Innovative technologies transforming Barcelona into a smart city

By Jonathan Crowl

Aerial view of Barcelona's city center

There are few cities that deserve to host Mobile World Congress 2018 as much as Barcelona. The Catalan city has been one of the world leaders in using innovative technologies to transform daily life in ways that save money, reduce energy consumption and provide a better quality of life to all its residents.

The high-tech improvements visible throughout Barcelona provide a strong template for other major cities seeking to upgrade their technological infrastructure in similar ways. At the same time, Barcelona is also a model city in demonstrating how the IoT can be applied in new ways to solve big problems and make the world a better place. Here’s a look at some of the top smart technologies transforming Barcelona:

Innovative technologies: Interactive bus stops

According to NAE, Barcelona is one of the leading adopters of smart bus stops that use mobile technology to engage with commuters and tourists while improving management of the city bus system. This new smart system features tablet screens at every stop that offer a range of information to commuters, including tourist tips, bus arrival times and tools for navigating the city via public transit. Each station also features free Wi-Fi and USB charging stations to support commuters’ personal devices.

These bus stops also provide information on the Bicing bike-share program in Barcelona, providing commuters with another option for getting from point A to point B.

Streetlights with built-in Wi-Fi

All streetlights in Barcelona have been outfitted with LED lighting to reduce energy consumption across the city’s energy grid. But these streetlights are doing more than shining a light in the dark: Each streetlight pole has also been outfitted with a Wi-Fi router to provide consistent internet access throughout the city.

Meanwhile, this service is powered by fiber-optic cable that has been installed throughout the city, providing lightning-fast download speeds to Barcelona’s residents and visitors. Together, these upgrades represent some of the best public Wi-Fi found anywhere in the world, which also supports the use of IoT and other mobile solutions.

Parking sensors

Everyone knows the frustration of stalking city streets in search of a parking spot. Barcelona solved that problem by embedding sensors underneath the asphalt of parking spaces, creating a sysytem that can identify open parking spots and notify drivers. Alleviating driver frustration is a perk, but there are other important benefits to this system: According to Harvard’s Data-Smart City Solutions, the system enabled Barcelona to reduce traffic congestion and fuel emissions, cleaning up the city’s air.

The same app also allows drivers to pay for their parking permit online. The city now processes 4,000 permits per day through the app.

IoT park irrigation

To improve its use of water throughout the city, Barcelona has installed a mobile network that manages irrigation in the city’s parks based on need. According to MIT Technology Review, this transition to an IoT-based irrigation system required an initial city investment of $382,000. This expense was quickly paid for by water savings; the city council estimates that the system reduced water usage by about 25 percent throughout the city, and savings in its first year were estimated at $555,000.

Barcelona’s embrace of innovative technologies has made it a model city of the future, demonstrating that mobile innovation not only saves money and conserves resources, but also directly benefits each of the city’s residents and visitors. Next time you’re in Barcelona, take time to look around at how the city is using mobile technology to improve everyday life.