Barcelona is Leading the Smart City Movement – Here’s How

Most of the developing world is facing increasing demands to modify their infrastructure and exhibit accountability for the environment, local infrastructure, healthcare, education and other socio-economic needs.

Digitization and automation of municipal processes and operations are key, and Barcelona is leading the world in this change – by transforming the Spanish metropolis into a smart city.

Sometimes ranked first for its smart urban planning – and other times finding itself among the 20 top smart city movement leaders, such as San Francisco, Vienna, Copenhagen and Singapore, Barcelona is no stranger when it comes to implementing innovative technologies to improve the daily life of its citizens. The city has already implemented a top-down approach to urban digitization – technologically driven decision-making, as well as a bottom-up approach – using technology to respond to the needs and demands of citizens and persons of authority.

And now, with a municipal network of 500km of optical fibre, sensors that monitor air quality, parking spaces and even garbage build up in trash cans, and free WiFi routed via the city’s street lamps, Barcelona continues to pioneer digital change and test new technologies for its citizen’s benefit, venturing to achieve the revered status of Smart City 3.0.

Here’s how:

By creating platforms that make city data accessible Driven to educate and empower its authorities and citizens, Barcelona developed a number of
open-source platforms, geared towards collecting (Sentilo) and analyzing (CityOS) municipal data. The city also commissioned a series of service apps designed to democratize said data and enable anyone who wishes to access to do so with ease. This, combined with efforts to raise the local’s techno-literacy in the form of the “Barcelona Digital City” website, allows the citizens of Barcelona to understand digitization and innovation and join the smart city solution side of the movement, in the form of digital education, digital
inclusion, and digital rights & democracy.

For example, citizens are invited to brainstorm and crowdsource ideas via the website’s open, secure and 100% free Decidim platform, providing practical suggestions to improve smart city infrastructure and make Barcelona an even better, more future-forward place to live.

By implementing street-level solutions
Several hi-tech advancements have been implemented throughout Barcelona’s streets,in an attempt to improve the daily lives of the Spanish city’s citizens: reduce traffic congestion and associated pollution, enhance visibility, open up the streets to the people and drive greater satisfaction from daily lives and outings. To do so, Barcelona has integrated multiple street-level
solutions into the municipal infrastructure:

  • Superblocks: A new model of inner city mobility that restructures the traditional urban road network. Superblocks are comprised of a set of basic roads forming an inner area (called intervía) and exterior, peripheral road network. The intervia contains within it several blocks that are primarily closed to through vehicles, yet open to residents, primarily, while the 400 meter-wide exterior is designed for optimal vehicles use. This model is instrumental in reducing toxic and noise pollution in residential areas, as well as in opening the roads to foot traffic – promoting enhanced wellbeing.
  • Parking: The city of Barcelona has embedded sensors beneath the asphalt in dedicated parking zones, capable of identifying available spots and notifying & guiding drivers to them. L’apparkB, the city’s smart mobile parking system, issues 4,000 parking permits on a daily basis and citizens can easily pay parking fees online. Together, these innovations reduce the time, energy, frustration and emissions traditionally associated with searching for and securing parking in a bustling metropolis.
  • Street lights: Barcelona’s LED-based lighting and sensor system receives information regarding pollution, humidity, temperature, foot traffic, and noise in the vicinity and automatically turns on or shuts off street lamps to meet real-time needs. As such, this lighting system is more energy and cost-efficient – a win-win for the city budget and local taxpayers.
  • Public transportation: A new orthogonal bus network and bicycle renting program (Bicing) together make it faster, easier and more economical for locals and tourists to make it from Point A to Point B in Barcelona. These forms of urban sustainable mobility additionally decrease gas emissions.
  • Smart waste disposal system: The residents of Barcelona place their refuse in smart bins, which use a vacuum to suck the garbage into underground storage before being incinerated and used to power local heating systems. This process eliminates associated foul smells and garbage truck noises, while allowing the city to better understand and meet its locals’ waste needs.

By actively partnering private and public tech innovators Seeking to put the people of Barcelona and their needs first, the city authorities actively partner
with private tech companies to develop and apply digital solutions to existing urban challenges and create exciting digital business opportunities for the city and its residents.

Over the years, the city has joined forces with Cisco, Telefonica, Abertis, Agbar, Schneider Electric and others to develop and implement its Smart City Campus, 22nd District and other IoT innovations. The city continues to harness these and new partnerships in an effort to usher Barcelona into a new and exciting Smart City 3.0 status.

Barcelona is leading the smart city movement, providing its authorities and its citizens with the digital tools they need to enjoy more seamless, conscientious and constructive daily lives. As the smart Spanish metropolis reaches to achieve Smart City 3.0 status, the city serves as an exemplifier of digital innovation, one future-forward cities around the world revere and seek to emulate.