Man & The City: An Interview With Borislav Gorov, CEO of Telelink City
Please introduce yourself and share a little bit more about your professional experience and background.
Hello, my name is Borislav Gorov and I am the CEO of Telelink City. My personal and professional goal is to help cities, citizens, and tourists by creating, developing and implementing hi-tech systems that make people’s daily lives better in every aspect — from transportation and access to data to the preservation of the environment.
Which megalopolises would you choose as a role model for the development of technological connectivity to help solve the issue of overpopulation?
My general point of view is holistic — on a country level. In this case, though, I would choose Istanbul. It’s one of my favourite cities because it has a well-developed network of transportation, traffic systems, organised tourism, waste management, etc. A city like Istanbul needs centralised decisions, based on analysis from historic and recent data. Data is at the heart of providing quality digital services and process optimisation when it comes to the improvement of a city’s environment and management. Data from predefined self-learning optimisation algorithms can be used for mass city services. Such services include digital city cards, transportation (public, on-demand), paid parking, free parking spots, tourist attractions, and surveys related to managing the city. If all of this is centralised and analysed, there could be an immense effect.
When it comes to communicating with citizens, which countries/cities are doing well in terms of dealing with issues like overpopulation, sustainable development, ecology, waste management, agriculture?…
There are amazing examples in Europe! Estonia is the first country with a fully functioning e-citizenship and e-business. Helsinki (Finland) proves to be a unique example of data collection and free access to data thus creating an environment for constant innovation — they have more than 1200 stations for open (public) data. Vienna (Austria) and Grenoble (France) are examples for innovative programs for electronic vehicles and car- and bike-share. They constantly improve their infrastructure to help citizens adapt to contemporary needs in the city environment.
A lot of people are confused about „online training“ and „digital education“. Can you explain the difference between those two and why they should not be mistaken for one another?
Online training is the replacement of physical presence. This method was reintroduced because of the COVID-19 situation which made the shift and adaptation to the new reality a necessity. In the „new reality“ a hybrid model of digital culture and online training was defined.
Online training is just one of the many ways to distribute digital education. Digital education is a complex process based on the adoption of digital technologies for providing quality education with easy, rich, and quick access to a selection of information in the education process. Technology today offers a number of opportunities for high interaction and engagement — like 3D visualizations, presentations, logical tasks, exercises, tests, etc.
Why is video surveillance so important in the new type of smart city? What is important for citizens to know so that they don’t fall into the trap of equating the smart city to an anti-utopia?
To harness the advantages of the high-tech systems they need to be constantly fuelled with recent data. Video surveillance is a method that allows the collection of multiple streams of data through one channel. The multimodal algorithms for video data analysis serve different purposes — one of them is security which has been widely integrated in cities. The time has come when thanks to technology we can process data from the existing infrastructure to make innovative decisions. For example, data from video streams can be used to detect free parking spots as a real-time service. This method offers a two-fold effect– less traffic while looking for a parking spot and a better user experience for drivers. These factors work in sync with the common goal to support and develop digitalisation in cities.
Which is the biggest challenge the world and tech companies are facing right now on their way to building functioning smart urban structures?
The truth is that there are several challenges we are currently facing and it’s difficult to choose which one is the most daunting. My experience shows that challenges emerge in several areas:
- Lack of synergy — each system is built to work on its own, but the real results and improvements come only when these systems are integrated and work effectively;
- The dynamics of the market and the difficulty for end-users to adapt which has a negative effect on the work of tech companies;
- The lack of feedback from end-users in the process of building upon the systems. When a system is being used on a mass scale, it’s important for tech companies to understand what’s missing or what could be improved to adapt it adequately. We are dedicated to research through testing users who later share their opinion. But often enough the sample is too small.
The process of building intelligent cities in most cases includes three sides — city administration, businesses that create and implement new technology, and users — the citizens. What does a good relationship between those three parties look like to you?
Collaboration and interaction between the 3 sides is key to the overall success of the technological solution. These three parties are at the foundation of the execution of the project — even in the very first stages, as the design stage for example. Another successful approach is to channel all developments in the direction of the overall regional development. For these collaborations to be effective we need to strive for engagement and constant feedback between the parties involved in the process.
How do you think COVID-19 has affected the process of embracing and implementing smart city concepts and technology?
On an international level, COVID-19 escalated digitalisation. During the crisis, a key focus was placed on ways to preserve the environment and decrease the negative impact through optimising the city environment. The period of social distancing opened up a window for the implementation of long-planned changes and improvements in urban systems.