How the smart city Barcelona brought IoT to life?
2 years ago

How the smart city Barcelona brought IoT to life?

Backdrop: Smart parks— Parks have smart water sprinklers. They program them self according to weather forecast (which the sprinkler picks from internet) saves water and electricity. Smart lighting based on the motion in the parks .. saves power. Smart plants management to reduce excessive fertiliser usage

Cities from around the globe are today able to understand and comprehend the real potential of Internet of Things (IoT). In Barcelona, such possibilities have indeed become a reality. Going back to the year 2012, the city of Barcelona deployed responsive technologies across the urban systems such as parking, waste management, street lighting and public transit. As part of these innovations there was a significant amount of cost saving. It further led to the improvement in the quality of life for residents and made the city a burgeoning hub for the evolving IoT industry.

Spain and the recession of 2008

During the recession of 2008, Spain was one country that was adversely affected. Post that recovery not just in Spain but all across Europe has been mild. As part of these economic challenges, Barcelona employed absolute use of technology to metamorphose itself into a model of sensing, data driven and smart urban systems. From the year 2011 to 2015, Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias ran on a platform of technological innovation in every possible city service. When he joined office, he came up with a new team and called it Smart City Barcelona. The team worked forth to integrate the existing projects, seek new opportunities and accentuate services for all of the city’s businesses and people.  The Smart City Barcelona worked on 12 areas for invention. These included:

  • Water
  • Transportation
  • Open Government
  • Waste
  • Energy

Further, the team encompassed 83 distinct projects all across the urban systems and worked on 22 programs. 


IoT program of Barcelona

When Barcelona launched its IoT program it had a firm foundation: the projects yielded benefits of 500 km of fiber optic cable inside the city. This high end network was launched 3 decades back when Barcelona joined the two municipal buildings using early fiber technology. As of today, this fiber network offers 90% fiber to the home coverage and acts as a backbone for the integrated systems of Barcelona. As a matter of fact, this fiber network acts as a direct link to the internet for both the visitors and residents of Barcelona. The city works on the fiber infrastructure to be able to offer city wide Wi-Fi.

Did you know: Since 2013, the number of hotspots is up 62 percent to 670 Wi-Fi hotspots at a maximum distance of 100 meters from point to point, and the number of Wi-Fi users has doubled.

Barcelona and IoT

Barcelona has been very well using its extensive fiber network to cater to the individual IoT systems across the urban services.

  • In order to facilitate energy efficiency, the city came up with the idea of installing 19,500 smart meters to optimize and monitor energy consumption in the select areas of the city.     
  • For the purpose of adequate waste management, households today deposit their waste in the municipal smart bins. These bins are capable of optimizing the collection routes and monitoring the waste levels. Such sensors can also be enhanced. There are plans to integrate the sensing for offensive or hazardous waste material.
  • Further, in the year 2012, the city has also undertaken the implementation of the Barcelona Lighting Masterplan. This plan makes use of the smart technology to accentuate the utility and the efficiency of the city lamp posts. By the end of 2014, over 1100 lamp posts were transitioned to LED that helped in drastically reducing the energy consumption. These lamp posts are smart and tend to sense when the pedestrians are around and when the streets are empty. Accordingly, they light and dim to conserve energy. These lamp posts are also a vital part of the WI-FI network of the city and work forth in offering consistent and free internet access pan city. Further, these are aided with sensors which acquire data on air quality relaying the data to the public as well as the city agencies. As part of this improvement, there was an overall 30% of energy saving across the urban lighting system.  
  • To maximize the efficiency of the city parks, Barcelona has come up with IoT technologies which remotely control and sense the park irrigation as well as the water levels in the public fountains. With the help of sensors to monitor the humidity and rain, the workers in the park can easily determine the amount of irritation needed in a particular area. As part of that, a system of electro valves is remotely controlled so as to delivery adequate water across the city. This program was successfully implemented in 68% of the public parks. As a result of which, the city had an overall rise of 25% in water conservation leading to a savings of approximately $555,000 annually.

On the whole, these systems comprise of a ‘network of networks’ which help in the generation of data which can be used by the city agencies to improvise the city operations as well as by the citizens who seek to understand the local environment. The integrated sensor network of Barcelona is relayed via Sentilo which is a platform designed specifically for the city. At present, the platform has become open source and is available for reuse by other governments as well. With the help of this platform, the data is managed and further shared with the city workers and the citizens. To cater to the citizen access, the city has come up with 44 kiosks where the residents can acquire information, access services and even make requests to the government. Together, these improvements have helped the city save money and reduce the overall consumption of valuable water and energy. Going by the Barcelona estimates, IoT systems have actually helped the city save $ 58 million on water, generated more than 47,000 new jobs and led to a rise in parking revenues by $ 50 million on annual basis. With the help of smart lighting, the city has managed an additional saving of $ 37 million on annual basis.

On the whole, with the investment in IoT for urban systems, the city indeed has achieved a plethora of benefits.

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