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Interview with Sonia Sotero from Santander City Council – the team, the work and what lies ahead after M-Sec

Interview with Sonia Sotero from Santander City Council – the team, the work and what lies ahead after M-Sec

For more than 2 years, Santander City Council, in Spain, has been a key member of the M-Sec consortium, supporting the development and testing of a technology that intends to support our cities to become smarter and, at the same time, more cyber secure. Meet the team and work behind Santander City Council, their role in the M-Sec Project and where will they go next

We spoke with Sonia Sotero, Innovation Technician at Santander City Council, to know more about Santander City Council’s role in the Project as a key smart city.

1. Sonia, thank you so much for agreeing with this interview. Please briefly present yourself and the institution you work at.

My name is Sonia Sotero. I am a Telecommunications Engineer with more than 15 years of experience in the design and testing of radiofrequency and communications equipment. In 2014, I joined the innovation area of Santander city council, belonging to the municipal service of IT and communications. Since then, I actively participate in innovative projects mainly focused on the Smart Cities domain. These projects include both European research projects, such as the M-Sec project, as well as innovation projects at city level, which aim to improve urban services through the use of new technologies.

The city of Santander is located on the north coast of Spain, has a population of about 180,000 permanent inhabitants spread over about 33km2, so, it is a medium-sized city. The city council is working in an economic and social transformation, fostering a smart, innovative and open to society city model, with the aim of offering more efficient and better quality urban services through the use of new technologies and, besides, stimulating business opportunities and employment creation.

Santander is nowadays an international reference within Smart Cities due to the combination of several factors, such as, our active participation in European research projects that turn the city into a urban laboratory, as well as, the development of different city initiatives which allow managing public services more efficiently.

Since 2010, when we participated in the SmartSantander project, the municipality has collaborated in 28 EU research projects and with more than 300 partners worldwide.

2. Why have you and Santander City Council decided to join the M-Sec Project?

Thanks to EU research projects, such as M-sec, new technologies, apps, services and solutions are tested and validated in real environment through the implementation of pilot experiences. Additionally, lessons learnt from these pilot experiences are integrated into the respective municipal services.

Being part of the M-Sec consortium is a great opportunity to improve the quality of life of citizens, by enhancing security in smart cities, through the application of multi-layered security technologies, without the need for the city council to have specific knowledge of these technologies. In addition, by reinforcing security, reliable and secure data sources will be available.

My main interest in being part of the consortium is how to make citizens benefit from secure solutions that combine different types of technologies such as IoT, blockchain, Cloud, Big Data without requiring specific expertise while protecting their privacy. The fact of collaborating with Japanese partners brings added value to the project, both at a technical level and at a legal level in aspects such as privacy.

3. Can you also present the team that works with you for the M-Sec Project?

Different municipal services are participating at M-sec project: the municipal Environmental service and especially the Parks and Gardens area (pilot 1); the municipal Social Services service (pilot 2); the municipal IT and communications service, which includes the innovation area, as well as the municipal DPO, taking part in all the project pilots.

4. What has been the main role of Santander City Council at the M-Sec Project and have you been able to achieve all you have set for? What were your and your team’s main challenges?

The role of Santander City Council in the M-Sec project includes tasks such as, collaborating with the consortium partners in the definition of the pilots, aligning the project objectives and the needs of the city; facilitating the implementation of the pilots in the city, expediting the necessary authorizations and involving real users to participate in the pilots.

We believe that we have been able to achieve almost all our objectives of participation in the project.

The main challenge has been the unexpected Covid-19 pandemic, which introduced some delays in both the technical developments and the implementation of the pilot projects and required us not only to adapt our usual working methods but also the initial definition of the pilots.

An additional challenge has been the implementation of the cross-border pilots from a privacy point of view.

5. Looking back on what you and your team have done in the scope of the M-Sec Project, what are your main takeaways?

One of our main takeways is related to pilot 2, where some of the functionalities of the municipal tele-assistance service have been digitalized, improving the quality of life of people who may be at risk due to age, frailty, loneliness or dependency factors, without the need for them to interact with new technologies, but benefiting from technological improvements.

6. With only a few months until the end of the project, on what major developments do you and your team still need to focus? Do you feel confident?

We are in the stage of internally testing the different applications and websites that are being developed in each of the pilots of the project in order to check that everything is working properly before their official launch.

Of course! M-Sec is our third EU-JP project and the experience has been very rewarding. This type of consortia involving partners with different profiles and expertise, and with such different locations (Europe and Japan) enriches the project participants as well as the solutions developed, both on a technical and non-technical level. This is also a way to establish future opportunities for collaboration.

7. Did you find this experience of participating in an EU-JP partnership rewarding? 

We consider cybersecurity to be relevant in the Smart Cities domain, therefore we would like to participate in more R&D projects related to this topic.

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