I continue to be amazed at the innovation in the smart cities arena occurring in Spain, particularly in light of its terrible economic environment. I have a lready written about some of Barcelona’s leading initiatives. But for me, universal Wi-Fi access is a core need for cities seeking to be leaders in the smart cities arena. When in Barcelona a few months ago I was disappointed in the lack of Wi-Fi access in high-traffic touristy areas.
As universal data plans become more ubiquitous, Wi-Fi access may be less critical for locals, but it is huge for wired (or wireless) international travelers trying to avoid exorbitant data roaming fees while exploring and working in smart cities. Of course universal Wi-Fi also provides an enabling infrastructure for real-time communication between sensors throughout a city and city operations, data centers, applications, and so on.
Other cities in Spain are making more progress. Via Inteligente, a Madrid-based ICT company focused on embedding connectivity through its innovative iPavement solution, has developed its own operating system to embed applications and tools that the municipality wants to offer to passersby. Things such as maps, information on nearby tourist attractions, music, local cultural events, coupons and even welcome and warning messages can be sent to people on the street.
The smart pavement integrates Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless technology into a piece of calcic carbonate (a marble found throughout Spain) that allows radio frequencies to pass through. Costs are kept lower by interspersing the intelligent pavement with regular marble (same look and feel).
As would be expected, the apps and data are based in the cloud and can be updated regularly with no need to remove the pavement. And as with many smart city solutions, Via Inteligente has also anticipated the use of iPavement as a sensor network for gathering useful information about pedestrian traffic flows and ambient air temperature. Their Analytics iPavement app will send this data to the City’s servers where they can be aggregated with other sensory data from the city to improve the quality of life and services to citizens and tourists.
This is an obvious solution for new smart city developments like PlanIT in Portugal and Skolkovo in Russia since that they are already planning to integrate sensors and ICT enablers from the beginning.
But even in established cities, like Madrid, Buenos Aires or San Francisco, iPavement can be used to replace degrading sidewalks and plazas as the city invests in upgrading its infrastructure.
In fact, Madrid became the first pilot city for iPavement last December, and with that the first European capital to make its city’s streets intelligent.