by Peter High, published on Forbes
Federico Florez joined $7 billion Spanish infrastructure company, Ferrovial, as Chief Information Officer roughly seven years ago, and for the first two years, he and his team rationalized IT and looked for synergies across the group. At that time, he was asked to lead innovation across the company. He implemented an innovation methodology based in three pillars:
- Business (innovation for P&L improvement)
- People (training and education)
- Tools (universities, startups, intra-entrepreneurship programs, collaboration, etc.), based in open innovation, trying to reach ideas not only from our employees.
Currently his team launches 100 projects of innovation every year based on 400 submissions from employees. Examples include energy efficiency, drones in construction, augmented reality, software for lighting, smart cities technologies for cleaning, and waste management. Ferrovial CEO Inigo Meiras Amusco has said, “Our company was founded because of an innovation idea. Innovation is part of our culture. Innovation is critical to our business and a way to differentiate from our competitors.”
The idea that he described in his award submission was a technology that flexible tolling on highways based on traffic. Based on this idea, Federico Flores has won the Forbes CIO Innovation Award for 2016. (For an overview of the award and its criteria, please visit this link.)
Peter High: Please describe the innovation behind flexible tolling.
Federico Florez: The innovation centers around the use big data to manage the lanes on a highway. We developed a software of tolling systems to manage new highways. They had to be flexible to be changed frequently, so we developed a mathematical model to support it. We wanted to use big data, because we needed to know the public and private traffic of both highways, and also the accidents and weather of both in order to know how much time drivers would spend in both ways, and know the savings of time that would result. So we use big data technologies and software to estimate that.
High: Please describe the genesis of the idea.
Florez: We work in the infrastructure business and we think we are one of the leaders in innovation in our sector. Many of the projects such as software for lighting, waste management intelligent process, and intelligent routing from our vehicles are leading solutions in the market. The most recent highways that we have built in the USA leverage our managed lane and flexible tolling concept. You can use our private highways instead of the public highways by paying a toll. But this toll is flexible and it changes every five minutes based in the traffic and the time savings one can obtain. We designed it with big data technologies, where we can estimate the traffic on our highway and the non-tolled public highway taking into consideration traffic, weather, etc. This is a new idea and it will mean new business opportunities.