Current projects

Enhancing the inclusiveness of smart cities: reinterpreting Data Protection Impact Assessment under the General Data Protection Regulation through intersectional gender lenses (2021-2025)
Smart cities build so much upon processing of (personal) data to the extent that they may be considered data cities. This characteristic raises a plethora of fundamental rights-related concerns, exacerbated by the complexity of smart city environments, where multiple public and private entities (e.g. citizens, municipalities, governmental authorities, IT and telecommunication companies, industries, community groups) interact. Furthermore, urban environments -and smart cities projects and initiatives- still tend to reflect mostly the one-sided perspective of able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual men and therefore are suitable to perpetuate and reinforce gender inequities. To address the fundamental rights challenges arising from the (personal) data processing operations occurring in the context of smart cities, academics and regulators in the European Union are increasingly showcasing Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as a solution. Building upon an ex-ante risk-based approach, DPIA would inform decision-making and shape the development of a smart city project and or initiative in a way to minimise negative and unintended consequences arising from the processing before they occur (e.g. prevent algorithmic bias). Furthermore, its participatory potential embedded in Article 35(9) GDPR may contribute to the empowerment of (less represented) citizens. However, is DPIA really adequate to address the fundamental rights-related challenges arising from smart cities and the technologies deployed therein? What are its advantages and drawbacks? What best practices can be adopted by data controllers to overcome these limits? The objective of this work is to critically evaluate DPIA as a tool to effectively address the fundamental rights challenges raised by smart cities and ensure inclusiveness by adopting intersectional gender lenses. (Funded from the EUTOPIA Alliance.)

HR-RECYCLER: Hybrid Human-Robot RECYcling plant for electriCal and eLEctRonic equipment (2018-2022)
The technological advances that have been achieved over the past decades have led to a tremendous increase of both the types and the total amount of electrical and electronic equipment that is manufactured. Despite the importance of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) management, the issue of the WEEE recycling has not received that increased industrial attention. HR-Recycler will target the development of a ‘hybrid human-robot recycling plant for electrical and electronic equipment’ operating in an indoor environment. The fundamental aim of the system (and its great innovation potential) will be to replace multiple currently manual, expensive, hazardous and time-consuming tasks of WEEE materials pre-processing with correspondingly automatic robotic-based procedures (categorization of electric/electronic devices, disassembling them, sorting of device components), before the materials are eventually provided as input to a fine shredding machine and conventional material separation steps are applied (using air/water flows, oscillating movements, magnets, etc.). More specifically, the overall goal of HR-Recycler is to create a hybrid collaboration environment, where humans and robots will harmoniously share and undertake at the same time different processing and manipulation tasks, targeting the industrial application case of WEEE recycling. The primary output of the envisaged system will be to extract sorted electric/electronic device components [e.g. Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), Cu coils, capacitors, etc.] and concentrated fractions (e.g. copper, aluminium, plastics, etc.) of increased economic and environmental value; hence, contributing to the fundamental goal of the ‘European circular economy’ project and boosting economic activity in secondary markets. Additionally, mixed fractions (i.e. fractions with low concentration in valuable materials) will be collected, in order to be sent to other facilities for further dedicated recycling process. (Funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.)

Past projects

SYSTEM: SYnergy of integrated Sensors and Technologies for urban sEcured environMent (2018-2021)
The SYSTEM project will design and demonstrate a data fusion system for the continuous monitoring of threats associated to the manufacturing of explosives and to the production and handling of synthetic drugs. Data fused from different mature sensor networks will provide Law Enforcement Agencies with enriched information to assess the potential occurrence of a criminal activity (e.g. to localize the production of improvised explosive devices and/or clandestine synthetic drugs laboratories) in an identified area. Forerunners and basis of SYSTEM are two H2020 IA projects, NOSY and microMole, funded under the call FCT-05-2014. SYSTEM devices will support the detection of home-made explosives and synthetic drugs manufacturing by detecting intermediates and impurities of the production process and precursors used for their synthesis, identifying abnormal use of chemicals transported/provided within the covered urban areas. Additionally, the prevalence of new psychoactive substances including metabolites in the sewage system will be assessed. Deploying a network of sensing systems, working in different and complementary utilities and environments, SYSTEM will acquire and process data from the sewage wastewater and solid waste networks as well as air emissions from target areas in real-time. Such network will consist of different sensing systems, working in different and complementary utilities and environments, Metal-Oxides (MOXs) sensors, Molecular Imprinted Polymers (MIPs), Liquid Chromatography with Mass Spectrometry and autonomous sampling (online LC/MS), fast Gas-Chromatography with Photoionization Detection (GC-PID) and commercial pH and conductivity sensors combined with passive sampling devices and integrated into SYSTEM through a centralised monitoring centre. The consortium will test and demonstrate functionality of SYSTEM in seven different European cities during three years of activities. (Funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.)

PERSONA: Privacy, Ethical, Regulatory and SOcial No-gate crossing point solution Acceptance (2018-2021)
The PERSONA project has been brought into being in order to come up with a unified and tailored impact assessment method for no-gate crossing point solutions capable of appropriately evaluating border controlling technologies and of ensuring that these solutions meet the requirements and expectations of governments, LEAs, and border crossing individuals. In its research, PERSONA will investigate a wide range of state-of-the-art contactless crossing point technologies, associated risks and benefits, taking into account effectiveness (e.g. time, cost), human behaviour, gender, legal frameworks, societal issues, privacy concerns, data protection, and possible risk of discrimination. Towards the end of the project, a textbook on guidelines for developing and operating no-gate crossing point solutions will be made available. PERSONA has set its goal to provide respective authorities with the intellectual means for first assessing and then choosing no-gated border crossing solutions appropriately, so that the general public can have confidence in the security, safety, legality and ethical soundness of these. (Funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.)

PARENT: PARticipatory platform for sustainable ENergy managemenT (2016-2019)
The aim of the project was to provide communities with the technology and support to help reduce energy consumption in their homes and to investigate ways in which communities can work towards more sustainable life styles. It was a three year project with pilot studies in Brussels, Amsterdam and Bergen. (Co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme and Innoviris.)

MATHISIS: Managing Affective-learning THrough Intelligent atoms and Smart InteractionS (2016-2019)
MaTHiSiS was a H2020 project under the topic ICT-20-2015 Technologies for better human learning and teaching with a total cost of €7.618.584. The MaTHiSiS learning vision is to provide a product-system for vocational training and mainstream education for both individuals with an intellectual disablity and non-diagnosed ones. This product-system consists of an integrated platform, along with a set of re-usable learning components (educational material, digital educational artefacts etc.), which will respond to the needs of a future educational framework, as drawn by the call, and provide capabilities for: i) adaptive learning, ii) automatic feedback, iii) automatic assessment of learner’s progress and behavioural state, iv) affective learning and v) game-based learning. The MaTHiSiS consortium was coordinated by Atos Spain and consists of 18 beneficiary organizations from 9 different Member States collaborating, namely Spain, France, Greece, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Lithuania and Germany. (Co-funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.)

FORENSOR: FORENsic evidence gathering autonomous senSOR (2015-2019)
The FORENSOR project aimed to develop a novel, ultra-low-power, intelligent, miniaturised, low-cost, wireless, autonomous sensor (“FORENSOR”) for evidence gathering. The combination of built-in intelligence with ultra-low power consumption will make this device a true breakthrough for combating crime. FORENSOR aimed to develop and validate a novel, ultra-low-power, miniaturised, low-cost, wireless, autonomous sensor (“FORENSOR”) for evidence gathering, able to operate for up to two months without infrastructure. FORENSOR will be manageable remotely, will preserve the availability and the integrity of the evidence collected, and comply with all legal and ethical standards, in particular those related to privacy and personal data protection. Secure and intelligent communications let such sensors join their forces towards robust evidence management and real time monitoring and control operations. The combination of built-in intelligence with ultra-low power consumption will make this device a true breakthrough for combating crime. (Co-funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.)

A Risk to a Right. Exploring a new notion in data protection law (2015 – 2019)
The currently proposed European general data protection Regulation will introduce the novel obligation for controllers of personal data processing systems to perform a data protection impact assessment (DPIA). This tool, and in particular the notion of “risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects” which is at its core, epitomises the shift from classical legal practice to more risk-based approaches. Traditionally, rights and risks belong within different spheres of knowledge and social organisation. Merging them in the proposed fashion could change their meanings into something hardly predictable. This application proposes to explore the nature of the relation between both concepts within the assessment of a “risk to a right”. This will occur by mapping the various relations that exist between risks and rights in different sectors, by deepening the legal insights these relations, and their application to a case study on smart grids technology. This should serve to identify gaps in the way DPIAs are currently operationalized, which can in turn provide opportunities for improvement and for lessons to be drawn from other practices and expertises that strike different relations between risks and rights. In this way this research aims to contribute to more socially robust assessments of the risks to the rights of privacy and data protection. (Financed by the Research Foundation Flanders.)

Rights in design. The technological reconstitution of privacy and data protection (2015–2018)
In response to controversies about digital technologies, different innovative ways to protect and articulate the rights of privacy and data protection have been developed across a variety of scales, sites and technologies, both in and outside traditional institutions. This project proposes to study the developments around the concept of ‘privacy by design’, the idea of building privacy protection into information technologies, from a broadened constitutional perspective. Through the notion of “rights in design”, it points at the double role of the interactions between practices of law and technology development in the mutual constitution of the rights of privacy and data protection. On the one hand, these rights play an increasingly important role in the construction of information technologies and are influencing their technological design. On the other hand, through these same developments the meaning and scope of these rights are themselves redesigned outside of the courts. These double developments point at a broad sense of constitutionality that is at play in these co-productions. The project will bring together insights from data protection, privacy, constitutional law and science and technology studies, to come up with a new conceptual and empirical framework for investigating these rights in design. It will study a variety of ways in which these rights are re-constituted on the intersection of law, technology, research, civil society and politics. (Financed by the Research Foundation Flanders.)

CANDID: Checking Assumptions aND promoting responsibility In smart Development projects (2017)
This project studied aspects of the ‘smart’ agenda in which practitioners from the Social and Human Sciences (SSH) offer unique and valuable insights of relevance to innovators and researchers in the ICT – LEIT (Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies) areas. Centred on topics concerning users, design, digital rights and critical infrastructures, CANDID engaged SSH and ICT – LEIT researchers in ´extended peer communications’ aiming at Responsible Innovation. (Co-funded from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme.)

EPINET: Integrated Assessment of Societal Impacts of Emerging Science and Technology from within Epistemic Networks (2012-2015)
The EPINET project introduces a new approach to promote integration of technology assessment (TA) methods. It will develop methods and criteria to be used for more socially robust and efficient practices on the interfaces between TA and the world of policy makers and innovators. EPINET introduces the concept of epistemic networks as a way of conceptualising complex developments within emerging fields of sociotechnical innovation practices. It establishes a “soft” framework within which the plurality of different TA practices can be explored in a concerted manner. Four cases are investigated along with the development of this framework: wearable sensors, cognition for technical systems, synthetic meat and smart grids. “Integrating TA”, it is claimed, is a task for empirical investigation in which implicit values of TA methodologies, disciplines and practices are spelled out and placed in relation to the practices they are meant to assess. EPINET develops a framework for integrating assessments through gradual co-production of methodologies and concepts (centrally that of “responsible innovation”) together with innovators and policy makers. The challenges of “integrating assessments”, we claim, can only be gradually worked out within such a holistic view of complex intersecting networks and practices. (Co-funded from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration.)

ADVISE: Advanced Video Surveillance archives search Engine for security applications (2012-2015)
ADVISE was a research project co-funded by the FP7-Security Workprogramme of the European Commission, aimed at designing and developing a unification framework for surveillance-footage archive systems. The ADVISE project results ease the work of law enforcement authorities in their fight against crime and terrorism, through negotiation of all relevant legal, ethical and privacy constraints, and through location based video archive selection and efficient evidence mining of multiple, heterogeneous video archives. In a context where surveillance systems are continuously growing in scale, heterogeneity and capabilities, two major obstacles have to be overcome. On the one hand, the variety of technical components of surveillance systems, producing video repositories with different compression formats, indexing systems, data storage formats sources, has to be addressed. On the other hand, the legal, ethical and privacy rules that govern surveillance and the produced content have to be taken into account. To address these two major issues, the ADVISE system was composed by two major components: the first one performing the semantically enriched, event based video analysis which offered efficient search capabilities of video archives and sophisticated result visualization, and the second one enforced the legal, ethical and privacy constraints that applied to the exchange and processing of surveillance data. In addition, in order to support interoperability, the exchanged content and the associated metadata has been transformed into a common format, while a dedicated ADVISE Engine has been developed to efficiently deal with each surveillance and collaborating authority’s technical and legal/ethical/privacy specificities. (Co-funded from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration.)

PIAF: A Privacy Impact Assessment Framework for data protection and privacy rights (2011-2012)
The PIAF project aimed to encourage the European Union and its Member States to adopt a progressive privacy impact assessment (PIA) policy as a means of addressing needs and challenges related to privacy and to the processing of personal data. The 22-month project included, in its first phase, a review of PIA policies and practices in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, the US and UK to identify which elements may be used effectively to construct a model framework applicable to the EU. In the second phase, the project concluded empirical research with regard to factors that affect the adoption of a PIA policy in the EU Member States. Both phases concluded with workshops where the findings were presented and discussed. Eventually, the PIAF project was concluded with recommendations to the European Commission and the EU Member States as well as to organisations carrying out PIA. In addition, the project partners presented the their findings at numerous third-party workshops and conferences and prepared several papers in scholarly publications. (Co-funded by the European Union under the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme.)