Smart Barcelona – It’s all about people

Back to all Blog Posts

Smart Barcelona – It’s all about people

Barcelona is the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union, with a population of 4.7 million people, and it is one of the world’s major global cities and one of the leading cultural and economic centres in Europe.

Barcelona was one of the first cities to start a smart city strategy, with a sustainable energy initiative using solar water heathers. After that, they introduced smart parking and smart streetlights, and right now they are spreading the trend across all sectors. The city now wants to introduce new technologies not just to be up-to-date, but to really improve people’s quality of life. To do so, the council is working directly with citizens and students to co-create new services and projects and make their lives better.

The main Smart City project is 22@ co-working district, a Smart Campus where universities, entrepreneurs, urban planners and businesses can meet to develop new technologies. The others Barcelona’s smart city initiatives can be grouped in three main groups:

  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Urban Mobility
  • Transparent Government


Environmental Sustainability

One of the main projects on environmental sustainability has seen the installation of more than 1,100 LED lampposts and smart lighting sensors, which has already reduced energy consumption by 30%. This project started with the Barcelona Lighting Master Plan in 2012, in partnership with Cisco, Schneider Electric and Philips. The street lights run on timers and motion detectors and have multiple functions: to optimize energy consumption, to gather environmental information through sensors, and to provide free Internet access as Wi-Fi hotspot.

As an example of meeting point between urban design and sustainable initiatives, in 2009 Barcelona introduced the first solar bus stop. Capmar S.L. and IED Barcelona worked together to develop the project and install solar panels on a bus shelter to make it self-sufficient, without the need of wiring to show arrival times of buses. Like the street lights, these bus stops also offer free Wi-Fi and they can also be used as USB charging stations.

Another interesting project is the automated irrigation infrastructure that controls the delivery of water across the city. This system, which started in 2014, controls park irrigation and water levels in public fountains, and already helped the city save €420,000 per year and 25% water consumption.


Urban Mobility

The first initiative put in place to improve Barcelonians’ urban life is the bicycle sharing system ‘Bicing’, started in 2007. It consists of more than 420 stations to lend and return over 6,000 bikes, and its use is encouraged by 124 miles of bicycle paths around the city.  Since the start, the service has registered more than 120,000 registered users.

Thanks to the parking technology from Streetline and Cisco, Barcelona was able to install sensors around the city, so that drivers can now use an app to easily spot free parking spaces and avoid congestion and reduce emission. Through the app people can locate parking and pay for it online, and after just one year of operation it registered 4,000 parking permits per day.


Transparent Government

The main focus for Barcelona is to make public and social services clearer, through a more transparent government that can make living in the city more accessible, effective and democratic. This is an amazing example of collaboration between private and public sector for local development, which enables dialog and sharing of ideas between the council and its citizens.

The city is developing open data services, apps and contactless connections across the city, that can help citizens to easily find the information they need about administrative procedures or city services, and improve civic participation. As part of this strategy they have an Intelligent Data system, in the form of boxes on streetlights around the city, to collect data from the environment. The sensors can detect information about air pollution, noise, traffic and crowds, and make predictions for the future.

To develop open data services, enhance the digital infrastructure in the city to increase connectivity, and transform public services, the government released the plan “Barcelona Ciutat Digital 2017-2020” with the budget and innovation projects for the future.

To deal with the privacy problem connected to open data, Barcelona recognises that citizens own their own data and so they gets to decide what data they want to share with the city.


Even though technology is very important for the growth of a city, Barcelona is an example of how initiatives to connect with the residents and stakeholders, to deliver quality services, improve performance and stimulate opportunities, are a key element in becoming a real Smart City. Thanks to its initiatives, on March 2017 Barcelona was elected among the top 50 cities with best quality of life in the world, on a study that considered features as infrastructure, electricity, water, transport facilities and social environment.

Share this