We have already spoken on numerous occasions about the impact of cities on energy consumption and emissions generated to the environment. And consequently, also of the important role that they have to play in the necessary transition towards climate neutrality, the ultimate goal of the European Green Pact for our continent (as my colleague Rubén Garcia pointed out in a previous post, the aim is for Europe to be carbon neutral by 2050).
The road to this neutrality is paved with many interventions, larger or smaller, and covering a wide range of areas (mobility, energy, building rehabilitation, citizen involvement; digitalization…). District or city scale projects -Smart City- funded by the different European Union programmes (from the 7th Framework Programme, through Horizon 2020 and the current Horizon Europe) work on all these dimensions with the idea of generating real demonstrations, and showing the path (or possible paths) that other cities can follow. Obviously, experts in different fields are needed to cover the various areas of competence covered by these projects.
In CARTIF we have been coordinating and working for many years in numerous projects along these lines, and also participating in many of the areas of work of these giants, which are so much in variety of activities as in the breadth of the time scale.
Recently one of these “lighthouse” project in which we have been working during years has finished, SmartEnCity. 78 months of work shared by 38 partners of 6 different countries in a project funded by the Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020 of the European Union, and coordinated by Tecnalia, in which it has been intended to make real the vision of convert our european cities in intelligent and zero carbon emissions.
In the project SmartEnCity three lighthouse cities has participated: Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain, Tartu in Stonia and Sonderborg in Denmark. In all of them different intelligent and innovative solutions have been deployed in different areas with the idea of reaching the desired neutrality.
As a finishing touch, the last 14th and 15th of june, the project celebrated its Final Conference at the Europe Congress Palace, in Vitoria-Gasteiz. More than 120 participants attended the two-day event during which project results and plans for a carbon-free future were presented through keynote speeches, presentations, discussion sessions and moments of interaction by thematic areas.
I had the honor of participating and moderating one of the discussion tables that focused on one of the aspects in which CARTIF has been working for years and in which we have extensive experience: monitoring and evaluation. A key aspect to quantify the real impact that these projects achieve. In this case we tried to address these often difficult aspects in a way closer to the audience, sharing the experiences of different experts and projects around the most important aspects to take into account when evaluating project activities, the major problems encountered, solutions implemented and, finally,main lessons learned. I was lucky enough to share the debate with my partner Javier Antolin, who represented the REMOURBAN project, coordinated by CARTIF and which counted with Valladolid as one of its lighthouse cities. MAtchUP, ATELIER, Replicate and Stradust were also present.
One of the common aspects that we could all see is the enormous importance of citizens in the viability and success of these projects. This has a direct impact on the evaluation results and process itself. The transition to emission-neutral and sustainable cities in the broadest sense of the word can only be achieved if we, the citizens, are involved in the transformation process. If we are not barriers but vectors of change. If we go from being spectators to main characters.
From CARTIF we continue and will continue working on projects of theSmart Cities area with the idea of moving towards the horizon of sustainable cities. Will you join us on the way?
The world nowadays is immersed in a deep digital transformation change, whether we like it or not. Moreover, it seems the logical order of human evolution, because human development, is linked to technological development, since the “discovery” of fire, or the first rudimentary tools, till the outbreak of Internet or the spatial exploration. This change process, or better said revolution, not only concerns individuals, but also involves companies, that are completely immersed in this revolution for years: the 4th industrial revolution.
“We are on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live, work and interact. In its scale, scope and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything that humankind has ever experienced before”
– Klaus Schwab, author of “The fourth industrial revolution” –
Within this revolution there are several key aspects, one of them being digital transformation. A concept that many people associate with digitalisation, a fundamental part of digital transformation, but which doesn´t capture this new, broader and more complex reality.
This term is often associated with the integration of digital tools such as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management), an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) for production management,etc. But in reality, is a much broader concept, which can be defined as a process that consists of orienting business activities towards the application of emerging technologies, and for this it is necessary to go through a process of cultural and organisational change and, finally, the application of new technologies throughout the organisation.
Therefore, we could differentiate the concept of digitalisation (implementing digital tools in certain processes) from that of digital transformation, the latter being much broader, as it orients the company towards the implementation of new technologies and towards a change in the traditional way of working. Taking all of this into account, we can define Digital Transformation as the set of projects and tasks that allow the company to adapt to the new needs arising from the 4th industrial revolution. Tasks that must be orchestrated through a plan that encompasses the following aspects:
Change towards a digital culture.
Global training plan.
Organisational reorganisation plan.
Specific training plan.
Incorporation of new profiles.
Progressive technological plan.
Thanks to digital transformation companies achieve huge advantages proven to improve in a number of key business areas:
Generate new experiences for the client.
Improve the operative efficiency.
Generate new income sources.
Increase the quick response capacity in the face of changes in the market.
Create competitive advantages for the organisation.
Improve the internal collaboration.
Deepens the data analysis (Big Data).
One of the great revolutions of this digital transformation is Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. It should be borne in mind that in recent years, the amount of information available on the Internet has practically doubled every two years, and this trend will continue to rise. Thanks to this amount of information and new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning,etc. the world as we know it will change, as will the way we work, shop and relate to each other.
This new reality, which has become much more evident in the wake of the 2020 pandemic, has taught us that businesses that fail to cope with today´s rapid changes are doomed to disappear, just as species that failed to adapt to the melting of the last ice age did.
Today, digital transformation is not an option. Today, companies can no longer consider adapting to this new landscape, as there is no other way to renew themselves and increase competitiveness than by developing a digital transformation plan.
How can we help you from CARTIF?
At CARTIF we have committed ourselves to this task of helping companies, especially SMEs, which are the ones that have the most difficulties in this complex and changing world of digital transformation. Because we know first-hand that sometimes lack of time or lack of knowledge means that we do not make progress in these fundamental processes. That is why we have a plan to help you along the way. We have a Digital Transformation consultancy service that is completely free of charge for companies.
What this programme consists of?
After contact us for receiving information, we will send you a service request form, and once submitted:
We will visit or meet with the person reponsible in the company to carry out a diagnosis of the current situation, work methodology and digital tools used.
Based on this report, we will create a personalised action plan with different actions identified to improve the company´s competitiveness.
Finally, we will carry out a period of mentoring to accompany the company during the process.
These actions will allow the company to start or continue the digital transformation process generating a roadmap in order to be able to address it.
Last June the European Commission (from the Energy Poverty Advisory Hub: EPAH) published a handbook as a guide to understand and addressing energy poverty, which has become a reality in Europe, and particularly in Spain. Although there is no agreement on a common definition of energy poverty, it is widely accepted that there is energy poverty when people cannot maintain an adequate temperature in their homes (either by heating, cooling or applying energy solutions to an affordable cost). The extent and seriousness of the problem has been aggravated in recent months by climate change, whose consequences in the form of heatwaves or extreme droughts are already perceptible and throughout the entire European continent; and by the energy crisis in Europe as a result of the invasion of Ukraine.
The commitment of the European Commission (EC) to address the challenges related to the climate and the environment was ratified with the European Green Deal. It is established as one of the main priorities that the EU must transform itself into a fair and prosperous society, where there are no net GHG emissions in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. In addition, it is reaffirmed that this transition must be fair and inclusive, therefore alleviating energy poverty is a key precondition in this context.
What are the causes of energy poverty?
Energy poverty is a complex challenged linked to several factors, so there is no single reason that we can point to as the sole cause, in addition to the fact that its nature varies greatly from one local context to another, and that it occurs at domestic level, which makes its identification and quantification quite difficult. Energy poverty also has consequences for the people´s health and well-being, since extreme indoor temperatures are related to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, heat stroke or excess deaths. In children, it can also have consequences related to poor school performance, as well as the development of respiratory health problems at an early age, and lower social and emotional well-being.
In general, the most common causes that lead to energy poverty are three; low income levels, a lack of energy efficiency in housing, as well as the low energy efficiency of buildings and their systems, and the high energy prices.
Related to these three causes, it is also worth nothing the great influence of climate change, making energy poverty a problem for the most vulnerable groups not only in winter, but also in summer, as a result of the high temperatures recently recorded due to heatwaves.
And these recent heatwaves have broken temperature records around the world this summer, and their impacts and consequences for society and the environment are being dramatic in the form of forest fires and devastated crops, key infrastructure affected (e.g. power cuts electricity supply, deforming roads and tracks, etc.) and causing serious health problems in thousands of people (in addition to increased mortality).
In cities, the problem is even greater, as it is exarcebated by the so-called heat island effect, a phenomenon caused by changes in the reflectivity (or absorption) of the sun´s energy on the earth´s surface, with the consequence that the temperature rises in urban areas. This is because buildings, pavements and roofs tend to reflect less sunlight than natural surfaces, absorbing, retaining and re-emitting the sun´s heat.
If we continue analysing the previously identified causes of energy poverty, it is well known that in Spain there is a significant number of buildings with low energy performance. This is either because of their low efficiency in passive terms (the thermak envelope is not adequately insulated and that involves significant losses in winter and thermal gains in summer), or due to the low performance of the heating and cooling systems. It is that, as a whole, buildings are responsible for 40% energy consumption in the EU, and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions, so it is necessary to place a particularly important focus on the energy retrofitting of buildings already built.
An important advance in this sense comes from the hand of the recently approvedLaw on the Quality of Architecture (Ley de la Calidad de la Arquitectura), which aims to guarantee the quality of architecture as a good of general interest, and responding to social, environmental and revaluation issues of architectural heritage.
With respect to energy prices as a cause of energy poverty, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has cause an increase in energy prices not only in Spain but throughout Europe, specifically fossil fuels. As the recent United Nations report on the Global Impact of the War in Ukraine: Energy crisis points out, this increase in energy prices is accelerating the cost-of-living crisis, and maintaining the vicious cycle of constrained family budgets, increasing food and energy poverty, and increasing social unrest. This crisis is having a deep impact on vulnerable population in developing countries. Although during the two years of the pandemic energy market experienced great volatility in prices (due to reduced demand), the war in Ukraine has affected the supply of fossil fuels and the market in general, in which Russia is the main exporter of natural gas and the second exporter of oil.
What can world leaders do in the face of this rapidly changing situation?
All this leads world leaders to rethink their energy policies and plans. Well, while in the short term, countries must first seek to manage energy demand (new technologies, behavioural changes in energy consumption patterns, support from passive systems, etc.), medium and long-term measures for aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as with the Paris Agreement, emphasizing the use of renewable energy sources and the need for climate/energy resilience. In Europe especially, this may also be an opportunity to direct efforts towards the goal of becoming the world´s first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
What we do from CARTIF?
From the CARTIF Energy and Climate Policy area we work to help the different public administrations in the development of plans and strategies for adaptation and mitigation against climate change, such as the plans framed in the Covenant of Mayors where, in addition to taking measures to mitigate climate change and adapt to its inevitable effects, the signatories commit to providing access to safe, sustainable and affordable energy for all, thus helping alleviate energy poverty.
CARTIF, together with GEOCYL Conultoría S.L., is currently developing the Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan of Logroño and among other research projects it is worth highlighting the NEVERMORE project, where we work on the development of methodologies and tools for the evaluation of measures of adaptation and mitigation and various scales, which serve as references for politicians when defining their climate and energy strategies.
Machine vision is one of the enablers of Industry 4.0 with increased integration in production lines, especially in the quality control of products and processes. In recent years, a real revolution is taking place in this field with the integration of Artificial Intelligence in image processing, with a potential yet to be discovered. Despite the limitations of Artificial Intelligence in terms of reliability, results are being obtained in industry that were previously unthinkable using traditional machine vision.
The purpose of this post is not to talk about the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence, as there are many blogs that deal with this task, the purpose is to highlight the potential of traditional machine vision when you have experience and develop good ideas.
Machine vision is not just a set of algorithms that are applied directly to images obtained by high-performance cameras. When we develop a machine vision system, we do so to detect a variety of defects or product characteristics. Our task is to select the most appropriate technology and generate the optimal conditions in the scene in order to extract the required information from the physical world from the captured images. There are many variables to consider in this task: the characteristics of the lighting used in the scene; the relative position between the acquisition equipment, the lighting system and the object to be analysed; the characteristics of the inspection area; the configuration and sensitivity of the acquisition systems, etc.
As a representative anecdote of the importance of experience, I would like to highlight a case that was given to us in an automative components factory.
The company had installed a high-performance commercial vision system whose objective was to identify various parts based on colour. After several failures, we were asked to help configure the equipment, but instead of acting on these devices, we worked on changing the lighting conditions of the scene and simply turned the spotlights around and placed panels to obtain diffuse lighting instead of direct lighting. This solved the problem and the vision reached the level of reliability required by the client.
In this post, I would like to highlight an important case of success in the automative industry that has had a relevant impact on its production process, this is the SIVAM5 vision system developed by CARTIF and integrated in cold drawing lines of laminated sheet metal.
As we all know, the surface quality of the vehicle´s exterior is key for users, which is why companies in the automotive sector have to make a significant effort to detect and correct the presence of defects in the bodywork of their vehicles. Most of these defects occur at the stamping stage, but considering the inconsistency of the colour of the sheet metal and the generation of diffuse reflections, in some cases these defects go unnoticed to the body assembly stage and then to the painting stage, after which they become noticeable. This means that a small defect not detected in time translates into a large cost for the production of the vehicle.
To detect these defects at an early stage, we have developed an innovative machine vision system to detect the micro-cracks and pores that are generated in the cold stamping process of rolled sheet metal. This is a clear example of a robust solution based on a simple idea, “the passage of light through the pores of the sheet metal”, but where a great technological effort has been made to implement the idea in the production line. To this end, various optical technologies have been combined with the development of complex mechanical systems, resulting in a high -performance technological solution, capable of carrying out an exhaustive inspection of the critical points of the sheets in 100% of the production and without penalising the short cadence times that characterise press lines.
Thanks to its excellent resistance to vibrations and impacts, its great adptability for the integration of new references and its reliability in the detection of defects, a robust, flexible and reliable solution has been obtained. Based on a simple idea, a robust solution has been implemented in the production process of large companies in the automotive sector, such as Renault and Gestamp, where it has been operating without updates for more than 20 years, working day and night.
Water is essential for human survival and well-being and plays an important role for many economic sectors. However, water resources are unevenly distributed in space and time, and are under pressure from human activity and economic development.
In addition to water for irrigation and food production which puts one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources, industry is also a major water consumer, accounting for between 10% (Asia) and 57% (Europe) of total water consumption, either for the production of its products, and/or for the maintenance of its materials and equipment. All industrial sectors make use of water for industrial processes, ranging from those that manufacture foodstuffs to those that manufacture electronic devices.
Wastewater management is also one of the most important environmental problems facing society today, and is therefore an issue that transcends purely industrial activities, since as a vital substance, water is an ecosystem service that is transversal to most human activities, and whose traceability is heavily regulated by governmental and environmental agencies.
The possibility of reusing industrial water, regardless of whether the intention is to increase water supply or to manage nutrients in treated effluents (also a factor leading to water reuse), has positive benefits that are also the main motivators for the implementation of reuse programmes in companies.
Water Consumption in Industry – Management and Saving Plan
Industries can make better use of water, machinery, processes, services and accessories that demand large quantities of this resource that can be reduced with efficient use techniques.
For each type of industry, water is essential to satisfy different needs, and it is common to prioritise water consumption for cleaning and disinfection of products or installations and equipment. In these cleaning and disinfection tasks, the volume of water consumed varies according to the size, equipment and facilities, and the potential for savings is significant.
Therefore, water reuse should be examined from a circular economy perspective and the opportunities and risks of water reuse in the transition to a circular economy should be investigated for each type of industry.
The objectives of creating a water consumption management and saving plan in companies are:
Define methods to find out the water consumption in the facilities.
Identify strategies and points for improvement in the water consumption actions of the facilities and assess their feasibility.
To implement an effective system to reduce and control this water consumption.
Promote the participation of workers.
The integral water cycle in industry
The transition to a circular economy encourages more efficient water use and, together with incentives for innovation, can improve an economy’s ability to cope with the demands of the growing imbalance between water supply and demand.
From a circular economy perspective, water reuse is a win-win option. The full cycle of wastewater management is a key component of the cycle, from source, through distribution, collection (sewerage and sanitation systems) and treatment to disposal and reuse, including water, nutrient and energy recovery. Circular economy initiatives aim to close resource loops and extend the useful life of resources and materials through longer use, reuse and remanufacturing.
The selective segregation-correction of segregated effluents from the different industrial activities (process water, cleaning, cooling, boilers, sanitary, etc.) favours the recirculation of water and the reuse of the company’s own treated water, as well as the reuse of grey water. It also minimises water consumption, reduces the final volume of water to be treated or managed and increases the efficiency of the final treatment process.
In general, water reuse requires physico-chemical treatment processes, connections, waste disposal mechanisms and other systems. The level of treatment will depend on the quality of water required for the proposed use.
The implementation of water management and water savings to be optimised is described by means of the 9 elements that make up the integral water cycle in industry:
Supply sources: distribution network, own wells, rainwater, etc.
Specific treatment depending on the quality requirements for the different types and uses of water.
Piping to the facilities.
Uses in the process (supply to product, reaction medium, dilution, etc.) and auxiliary activities (cooling towers, steam boilers, cleaning of equipment and facilities).
Purification (own or external WWTP).
Discharge of wastewater, quality requirement limited by the competent environmental authority.
Water consumption in industry can be rationalised and minimised through various improvements in the production process and auxiliary activities, taking as a reference the application of BATs (Best Available Techniques in relation to integrated environmental authorisations in industrial activities).
As a rule, general actions concern the modification of open cooling circuits into closed ones, the avoidance of losses in steam systems, the improvement of inlet water conditioning systems and production means, and the optimisation of cleaning operations of equipment and installations.
Recirculation is considered if water treatment is not necessary or is very simple, as it involves the successive use of a flow of water in the same process, consuming a small percentage of flow renewal in each cycle.
Internal reuse is the use of water already used in the industry itself, treated by a specific treatment, for other uses that are less demanding in terms of quality or sensitivity.
Non-conventional resources such, as rainwater harvesting, are an easy way to obtain water and do not require purification, but depends on the amount of precipitation in each location. It offers advantages such as high physico-chemical water quality without the need for purification and a simple infrastructure.
The reuse of greywater from showers and toilets with a low level of contamination can be treated into clean, non-potable water.
Operational methodology for optimising water consumption and management
The procedure is summarised as follows:
Data collection and analysis. Request for previous documentation and data necessary for the evaluation of water management.
Visit to the company to recognise “in situ” the corresponding characteristics of the production processes developed, as well as the use of water in the plant.
General description of the production processes and auxiliary activities, identifying the different operations: process line, water line, treatment lines and auxiliary activities (refrigeration, steam boiler, cleaning of equipment and containers and storage).
Diagram/plan of water use in the company.
Substances involved, raw materials, reagents, by-products.
Inventory and description of ancillary activities.
Inventory, origin, handling and destination of effluents, wastes and emissions.
Diagnosis of minimisation of water consumption and proposal for improvement.
Prioritisation of actions according to their performance.
Essentially, the fundamental strategy for the optimisation of water management is the global characterisation of water use, the application of selective segregation-correction of process effluents and the analysis of the possible recovery and utilisation of these effluents.
Optimising water management in industry can achieve savings of 40-50%. This can reduce costs and protect natural resources. Companies should be aware that this increases the social prestige of the company with an economic benefit and promotes sustainability.
For many science fiction fans, quantum computers are those gadgets than can make everything and that they are installed as on-board computers in spacecrafts or they appear as laptops of reduced size and sophisticated aesthetics. For many of those that aren´t fans of the genre, quantum computers don´t even ring a bell. In any case, common to both groups is that mostly didn´t think this computers are real.
Reality is that quantum computers exist and they are in use. It is true that this computers are far from being the all-powerful machines science fiction portraits, and even less are tiny and portable devices that we can use in our day a day.
Nowadays quantum computers are freezers of an adult size that hang up from the laboratories roof, with a eye-catching appearance: horizontal platforms with a lot of gold cables. The reason of its curious design is the instability of these computers. Due to their quantum nature, these computers are affected by all type of disturbances, from little seismic movements to electromagnetic waves such as radio waves or of telephones. Moreover, these computers function well only when they work at almost 0 kelvin, with just enough energy for a single electron to be able to move per quantum chip.
The characteristics of these computers, joint with a huge investment in their construction, makes very difficult that nowadays we have an own Personal Quantum Computer as we have PC´s. But far from discouraging, even with these disadvantages, quantum computers are in use thanks to remote control platforms. They exist software development kits1 with repository of algorithms (between them, machine learning algorithms and solvers of optimization problems), development tools of quantum circuits/algorithms, quantum simulators and access to quantum computers of different characteristics. In addition, bibliography and tutorials for the use of these tools are even increasingly prolific.
The increase of the use of quantum computing is due to the increase of public and private financing in sectors such as telecommunications, mobility, banking, cryptography or the science of life2. From the European Commission , is expected and investment of a billion euros dedicated to research projects in this field for the years 2018-2028. Until mid-2021, they have been supported more than 20 projects with a financing of 132 millions 3.
In particular, in Spain, the Council of Ministers approved a grant of 22 millions of euros to boost the field of quantum computing in 2021 with the project Quantum Spain, project with an estimated investment of 60 millions to 3 years. In addition, it arrives to Barcelona the first quantum computer in our country.
Although the order should have be the other way round, after all these figures of investment in the development of this technology, we wonder why there is so much interest in quantum computing. The answer is that these computers allows the resolution of impossible problems to solve for traditional computers. Moreover, due to their different functioning, they are able to perform operations in a much faster and efficient manner.
Do you know that all current cryptography is based on the inability of today´s computers to solve some mathematical problems? On the other hand, a quantum computer completely developed it wouldn´t have those problem. It could, for example, decode your bank account number and access to your savings. Or also enter into the pentagon and decode all type of secret documents. But don´t worry, for better or worse, quantum computers are yet far from this development level.
Another example of its usefulness would be the control of the switches of an electric network, when you want to determine the configuration that provides minimum losses together with a guaranteed supply of all loads in the network.
In general, quantum computers are useful in any control and logistic problem with binary and large variables.
It is clear that far from being science fiction, quantum computing is a reality that is becoming increasingly evident in academic and professional circles. Far from being the on-board computers of a spacecraft or the processing core of a laptop or similar, its presence has increased tremendously in recent years, and is expected to increase even more in the next 10 years. It is therefore important for researchers and scientist to become familiar with these new technologies as soon as possible.
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