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Smells and sounds at the EUREKA Innovation Week

June 9th, 2016

The EUREKA Innovation Week was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in late April 2016. EUREKA is a platform which brings together industry and academia from different countries into thematic clusters to foster innovation. The EUREKA clusters are groups of small and large companies as well as research institutions who share efforts to develop new ideas and business opportunities.

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As part of the event, representatives of the EUREKA clusters participated in panels, discussions, presented innovation awards and showcased their work at the venue. The booths represented various sectors such as security, advances in transmission of high quality video, smart cities, and energy efficiency projects.

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On the third day of the EUREKA innovation week, ITEA, one of the EUREKA clusters arranged a panel discussion on smart cities. One of the ITEA keynote speakers was Daniele Quercia, a researcher from Bell Labs in Cambridge UK. He showed his research on how different factors contribute to create cities that can improve the wellbeing of people living or visiting them. His approach is to use urban along with perception and sentiment data to find correlations among them. Using this data, maps for the city of London and Barcelona were created to display locations and routes which highlight associating sentiments.

Quercia’s research team have done experiments to identify characteristics in cities that made an environment calm, beautiful, unpleasant, et cetera. Firstly, Quercia’s team delved into the visual aspect by comparing images of different parts of a city and have them qualified with sentiment terms such as happy and sad.

Secondly, in a similar way, they found sounds in a city which related to sentiments. And thirdly, they discovered  and matched them with sentiments from social media. As a result they were able to categorize the smells into groups and subgroups of positive (nature, food, etc.) and negative (waste, garbage, etc.) ones. Using this data, they created maps, “smellscapes”, locating places with smells of nature, animals, and traffic emissions, for instance.

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By starting from human perceptions and adaptingthem with technology, Quercia’s research group created maps of cities with different layers of perception (images, sounds and olfactory) and emotions. The maps allowed for the design of routes that not only go from one point to another but also consider the perception of the trajectory and therefore provide different ways of experiencing a city.

The main conclusion from the talk was that cities should not only be “smart” with sensors to collect data, but also the human aspect must be considered.

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