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Xavi Aldea Borruel

Xavi Aldea Borruel is the Resilience Shift’s Programme Grants Manager. Prior to this, Xavi worked for the water technology centre, Cetaqua, undertaking research around urban resilience, flood risk management and sustainability.

Whilst at Cetaqua, Xavi was involved with several EU-funded projects, including PREPARED, PEARL and the Horizon 2020 project RESCCUE.

You can find Xavi on LinkedIn.

Posts by Xavi Aldea Borruel

Computers can do better than a human, but do we trust them enough?

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Transformative technology is a topic we can’t ignore and, at the Resilience Shift, we want to put a resilience lens over its application to critical infrastructure. We attended an ENCORE Network workshop in June that focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Infrastructure Monitoring.

In spite of the revolution that seems to be round the corner, we should be wary of the AI hype – something Gartner captures annually in their hype cycle of technology.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle (Jeremy Kemp, Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Gartner’s Hype Cycle (Jeremy Kemp, Wikipedia, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

AI is everywhere and at the top of the hype cycle for several technologies, such as machine learning and autonomous vehicles. This becomes clear in the latest available version of Gartner’s Hype Cycle (2017) and in their Top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018.

Gartner's Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2017

Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies 2017

One of the messages to take home from the ENCORE network workshop is that our society expects a computer to do better than humans, but it seems clear that there are many situations where this won’t be the case. A group of experts might do better in decision making. For example, machine learning can fail in a different way than a human would do when solving a particular problem.

We need to combine what computers are good at with what humans are good at. In 5 years from now, AI will probably be used for situation support rather than making autonomous decisions for operators.

Data availability and trust is similarly a key issue here, as the resilience of AI systems depends on using good data. In this sense, a potential risk could be a malicious injection of data in the system. Minimising the risk of cyber attacks is essential in order to develop trust in collected data that will be used for AI systems.

We are keen to hear from readers of this blog about how you can contribute to support us on this journey – if this is your case, please get in touch with us.

Categories: Events

Creating an intelligent community

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Transformative technology can no longer be ignored. In the Resilience Shift we believe technology should enhance rather than compromise critical system functionality and we listened with interest to the sessions at the Intelligent Communities Forum (ICF) in early June.

The ICF’s main topic was humanising data with a key message being that what really matters is how we use technology to make a difference to people’s lives.

A strong message to take home was that purpose should come first. What are the benefits that we want to achieve for the community, i.e. prosperity, safety, resilience.

How technology can help should come after that, not before. Being smart is not a purpose per se if this is not trying to achieve an outcome for a community.

Open data will play an important role as it can allow for a much broader exploitation of data. The broadest possible foundation of open data should be our aim, and this will become an important national asset. As an example, the Ordnance Survey has just released some key parts of the OS MasterMap which will be made openly available for the public and businesses to use. It is estimated that this will boost the UK economy by at least £130m each year, as innovative companies and startups use the data.

Another key emerging theme was how to achieve change. In particular, that we should be brave enough to experiment with change, and there is a need for courageous leadership, which is willing to adopt new approaches and learn by doing. This approach resonates strongly with the Resilience Shift.

At the municipal level, there are multiple examples of it and the ICF forum presented 7 examples of intelligent communities which are already using technology to drive change. The city of Espoo in Finland was awarded the Intelligent Community of the Year.

Using technology to change resilience practice for critical infrastructure

Intelligent Communities Forum (June 4th)

When considering the socio-technical system beyond just the physical asset, technology creates additional challenges – for example, the labour market will require new skills, education and continuous learning.

A third of US workers will have to switch occupation by 2030, and a lot of children now in schools will work in jobs that do not exist today. 80% of new jobs will require competencies and skills such as decision making with imperfect data, systems thinking, and understanding how information is manipulated by technology.

It’s therefore clear that transformative technology can no longer be ignored and will play a substantial part in how we design and operate resilient infrastructure in future.

We are exploring how we can shed some light on this question through our activities. If you have ideas that can contribute to this outcome, do get in touch.

Categories: Events Knowledge

Data, technology and resilience – challenge or opportunity?

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Peter Sondergaard, Gartner Research, said in 2011 that “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine“.

A few years on, many people would agree with it, as we see examples everywhere– smart cities, Internet of Things, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, autonomous cars and, in sum, the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, which is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another.

With such a big dependence on data and its analysis, will this revolution actually help critical systems to continue functioning when something unexpected happens, or when they are stressed?

This is a complex question to answer, and one which we initially addressed in our Understanding the Landscape report. We suggested that the digitization of electrical infrastructure creates real-time information, but can also expose physical infrastructure to cyberattacks. The Global Risks Report 2018 from the World Economic Forum is in agreement, as cyberattacks have been classified as the third highest global risk in terms of likelihood and the sixth in terms of impact.

The different ways in which smart infrastructure solutions can impact on the resilience of infrastructure and the people who use and operate it (after Cousins et al. 2017)

However, when smart technology is embedded everywhere, the challenge goes well beyond that. Extreme weather events and natural disasters are classified at the top of the global risks landscape, with the highest likelihood and biggest impact. Critical infrastructure, and by extension the technology embedded in it, will therefore need to be able to cope with these risks – and this is where technology should help to create resilience rather than fragility.

With such a transformative change in the way critical infrastructure will need to be designed and operated, this question remains open for the Resilience Shift.
One of the outcomes that the Resilience Shift hopes to achieve is the wider adoption of transformative technology that can enhance, rather than compromise, critical infrastructure system functionality.

We are exploring how we can contribute to understand this question through our activities. If you have ideas that can contribute to this outcome, do get in touch.

Categories: Knowledge

A day’s worth of value – a conference perspective

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Attending events is often fun and a great way to keep in touch with what other people are doing. After all, breaking ‘siloed’ thinking is one of the keys to success for resilience. We were delighted therefore to attend the Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) conference ‘Bringing Safety to Life’, held at the IET in London in the second week of May. There were many inspiring talks on a broad range of topics and sectors, with safety and the role of the LR Foundation as the common theme across them.

The day kick started with a talk on strategy by guest speaker Adam Parr, former chief executive of the Williams Formula 1 team. In his own words, strategy is ‘the process whereby we overcome obstacles in order to achieve our goals’, and provided some examples of successful and failed strategies, together with a framework to define an effective strategy. He also had some motivating comments on good leadership, which he defined as making people leave a room happier than they were when they walked into it.

Talks from the morning session followed, including Professor John A McDermid from University of York on autonomous vehicles and their safety (and all the associated challenges). Professors Emma McCoy and Jennifer Whyte from Imperial College London talked about the role of data in making resilient and robust infrastructure – how to enhance critical ecosystems and the cyber-physical systems that support them continuously. Gijs van der Velden from MX3D showed us the process for designing and building a 3D-printed bridge for a canal in the city centre of Amsterdam, an exciting project in which Arup is participating. The morning session ended with Asher Kessler presenting on The Conversation – an interesting media outlet which publishes research, news and ideas from leading researchers. All attendees were invited to suggest ideas for new articles to be published.

Lunchtime included gorgeous views over the city from a nice sun-filled terrace, but it was also a busy time with two workshops in parallel – one organised by The Resilience Shift and another one about the role of technology accelerators, bridging the gap between the start-up and scale-up phases for tech companies. LRF’s initiative in this area was presented, with its own accelerator process putting companies in touch with industry leaders in different sectors.

The afternoon covered a range of different topics, from the importance of aviation refuelling safety to the fulfilling experience of apprenticeships at Plymouth Marine Lab. This afternoon session included an interesting panel session which featured our executive director Nancy Kete.

Professor Richard Clegg, Chief Executive of Lloyd’s Register Foundation, closed the event highlighting how much has been achieved to date for such a young organisation – only five years old- and made a final note on the importance of the impact that all grantees’ activity creates.

Overall, the event was a great opportunity to learn about LRF activities, meet old friends (some of which we’ve been collaborating with in the Resilience Shift), and make some new friends too. We’ve been delighted to be a part of it.

Categories: Events

The engineer’s journey to resilience – what’s yours?

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Xavi Aldea

How has resilience become a popular topic among engineers from different backgrounds? In our experience, engineers have followed different routes in their journey to resilience. Mostly, this is about broadening classic engineering approaches, breaking down ‘silo’ thinking and incorporating a connection with other disciplines – which, in many cases, are not necessarily close to engineering at first sight. In other words, engineers have had to think bigger in order to achieve their goals.

But what are the engineers’ goals? To put it simply, and according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, engineers ‘make things, they make things work and they make things work better’. They also ‘use their creativity to design solutions to the world’s problems’. In today’s world, the inherent complexity of infrastructure and urban systems, together with the added uncertainty arising, for instance, from climate change, raises a question on the classic boundaries of engineering, which are not enough to allow engineers to ‘make things work better’.

Breaking those boundaries, however, requires initiating a journey which can be quite different depending on the engineering experience and discipline that different people come from.

This journey begins in the top left of this diagram. This is what engineers have been taught in university – technology and safety.

Through their careers, engineers can travel through different paths which ultimately make them realise that resilience matters.

Path A:

A Civil Engineer who designs infrastructure and/or does quantified risk assessments. They become interested in resilience once they recognise future uncertainty and the limitations of sensitivity analysis/scenario modelling. In addition, they become aware of interdependencies between different systems, which adds more complexity to their usual risk assessments. Additional complexity can also be added because they realise infrastructure is part of a wider system, which includes people.  In our team, that would be Juliet Mian.

Path B:

A Civil or Structural Engineer who designs and/or plans infrastructure. They have already embraced Environmental Impact Assessments and Social Impact Assessments, and are comfortable with the role of engineering in sustainable development. In the next step, they also recognise people as part of the system, and understand the importance of equity in addressing global challenges. This means that they are already thinking in a holistic, integrated way, and they recognise that resilience is the way to approach this complex system. Because of their sustainability background, they are well aware of uncertainty resulting from climate change and planetary boundaries.   In our team, that would be Jo da Silva.

Path C:

Sustainability engineer who assesses the environmental impact of infrastructure by understanding how it connects with its surrounding environment. They have already embraced carbon footprint, water footprint, Life Cycle Assessment and/or Social Life Cycle Assessment and are comfortable with the role of engineering in sustainable development. In addition, they are also aware of the uncertainty resulting from climate change and planetary boundaries. The next step is adding the complexity of the 21st century infrastructure, which requires thinking in a holistic and integrated way, and recognising that resilience is a way to approach complex systems. In our team, that would be Xavier Aldea.

As long as you get there in the end…

In the end, we can probably say that all roads lead to Rome – incorporating complexity, uncertainty, vulnerability and essentially challenges and global change drivers of the 21st century leads to the need to expand classic engineering boundaries to allow engineers to continue to do their job, no matter where they started – and hopefully that will allow them to continue to make the world a better place.

What’s your journey?  Why not draw it and send it to us as an image so that we can see your path to resilience?

Categories: Knowledge

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