Living Lab: Urban Planning Goes Digital in Spanish ‘Smart City’

The Spanish city of Santander, birthplace of the major bank of the same name, has become one of the latest and most complete of the “smart cities”. Nearly €9 million in research money, most of it from the EU, has been invested towards installing more than 10,000 sensors in a downtown area of 6 square kilometres. The sensors have been located in small gray boxes attached to street lamps, poles and building walls, or buried under the asphalt of streets and parking lots. Light, pressure, temperature, humidity and events such as the movements of automobile and people are all measured. In addition, residents of Santander can choose to become “human sensors” by downloading an app for GPS-enabled cell phones.

The city’s “big data” system helps to assist the city council to perform many tasks such as adjusting street lighting levels, optimising traffic flows, identifying broken items of infrastructure, watering of lawns and the optimising of services such as refuse collection. The truly powerful aspect of the system is, however, the “Pulse of the City” cell phone app which permits people to interact with the “big data”. For example, a tourist who points a Smartphone at a downtown fountain learns when the fountain was built and by whom, while opening the app near a supermarket provides information about current special offers. Road repairs such as the filling of potholes can be triggered by simply taking a picture of the hole, which is sent by the app directly to the relevant departments of the city council.…


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