U-Hopper – an intro from Daniele Miorandi
Daniele Miorandi is executive VP for research and development at U-Hopper, a research-intensive technology-driven company. U-Hopper builds solutions for other companies through data analytics tools.
Daniele focused on U-Hopper’s earlier engagement with environmental projects before Scent, how smaller communities can benefit from Scent and how Scent can become a ‘lighthouse project’.
U-Hopper’s Crowd-Sourcing Credentials
Research and innovation is the lifeblood of the Trento-based technology company U-Hopper. U-Hopper’s expertise in this area is rooted in projects that focused on engaging with people.
“U-Hopper started in 2010 as a spin-off of a research centre. We have quite a history in developing crowdsourcing solutions, from back in 2011,” says Daniele.
“One example is a crowd-sourcing project we worked on to provide people with a means to report rubbish dropped on the road to the local, relevant authorities. It was a good way of facilitating a two-way dialogue between citizens and the local public administration.”
Daniele also points to how U-Hopper’s experience working on another EU-funded environmental project got the attention of Scent’s coordinating partner, ICCS, which led them to contact U-Hopper to request their expertise for Scent. That previous project was Citi-sense, which involved establishing interaction between citizens and local authorities in urban environmental health governance.
So what are U-Hopper working on now?
“We’re working on the crowdsourcing platform. If you look at Scent from an abstract angle, the real value is what citizens can contribute to the project, but reliable technology support is needed to allow citizens to use their full potential. So, our crowdsourcing platform will process and regulate the citizen data being sent through.
We’re also exploitation managers – one of the problems of citizen observatories is when the project is complete, everyone moves on from the project and from the research areas- that sense of community is lost. Our role is to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
According to Daniele, U-Hopper is building a long-term sustainability plan for the pilot areas of Scent where the initial environmental outdoor research is taking place, along the Danube Delta river in Romania and the Kifisos region in Greece.
This will help the consortium partners working in these areas to scale their work so that it can be maintained post-project, while also allowing the main breakthroughs to be shared for use in other projects.
As a technical partner, U-Hopper’s work is literally that, ‘technical’. So far, their main result achieved for Scent is the development of the system level requirements for the project, mapping out the technology required to harness the mass amount of citizen data the project will be receiving.
But there’s still people sitting at the helm of that technical output, Daniele stresses.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone’s own views and ideas were incorporated on these matters, right from the beginning of the project, so that the project could be steered in the right direction.”
Daniele points to a previous project by U-Hopper, Civic Flow, as an example of the company’s previous work on a crowdsourcing platform, which also acts as a blueprint of their work for Scent.
“We have a chance to enhance this product, as currently the product doesn’t support images, video files or multimedia content and integrate it with the vision of one of the partner organisations on the project, IBM, for extracting knowledge. This will strengthen our position and competitiveness in the market for crowdsourcing solutions.”
Speaking of partner organisations, who has U-Hopper been working closely with in Scent up to now?
“Almost everybody. Mostly with ICCS as they’re responsible for creating the project architecture and system end-user requirements. But XTeam also, as they’re developing the front-end of the project.”
The ‘front-end’ is the user-interface of technology – like the main menu of a smartphone app for example. (For further information on the ‘front-end’ and ‘front-end development, click here)
“We will collaborate with XTeam closely as they are working on the ‘door’ for citizens to interact with the project- the user experience. We at U-Hopper are working behind the scenes in the ‘house’, like plumbers, fixing leaks in the back so that people can enter.”
Daniele says how the main focus of the project is on citizen engagement, but U-Hopper’s work is developing the tools to use that engagement to help local authorities and civil agencies.
Scent – A Lighthouse Project
While seeing the clear benefit of Scent being developed within the pilot areas in the Kifisos region in Greece and along the Danube Delta in Romania, Daniele sees Scent as a ‘lighthouse project’.
“Scent is a project which can light the way for technology to involve a higher level of participation from people towards the environment, for the common good- the environment is your community, your house, your life and your children’s lives. So, its management should be done in a collaborative way, through everybody.”
Now that U-Hopper, and the Scent project in general, is moving past the preliminary stage, things are beginning to take shape, with the implementation of key objectives taking place and participation at several events relevant events to the project.
“We’ll start working on the design and the implementation of the platform. Up to now, we’ve been doing mostly people work, but now it’s time to go back to coding.We will be working closely with XTeam, trying to nail down how our spectrum of components will work together and interact.
Recently, I attended a one-day, invite-only conference focusing on Digital Social Innovation in Rimini, Italy, linked to the EU’s CAPs programme (Collective Awareness Platform for Sustainability and Social Innovation).”
To conclude this Spotlight entry, here are Daniele’s three big points on what defines Scent:
- Civic engagement – if you don’t involve and engage citizens you have no data, if you have no data, you have no knowledge
- Collective caretaking – the environment is something that everyone should be managing collectively, this isn’t a responsibility that should be outsourced to a single authority
- Common-fare – it’s ultimately for your own good, and the good of everyone around you!