The idea of a smart city is a relatively new concept that describes a city actively improving the quality of life for its citizens through sustainable social, economic and urban development. The concept emphasizes the use and modernization of new information and communication technologies (ICT) to provide more efficient services and resources. The vision of a smart city is a place that meets the needs of citizens on all fronts, including environment, mobility, businesses, communication, energy, and housing. It should be a place that values open information, facilitates citizen interaction with the administration, and supports and fosters personal and business development. Not only is the use of technology important, but a smart city should be built on a foundation of self-decisive, independent, and aware citizens.
Though different criteria and methods of standardization are used to evaluate smart cities, it is usually agreed that a smart city should be well-performing in six areas: economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and governance. Recently, Juniper Research conducted a study to rank cities around the world based on their ‘smart’ capabilities, with a focus on smart grids, smart traffic management and smart street lighting, as well as aspects such as technological capability and social cohesion. And guess which city came out first.
The Juniper Research study released Barcelona as the smartest city in the world for 2015. New York came in second, then London, Nice, and Singapore. They described Barcelona as an “exciting model of success” with especially strong environmentally sustainable initiatives that well exceeded those of the following cities. One of these initiatives is Barcelona’s smart grid, a network of transportation and distribution lines that take the electricity to your home or business from the power station.
This system allows two-way communication between power utility and customers and is estimated to save Barcelona 9.5 billion euros annually by 2019, as well as reduce energy and emissions. Other environmental initiatives include recycling of waste organically and telamanaging irrigation. Telamanging irrigation involves a tool that enables irrigation to be optimized through a tablet remote that controls electric water valves. Gardeners who use this tablet also have access to data gathered by sensors that helps them use water as efficiently as possible. The revolutionary system is successfully running many of the city’s parks.
The city of Barcelona has tons of other initiatives to improve and support public and social services, transportation, companies and businesses, research and innovation, communication, infrastructure, and tourism. These programs help improve the lives of citizens and the state of the environment, whether we see and notice them or not. For example, the Barcelona City Council began an Open Government program that facilitates the general public’s interaction with the government by designing an electronic administration service so people can carry out procedures in a quick and flexible way. One of our favorite initiatives that improves public transportation and environmental concerns is Bicing. With a Bicing card, you can ride any of the 6,000 bikes at 420 stations around the city. Each station lets you swipe your card and the system will tell you where you can ride and return the bike. It seems so simple but small programs like Bicing that utilize technology to improve daily life are everywhere in Barcelona, all accumulating to make it the smartest city in the world.
Barcelona has often been characterized by its spirit of innovation, enterprise, and nonconformity. Though already above and beyond, the city is dedicated to pursuing their vision of a self-sufficient community with productive neighborhoods and a fast pace environment with zero emissions.
Look around, take notice of what a special place this is, and get inspired. Here at Talent Garden, we hope our members love Barcelona as much as we do and are excited to be working in the smartest city in the world.