Category Archives: Daily Blog

Daily blog: 1 December – Project X

The last day of this great study tour has arived…

In the morning we left for the Cisco innovation center in Rio deJaneiro. After some hassle with collecting all the guest passes required for entering the building, we took the elevator to the level where Cisco was located. At Cisco we had some coffee and then procedeeded for a presentation about the company and their activities in Brazil. After that we were shown some great innovations that Cisco is working on together with some of their partners companies in Brazil and the world in the fields of healthcare, education, sports and security. After the great company visit at Cisco we went strolling in the siddering heat
to a pay-per-kilo restaurant, where we had a great lunch that everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Next we proceeded to EMC, a research facility focussing on the oil and gas industry. Here we got a tour around the company and a presentation about the company and their activities in Brazil.


In the evening we had the long anticipated Project X! After some time to pack our bags and suitcases at the hostel we took the bus to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant, were we had a great dinner, and got a great speech from our chairman, Jeroen Monteban. During the dinner we had time discuss the great weeks we had during the study tour. After dinner we went to a real Brazilian tradition: a samba show. The show was amazing and the performers were very good. We even got our moment of fame on stage with the whole study tour group to sing “Tulpen uit Amsterdam”. At the end of the show some of the participants even went dancing with the girls from the show.

After the samba show we went for a final drink at Lapa (the party district in Rio de Janeiro). Here the group split up and we went to a real Rastafari party with great chill music. Late in the night we took a cab home to go sleeping. All in all this was a great day and a great finish of the study tour!

Daily blog: 30 November – Maracana

Sunday the 30th started of as a nice sunny day in Rio de Janeiro. Most people used this as a good excuse to visit the beach only 100 meters away. Sadly, the sun was quickly replaced by a lot of clouds. This however, did not mean that you can’t get sunburned, something some people would find out later that day by being all red (not only Stephen this time).

In the afternoon, half of us went to a football match between Fluminense and Corinthian in the Maracana football stadium, the stadium where amongst others the final of the world cup was played six months ago. The match was part of the second to last round of competition matches, and therefore both teams had little to gain, as the champion of the league was already crowned last week. Although this resulted in only 15% of the stadium being full, the atmosphere and the game were still great. It seemed that almost half of the 20.000 supporters cheered for the opponent.

The game itself had a fast start with a goal after 5 minutes, but it took the rest of the first half to get back to 1-1. The second half was absolutely crazy however, with 3 penalty’s, of which one was missed, 1 red card, a coach being sent off and an additional 5 goals being added, resulting in a 5-2 end result.

On the way back we decided to take the metro, for around 3 real, or 1 euro, for a long ride home. In the metro we were treated to what we think can be described as a real-life soap opera. Two other passengers were singing, playing guitar and dancing alternated by loud acting, right in the middle of the metro. It made the long ride home very interesting and worthwhile. Luckily for most people, the late game in combination with the relatively slow metro caused us to return at the hostel after dark, which meant no more bathing in the sun. No other soul would be able to turn red this day.

Daily blog: 29 November – Rocinha

A few days beforehand, Activity X on the 29th of november was announced to be a tour through the infamous favelas. The favelas are the slums of Brazil’s large cities, and are known for their violence and gang activity. Today was the day we were going to visit one of the best known favela of Rio de Janeiro, Rocinha.

Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro

We were picked up at our hostel by Renato da Silva, who is one of the founders of the organization that gave the tour. He took us to the favela by bus, where we disembarked. One of the first things we saw was a group of policemen armed with heavy FAL rifles. Since the 2014 World Cup, the police has tried to be in control of the main streets of the favelas by patrolling them in force and is quite successful, although the drug dealers still control most of the alleys in the favelas.

The first part of the “Favela adventure” took place at an indoor football court, where several matches were played, both by USB14.0 vs Rocinha and by mixed teams. Meanwhile, Dembore prepared another Brazilian barbecue for us and the local kids.

With the stop at the football court over, we embarked on our Favela adventure. Favelas are quite different from the slums in other parts of the world. For example, almost everyone lives in a house made of stone. The favela’s have stopped expanding horizontally, as there is simply no more available land surrounding Rio. Instead, they started growing vertically. If you are in need of a house, you can find a part of the favela where you would want to live and buy someone’s roof. You simply build an extra storey on the building and you have a home.

The favelas are often built against a hillside. The houses at the bottom of the hill are often more expensive, and cheaper housing is found at the top. Although the houses at the top have a better view, more room and less noise, doing groceries and buying furniture and appliances is more difficult, as retailers refuse to deliver to the top of the favelas and most people don’t own a car. For groceries you can take one of the many motorcycle taxis, which take you to the top of the favela for R$3, for anything larger you need to look for someone in the community with a van.

Another thing that’s different in favelas is the availability of electricity, sewage and, once a week, running water. There is a pumping station at the bottom of the hill that turns on the water for Rocinha for a few hours once a week. The inhabitants use this water to fill large blue storage tank on their roofs, which are a common sight.

Dembore took us to the DJ school that is funded with some of the money they earn by giving the favela tours. At this school, local kids can learn how to work with music. The school receives old equipment and support from DJs all over the world. Most of the work at the school is done by Renato and Dembore, who played us a sample of the music he makes. His Soundcloud page contains some samples of the music that is played here (


The favelas have developed their own music genres throughout the years. Some of these genres are now known as Baile Funk, Funk Carioca, Favela Funk and Favela Tech. This music is often played at local favela parties, which used to be very rough:

“At these parties, it’s not uncommon to see 16-year-old kids with AR-15 and AK-47 automatic rifles in front of gigantic walls made of subwoofers.”


Speaking of parties, after the tour ended, some of the participants decided to check the Lapa district, a neighbourhood of Rio with lots of bars and clubs. Unfortunately, there was no Favela Tech, but a local band that covered Portuguese rock music. There were no guns either, except for Scofield’s Robin’s.


Daily blog: 28 November – El Rio!

Today, our first day in Rio de Janeiro, started rough. A lot of people couldn’t do their laundry during the last week so some people tried to do so this morning, which was again not possible. Besides that the breakfast started a half hour later than expected and the bus driver was at the wrong place. This resulted in us being late at the company. But enough with the complaining.

We visited a company called ONS. This company regulates the power grid in Brazil and makes sure that there is no power blackout in Brazil. There we had a talk about how Brazil organises its electricity. The ONS does not own the energy production market, also it is a non profit organisation. The company needs to talk with the market to buy the electricity and talk with the companies who own the cables to make sure that the energy arrives at the customer. Besides that we had a talk about big data.  The company needs to analyse a lot of data to make sure that the power supply to the customer is as good as possible. We also visited the control room inside the building. This room was super modern and has everything inside to control the power grid.

After the company visit we had lunch nearby which was delicious. There was delicious meat and the salad was good. After the lunch we went go to the Federal University of Rio da Janeiro, unfortunately the bus was not there again which reminded us again that a lot of things in this country take time. When the bus arrived we went to the university, luckily due to some good planning we were on time. At the university we heard a presentation about smart spaces. Besides that we talked about an IoT system they had developed. This system is called ecodif. The system helps synchronising different devices. In this way we can have an internet of things. Multiple devices can be synchronised with each other using this system so it collects and presents data from multiple sources. After that we had a small talk about the emergency systems they develop. For example, they talked about a system to react fast on fires in cities or other emergencies such as a flood.

When it was half past five we took our bus back to the hostel. When we arrived at the hostel we could choose to go to the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Sugar Loaf gives a great view of the city and is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. It was located relatively close to the hostel and the top is reachable by cable car. We decided to go and even though it was a bit cloudy it was still amazing to have such a nice view of Rio de Janeiro. After watching the sunset we ended the evening with a nice dinner and a view beers to celebrate a great first day in Rio de Janeiro.

IMG-20141201-WA0006 IMG-20141201-WA0008 IMG-20141201-WA0009

Daily blog: 27 November – Another bus(y) day

Plan for the day was a bus trip of around 9 hours from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, the next and final destination of the study tour. Start was at 8 am in the morning. Due to some communication problems with our two drivers it turned out after around 4 hours that we had taken another, even longer route. After grabbing some refreshments at our usual supermarket near Ubatuba, we headed further to our intermediate stop at Paraty.

The participants were all exited about the privilege to spent even more time in our luxury bus. Most of them used the time to work on their skills in synchronized-sleeping. Especially those who went to the soccer match in São Paulo the evening before since this resulted in a really short night of sleep.

DSC01593 (1)

We arrived at around 16 pm in Paraty. There it turned out that we had an unexpected tour guide that had been waiting for us for there for 4 hours. After extinguishing all ‘hangriness’ with a typical pay-per-kilo dinner we got a short but really enjoyable tour through the historic part of Paraty.
DSC01609 DSC01610
Re-energized we continued our journey to Rio de Janeiro. Some more hours, filled with nice conversations, sleeping and book reading passed, until we finally reached our destination: the Che Lagarto Hostel at the Copacabana, around 23 pm.

Daily blog: 26 November – Skylines

November 26th was another day of company visits. We got up at 7:30, a luxury for study tour standards. The first company that we visited was Wayra, an incubator that was founded by Telefonica.  Wayra scouts for promising start up companies and offers them support in terms of funding, office space and mentoring, in return for a share in the company. This visit started with a presentation by the manager of Wayra. He explained what Wayra does, and stressed that although Wayra is there to help startups, entrepreneurs don’t stand a chance if they aren’t fully dedicated to the job. The visit then continued with presentations by three of the startups, with work ranging from a same-day-delivery platform to a fashion app.


After these presentations we had a five minute walk to Telefonica, where we had what was probably the most fancy lunch yet. Because we were on the 20th floor we had a great view over Sao Paulo. We even saw a helicopter landing on a nearby office, which is relatively common in Sao Paulo because of the major traffic problems in the city.

Having had lunch, the Telefonica presentations began. They told us about how they approach innovation and the Internet of Things. But we also had students from our tour who presented their own projects. Isa presented her work on mediated social touch, and David and Stijn told us about their big data project. More interesting presentations followed, resulting in a great company visit.


However, the day wasn’t over just yet. Some of the participants (although not us) went to a football match between Sao Paulo and Atletico Nacional. Those that didn’t go to the match spread out to do different things. Some went to a skybar to enjoy the skyline of Sao Paulo, others had delicious ice cream and dinner in a shopping mall nearby. All in all it was an exciting day in Sao Paulo!


Daily blog: 25 November – Innovative institutions

Our second day in Sao Paulo started really early with 5:30 as ’wakey-wakey’ time. After a bus ride that many used to get some additional sleep, our first company visit brought us to CPqD. CPqD simply stands for Center of Research and Development.

On our arrival, we were greeted by Tania Regina Tronco, who works in innovation management. A short introduction video followed by a presentation provided us with information on the institute and its scope of work. A second presentation by a senior researcher provided a deeper insight into their research on optical networks. It was interesting to hear that while CPqD itself operates as a non-profit, the research is market-oriented and aims to develop spin-offs that bring their innovations to customers.

When the presentations of CPqD were finished, our chairman and supervisors held the usual presentation of the study tour and the University of Twente. Normally, the participants use this time to relax after the other presentations, but today it got an interesting twist. At the end of the presentation a typical picture of the dutch tulips is shown. Where we all started to think it is a cliche, it actually appears that nearby Sao Paulo there is a village called Nederland, which actually has fields with tulips like the one of the picture. I think we can speak for everyone, when we say that was a surprise!

Afterwards, we received  a tour of the building, during which we got to see the engineering labs where prototypes are developed. These prototypes are later passed on to the industry for further development and commercialisation. Most of us were quite impressed that they had several hundred meters of optical fibre available for testing their devices.1

Because the first company visit ended ahead of schedule, the bus took us to a short stop at a nearby mall, where we had the opportunity to grab some ice cream or local SIM cards.

After this quick refreshment, we went to the Centro de Tecnologia da Informaco (CTI), the Centre for Information Technology. Here, several presentations related to our study trip themes were held by a variety of professors. This was followed by a tour through their labs, where we got to see their process for 3D-printing protheses. The software for generating 3D models from cat scans was developed in-house and is now available open source. One of the protheses can be seen in the picture below.


In general, today’s impression of the institutes we visited was quite positive. While not all of us were able to completely grasp the impact of CPqD’s work, the ones who did ensured us that it was impressive. At CTI, we were immediately taken by the fact that they used Ubuntu as their operating system and the level of organisation and coordination between the presentations. After these interesting visits we all enjoyed a nice dinner in Sao Paulo. Let’s hope all the remaining company visits will be this interesting!

Daily blog: 24 November – FIT and USP

After a long drive from Ubatuba, we arrived at the hostel Residenza Mantovani in Sao Paulo at approximately 1:30 AM. Everyone tried to get some sleep from all past cultural activities before we would continue the study tour in the early morning.

The 24th of November started with another bus drive to the first institute in Sao Paulo: FIT – Instituto de Technologia. FIT works together with Flextronics to create innovative solutions for the consumer market. In the opening lecture, the different areas of expertise were discussed. Most of these areas where closely related to our research tracks, which made it very interesting to see how they would apply the kind of research we did to actual products.

After the introduction, we received a tour around the facility. We were given an insight in the different parts of the institute and saw a few demos. In the RFID lab for example, we got an overview of the possibilities of using RFID tags in both consumer products and business processes, such as logistics or manufacturing. One of the products consisted of a wine shelf, where a monitor would display information about a certain wine bottle when it was taken off the shelf, as well as displaying the current amount of bottles in the inventory. Another product did essentially the same thing but with books. In the automation lab, they showed us a portable heart monitor which could detect irregularities in a person’s heart rate and predict a heart attack 5 hours in advance.


After the tour we had lunch at the local cafeteria. Much like at Embraer, this gave us the option to mix with the workers at FIT. When everyone had gathered enough energy again, we continued our trip to USP, the University of Sao Paulo.

At the university, we were first greeted by professor Moacyr Martucci, who gave us an introduction of USP. As it turns out, the university is much larger than most of us expected. With over 80.000 students and hundreds of employees, it is one of the biggest universities in Latin America. He also talked about the international collaboration with other institutes in Europe and the importance of these relations. Creating a collaborative international PhD program was one of the items on his agenda as we discussed the advantages and challenges of such a program.

Next up, Gabriel Marão and João Neves from the IoT Forum (Internet of Things) gave a presentation about the current state of activities in the area of Internet of Things. They stressed the importance of IoT for the future and how they are currently trying to improve its focus in universities and research institutes. After this presentation, we attended a workshop where Leonardo Campos and Jorge Rady talked about respectively Internet of Things and Big Data & Security. Both talks gave an introduction to the subject and explained what the university does in these fields.

Since we had some time left after the presentations, we went on a small tour around one of the buildings on the university campus, which was a very interesting experience. While we waited for the bus to arrive, we had the chance to see some of the classrooms and one of the auditoriums.


When we arrived back at the hostel, most of us grabbed some food in the local restaurants and went to bed early since the next day we had to get up early again. Some of us however took this opportunity to find a store that sells mobile sim-cards so they could make cheaper calls and use cellular internet. This proved to be quite difficult though, mostly because of the language barrier, but also because most stores where out of stock on the preferred card. Some failed, some succeeded, but in any case this day was an interesting experience.

Daily blog: 23 November – Back to Busness

This Sunday is a day most people would probably like to forget. Fortunately, we have a blog to remind them of the day we spent fighting traffic.

After a successful Saturday night during which we continued our integration with the people of our hostel (and a local rugby team) and had a great second Brazilian barbecue, most people woke up in the early afternoon on a cloudy Sunday morning. Some people had woken earlier to follow surfing lessons at 10 am. However, soon they were once again confronted with the different meaning of the words ‘on time’ in Ubatuba (which is probably an unknown expression there). After waiting for over an hour, two surfergirls were still up for the challenge.

For the rest, the departure time of 3 pm was soon reached after they had breakfast with an Americano at a local bakery. The planned travel time of about 3 hours would soon turn out to be nowhere near to realistic, as we had only traveled about 15 kilometres after that timespan. Apparently, the whole of Sao Paulo had come to that region for the weekend and was now trying to get back home following the same two-lane road. So we filled our – what turned out to be – 11-hour trip to Sao Paulo with some well-deserved sleep, accompanied by the escalatiemix. We did make a pittstop at Sao José dos Campos late in the evening to get some dinner at a great restaurant that was about to close (sorry crew).

When we arrived at the hostel in Sao Paulo at about 1 am, everybody quickly found their way to their beds, since the next day would be another day filled with company visits!

Daily blog: 22 November – Ubatuba: Sun, Sand, Sea and… Rain!

So, since all you readers know our program by heart or check every day what our planning is, I don’t need to tell you that this day was a day of spare time at Ubatuba!

The party at the hostel last night was so good that this day didn’t really started until 11 ‘o clock this morning. Everybody slept in and not everybody was completely sober when waking up. Luckily we had a whole day of sun, sand and sea ahead of us. So as soon as everybody was awake enough, we hopped on our bus and drove to a place to swim. During the bus drive, we had lovely views of Brazil. The hills, the vegetation on the hills, the beaches and the high waves in the sea were lovely to see. Luckily for the almost carsick people, we stopped at a certain point along the highway. I personally was surprised, I could not see any beach or sea as we were a few hundred meters above sea level!
The place we stopped at was recommended by Luís, who has been at the area many times when he was young. We had to walk down from the road on a muddy, steep and improvised slippery sand path towards a lovely waterfall. It took some time to get down, but it was totally worth it! At the waterfall, everybody got into the water and enjoyed the surroundings. With all the rocks we had to climb over and of course the waterfall itself it was truly a place you will never find in the Netherlands. We stayed there for a few hours and then we all walked back to the road.


So, having arrived back on the road, Luís asked for directions to a beach close by. After several different directions which did not all seem too trustworthy, we walked down the road until a sign showed up which we did trust. From there it was a nice walk down to a beach. A beach might sound simple, we have those in the Netherlands too. Except for these waves, they ran up to two meters high! For the people in the water, is was not just a simple nice swim, it was a challenge to keep standing up straight. Or a nice search for the best waves to fall into. And on the sand, where everybody was relaxing after the swim, it was also visible that we were not at home. For example, we got to drink from a coconut! How awesome is that?

So, after we enjoyed the beach, we walked back to the road and went on our way back to the hostel because we would have another Brazilian barbecue at seven ‘o clock. Of course, we should have encountered that a Brazilian seven ‘o clock is slightly different from a Dutch seven ‘o clock. Around half past eight, they finally began lighting the barbecue and the meat began coming through a bit later. Just in time, as everybody was extremely hungry at that time!
You already know something about a Brazilian barbecue in a restaurant. This one was a bit different, but just as great. The organizer had about 30 kilograms of meat and no side dishes at all. Dinner with only meat is something you can’t imagine happening in the Netherlands and everybody loved it. Every piece of meat that came from the barbecue was sliced up in nice little pieces and passed around so everybody could get a small bite until 5 minutes later the next bite came along. This took until about 12 o’ clock. I guess we all can get used to this life!

Oh, and you might wonder why the title says “Sun, Sand, Sea and… Rain”? This is because everytime we tried to get out or into the bus, it started to rain! Sometimes small drops, but the first time they almost hurt! Luckily we were able to find shelter under the road for the moment the rain lasted and it was dry with even some sun at the beach! So it was a great first day off in Brazil!