Barcelona Transforming Into A Smart City

Barcelona’s Chief Technology Officer and Digital Commissioner, Francesca Bria

Barcelona’s Chief Technology Officer and Digital Commissioner, Francesca Bria, has said the aim is to rethink the smart city from ground up, denoting a rethink of technology, focusing on what it can do to serve the people, instead of a technology push agenda”.

The Spanish metropolis has long had a reputation for being at the forefront of urban technological innovation. With a municipal network of 500km of optical fibre, free WiFi routed via street lighting, and sensors to monitor air quality, parking spaces and even waste bins, Barcelona has been at the cutting edge of testing the internet of things (IoT).

Now, the city wants to turn that into an internet for citizens. Bria’s goal is to align technology development much more closely with the policy goals of a new-broom administration. Since the election as mayor in May 2015 of Ada Colau, a housing activist, Barcelona has seen itself as a test bed for developing a more citizen-focused form of participative democracy.

Barcelona’s innovation agenda has produced some valuable lessons for both the city and its private-sector partners, such as US technology group Cisco.

Antonio Conde, Cisco’s head of innovation in Spain, says some of the technologies have helped make Barcelona’s public services more efficient, and less harmful to the environment. Sensors have reduced the amount of water used by city parks, for example, saving money but also trimming consumption of a resource that is scarce in the city and its hinterland. Bus users have benefited from more reliable services, information updates at bus stops and simplified ticketing.