Interview with Marieta del Rivero

Marieta del Rivero

Marieta del Rivero, General Manager Deputy to CCDO / Telefónica, S.A

“Telefónica stands up for an open, safe internet experience as the basis for the development of Digital Economy. We need cooperative, open models that foster the new economy. The Smart City platform should be open, standard, cloud-based and determined to break the silos of independent services in the city. We need a cross-sectional government model that promotes innovation: the revolution of industrial internet is an already-existing example of that. The transformatioon of Smart Cities should be done BY and FOR citizens”

She has been in the telecommunications industry for more than 26 years, mostly in the mobile and internet areas. She is used to putting consumers first when it comes to decision-making, and from her position in Teléfonica she is determined to find new possibilities to bring technology closer to people’s daily life. A strong supporter of inter-company associations, Marieta del Rivero believes “it is necessary to find ways for public-private partnerships to develop”. We talked to her about all the aforementioned and much more.


In the report “Informe de la Sociedad de la Información en España” (Report on the Information Society in Spain) by Fundación Telefónica outlined three important future pathways in the ICT sector. One of them was the expansion of M2M (Machine-to-Machine) limits. Could you tell us something about such an expansion? How far can this limit be pushed?

IoT has shifted from being a trending topic towards becoming a down-to-earth subject that provides business opportunities and is starting to bear its first fruits. The need for communication, storage and data processing technologies and infrastructure that make it possible to offer services in which devices and machines connect to each other, along with the growing interest in the whole range of such services, is making M2M push its limits forward.

To take a case in point, several new projects in the Smart City area are being developed in Spain. Valencia, Santander or Sabadell are an example of the growing interest in the IoT world shown by Public Administration and society at large.

The IoT scenario will require, in the very near future, establishing a large number of connections between devices. According to forecasts, 5 billion devices are connected in 2015, which will be as much as 25 billion devices in 2020 (according to Gartner). Such devices are also expect to have longer autonomy and growing needs in terms of big data capacity. Therefore, M2M will need to move ahead in order to support an ever-growing demand.


How does a smart city work with M2M technology? From a general point of view, what will smart cities look like in the future?

Cities are in fact ecosystems where people, governments, companies, infrastructure, buildings, cars… mingle in a massive, non-stop interaction. Cities know no service silos, because technology really connects everything in their lives. For instance, in the daily life of the city cleaning a given area may have an impact in mobility around the city as a whole.

Thus, in our opinion Smart City platforms are the fundamental pillar provided by the M2M area to the aforementioned view, and they eventually become the linking hub between all agents in the ecosystem.

We believe that the platform should be open, standard, cloud-based and determined to break the silos of independent services in the city. This is the only way to provide greater benefits to everyone involved. 

Standardization is essential in our view. One of the main barriers to the M2M world has been lack of standardization. We now have the opportunity to avoid this obstacle in our cities.

In this sense, Telefónica clearly stands up for Fi-Ware as a European standard for city platforms. Recently, about 30 European cities in 7 countries have joined the initiative. The standard makes it possible for any application development which is available in a city to be easily replicated in another city, whereby a much more attractive market for entrepreneurs and investors is created. Telefónica is in favour of interoperability, as this has always been the main strength of operators. This is what permits the generation of an economy of scale and ensures sustainable growth of the solutions. It is important not to create closed environments.

Finally, for the introduction of a Smart City to be successful, all stakeholders need to become involved in it: governments, universities and innovation centres, entrepreneurs, city service providers, local businesses and app developers…


What is going to happen to those that cannot enter the Smart dynamics? Could that lead to a gap between two worlds: Smart and non-Smart?

The main obstacles to deployment we have found are organizational rather than technological in nature. We consider it essential to get the city council model to grow by creating new work frameworks for the new reality: a technological, multi-connected society. The expression “cross-sectional” is a key expression for us. To date, every service is located in a different area and each has its own engagement period. A cross-sectional government model that fosters innovation is essential, and the revolution of industrial internet is cross-sectional. We need open, cooperative models that foster the new economy.

Even if deployment may probably take place at different paces and with a different intensity (as happens with all technological innovations) if we are able to have all stakeholders involved in addressing the required changes there is no need for anyone to be left out.

Thus, it does not seem probably for two worlds so different and opposed in nature to coexist, at least not for a long period of time.

From the technological point of view, an open platform plays a key role in transferring developments from one city to another. Besides, Telefónica’s platform is cloud-based, which makes it possible to tackle projects in any city no matter the size (projects may be tackled in large and small cities alike).


“An open platform plays a key role in transferring developments from one city to another”


From the funding point of view, the European Union leads the largest research and innovation project, Horizon 2020, that has allocated 264M€ to support Smart Cities projects in the next 7 years. Moreover, the Ministry for Industry, Energy and Tourism recently published the National Plan for Smart Cities, which sets an initial budget of 153M€ to the promotion (by means of new technologies) of efficiency in municipal management and in the provision of public services to the citizens, as well as to the creation of a favourable environment for economic growth and job creation.


The president of RECI and Mayor of Santander, Íñigo de la Serna, has been saying for quite a long time that a city may only be smart if it balances public and private involvement. Do you think so? How can both areas, which are apparently so different, work in cooperation?

I fully agree.

When it comes to projects involving Smart Cities, nobody can manage them alone; we need to work together to build them. Sustainable business models are essential for the healthy development of projects, and innovation is essential.

The drive provided by Public Administrations is a key factor right now, but it is equally important (or perhaps even more so) to find sustainable collaborative models that make it possible for projects to generate revenue for the companies that are to continue them. We need to find ways for public-private partnerships to arise, and this may require making several changes in public procurement law and modifying certain conditions in procurement processes, deadline extensions…

In Valencia, Telefónica has provided a top-notch Smart City platform as a technological solution. Besides, it has positioned itself as a strategic partner for the City Council with a view to helping the city of Valencia become a global benchmark in the Smart Cities area.


From a general point of view, how is Telefónica working towards providing an active support to the Information Society?

Telefónica stands up for an open, safe experience on the internet as the basis for the development of Digital Economy. We want to increase digital confidence by creating a mobile digital life through the introduction of operating systems, platforms, etc. that permit a more sustainable development and by improving security to increase everyone’s confidence in technology use: citizens, companies and Public Administrations.


The ICT market is a highly competed and competitive market. There are many players out there looking for a privileged position. Besides, technological innovations are a part of everyday life. How does Telefónica face this challenge? What strategy does it follow in this area?

Our business development view in terms of the digitalization of cities includes the word “partnership” in capital letters. Within the collaborative models we were talking about, we consider that it is the partnership model with the proper players that leads us to success.

Partnerships with IT companies that are currently developing infrastructure and software technologies may bring value for us. Examples include Cisco -where solutions for the development of infrastructure to connect cities have been in research and development for more than five years- IBM -that launched the Smart Planet initiative and has several key assets available, such as software development for analytics or system integration- SAP -with significant mobility and analytics solutions- Huawei -they have created a “safe city” concept that has already been introduced in some cities in China- or Siemens, which has created a branch for infrastructure and cities. The knowledge and experience of the aforementioned companies in this step in the value chain is beyond doubt, and we are already in talks with some of them.


Do you think that the man in the street is ready for all the technological changes that are coming? Is it possible that we are asked to take on an excessive amount of information?

In my opinions, citizens are ready for these changes; what’s more, they are asking for them. The transformation of Smart Cities should be done BY and FOR citizens, taking the latest trends into account in terms of technology and service use patterns.

4,3 billion people in the world carry a cell phone in their pockets, and the use of tablets is even more widespread than PCs were back in their days… The average user of a Smartphone uses 26 apps per month.

Telefónica is familiar with citizens, as we have walked with them and provided them with support in the digital revolution; we are still significantly present in their daily life. To date, 2,5 x 1018 data bytes are created every single day. Data production has undergone such a boost that 90% of the data in the world’s history were created in the two last years only. Data come from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts in social networking sites, digital and video images, purchasing transaction records, GPS signals for cell phones, etc.

This is the reason why big data -the analysis of huge data repositories, so extremely large that it becomes impossible to use traditional database and analytic tools on them- is so important, as it makes it possible to transform all such data in “useful information” for the citizen.


Safety is another hot spot in the ICT world, particularly if Open Data is to become established. Is that too great a risk? How does a company like Telefónica face it?

The opening of some of the data obtained from several organizations -mainly from Public Administrations or from those projects that were funded by public funds- so that they may be used again by several agents in the city (business owners, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, citizens, etc.) will bring about the following:

  • Value, as they become known and used again by everyone. For example, it would be possible to find out how many pet shops were opened in the Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona.
  • Transparency, as it shares our own data as well as other people’s data that may be known and interpreted by everyone. For instance, what our taxes are devoted to, how the ICT expenditure is distributed, etc.
  • Interoperability, as it makes it possible to share similar data between existing administrations and citizens in an easy manner. For instance, sharing the electronic clinical record between several hospitals.
  • Nevertheless, Public Administrations -given their large-scale interconnected devices and subsequently the large amount of data they possess- are a cherished, sought-after target for possible hacker attacks. This is something we are fully aware of, and it is one of our top priorities, as may be seen in the Cybersecurity area through our Eleven Paths branch. Telefónica does not only update its knowledge on the latest cyber attacks there, but we also suggest new concepts and solutions to prevent them.
  • We stand up for a safe digital ecosystem that builds up trust and makes it possible for all users (both individuals and organizations) to control their data and ensure privacy. In the last MWC in Barcelona we introduced new biometrics solutions for the protection of digital identity: Smart ID and Seal Sign. Besides, safety is a requisite we expect from all our partners in terms of the solutions they offer to us.


Could you tell us something about 5G?

Telefónica is actively working on the design of the future 5G. In the last MWC in Barcelona we showed the way towards the new Generation of mobile phone communication by performing a test on a real working network using Ericsson LTE Advanced (LTE A) devices. The three LTE frequency bands (800, 1800 and 2600 Mhz) were added to achieve data transmission speeds up to 400 Mbps.

Telefónica is actively contributing to all research and standardization programmes to define the future of this technology in order to create a new network generation: 5G. This is expected to be commercially available from 2020 onwards.

Market launch in Spain will depend on spectrum and device availability. The company has already started turning on locations in the main Spanish cities on the 800 MHz band, which is included in the digital dividend.

The evolution of the 5G network is fundamental for the development of Smart Cities, as not only will it be faster, but it promises to be smarter as well. This network “intelligence” will promote further development of the Internet of Things.


In a few words, which are the main challenges faced by Telefónica in the short, middle and long term?

We have started a transformation in Telefónica, and our main challenge is to become a Digital Telco.

Several challenges are to be faced in order to achieve the aforementioned goal. These will include ensuring the best network is available and promoting open ecosystems to foster innovation in the sector.


“Our main challenge is to become a Digital Telco”


Besides, we believe that support provided by policies and regulations is essential. They should consider the Internet value chain as a whole, as this would ensure that the “rules of the game” are the same for everyone involved.

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