sustainable ideas performance.

Smart Cities for a society of longer lives

The Magic Washing Machine

If you have never seen or listened to any TED Talks, you should think about doing it. TED talks are amazing ways to learn about a myriad of topics such as global issues, science, politics, culture, business, innovation, technology, art and design, education and so on. As their motto says they are actually “ideas worth spreading”.

Hans_Rosling_1Hans Rosling, a Swedish doctor and professor in the Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, has participated some times in TED conferences giving fantastic and very motivational talks. One of his most popular, and my favourite one, is The Magic Washing Machine. It points out the benefits that industrialisation and technology have brought. Rosling gives us the example of the washing machine’s effectiveness for our lives. Washing machines freed up a lot of time and energy that people would have otherwise spent hand-washing their clothes. Check something. Ask to any senior person living in developed countries when was the last time they washed their clothes or sheets by hand. They might say you that it was a long long time ago, when there weren’t washing machines at home. In the case of young people, the answer will most likely be never. However, if you ask this question in sub developed countries their answer will be totally different.

Rosling roughly separates the world population by people who doesn’t have access to electricity (poor line), people who has washing machines (wash line), and people who has any normal technology gadget which can be found in a lot of homes in developed countries (air line). For most of us, our families’ generations crossed the “wash line” long ago. Therefore, it is difficult to realise the significant impact that such a simple machine can make in the lives of the less fortunate. The talker then states “if you have democracy, people will vote for washing machines”.  A woman from a Brazilian’ favelas neighbourhood will surely vote for it. Therefore, in a few years, because of population and economic growth, people will be able to cross the mentioned division lines. This growth and more technology adoption will mean more energy consumption. Most people would think that it’s not plausible, “not every one in the world can have cars and washing machines” if we want to preserve the planet! However, do we have the right to deprive people of innovation and better standard of living? I believe the answer it’s no.
Mali_-_Women_at_workRosling’s mother said to his son the first day they got it “ ‘Now Hans, we have loaded the laundry, the machine will make the work, and now we can go to the library.’ This is the magic, we loaded the laundry. And what do you get out of the machine? You get books.” His point it’s very clear here. Is it no better to have time for education and reading instead of doing manual labour such as has to go to collect water many kilometres away every day? After agreeing about this, we can start arguing about who and what should and should not consume energy

Balancing and adopting energy efficiency and producing more green energy are the main solutions here. There’s no need to deprive people of development and quality of life. Sustainable development is the key. It’s hip to be green! Modern technology has brought many benefits to our world and we can carry on innovating provided the technology operates within balanced limits. I consider myself an advocate of green policies but I believe that we need to recall Rosling’s closing statement: “Thank you industrialization, thank you steel mill, thank you power station, and thank you chemical processing industry that gave us time to read books.”

If you have time I totally recommend you watching the talk. Enjoy!

The Magic Washing Machine

The Light Bulb Conspirancy: Planned Obsolescence.

“The light bulb conspiracy” is one of those documentaries which not leave you indifferent; it hits a nerve and develops a critical spirit on you.

ligh bulb conspirancy

It discusses the issue of planned obsolescence, that is to say the scheduled reduction of the useful life of some products to increase their consumption. The documentary begins with the example of a printer and discovering the real reason why it has stopped working. Then, it starts by explaining the origins of this plan, which lies in the creation of a cartel (Phoebus). This cartel consisted in changing the light bulbs’ manufacturing patents with the aim to last only 1000 hours. And up to cases such as cars, nylons and latest products-generation such as iPods (with a battery of only 18 months for the purpose you have to buy a new appliance when finished). It was between the decades of 1920-1930 that the following idea emerged: An item which did not break down was a tragedy for businesses and for their employers. So since then, the fact that there is the need to create fragile products or with a limited lifetime has been promoted. Therefore, sales and profitability remain constant, thus the global economy can keep going. The businesses defend themselves saying that the consumers are free to buy whatever they want. Let us not fool ourselves; nowadays advertising and fashion have a lot of influence in our consumer society.


The film fulfils its goal, to make you think about consumerism in a society of constant growth. Where there is this cycle of constant acceleration of production, consumption and waste. It makes you consider the fact that if we carry on with this model a day when we run out of resources will come. So, additionally, we should take into account that “there is an infinite progress head in a finite planet.” One important consequence to keep in mind is that with greater consumption comes higher waste. The documentary wisely shows us that a large amount of waste end up in Ghana, Africa. They enter the products with the label of second-hand ones. There, they try to repair and use the again, but mostly they end up in landfills increasingly full.

Finally, the film gives a few examples and an interesting proposal: That is essential to create more laws to ensure that companies eliminate their products in an environmentally friendly way. I totally agree with it and we should start finding ways and alternatives to reconsider this existing planned obsolescence and rethinking the values of our present society and economy.
I believe it is a complicated issue, but today there are already moves up against this planned obsolescence. Should we need to start asking ourselves these challenges and promote them? Of course, yes. We need to try changing and overcoming the barrier that one day Gandhi said:ghandi

The Light Bulb Conspirancy: Planned Obsolescence.

Learning about public transport with Harry Potter’s world

A few months ago I came across with this post: What Harry Potter Teaches Us About Integrated Transport.

It caught my attention because I am a fan of the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling and I’m very interested in public transport and sustainable mobility initiatives. At that moment, I asked myself how these two issues could be linked and I was eager to read it.

harry potter transportThe article starts exposing to the reader the fastest way of magical of transportation that it is called apparition. It is basically having the user focus on a desired location in their mind, then disappear from their current location and instantly reappear at the desired location (like teleportation). So, then as the writer says very well: “Once you learn about this method of travel, every other transport mode seems superfluous. Why have a Platform 9 ¾ when you don’t need to wait for a train? Why fly broomsticks when using the Floo network (silver powder that allows people to travel between different fireplaces) is orders of magnitude faster? These questions are much like one that urban planners and city leaders get every day in the Muggle world: why build public transport when there are individual cars?”.

We clearly see that the wizards or muggles/people like us cannot solve the mobility with just one method of transport. As a result, there is the need to find a network of several methods of transport that promotes sustainability “that supports connectivity – think access to jobs, education, and leisure — for a diverse range of user needs, whether these users are witches, elves, or simply city residents”.

The rest of the article compares the magic transport with our modes. He talks about the comfort, safety and sense of community that these provide. I’ve to recognize that it is very interesting to see a broomstick like a bicycle, apparition like a motorcycle…green transpIt makes you think about the technology progresses and how we can promote sustainable mobility and safety. The article is worth a look and muggles will enjoy with the comparisons!



Learning about public transport with Harry Potter’s world

Innovation, crowdsourcing and sustainability

Some time ago, I read the book “Where good ideas come from. The natural history of innovation” from the American writer Steven Johnson. The main theme of this book is to explore how ideas emerge. It’s really interesting and I spent a good time reading it. Johnson has the ability to integrate a lot of information and different knowledge and link them in an admirable way. He exposes us that there is a number of common patterns that appear in the appellant environments where good ideas often arise. One of the patterns is the one called serendipity. In this chapter, the writer presents the example of Nike and the GreenXchange project, working through a platform where companies share own patents on materials and technologies that respect the environment.

crowdsourcing-cartoon-300x216That could be a good example of earlier projects before crowdsourcing, the topic we discussed in class the other day.  If someone doesn’t know what this means is basically “an online, distributed problem-solving and production model that has emerged in recent years” (Brabham, D.)

Clasically, problems are broadcasted in the form of an open call for solutions. Users (the crowd) submit solutions which are then owned by the entity which broadcast the problem. Nowadays, there are a lot of examples of crowdsourcing, in all kinds of companies. For instance, Threadless (t-shirt company), Innocentive (science), Lego Desingbyme (new Lego models) or DellIdeaStorm (computer company).

One of the articles commented in class concluded that environmental sustainability and architecture are examples that may benefit from the application of crowdsourcing. I’m totally agree. Retention of knowledge and “green” innovations does no favor to anyone, because what is more important now is to ensure a more sustainable future. So, I believe that promoting more crowdsourcing in that field is essential, as long as there are benefits to both companies and participants, “the crowd”.

One great initiative is EartHack backed by IKEA and Philips, a perfectly example of  collectiveRecycledPlanet2 problem solving to come up with new ways of using existing technolgy. This with the aim to make homes more sustainable and save million tonnes of CO2.

This is the future! Crowdsourcing can drive sustainability solutions and help “to contribute to meet our needs without compromising the future generations”… What are we waiting for? It’s hip to be green!

Innovation, crowdsourcing and sustainability