BlueAlpaca winning over Europe’s smartest cities

It has been a while since we last talked about the super-exciting project we are currently working on in the context of SynchroniCity. I am sure you remember our tiny, cute BlueAlpaca, who is ready to facilitate the life of European citizens and become their best friend, don’t you? Well, he has lately gone quite a long way (literally!) and I would like to share some exciting news with you. For those few of you who don’t remember what BlueAlpaca is all about, here you go: the goal of the project is to make IoT based information and smart city services easily accessible and usable by citizens with just one-click.

In the previous episode, we had anticipated our “master plan”: first, digging into the dataset made available by Synchronicity and partner cities; second, meeting up with the cities of Santander, Antwerp, Helsinki and Milan, to discuss together the concept and co-design the chatbot behaviour and personality.

6,000 miles, 8 flights and 6 trains after, BlueAlpaca and its dream team successfully managed to meet face-to-face all of the four European municipalities and to sketch a solution for their specific needs. What a blast! Such experience was extremely fruitful: the chance to discuss directly with the involved stakeholders allowed us to identify any potential criticality and to ensure that we are delivering a solution fully in accordance with their desired outcomes and preferences.

Personally, taking part to the mission-team felt like being on Erasmus again, with the tiny difference that I am now five years older: the trip was, I would say, pretty intense! Just to give you an idea: on the first day, my teammates and I were in Helsinki, greeted with a warm welcome from our local partners in the frosty and crispy air of the Scandinavian north. Few hours later, we warmed up a little in the lively city center of Milan and, right after that, we took off to Cantabria’s capital, were we experienced a taste (just a taste!) of Spanish vida loca. Finally, we used our final energies to reach Antwerp, Belgium’s second biggest city, with its fascinating medieval cobbled lanes, impressive cathedral and cosy cafeterias. Although the trip was physically demanding, I must admit that in just a few days, we had the opportunity to meet so many interesting people and experience very different cultures. As a whole, rather than just a business travel, our trip turned into an unexpected life journey.

But now back to business: up-to date, each pilot city has its own use case ready. BlueAlpaca in Helsinki and in Antwerp will provide suggestions and warnings related to air quality: users will receive information on air monitoring data and they will be incentivized to take a bike or go for a walk when the air quality is good. BlueAlpaca in Santander will support the access to the city bike sharing service, by helping users find available bikes and parking slots. Finally, citizens of Milan will soon be able to rely on BlueAlpaca as their virtual assistant to access public services online, and to avoid wasting time queuing in a boring public office. Cool, isn’t it!?

The BlueAlpaca team with partners

Thanks to a productive collaboration with all of the pilot cities, we managed to develop a first set of mock-ups and prototypes to be tested by real users. Once BlueAlpaca passes the usability tests and the development team takes the last-minute adjustments for improvement, we will be ready to officially start the service sometime mid summer.

The whole team, myself included, is really excited for the launch! After all, we have seen this project growing up and each of us has played an active part in the journey to bring it to life! I am sure that our efforts will result in an effective and useful tool, ready to become an official service for all smart cities involved in the project… and, why not, for some others sharing the same innovation culture!

Stay tuned, more news to come soon!