"A day in the InnoEnergy life of" is a previous version of the “Through the eyes of…” column that gave the Voice to CommUnity members through direct interviews.
Jacopo Sala is a first year student of the RENE Master’s Program and is performing his first year at the UPC in Barcelona. As an InnoEnergy Community representative, he attended Smart City World EXPO – the worldwide leading event for the smart city industry. Last week we finally got the chance to interview Jacopo and ask him about his experience during the EXPO – and here is what we shared with us!
Q: You recently had the great opportunity to attend the SCWE (Smart City World EXPO) as a student. What were you expecting from this conference?
A: I was expecting to find applications in the energy field, regarding the challenges in a smart power distribution system, as well as some proposals to reduce energy wastes and to harvest unavoidable energy losses towards Neat Zero Energy Cities. This last point was the one I was most interested in.
Q: With it’s many high-tech company stands and diverse talks from experts in the energy field, did the SCWE meet your expectations?
A: The expo met my expectations in some parts, while on the other hand it was very difficult to find certain kinds of technologies I was looking for. What amused me most were the drones, which have been given different applications in the market in the last few years and are supposed to become one of the biggest markets of the immediate future. In a controlled area next to the main conference hall, you could even witness a prototype race where drones were showing their full potential.
Furthermore, the energy field was represented by wireless charging systems for cars and buses and a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) in trains was presented by Alstom, which is involved in the development of an alternative charging system for city buses. The first solution is a wireless charger under the bus stops, so that the vehicle recharges enough battery to reach the following stop. A second solution would be two metal bars that connect to a conductive metal plate to deliver energy to the battery. In this way, the buses are able to work all day without interruptions.
Another already well-developed idea is a recovery system that generates electricity while the train decelerates to reach the station in order to reuse it during the acceleration. This system is going to be implemented in the Line 9 metro in Barcelona and it allows temperatures to be kept low in an otherwise closed and hot environment.
Q: Do you share the opinion of your student colleagues, who were surprised by the number of companies working on similar technologies, such as smart meters and platforms for analyzing big data?
A: Yes. The Expo seemed to be more of a Data Logger/Smart Meter Expo rather than a Smart City Expo. I had the impression that many companies came up with different technologies to tackle energy efficiency, from thermal analysis of buildings to new ways of accessing public data. These innovations were valuable enough to attract investors and eventually start a business. However, I realized that potential customers have little interest in these innovations, as their real concern is about where their data goes and how much they are forced to change their habits. Companies didn’t seem to take this into account when launching their data services. Some of them, however, did figure out that people were more willing to adopt the system after trying it out (for free in exchange for access to their consumption data), as they realized it was not as invasive as they thought.
Furthermore, none of the companies seemed to have considered cooperating with other companies in order to come up with a stronger joint solution, which can gain customers’ trust more easily and in a shorter span of time.
Q: Smart meters and big data have a huge potential to take sustainability to the next level of development, especially in cities. You think that this development will accelerate if companies collaborate more?
A: Indeed. For what may concern their customer base, the more companies collaborate, the easier it will be to develop products following certain standards. In this way, word-of-mouth and the adoption of new technologies is faster and more customers can be reached. On the other hand, some associations, for instance Domotys, are already creating a cluster of companies working in the same industries to tackle common challenges. They do this by participating in public calls for tender, where promising projects get bid on. Whenever they win a bid, they have the necessary network to contact the right people in order to create the most cooperative team.
Q: You attended the InnoEnergy award ceremony; can you tell us more about the participating companies?
A: Well, you can easily find information about the companies on the award page on the InnoEnergy website. It has been a pleasure to attend the award ceremony and listen to different people’s speeches and presentations. Furthermore, their ideas are changing the game and I definitely suggest you check them out!
Written by the InnoEnergy CommUnity Post