Sara PaivaProfessor and researcher in the areas of Urban Mobility and Smart Cities
Sara Paiva is an assistant professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo, holds a PhD in Computer Engineering from the University of Vigo and is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oviedo. Her main line of research is in the area of Smart Mobility and Smart Cities, with a focus on inclusive mobility solutions.
Sara Paiva is also an IEEE Senior Member, a Volunteer at IEEE Smart Cities Community and a Member of the IEEE P2784 Smart City Planning and Technology Standard Editorial Committee. In addition, she is the editor-in-chief of EAI Endorsed Transaction on Smart Cities, associate editor of several indexed newspapers and acted as Chair of the International Convention on Smart Cities 360º in 2020.
Publisher of books, author and co-author of several scientific publications, Sara Paiva is the special guest of the Connecting Stories series of PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS.
1. As a teacher and researcher in the areas of Urban Mobility and Smart Cities, can you tell us about your journey and your professional experience?
I started my career as a teacher at the School of Technology and Management (ESTG) of the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo (IPVC) in 2005, after working as a computer consultant at WeDo Technologies, where I joined after finishing my degree in Systems Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Minho in 2002.
Since I joined ESTG I was responsible for curricular units in the area of mobile computing, which would define the type of solutions where I still work more today, currently applied mostly in the area of urban mobility.
The focus on inclusive mobility came about three years ago, when I started my work with ACAPO (Associação de Cegos e Amblíopes) in Viana do Castelo and where I started a set of projects to promote the autonomy and independence of its users' daily lives, using technological solutions – more specifically mobile applications. These solutions are essentially focused on the use of public transport, as well as pedestrian navigation in the city.
The theme of Smart Cities ends up being intrinsically connected, because the mobility solutions that we have been developing are framed and start from the assumption of evolution that we will necessarily see emerge in cities as sensing aspects, for example, and that increasingly support (and will support) the technological solutions of urban mobility of the future.
Recently, I am also a volunteer in the IEEE Smart Cities community, an internationally recognized scientific entity that works on regulatory standards for Smart Cities, as well as the promotion of various scientific events on these themes. I was invited to be Co-Chair of the Marketing and Communication Committee of IEEE Smart Cities, where I will also be responsible for the communication of IEEE Smart Cities with the academy.
2. How do you think mobility planning in portuguese cities has evolved?
I am of the opinion that we are developing a frankly positive path, which foresees very significant evolutions in the next years. There are several cities signaled in Portugal by the efforts made towards Smart Cities and mobility. Just to give some examples, Aveiro Steam City has applied to the European Union Urban Innovative Actions (UIA) initiative to allow the implementation of a 5G fiber infrastructure and sensors to leverage new research, particularly in terms of mobility, with sensorization in public transport that will allow the assessment of habits of the population. At the Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo and in Leiria, the innovative project U-Bike makes bicycles available to the academic community to promote active mobility. Still in Leiria, the UrbSecurity project aims at a reflection on sustainable growth in mobility. Viseu presented the project "Viriato" – unmanned electric public transport – and aims to develop a transport network supported by sensorization, as well as an on-demand transport system. Torres Vedras has also made an investment in the supervision of car parking, also providing bicycles to citizens.
Being the city where I live and which I know best, I would like to highlight the efforts and the will of the Municipality of Viana do Castelo, which is developing a set of mobile applications to support citizens in their mobility, both in terms of the use of public transport and in the pedestrian operation of the historic center – designed for the citizens of Viana do Castelo and tourists. The aim is to provide relevant information in these areas, always taking into account mobility for all, which includes the segment of people with temporary or permanent mobility limitations.
3. What are the benefits that come from a well planned mobility?
Above all, I would say, in the increasing ease for citizens to plan and manage their day and the consequence that this will bring to cities in terms of sustainability.
By knowing the transport and mobility options at their disposal and in real time – using new technologies –, citizens will be able to make more informed decisions on how to move both within cities and to their peripheries. The increasing efficiency of the transport network and the technological solutions that enable information to reach citizens in real time will create the conditions for increased transport use, reducing own vehicles and contributing to the reduction of the ecological footprint – which is one of the great challenges today. The planning of mobility systems may start to create mobility infrastructures as a service (Mobility-as-a-Service - MaaS), which will be a paradigm shift in the way we approach mobility.
4. This year's European Mobility Week had as its main theme “Zero Emissions, Mobility for all”. How can we put this objective into practice?
This issue is intrinsically connected with the necessary reduction in the use of own vehicles. This will be possible with more efficient transport networks, with the promotion of active forms of transport and with new services that will begin to emerge as car-sharing and others within the already mentioned MaaS concept.
5. Your main line of research is smart mobility and Smart Cities, with a focus on inclusive mobility solutions for visually impaired people. Can you tell us about some of these solutions and their importance?
Mobility systems should increasingly be thought in a holistic way for all citizens, including people with permanent or temporary conditioned mobility. We may include here blind and visually impaired people, autistic people, deaf people, people in wheelchairs, pregnant women or adults with lap children.
I have been associated with the development of mobility solutions for these audiences, together with the Municipality of Viana do Castelo, which covers the various segments mentioned above and not only the blind and visually impaired – although this segment has very specific challenges. I can mention, as an example, for the segment of blind and visually impaired people, the care that must be taken to have fixed places so that they can take urban buses, in the information that must be given to them along the route of use of public transportation, so that they can leave them autonomously without having to resort to third parties. With regard to pedestrian navigation, the technological solutions that allow them to be informed of their positioning when they are lost are of particular importance and necessity. Information on the suitability of spaces and the best route to reach them is another aspect to be taken into account. In city centers, where relevant public services are often located (such as finance, city councils, transportation services, among others), it is useful to have a characterization of the streets in terms of their suitability for each segment. There are very specific needs. For example, autistic people prefer, whenever possible, to avoid streets with loud noises; people in wheelchairs should be directed by wide streets; blind and amblyopic people should avoid streets where emergency vehicles travel, among many other particularities. These are just some of the situations that should be taken into account and that should be addressed if there is articulation between the institutions representing each of these segments and the city councils.
My experience comes from a relatively small city and scalability aspects should be taken into account when dealing with larger cities.
6. Regarding Smart Cities, how can they improve the quality of life of the population?
Smart Cities appear today associated to concepts such as Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), among others. The growing creation of sensor infrastructures in cities and their incorporation in "things" (houses, cars, lighting poles, stores, etc.) will allow a later integration of this data, creating large volumes of information. Its processing will allow us to measure consumption habits, mobility, energy consumption, food preferences, among many other aspects. Knowing these standards is decisive for recommendation systems to act as personalized suggestions to each citizen to improve their quality of life – to the extent that it is most important to each one.
It will also be possible, once the data is collected daily from numerous sources, to make services available to citizens in real time via mobile applications, web applications or smartwatches.
7. What relationship exists (or should exist) between a Smart City and sustainable development?
The United Nations, in 1987, defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Likewise, the Triad of Sustainability was proposed based on a responsible, economically effective and socially equitable environment. Smart Cities, with the infrastructure they presuppose and with the emerging concepts that allow monitoring, processing and decision making, will make it possible to act in the three dimensions of this triad, aiming at an increasingly sustainable development of cities.
8. What do you think the cities of the future will look like?
Following on from the previous answer, I want to believe that they will develop sustainability models capable of creating the best conditions for the next generations.
I want to believe that they will make the best use of technology, which evolves exponentially every year, and that they will do it with common sense and responsibility, so that it serves the final purpose of helping the human being to have better living conditions and to guarantee a promising future for the next generations.
9. With several articles and books published, what messages do you intend to transmit?
The books I publish and articles I write are intended to make known to the whole scientific community, companies and those interested in the themes of urban mobility, inclusive mobility and Smart Cities in general what the potential of technological solutions can play; case studies in which I am involved; and also a reflection on the main opportunities and challenges that come along, as well as some notes on expected future directions in these areas.
10. Being PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS a company that has the possibility to produce digital billboards, multimedia kiosks and other technological solutions for Smart Cities and for the transport area, what relevance does digital have, in your opinion, in sustainable urban mobility?
Digital will increasingly be part of the technological solutions that the coming years will bring, which also include those oriented to sustainable urban mobility.
I am convinced that we will all have to embrace these new trends, because their added value is enormous, particularly in terms of real-time information, which will be able to reach citizens and the increasing integration with devices such as wearables.
The digital will become, in many scenarios, and in the short to medium term, the new present. It is also interesting to note that even at the level of inclusive mobility, the acceptance of the digital by blind and partially sighted people happens in a very positive way and in a large percentage.
Connecting Stories is an editorial space led by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS which consists of conducting exclusive interviews, directed at influential personalities who work in different sectors of activity.
The project, conceived by PARTTEAM & OEMKIOSKS, includes the publication of success stories, through small interviews with influencers who want to share details about their projects, opinions, plans for the future, among other subjects.
The idea is to connect stories, share knowledge, develop networking and generate content that can provide new visions, opportunities and ideas.
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