Smart Citizens of the 1920s

VintageTrip1 Smart Citizens of the 1920sIn the 1920s, European and American cities were in economic, cultural and political overdrive and it was in the midst of this social effervescence, at the beginning of the century, that great advances were introduced and popularized which changed the face of cities and how people lived in them.

The spread of electric light and drinking water into homes, the popularization of the radio, the invention of the television, the first mass-produced car, public bus companies and the golden age of the tram marked the first steps towards smart cities.

It was also at that time, in 1924, when the ‘Gran Metro de Barcelona’ underground railway was put into operation, representing a major step forward for mobility in the early 20th century city. It was also a symbol of modernity for a city that enjoyed a reputation of always being at the forefront of technology and knowledge.

In 2015, as a nod to all those ‘smart cities’ which have pioneered sustainable mobility over the last century, the organizers of the fifth edition of BcnRail-Smart Mobility, in a joint initiative with TMB (Metropolitan Transport of Barcelona), offered attendees of Fira de Barcelona’s International Railway Industry Trade Show the chance to travel aboard the train that inaugurated the first stretch of the ‘Gran Metro de Barcelona’.

The legendary 300-series train came out of its engine shed to relive a historical journey which back then used to cover the 2,470 metres of track connecting the stations of Lesseps and Catalunya on Barcelona’s first metro line. These trains, built between 1920 and 1923 by the now defunct firm, the Euskalduna Company for the Construction and Repair of Ships of Bilbao, were in operation until 1987. To mark the 75th anniversary of the Barcelona metro in 1999, three of the 300-series coaches were restored, and they now make up the TMB’s historic train.

Coming back to Fira de Barcelona’s Gran Via Exhibition Centre, the fifth edition of BcnRail leaps forward 91 years to demonstrate how technical progress continues today with trains that travel at 380 km/h, revolutionary systems for energy savings and new technological advances in both the domestic and international railway industry which is still, a century later, an essential agent for Smart mobility.

Barcelona, city of Nobels

NobelsBCN2 Barcelona, city of NobelsThe Nobel Laureates are holding their fifteenth summit at Fira de Barcelona’s Conference Centre to discuss the dramatic refugee situation. This is the first time they have met officially in Barcelona, but certainly not the first time many of them have visited the city. Barcelona is a long-standing friend of many Nobel prize-winners in various disciplines. Peace, literature and science…

Let’s start with peace: both Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980) and Rigoberta Menchú (1992) have taken part in numerous activities to uphold human rights. Moreover, Pérez Esquivel, a sculptor by profession, has a monument to Gandhi in the Poblenou district.

Yet in the last century the visit of these two Nobel winners revolutionized the city. Albert Einstein, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics, visited Barcelona in 1923 to give courses organized by the Council of Catalonia. Twenty-five years later, in May 1948, the discoverer of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, held conferences and meetings with the scientific world here.

Still in the field of science, the Nobel Prize winner for Medicine in 1906, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, was a professor at the Barcelona Faculty of Medicine between 1887 and 1892 where he made some significant findings on nerve cells.

In the 1970s, Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa both lived in the city, exponents of the boom in Latin American literature and both Nobel prize-winners. It was also common to see José Saramago here, who won his Nobel prize in 1998 and has left us with his legacy: the Saramago Chair at the UAB which fosters historical and cultural relations with Portugal. Indeed, Barcelona’s three universities have an ongoing relationship with Nobel prize-winners in various fields, who are often called upon to discuss the role of education and universities.

And finally, Nobel prize-winners also visit Fira de Barcelona. The inaugural address of the 2008 Expoquimia trade show was given by Physics Nobel prize-winner Kurt Wüthrich, who had won six years earlier.

Over the course of the summit, these relationships will be sustained and strengthened. 

No driver in sight

The people who predicted the future years ago forecast that by 2015 cars would be flying… and if you don’t believe me, ask Robert Zemeckis, director of the film Back To The Future. But what they could never have imagined is that cars could be driven… without drivers. And this is a reality in the 21st century, a reality that will be one of the big attractions at the next Smart City Expo.

The fifth edition of the event will showcase the EasyMile and its EZ10, an autonomous electric car developed jointly by two French companies: the micro car manufacturer Ligier Group and the robotics specialist Robosoft.

Equipped with a lithium battery that gives it 14 hours’ autonomy, the EasyMile is a minibus with a capacity of 12 people, and while its cruising speed is 20 kilometres per hour it can reach a maximum of 40 kph. Given its characteristics, this is the ideal vehicle for short hops such as airport shuttles, logistics centres, university campuses and industrial parks.

To be able to move around without a driver, the EZ10 has a GPS system and four cameras (two at the front and two at the rear) which enable it to adapt to any kind of route and deal with the obstacles it finds along the way.

Visitors to the Smart City Expo can take a ride around the Gran Via Exhibition Centre where the event is taking place on an EZ10… a science fiction-type experience that is actually real, here and now, in 2015 rather than the DeLorean of Back To The Future in which Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) traversed time to 21 October 2015.


The trade show of diversity

blog3 The trade show of diversityThe exhibitor coming from France with his working team to set up a stand and hold demonstrations.

The executive looking for clients for the new products being presented by his company, based on an industrial estate outside Valencia.

The entrepreneur from Lleida who can’t wait to attend the conference given by Mark Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress.

The family from Barcelona who never, ever miss the Children’s Festival.

The growers’ cooperative from Galicia that has come to launch a new wine on the market.

The manufacturer of electronic components who wants to grow internationally.

The group of cardiologists from Boston who gave presentations at the congress and want to explore Barcelona and its gastronomy.

The group of electronic music fans who meet up with their friends from Amsterdam every year.

The president of a business association from Madrid.

A restaurateur. A salesman. A techie. A taxi driver. A lecturer at the Polytechnic University…

All of them have in common a special relationship with Fira de Barcelona. In their own way, they form part of the universe of this institution which has been described as an economic driving force, a key element of internationalization, and a generator of wealth and wellbeing in terms of the money spent and invested in the region and its impact on companies and jobs, and indeed on the public as a whole.

This has been calculated recently by Fira de Barcelona thanks to a survey conducted by ESADE Business School: the economic impact of its activities amounts to over 2,620 million euros per year and more than 40,500 jobs.

But this survey has also enabled us to discover something more, which is something we had always suspected: the activities of Fira go way beyond the strictly economic sphere to become a tool for the creation of public and social value.

Amongst other virtues that can be laid at the door of the trade fair institution, and purely by way of example, these include: fostering cross-cutting contacts between companies that generate ideas and innovations; providing a public space of 400,000 square metres not only for trade fairs but also for meetings, events and recreational and social activities; helping to expand the true metropolitan area of the city; boosting the social cohesion that emerges from the new opportunities, contacts and trends that emanate from its congresses and trade shows; and enhancing Barcelona’s cosmopolitan nature and position as a major world city and a showcase and driver of innovation.

In fact, this has always been the true vocation of Fira de Barcelona.

Bespoke cancer treatments

ManelE2 Bespoke cancer treatments

This week has seen the marking of world breast cancer awareness day, addressing a disease that has a better outlook every year, thanks to the latest advances and research, which appear to have attained what only a few years back could only be considered science fiction: the availability of personalised medicines and treatments to fight illnesses which, until a few years ago, were incurable.

That is, at least, the strategy championed by Dr. M

anel Esteller, Director of Epigenetics and Biology of Cancer at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (Idibell), and one of the world’s foremost scientists in this field.

According to Esteller, the fight against cancer is being waged on three fronts: “One is that of creating more personalised medicine, based on greater knowledge of alterations in the genetic material of a specific tumour in a specific patient. A second one is that we are asking ourselves about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that trigger metastasis. And a third one is that we want to learn more about what is done by that part of the genome that does not create proteins, and which we call the dark genome”.

Key in this regard may be Epigenetics, a field in which Esteller is an international reference, and which he defines as “that activity or function of genes which does not depend on the gene sequence but on external factors; that is, a way of fine tuning our genome”. And as the doctor explains “in all human tumours there are alterations in their genetic material, in their DNA, which contribute to their origin and to their progression”.

In any case, Manel Esteller is optimistic, stressing that “we have improved a great deal since I embarked on my studies, and today we are curing up to 60% of cases. It is true that we still have a long way to go in the cases of lung, pancreas and brain cancer, but we are already succeeding in transforming breast and colon cancer into chronic illnesses”.

A graduate in Medicine from the University of Barcelona, Manel Esteller (1968), who conducted his post-doctoral studies in Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore in the USA, is participating in the upcoming edition of PharmaProcess Forum, giving the inaugural conference on how epigenetics can help to combat this illness, both now and in the future.

Thenew temples of Wellness

Wellness Thenew temples of Wellness

Wellness is in fashion. Demand is growing and in contrast to the spas of the early 20th century that used to treat muscular, skin or bone diseases, the customer of today is seeking a state of balance and harmony. To satisfy this new demand, these centres offer a whole range of holistic solutions that treat the entire body and mind through every sense. These treatments might include soundproofed cubicles playing ‘atonal’ melodies that follow the numerical sequence of Fibonacci, an acclaimed mathematician who lived in Pisa more than 800 years ago. When the same laws that determine the distribution of leaves on the stem of a plant or the spiral of a sea snail are applied to musical notes, it generates sounds that arouse a state of calm and relaxation.
And while sound reaches the individual through the sense of hearing, aromatherapy and chromotherapy do so by stimulating the senses of smell and sight. The basis for aromatherapy lies in the conviction that certain fragrances are therapeutic by nature: citrus aromas reduce anxiety (essence of mandarin is particularly recommended for children); mint and rosemary help to restore energy and concentration, while lavender alleviates fears and brings a sense of serenity.
Meanwhile, chromotheraphy, far from being an innovation, is a rediscovery of an ancient Egyptian treatment that used to assign a certain property to every colour: black was the symbol of fertility, yellow of divinity and red of vital energy. Today, chromotherapy is used in wellness centres which apply orange light to inspire joy, green to promote thought and blue to induce calm.
In short, it all points to the fact that society is changing, along with the way people look after themselves.
The most innovative wellness centres are the new temples of this holistic concept of wellbeing, as reflected by the trade show Piscina & Wellness Barcelona 2015, which has constructed a replica of a real spa and organized an event devoted to wellness where Jeremy McCarthy, the Global Director of Spa for the Mandarin Oriental hotel group, is the guest of honour. As McCarthy says, “Wellness can no longer be summed up as simply ‘diet and exercise’ but encompasses new aspects such as the need to rest and recover and find an emotional balance.”

Whales off the Catalan coast

rorcual2 Whales off the Catalan coastNot many people know that every spring pods of whales pass very close to the Catalan coast in search of food, especially in the area between Tarragona and Barcelona. They belong to one of the largest and most common species of cetaceans in this part of the Mediterranean, the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), which can grow up to 24 metres long.

In order to investigate this species in particular, as well as to raise the general public’s awareness of the protection and conservation of whales, dolphins and marine life in general, the “Fin Whale Project” has been set up by Edmaktub, a not-for-profit association for the study and dissemination of the marine environment, especially whales.

For the success of this project, which enjoys the support of the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, it is very important to secure the collaboration of sailors, who are asked to report any marine life they spot in the area, whether these are whales or other cetaceans, simply by sending a WhatsApp.

It is even possible to set sail with the scientific team of Edmaktub to get first-hand experience of what a day of research at sea entails.

This ambitious project will be presented at the Barcelona Boat Show where you can also see the association’s main working platform: the Maktub, a 14.3-metre Catana catamaran with a capacity of 12 crewmembers, which is usually moored at the Sailing Club in Vilanova.

Brewing passion

degustabeer Brewing passion

Craft beer production is all the rage right now. A phenomenon that is starting to make major inroads in the gourmet food market. Bearing little resemblance to the customary traditional selection of beers, craft beers offer more complex nuances, pleasing the more discerning palate and forming part of any in vogue gastro route worth its salt. They have also attracted a legion of loyal fans, both amateur and professional, eager to discover, enjoy and celebrate them.

Our love of beer goes way back. Born out by the discovery of archaeological remains, found in the Can Sadurní cave (Begues, Barcelona), which indicate that beer has been around in Europe since as early as 3000 BC. After extensive historical wanderings, Charles V did the rest prior to his coronation by bringing his master brewers with him to Spain and thereby importing a taste for beer that had already taken hold in Flanders. And so it developed, in ebbs and flows as time went by, bringing us to the situation we find in Spain today, standing firm as Europe’s fourth largest beer manufacturer and a place where, according to Cerveceros de España (the Spanish Brewers’ Association), of the 35 million hectolitres forecast to be produced by the end of 2015, craft beer will account for 100,000, an area predicted to increase its market share to 33% this year.


Catalonia is the most active Spanish region in this sector, home to 200 brands and some 70 microbreweries. As a rule, craft beer production is an initiative attributed to the small businessman, someone for whom a love of the drink has seen a hobby turn into a business and a way of life.


 Barcelona Beer Festival co-organizer and secondary school teacher, Mikel Rius, is an example of just that. “Brewer’s yeast fermented an overwhelming passion for craft beer in me many years ago, over which time I have been making it as a hobby and demonstrating that passion by taking part in numerous projects”, he reveals. Culturally, says Mikel, we are still light years away from the rest of Europe, where it is common that almost every village has its own microbrewery. “It’s exciting to see whole families coming to beer festivals. Grandparents teaching their grandchildren about beer-making. Yes, we are lagging behind because of that, but we are on the right track – the craft beer movement is an unstoppable force”.


 At the moment, he is committed to promoting the rich diversity of this sector through initiatives such as the Degusta Beer Festiva at Barcelona Degusta, which brings a selection of over 300 types of beer from all around the world to Barcelona, in addition to showcasing some dozen styles of brewery.


 An opportunity to inspire interest in people of all tastes: “We must steer clear of intellectual elitism. Some are happy to stick to drinking the traditional beers they’ve always enjoyed, pure and simple, while others are interested in exploring different flavours, aromas and nuances. All are welcome! No doctrine – just pleasure”, he concludes.



Rise of the Machines

AircraftAssembly Rise of the Machines

Years ago a commercial airplane could only generate a mere 30Kb of information on each flight  and in the last decade our pockets and wrists have been the main target of technological innovation in filling them with smartwatches, smartphones, smartglasses and other smart gadgets. But the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) is going to change all this.

Today, the sensors in an airplane are capable of producing up to 500Gb of data per flight and the technologies used in the Internet are transforming workshop floor that had been abandoned to the few robots that took over some of the plants decades ago.

That means that factories and the objects they produce will soon start to receive the same irritating messages about updates that annoy us so when they pop up on our phones, but which bring improvements for our devices and their operation and also for productivity, efficiency and companies’ performance.

So Industry as we know it is about to change and the main players in world industry are well aware of this. According to a survey carried out at the World Economic Forum, 72% of senior executives believe that the Industrial Internet will be revolutionary. Many of those key players will gather in Barcelona next week for the first Internet of Things Solutions World Congress (IOTSWC) to rapidly pave the path to a more connected industry worldwide.

The InesTable, the unstable table

Ines tablel2 The InesTable, the unstable tableAt the Furniture Showroom held at Fira de Barcelona last June, the Carpenters’ Guild exhibited the InesTable on their stand, designed by architect Enric Miralles (Barcelona, 1955-2000). This is a real masterpiece of late 20th century Catalan design which Miralles planned in 1993, one year after the start of his partnership with Benedetta Tagliabue with whom he founded the EMBT Studio.

The table came about as the result of a proposal that Miralles received to take part in a trade show. He designed the table ‘ad hoc’, but as he was developing the project the piece became more and more personal. “He was asked to design an object for a small exhibition that would sum up his philosophy and planning approach, and he sketched it in the form of a brain; he did two versions which were symmetrical yet not identical,” explain the professionals at the Miralles-Tagliabue studio, EMBT.

In fact, he asked the carpenter to make two tables, both in solid oak, like the office furniture of the early 20th century. He kept one of them at his home on Carrer Avinyó in Barcelona.

Miralles himself recognized that the design of a table is a challenge for any professional. When he planned the InesTable his intention was to create an object that would be versatile, dynamic and adaptable to different spaces, times and activities. And he most definitely achieved that aim: the table has four pairs of legs comprising one fixed and one mobile part, plus a fixed fifth leg which appears in the prototype that the architect kept at his home. The supports underpin six elements in different shapes and sizes which make up the board, all interconnected by hinges that facilitate their movements. Thus depending on the time or individual preferences, the table can be transformed by swivelling one section or dropping another, or several at a time, to create one area for thinking, another for playing, and another for working or just enjoying a meal or a game of chess. It all depends.

Today, the table takes pride of place in the EMBT Studio, occupying its centre and its heart. Everything revolves around this multifaceted object. “It’s an essential part of the office; it’s the table where we hold important meetings to discuss project with the different teams and to meet with important clients. It represents the office philosophy in terms of thinking and acting and it keeps Enric at the forefront of our minds,” say the designers at the office.

If anyone is interested in getting a close-up look, the InesTable will be on display between 25 July and 25 September at Palau de Casavells (Casavells, Girona) as part of the exhibition being opened this Saturday by Benedetta Tagliabue.

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