The Web Summit. An event that brings together important technological advances. An event that invites you to see new ideas. Ideas that may be in execution or even if they are a draft. These arise from thinkers and figures who every day strive to improve the quality of life on the planet. The XiaomiToday team is pleased to bring you an exclusive interview with one of the most brilliant minds willing to change the world one innovation at a time. Paola Pisano, currently in charge of modernizing the city of Turin in Italy, has given us a small moment where she explains the process of creating a better city.
Paola Pisano at the Web Summit – Innovation is done by all
Let’s talk a bit about the city of Turin. The metropolis is proud to be ranked 78th among the richest cities in the world. It is also the headquarters of important automobile factories such as FIAT, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, and Maserati. As if that were not enough, its technological relevance has been so great that several of the modules of the International Space Station were manufactured here. With this great CV, it is not surprising the importance it has as a technological capital, and it is also worth thinking that it focuses on automobiles.
Under this framework of technology, there are multiple organizations that are in charge of constant development (including colleges). And we have had the opportunity to speak directly with one of the people in charge of these advances: Paola Pisano. Paola currently works as a researcher at the University of Turin and is in charge of the innovation department for the smart city of Turin. Once the relevant presentations have been made, we proceed to leave the results of the interview.
XiaomiToday team: Good morning Paola. We are delighted that you offered us this time and opportunity to talk about your projects and the work that has been done in the city of Turin.
Paola Pisano: Nice to meet you. Equally, grateful for this opportunity.
XiaomiToday team: Well, we would love to start the interview in a more comfortable way, is there a specific topic that you would like to talk about your work?
Paola Pisano: Yes, in fact. I can start by talking about the whole project that we are carrying out in the city and its approach to citizens. We started 2 years ago in Turin through an innovation policy and later evolved into a social project. At the same time, we work on the digitalization of the Council system. The most important thing is that in all these efforts, the most relevant pillar is the participation of citizens.
We created an innovation policy called “Torino City Lab”, and with it, what we are looking for is to attract new and innovative organizations to the city that serve to demonstrate what the future holds a brilliant one.
XiaomiToday team: How is this being achieved?
Paola Pisano: We provide a place to make these innovations. If a company comes to us and asks us for help to carry out their project, we give our support. All the information we can provide is delivered. We have a team specifically in charge of the interactions between the companies and the public authorities in such a way that there is always a positive commercial interaction and with reduced administrative procedures. This greatly benefits the entrepreneur, since bureaucratic procedures tend to be complicated and can be expensive.
Additionally, if a new company joins the city, we try to integrate it into our ecosystem. A recent example was Intel, who recently tested a new Drones technology in the city. There was a great demonstration of autonomous machines. But to make this happen, we created an ideal combination between Intel and other technology companies of our system, who helped each other. In this way, we seek to open our ecosystem to interested new companies and also open the market to these new members.
Interview Team: What exactly do you offer to new members? Do you give them an office to carry out their projects and let them use your facilities?
Paola Pisano: we offer the whole city to do tests. If they require our space, we also provide it.
Interview Team: But, is there any criteria to be selected as a candidate?
Paola Pisano: Of course there is. The criterion is that, through the organization website, companies can present their projects to be evaluated. If the idea has a high level of innovation, we accept it, otherwise, it is rejected. Our innovations are mainly focused on the fields of drones, autonomous vehicles, 5G technology, and robotics, but that does not exclude other types of ideas; an example is the IoT (Internet of Things).
When evaluating the project, we also measure its social impact. You know that innovations can be both positive and negative, but we cannot know exactly which with just the idea. As an example, think about autonomous cars. These can reduce or increase the level of vehicles on the streets. We do not know yet. Additionally, we take into account the environmental impact. If the evaluation finally indicates that the project is positive for society, we give the support to the company, in such a way that it will have an echo nationally and internationally.
This is the main reason why we create so many connections between cities and networks. It is the best way to share the discoveries made from our city.
XiaomiToday team: The projects tend to be internal or external to Italy?
Paola Pisano: They can appear from both. Recently we tried to contact an Israeli organization. They are responsible for the field of autonomous vehicles. For this, we had to fully understand the business model that they managed to support them. We pair them with our commercial partners and transfer these technological tests to Turin. In this case, we also try to take it to a national scale since we have a lot of faith in this technology of autonomous vehicles, so we will talk to the government, and if the test turns out well, we will seek to create a standard.
It is important to highlight that this type of technologies does not have a standard, so it is necessary to define it. This is our innovation policy, and subsequently, the social innovation policy emerged, which means that the social impact is a fundamental element.
There is a lot of capital in the banks destined for social programs. As a city, we started to get interested in these programs, and that’s how the Social Innovation Academy was born. We test all projects in the social innovation laboratory and create a collective funding system to give these social entrepreneurs the resources they need for their businesses. We also created a great platform called “Torino Social Impact” where we show all our projects to society with the purpose of attracting new products.
We all agree that social problems are very serious at present. Take for example immigration or disabilities. Since we have a real connection with people, we know that we must focus on these projects.
On the other hand, we have the digitization of our services. When we arrived, there was no adequate platform for our Council. We began little by little to change this in small steps. For example, we created an ID system for citizens so that they can access to services. We begin with those offered by the Council, and we already take it to the university services. This link continues to grow, and now with the digital age, we can interlink different documents to the city’s systems. In the future, we plan to implement it in public transport or even to restaurants. From the platform, you will be able to make all the electronic payments for these services.
Another benefit is that with this centralized system we can offer the same benefits to all people in Italy. We are the first metropolis to do so.
Ironically, all this modernization has brought serious problems within the council. We talk about organizational and cultural problems. To solve them, we began to hold talks and groups focused on the reintegration and teaching of employees. We teach them that they should be proud of this transformation.
We join everyone in a group and tell them “you have the ability to deliver these services. Teach us your secret to be so successful with them “, In this way we approach and motivate the public worker whose average age is 55 years old. We consider ourselves leaders of this organizational and digital change.
XiaomiToday team: Tell us a little about the digital platform to present the projects.
Paola Pisano: Yes, you see, we created this platform that we call “Citta’ di Torino” where every citizen has the opportunity to present their project or idea and they can give us their feedback. If the project gets the support of 500,000 inhabitants, the public administration has the duty to take it forward. In this way, civilians have the possibility to participate constantly in development.
Another thing we have done is the creation of a data team within the Council to analyze all the information of the public administration, with the purpose of understanding the impact that our strategies have and if they are useful for citizens.
Interview Team: When will you begin to apply this strategy?
Paola Pisano: It started working about 2 years ago.
Interview Team: I ask because, on some occasions, new strategies and policies are presented that are later discarded when there are elections and politicians change. Most ideas require time to be implemented, but politicians sometimes say that your project does not work.
Paola Pisano: First, we try to understand the work that has been done and we seek to continue with that line of action. Digitization and technology are not necessarily related to politics. I find myself in this role as a researcher, not as a bureaucrat. However, I do not think anyone can cancel our work. I do not see it possible because of its benefits.
XiaomiToday team: We are curious about the drone event that you mentioned previously, and we see that it is very complex, was there one person controlling each Drone?
Paola Pisano: No, every drone was autonomous. We have software that is responsible for controlling them. This is the reason why we need to get new technologies to improve latency. After this, we define a project model and simplify each of the steps and processes. All links between organizations are analyzed, and we evaluate the impact of the event in Turin so that if it was positive, it could be recreated in other cities. If they ask us for help to do so, we give them pamphlets with the process. We believe in transparency in technology to be able to advance in scale.
XiaomiToday team: Let’s talk about the personal side. In your work position, what has been the most difficult challenge you have had to face?
Paola Pisano: The most challenging thing has been trying to change the culture. We bring innovation, and we make it clear that this can sometimes fail, but we must try it to find out. The politicians do not think the same. That is why we have to show them something good, and if, for example, we are testing new autonomous vehicles connected to a remote control and this suffers from an accident, who would care more than us in the organization? The problem arises if this happens in the city with civilians.
We try to show the fact that all innovations need to be tested. We seek to share projects among the entire organization. In addition, we have multiple activities for employees where we explain that they are part of a great project and that they should be proud of the transformation we are achieving even if it becomes a bit difficult because it is the first time someone has dealt with these changes in public administration. Winning trust is our difficulty.
XiaomiToday team: Is there any technological progress from Torino City Lab that could work as an example for all of Europe?
Paola Pisano: Currently, robotics. We tested a robot through a collaboration that basically performed the work of Bartender in a Bar that was in an abandoned structure of the city. Of course, we also had to revitalize the area. This was the project, to use technology to bring life to different areas of the city.
The test was done about 2 or 3 months ago. We put the test on our platform “Citta’ di Torino” and we asked the citizens to give their opinion about it both to the company and to us so that we could collect ideas. People can choose a cocktail using an application, so we can measure the social impact it has, and if, for example, a person drinks a lot, we send a message saying “it’s enough”.
XiaomiToday team: How has your experience with 5G technology been?
Paola Pisano: Very funny. A few weeks ago, we made different tests with Telecom using 5G technology in different areas. What kind of services can benefit from 5G? Virtual reality is one of the best candidates. Let’s say that there are citizens with problems to visit a museum in a cave. If you do not feel comfortable inside the cave, you can travel it through virtual reality. During the weekend, we tried this remote connection with an autonomous car in the center of the city. It was really impressive to see how people came to try the technology in this iconic place for the city. The kids were amazed when they looked inside the car and there was nobody. We are also testing 5G technology to create a stand-alone factory.
XiaomiToday team: Quick question, has FIAT collaborated with you?
Paola Pisano: FIAT collaborated with us in the development of the autonomous vehicle. We created a collaboration around this project. The collaboration was massive; we had the vehicle manufacturer, the intelligence teams, the insurance companies of the city and other organizations in the city. Later we defined the circuit inside the city. A 35Km course using smart lights and 5G technology. We already carry out several tests, for example, of the vehicle with the infrastructure or when the vehicle is parked automatically. In January we plan to start with the delivery of services to citizens using this technology, as well as the automatic transfer of citizens from stations to hospitals and back.
XiaomiToday team: We love listening to these innovative proposals
Paola Pisano: Thank you very much! We value opinions greatly. While we work on the projects, we have the human staff always on hand. We make these public presentations and with politicians because we want everyone to feel passion for what we do.
I wanted to mention that we are also creating a Drones lab in Turin in the park “Parco Dora”. We seek with this to create a rigorous testing environment that exploits this technology.
XiaomiToday team: We know that this is your first and last day at the Web Summit because the event is over, but we want to know, what do you think of the event so far?
Paola Pisano: It’s wonderful. A place full of innovation, especially the IoT and facial recognition. I like the atmosphere in general, so we were looking at how to take the event to Turin, but we do not know how. We would love to do something similar in Turin, an event full of excitement and passion for the future.
XiaomiToday team: What do you think should be the next step to generate innovation? Could we guide innovations in general at an international level?
Paola Pisano: I think that at present two things are important: infrastructure based on fiber and the Internet, and digitalization in public administration. With both, transparency and a good approximation to the services are achieved. If the digitalization manages to enter the public administration, we will be able to do a good job. This is the reason why we work at a national level, and they support us with everything they can. They have a team; they call it “Team per la trasformazione digitale”. I do not know if you know that Diego Piacentini leads this team. He was Amazon number 2, and he has been leading this transformation team for 2 years now. We work a lot with them, and we are convinced that with transparency and digitalization of services, we can change Italy. We can get these services to the entire population with problems. At present, it is not easy to move around the country if you have any impediment, so we bet very hard for this.
XiaomiToday team: We wanted to ask some personal questions. How do you define Paola Pisano‘s passion for her city?
Paola Pisano: I define it in two ways. First, I am in love with my city, so I wanted to return that passion in some way. I really have faith in our mayor’s vision, and I want to give my son a better future. I love what I am doing, and that is the other thing, we love our work, so for us, it is not laborious, it is pure passion. What drives me crazy is that Turin can have all the ingredients to become a leading city in innovation, and I want us to achieve that goal. I know we can reach it.
XiaomiToday team: We have 2 more questions. The first one, can you summarize in one sentence your life’s philosophy?
Paola Pisano: My life´s philosophy?, I do not know if it is my philosophy of life, but I always tell myself that every day I must improve my ability to listen to others, pay more attention to what they say and always reach a daily goal. In this way, when I return from work I say “what have I achieved today?” And sometimes I conclude that “I lost a day because I was not able to do my daily goal”. The other thing is to be transparent and have fun with what I do. You have to be honest.
XiaomiToday team: What is the message you would give to young people who want to be part of this innovative work? Maybe with some advice to achieve it, What should you think to achieve it?, and, What is the commitment that should they have with the nation?
Paola Pisano: I think that innovations fail not because it is bad, but because you do not understand who your client is. The first thing you should do is understand your user, understand your context, and pay close attention. I would like to tell you that public administration is not just those suit misters that most think they are. They also change, and we will change them, we need young people to work with us. And if you have an idea in mind, and you believe firmly in it, you will get the right connection to create it. It’s never a matter of money, it’s always about whether you’re focused on your goal.
XiaomiToday team: One last question. What is your favorite book?
Paola Pisano: My favorite book? Il cacciatore di aquiloni.
In this way, we finish the interview with Paola Pisano, a mind that gives us hope in the future of the nation and the world through small works of technological innovation that promise to revolutionize on a large scale.
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