Head of Laboratory:

Salvatore Distefano

Address: 420008, Kazan, 35 Kremlevskaya street

E-mail: salvatdi@gmail.com







The current ICT trend is dominated by large and complex systems, paving the way to ExaFLOPs (exascale computing), ZettaBytes (BigData) or billion/trillion objects and devices (Internet of Things - IoT). This pervaded everyday life immerging and surrounding people into cyber-physical environments mixing different IT technologies able to support decisions by also complementing and augmenting the reality, thus transforming urban environment into Smart Cities. This way we are no more just passive stakeholders/entities, but part of a complex socio-technical system where we can play an active, leading role.

This calls for adequate methodologies, techniques, and solutions for dealing with this complexity in these heterogeneous and multimodal environments. IoT technologies can be used to manage devices geographically interconnected, BigData methods can be adopted to handle the data they provide, Cloud infrastructure can provide resources for sensing, storing and processing data, volunteer and crowd-based approaches can deal with mobility and contribution issues such as churning management through incentive mechanisms, by also exploiting crowd wisdom and power. But more important is to provide a unified framework, an all-encompassing approach able to deal with such issues altogether. This requires addressing this problem from a trans-disciplinary perspective, providing skills from different complementary perspectives and areas such as computer science, sociology, psychology, law, design, and economics. With specific regard to IT, a multi-disciplinary approach mixing knowhow ranging from distributed systems to software and service engineering, from network to data management and processing, from crowdsourcing to sensing and actuation methods, from social computing to collective intelligence is required.


The focus is therefore on Social and Urban Computing, where multiple heterogeneous technologies (Cloud infrastructure, Sensor Networks, IoT) and approaches (Exascale computing, Big data, Crowdsourcing, collective intelligence) are mixed into a crosscutting research area, bringing together computer science, sociology, psychology, law, design, and economics, just to name a few.

The main goal is twofold: on one hand, from a theoretical viewpoint, to develop new methodologies to approach social and urban problems in a trans-disciplinary way, on the other hand, from a more practical one, to implement, test and validate new solutions for dealing with the problem at hand through real case studies based on ICT technologies as the above referred ones. This way, a problem-oriented approach instead of a technology/solution-oriented one will be adopted, also thinking about possible real applications, case studies and commercial exploitation already from theoretical investigations.

A lab on Social and Urban Computing is being organized accordingly, following a problem-oriented philosophy. Collaborations with other leading groups on the similar/ICT (Politecnico di Milano, ETH, Univ. of Messina, Duke University, SZTAKI, NTUA, etc.) and other (MIT, Politecnico di Milano, University of Catania, UCL, etc.) disciplines, thanks to the network and the links established through the involvement in different international projects specifically conceived for networking on these research topics are encouraged and enforced to create an “open space” for research co-working.


The main objective of research on Social and Urban Computing concerns the investigation of social and urban problems from an all-encompassing perspective, adopting a problem-oriented approach, but mainly tackled from the computer science angle. The research activities will span from theoretical to practical aspects. More specifically, the research workflow to be adopted is organized into 5 steps:

  1. Investigation – new approaches and methodologies will be investigated to solve social and urban problems adopting a trans-disciplinary/collaborative approach coordinating different, complementary groups.
  2. Design – specific architectures, algorithms, processes and solutions based-on crowdsourcing, collective intelligence, autonomic, service-oriented and BigData approaches to deal with the convergence of new technologies such as Cloud, IoT, mobiles, and sensor networks into social and urban contexts will be designed.
  3. Implementation – the main mechanisms, functionalities and tools implementing the designed solutions will be developed into specific frameworks, stacks and/or middleware.
  4. Experimentation, testing and validation – tools and functionalities will be deployed into specific testbeds, which could be composed of different and heterogeneous nodes including mobiles, sensors and actuators, devices, Cloud nodes, virtual machines, storage device, (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS) services, applications and app. Specific experiments on the deployed framework will be performed to validate the solution through proofs of concepts, also recurring to, when possible, real case studies and pilots. To this purpose, the (Cloud and IoT) infrastructure provided by PoliMi (Politecnico di Milano IaaS Cloud and IoT infrastructure, and BigData facilities), as well as those provided by UniMe can be used as testbed into, for example, a Smart city scenario. Depending on the Kazan municipality availability, experiments could also be performed in the Kazan area or in the Volga region, for example implementing and deploying new Smart City services and app to citizen. Thanks to the collaboration with UniMe on a Smart City project in the Messina municipality, also supported by their spin-off company DHLab (Dog Hunter) providing Arduino-based boards, we could exploit this knowledge into a project for the deployment and implementation of a Smart City in the Kazan municipality.
  5. Technology transfer – in the above steps, collaborations not only with others universities and research centers, but also with enterprises and companies will be strongly pursued. Also considering the proposed research focus and goals concerning Social and Urban Computing, the “Third Mission” on the engagement with society and industry becomes of strategic importance. Collaborations with enterprises and industries, as well as with public administrations, at the different steps of the research, also from early stages will be enforced. In particular, great efforts will be devoted to transferring skills, knowledge, methodologies, technologies, tools and facilities to a wider range of users who can then further develop and exploit the technology into new products, processes, applications, materials or services. In this context the focus will be on establishing contacts and continuous interactions with the Kazan area and the Volga region enterprises, industries and public administrations for testing and adopting the proposed solutions, also investigating on potential commercial exploitations. To this purpose, and according to local rules and laws, as well as to projects and related funding rules, we will use and develop, when possible, open source solutions, easy to be customized and tailored to the problem at hand and the context of application.

Impact and Outcomes

Establishing an open sensing resource market. Anyone can sell or buy sensing and actuation resources, from the single resource owners and the SN owners until other IaaS providers. Environmental- related services can be easily developed and new generation of applications strongly interacting with the surrounding environment will be created. A service developer can look for either physical or virtual sensing resources of third parties in case it is not able to satisfy the incoming requests; otherwise, it can sell or give for free its resources to providers. This establishes a new idea of sensor-based/pervasive service provisioning as well as new business models with several cooperating actors (IaaS providers, SN owners, volunteer end-users, resource brokers, ...).

Increasing the competitiveness of SMEs. A large part of the improvement will originate from newly opened avenues for small and medium businesses to join the service economy. Previously, the setup and deployment of complex commercial services had been largely outside the reach of SMEs and individual entrepreneurs due to skill, cost and complexity considerations. The framework fits for powering cash-strapped startups in launching (and iterating over) innovative Web-oriented services, like oft-cited geolocation-related ones, in next to no time, will reduce the entry barriers to the service economy and will enable SMEs to offer new competitive services to their customers. Since SMEs represent 99% of the economy, the availability of extensive means by which to offer high quality value-added services will benefit the economy at large. Moreover, advanced revenue models may be inspired by the volunteer-enabled approach, leading towards a dynamic market for sensing and actuation resources.

Next-Generation IT Service Providers. With the capabilities added to the base repertoire of Web services, it is easy to envision configurations where commercial enterprises will plan sensing infrastructure sized for their average demands, and will outsource excess capacity requirements to service providers, i.e. Cloudbursting, thus offering risk mitigation for unforeseen spikes in demand. The new capabilities of our solutions will pave the way for new business models for IT service providers - who would support the rising wave of both SME service providers and enterprises requiring occasional support for their IT needs.

IoT business landscape. The research technology developed enables seamless interoperability among physical (hardware) resources, virtualized resources and IoT items by means of customization, deployment and, as a consequence, communication bridging facilities. We expect our research to greatly improve the ability of Cloud- based applications to take advantage of IoT-originated data, thus offering new business opportunities to IoT- powered service providers. Considering that the number of intelligent, communicating devices on the network will outnumber “traditional computing” devices by almost 2 to 1 by 2014, these new IoT-related economic opportunities will be potentially of very high impact.

Software Industry. Lastly, we believe that our work will contribute to the adoption and widespread diffusion of new software design methodologies, eased by tailored APIs and customization features, paving the way towards the proliferation of services as a fundamental workflow element of all business and government activities such as, telecommunication systems, energy and utilities, healthcare, travel, entertainment and more. As more functions will be delivered through services, the software industry will advance the era of "Everything as a Service" approaches.


For a Social and Urban Computing group people skilled on the topics of Distributed computing, Service oriented computing, Software engineering, Internet, IoT, software defined networking, Sensors and actuators, Volunteer and Crowd-based approaches, Non-functional properties are required. They should be PostDocs or PhD students.

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