Internet, cities and citizens

Cities want to become the new players in the evolution of the Internet and they are taking decisive and coordinated innovation policies. Their model may be the Quadruple Helix and its main strength is its own innovative citizens, which together with the other actors of the research and innovation system, can be the most powerful gear lever that we have to overcome the crisis.

In this sense, Catalonia has a dynamic tissue of cities that holds an international tourism attraction by being the mobile world capital. Even the capital, Barcelona, retains a stamp of creativity and innovation, largely inherited, which is under renovation. This merger of Internet with cities and citizens can offer to Catalonia new future opportunities and thus become a model of smart city with smart citizens.

The sensor/smart citizen

It seems that the idea of "Smart Citizen" makes its way among experts. With an Internet social networking like the present one, why not build a smart city where citizens participate? 

The model of the Smart City based on "Internet of Things" is being replaced by a more complex Internet of everyone and everything, closer to what is actually a city. 

This new reality is opposed to some models of Smart City that have been experimented in the last years, based on the deployment of infrastructures and large numbers of devices that involve high maintenance costs and hamper the design of economically sustainable business models, opening the way to a new model that seeks the cooperation of citizens

It is becoming increasingly common to speak of "Sensor Citizen".  Forecasts are that everyone on a global scale can finally have a phone connected to the Internet. In 2013 were 6,000 million terminals scattered around the planet Earth. These devices are behind a person, and they are becoming one more limb of him. So, why not use these phones to produce value for the own buyers and that they can produce value for their communities?

The first function that the citizen or user of the network can provide is to be a "sensor". Last 19th September 2013 took place The Citizen in the UPC, a conference that regroups the researchers’ network in sensor citizens’ networks. The field of research starts already some years ago and it is called "participatory sensing". The Smart City traditional model, where local governments and the corporate world seek to develop services for the citizens, does not correspond to the traditional architecture interactive Internet. It corresponds to the old political-economic model, like a "broadcast", where few communicate with many, instead of the “surfer” model where many Internet users can communicate with many and where the citizen can be the receiver as well as the transmitter of the content. The citizens start to find out that they can produce services themselves, if someone requests them or leave them. The paternalistic model of the twentieth century "services for citizens" is of the bygone era and it paves the way to "Services Citizens" in the Internet era: the Internet of everyone in the “Internet of Everything” .

If in the first 25 years of the Internet it has been established the basis protocols for the operation of the network as a general purpose tool, its evolution, if it manages to survive, seems that would be in the coming decades its transversal deployment in fields where it still hardly been penetrated. Internet has been deployed to residential environments, media, social networks, among others, but it has little presence in the industrial world, health systems, the world of food or the cities, the majority human habitat in the XXI century.

The “User centric Internet”

For years, we have been repeating that the traditional culture of Catalonia, based on a rich civil society tissue, largely corresponds to the world of Internet culture. Organizations such as the Internet Society , which still oversees to explain to everyone how the Internet works, does not tire of repeating that the Internet model is "user centric", i.e. user-centered.

Internet was not designed from the core to the access like the others traditional telecommunications networks. It was designed under the principle of "end to end". It's the historic "end-to-end principle." The reason is simple. The U.S. government did not want that any centralized power had the control of communications during the Cold War, so it accepted a network model that put power in the hands of computer researchers who worked for him and not in the hands of a large operator telecommunications. Remember the famous 1964 article by Paul Baran of RAND on the three types of networks: centralized, decentralized and distributed. 

Now the "ends" of the network are no longer just the DARPA employees, but billions of users around the world who are able to create virtual applications and services to reach in seconds the other end of the network, i.e. the world. This principle allows, again and again, an evolutionary expansion by both ends, which gives to the user automatically an unprecedented power of communication. According to the last news, it is true that, or the corporate world like Google or Facebook (as before Microsoft), or the political world (NSA) constantly seek to control this trend and his information management. However, while they are trying to turn the Internet into “his Internet”, they cannot stop working within protocols and architecture of a network focused on.

Some big companies or states keep on dreaming with the Minitel time or the repetition of the Great Wall in digital. But the Internet seems, even a little aged, to maintain its vitality.

Cities as “collaboratories”

Based on the above premises and as the Internet has enlarged through the extremes in the last decades, more and more users (citizens) are connected to it. First the universities, then businesses, then countries. Now cities around the world are showing a new interest in its evolution. The public institutions closer to citizens, local governments, are beginning to consider how the Internet can change the world of cities, the habitat that in the twenty-first century will concentrate most of the human population, around 9,000 million. 

But no one knows today how the Internet can transform cities. These ecosystems go through a period of experimentation. The opportunities are many, and also too many possibilities of failure. And here comes a second structural feature of the Internet that we must take into account that differentiates it from other traditional networks.

Internet began as a research network for research and innovation. The programmers who created it were researchers, and the network where it was born, ARPANET, was conceived as a research network in itself, deployed to investigate. In other words, it was an open experiment. In fact, the generation of protocols was made by the research engineers’ community by setting up a volunteer workgroup called the IETF, the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is still responsible for maintaining and improving these protocols. 

Currently, no other traditional telecommunications network works this way, open and with the unique conduct code "rough consensus and working code". This model has evolved.

In the last decade, the Internet has deepened its evolution giving increasing power to the end user, the citizen. Webs 2.0, wikis, blogs, social networks have shown that Internet innovation initiated by a handful of experts is now open. The Internet is not only made by the IETF. 

Internet is becoming the infrastructure of a new innovation system more open and complex than the traditional one. Research and innovation is no longer only in universities, large corporations and large public research laboratories. It also comes from new professionals from other disciplines, from all these informal innovation communities grouped as Wikipedianer, Arduiners, makers and fablabers, digital artists, citizen scientists, digital entrepreneurs, social innovators, co-workers, who live in our cities and contributed their bit in this framework. 

In our city is slowly emerging the idea of city, laboratory citizen, or Barcelona Laboratory, where citizens can become not only sensors but also actors of the innovation systems of the 21th century.

If the metaphor of the previous model was the "industrial cluster" (cloister: enclosed place), the one of the new emerging model is the "open network", the living lab, laboratory citizen. The Internet as a "Collaboratory" is a term invented by the National Science Foundation W.Wulff 1989.

The classical view of innovation systems based on science and technology parks where universities, governments and large companies work within a Triple Helix model, is not enough to explain the dynamic of the knowledge society. New players want to come into play. The term Quadruple Helix indicates the emergence of this complex network of actors that we call generically by the name of "citizenship." (check European project Cliq).

People responsible for innovation in local governments are becoming widespread to manage these new realities.

i2CAT Foundation aims to contribute to this new phase of the Internet by creating a new program on "Internet, cities and citizens." This program will allow us to coordinate several fields increasingly intertwined: ICT research in telecom networks, mobile devices and sensors and multimedia applications; and its merger with advances in new visions of architecture, urbanism and sustainability around smart cities, which together with new open innovation structures (living labs, citizen laboratories, open innovation in companies and public administration), will allow to incorporate all citizens and all creative and innovative communities to the construction of the cities of the future.

Some projects of i2cat, like Barcelona Lab (innovation and creativity), Industrial ring (industry), Barcelona Smart City or SANVI-SENS (smart cities), i2health Sant Pau (e-health) among other, are some of the embryos that will be used as the basis for this new era.

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