How Smart City Barcelona Brought the Internet of Things (IOT) to Life

Cities around the world are beginning to understand the huge potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). In Barcelona, those possibilities have started to become reality.

Spain was among the countries hardest hit by the 2008 recession, and In the face of these economic challenges, Barcelona harnessed technology to transform itself into a model of data-driven, sensing, smart urban systems.

Xavier Trias, Mayor of Barcelona from 2011 to 2015, formed a new team, Smart City Barcelona, tasked with integrating existing projects and identifying new opportunities to enhance services for all of the city’s people and businesses.

Smart City Barcelona identified 12 areas for intervention, including transportation, water, energy, waste, and open government, and initiated 22 programs, encompassing 83 distinct projects across urban systems. The resulting innovations have improved the efficiency of the city’s management of resources and services. In doing so, there is sustainable social, economic and urban development with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life of Barcelona’s citizens.

Barcelona’s IoT Foundation

Barcelona’s 500 kilometers of fiber optic cable provided the foundation of its IoT ambitions. The fiber network provides 90 percent fiber-to-the-home coverage, serves as a backbone for integrated city systems and is a direct link to the Internet for the Barcelona’s residents and visitors. The city draws on the fiber infrastructure to provide citywide WiFi. Since 2013, the number of hotspots is up 62 percent to 670 WiFi hotspots at a maximum distance of 100 meters from point to point, and the number of WiFi users has doubled. Barcelona has also used this extensive fiber network to build out individual IoT systems across urban services.

Energy, Water and Waste Management

To improve energy efficiency, 19,500 smart meters that monitor and optimize energy consumption were installed in targeted areas of the city. The city simultaneously pursued the implementation of the Barcelona Lighting Masterplan, published in 2012, which uses smart technologies to enhance the efficiency and utility of city lampposts. By 2014, more than 1,100 lampposts had been transitioned to LED, reducing energy consumption. The lampposts sense when pedestrians are in close proximity; when the streets are empty, lights automatically dim to further conserve energy. The lampposts are also part of the city’s WiFi network, providing consistent, free Internet access throughout the city. Moreover, they are equipped with sensors that collect data on air quality, relaying information to city agencies and to the public. Cumulatively, the improvements produced 30 percent energy savings across the urban lighting system.

In order to maximize the efficiency of the city’s parks, Barcelona has implemented IoT technologies to remotely sense and control park irrigation and water levels in public fountains. Using sensors to monitor rain and humidity, park workers can determine how much irrigation is needed in each area. A system of electrovalves is then remotely controlled to deliver necessary water across the city. The program, implemented in 68 percent of public parks, helped the city achieve a 25 percent increase in water conservation, for savings of approximately $555,000 per year.

In waste management, households deposit waste in municipal smart bins that monitor waste levels and optimize collection routes. These sensors can be further enhanced, and plans have been developed to integrate sensing for hazardous or offensive waste material.

Urban Mobility

In transportation, Barcelona has pursued a multi-modal strategy, advancing the use of electric cars and bike sharing, while investing heavily in improving the bus and parking systems. The new digital bus stops turn waiting for buses into an interactive experience, with updates on bus location, USB charging stations, free WiFi, and tools to help riders download apps to help them learn more about the city.

For drivers, Barcelona has implemented a sensor system that guides them to available parking spaces. The sensors, embedded in the asphalt, can sense whether or not a vehicle is parked in a given location. By directing drivers to open spaces, the program has reduced congestion and emissions. The application that drivers to use locate parking—ApparkB—also allows them to pay for parking online. Within a year of implementation, the city was issuing 4,000 parking permits per day through the application.

Integrated Systems for Public Services

Together, these systems constitute a “network of networks,” generating data that can be used by city agencies to improve city operations and by citizens seeking to better understand their local environment. Barcelona’s integrated sensor network is relayed through Sentilo, a platform developed specifically for the city, which is now open source and available for reuse by other governments. Through this platform, data is managed and shared with citizens and city workers. In order to facilitate citizen access, the city developed 44 kiosks where residents can find information, access services, and make requests to the government.

Already, these improvements have saved the city money and reduced the consumption of valuable energy and water. Barcelona estimates that IoT systems have helped save $58 million on water, increased parking revenues by $50 million per year, and generated 47,000 new jobs. Through smart lighting, the city reports saving an addition $37 million annually.

Through investment in IoT for urban systems, Barcelona has achieved a wide array of benefits. From reduced congestion and lower emissions, to cost savings on water and power, to economic development, the city’s commitment to producing smarter urban infrastructure is changing the quality of governance and the quality of life for residents, workers, and visitors.

This article was first written by Laura Adler and published here.

Join Barcelona City Council as they share their experience on developing a Smart City Strategy at the 9th edition of Asia IoT Business Platform which will take place this 15-16 August in Jakarta.


Jun 27, 2016

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