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New projects to transform Barcelona into a smart city

By Nae — March 8, 2015

We review the technological and urban initiatives aimed at making the city’s streets smarter and more sustainable

The city of Barcelona is already a global reference in terms of smart city initiatives. The city government has been working for years on several technological and urban projects aimed at making the city’s streets smarter and more sustainable, and empowering residents through increasingly efficient policies.

Below is the progress that has been made with the most important initiatives and the new projects that are being carried out:

Barcelona WiFi

The free wireless network already has 700 access points that have provided service for up to 250,000 users each month. The project has been given the green light to activate an additional 1,500 access points. A new feature of the project is that in 2016, aside from the existing points (parks, plazas or squares, and public buildings such as libraries and markets), free Internet access will also be provided in buses, subway stations, and new children’s parks and municipal gardens.

Smart avenues

Pilot tests are a thing of the past. The Municipal Institute of Information Technology has made progress in its plan to install powerful networks of sensors and actuators, starting with the city’s main avenues, Passeig de Gràcia, and Avenida Diagonal, and taking advantage of the construction work that has been done in 2014 and 2015. This project includes a series of measures:

  • Information on parking spots available: As part of the tests being performed in district 22@, a system is already operational that indicates the number of parking spots available on certain streets, similar to the Sant Cugat del Vallès project or to what exists for many underground public parking facilities.
  • Intelligent crossings that regulate the duration of traffic lights according to traffic density.
  • Automatic lighting controllers, depending on the time of day or the level of darkness caused by adverse weather conditions.
  • Sensors in the trash collection system.

Touchscreen smartquesinas

The first two touchscreen smartquesinas were installed in February 2014. These are 42″ tablets that the Barcelona City Council and TMB are installing at new bus stops throughout the city. Aside from providing WiFi in the surrounding area and USB ports to charge cell phones, the touchscreen allows locals and tourists to consult community information about the neighborhood, and it also offers the Virtual TMB transportation services, location maps, and access to Bicing shared bicycles.

Bicing bicycles

After eight years of public bicycle sharing, we may view them as just another service, but let’s not forget that Barcelona was one of the first and largest cities to implement the system. Despite occasional controversy regarding malfunctions and price changes, Bicing bicycle sharing can be considered a success thanks to over 400 stations and about 100,000 registered users. In December, electric Bicing bicycles were inaugurated as part of a test involving 46 stations and 300 bicycles with the aim of providing citizens with ecological transportation while optimizing the network, because due to the city’s orography, vehicles must redistribute the bicycles from areas by the sea to neighborhoods on higher ground.

Apps

In addition, a number of apps have been developed or integrated by the city government. We are a leading country in terms of smartphone penetration, and Barcelona is the mobile world capital:

Apparkb: This app simplifies payments in green and blue parking areas, and it also makes the time used more precise, thereby avoiding fines for leaving the car longer than expected or paying more than necessary.

MobileID: This app provides identification services in order to access the city government’s services.

iBeach: Information on the beach conditions (water quality, weather, jellyfish, etc.).

BCN Museus: Complete information on the city’s top museums.

Apps4BCN: Portal that selects the best apps for Barcelona.

It is also important to highlight that being considered a smart city depends on more than the actions carried out by public entities. All the industry companies must be taken into consideration, including large multinationals as well as small startups that help make Barcelona a reference for a number of reasons.

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