For the last several years, Barcelona has been one of a handful of cities that has lead the way when it comes to the smart city revolution. Although its timelessly charming streets depict an urban environment drenched in abounding historic beauty, if you look close enough, you’ll find that there’s a current of digital innovation flowing just about everywhere. The city is already utilising modern infrastructure to create a more functional and integrated urban ecosystem; its streets have asphalt sensors that relay information about parking availability, and the city-wide use of 19,500 smart meters allows for the optimisation of energy consumption. In addition, Barcelona annually hosts the internationally renowned Smart City Expo World Congress which aims to “empower cities and collectivise urban innovation across the globe”.
Barcelona’s desire to harness new technology in order to find innovative solutions becomes even more intriguing when we look at the potential that technology can have in combatting the city’s well documented problems with air pollution. With over one million motorised-vehicle journeys taking place everyday, 60% of the nitrogen oxide found in the city’s atmosphere is caused by combustion engines. The city council has already taken steps to reduce emissions by placing a ban on the use of older private cars and vans travelling within the city centre and throughout 39 of its surrounding municipalities. The aim is to bring down emissions by up to 10% over the next 5 years, in keeping with the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation. This is a good start, but innovation and technology can take us much further in tackling pollution, whilst also creating a city designed to look after its citizens’ well being; a future city that works better for everyone and is able to provide greater all-round accessibility based upon the needs of service users.