We caught up with Alessandro Caviasca founder and CEO of SIARQ to talk about the work he and the team at SIARQ are doing, and discuss the field of sustainable architecture and the internet of things. A Barcelona based engineer and architect, Alessandro established SIARQ in 1999, and has since specialised in sustainable architecture, particularly solar powered urban furniture solutions which integrate smart technologies.
Q1. How has the field of sustainable architecture evolved since you first set up SIARQ?
In the past there were some architects who worked in sustainable architecture, but it was not so widespread. Since the beginning SIARQ has been focused on integrated architecture, and it’s an area that’s gaining more importance. Also, sustainable architecture has
evolved from being more passive. By passive architecture I mean all the measures that architects use to introduce energy efficiency into a building and protect the facade. Sustainable architecture used to be more involved in solving the problem of passive architecture, but that’s changing now. Now sustainable architecture is more focused on active energy generation. However, something that's still missing in my opinion is a good integration of solar energy, like photovoltaics and other active generators, into each and every area of architecture.
So what was our mission, twenty years ago, is still valid. A lot has been done, but there is still the opportunity for more designs to make solar energy more pervasive and to have integrated active generators of energy as standard.
Q2. What are you working on at the moment?
We are currently launching a new product, the Solar HUB. This is the latest product we've developed which is very exciting for us, as it's the result of the evolution of our previous products.
We started from solar light products, and then realised that there was a gap in the market for a solar product, that is it could give energy to the grid, but could also be a container and platform for devices for Smart Cities. But more and more we see that this product could act as a platform for a collaborative economy, and this is what we are working on. So we are working on the launch of this product, analysing the prototypes and the pilot installations.
We are also working on the manufacturing, i.e how to manufacture this product on an industrial scale. So we are developing the evolution of the product, starting with a prototype, then a pilot production of a few units, and then scaling up to industrial production.
Q.3 Where can we see this product?
There is one pilot in the South of Spain, in the University of Cadiz. The University of Cadiz and Tecnalia are working with us to monitor the functionality of the product, i.e how much energy it's generating, how much light it's producing, how it performs under different atmospheric conditions, and how communication with the device works.
So that's in the South of Spain, but very soon you're going to see one in Barcelona! We are partnering with Cellnex to install 2 Solar HUBs in their Urban Lab in Barcelona this month. Cellnex will be using the Solar HUB to test new technology which they are developing. The first test is to use the two units as a small telecommunications grid, so we will test the installation as a wifi provider. And then we will also test another device which is a camera that creates graphics to monitor how many cars, people and even animals pass by the HUB. These are just the first two technologies which we will be testing in the Solar HUB installation outside the headquarters of Cellnex.
For us this is a great opportunity to test the product in a real, but controlled urban environment. It will also be a good experience as Cellnex are also one of the first partners in the SHOC Program.
Q.4 Can you tell us more about SHOC, the Solar HUB Open Collaboration Program?
Yes, when a company wants to go to the market it has different options. One is to make a product, then present the complete product to the market, monitor competitors etc. Here at SIARQ we decided we needed to do something different because the Solar HUB is an innovative product, a new product which did not exist before, and so our approach to the market should also be new. So, we designed an open workshop.
We thought that it was very important also to integrate all the value chain in the ecosystem, i.e.- the ecosystem of smart cities and IoT in a common project. We decided to create workshops, to create a think tank to rethink the city. So when we are talking neighbour to neighbor networks, when we are talking about citizens being more empowered with public spaces etc., at the end of the day we are talking about rethinking the way we consider cities.
And we think that urban furniture, and the new generation of urban furniture could have a role in that. The SHOC Program, is a design thinking experience where all the value chain in the ecosystem of IoTs collaborate with each other on an open platform to rethink the city.
We have started the first SHOC program, SHOC Barcelona, this month in Barcelona and we will be running the design thinking workshops here over the next few months.