The key issues
December 2014.- The fourth edition of what has become the world’s leading smart city event, The Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC), was celebrated in Barcelona on the 18th to the 20th of November. The SCEWC holds this leading position thanks to its all-inclusive vision of the different city ambits, covering from mobility to water and energy resource management, as well as the essential implication of local citizens as both end users of initiatives and the central part of urban life.
This transversal and multi-disciplinary character has meant that the event has grown dramatically. In only three years the number of exhibitors has doubled (242 in 2014 from 80 countries) and the number of visitors and exhibitors (10,000 and 3,000 respectively). Over 400 cities have taken part, with the representation of 41 international delegations, out of which the Israeli city Tel Aviv was chosen as the best intelligent city 2014 in the World Smart City Awards.
The event is an example of participation where companies, administrations on a local, regional and countrywide level, technology centres, and widely varying academic sectors can interact together. This is precisely what is required in the sector, given that the challenges facing humanity require this multidisciplinary approach. The public space is also an area in which issues such as mobility, environmental sustainability, production, distribution and consumption of energy, and citizen participation are fundamental, bearing in mind that 75% of the world's population will live in urban centres by 2025 according to the UN.
The event also showcased significant developments in mobility, technology, energy efficiency and environmental practices aimed at creating more sustainable and sustainable cities, always placing people at the centre of all areas of activity.
The event’s innovative nature can be seen by the amount of specific spaces for entrepreneurs and investors. In this regard, special mention must be made of the Marketplace, organized by Barcelona Activa, where five companies worked to recruit thirty workers for smart industry and the Brokerage event of ACCIÓ, which held more than eight hundred meetings with 360 companies. Apart from these two major initiatives, mention also must be made of the Smart Cities Investment Forum (project meetings - investors) or Call for Solutions that seek solutions to specific challenges.
Finally yet importantly, the SCEWC showcases experiences from all over the world, demonstrating its international approach. The Congress has also been celebrated in other continents and cities such as Kyoto and Bogota, and future editions will be held in Montreal and Medellin.
In addition to the new products presented by leading companies such as IBM, Cisco, Microsoft and Schneider, other relevant news from other companies or institutions was also noteworthy:
- For example, the European Commission stand to promote the European platform for application development called Fiware, to which it has dedicated to €80m. Fiware seeks to provide a truly open, public and royalty-free architecture to allow developers, service providers, enterprises and other organizations to develop digital services in the areas such as smart cities and the Internet of things, both cheaply and innovatively.
- In the field of urban transport, where there is a lot of talk about reducing emissions to the atmosphere, improving mobility, promoting individual health and saving energy resources, one of the most significant alternatives was the bicycle. However, the Nissan stand also worthy of mention; it was the only car company present at the event, showing the Nissan Leaf and the e-NV200, the only vehicle present in the Smart City Plaza.
- Regarding energy efficiency, the firm Schneider explained their projects for the development of advanced smart cities, such as the program to reduce energy consumption in the city of Boston. This global specialist company in energy management is at the forefront of solutions with experience in energy efficiency projects in more than 200 cities around the world.
- In an environmental aspect, the company Ros Roca exhibited, amongst other innovations, printed sensors integrated into the structure of rubbish containers, to measure the volume of rubbish in their interior, detect possible fires in very early stages and for automatic opening by people correctly identified by a card, bracelet or RFID accessory.
- In addition to innovative vehicles, the brand’s stand displayed its communication module adaptable to garbage and tanker trucks among others, which facilitates the positioning of the current vehicle via GPS, the number of cycles performed, the volume, water and oil levels, etc. This data is transmitted continuously and therefore can be processed and analysed by clients in real time.
- On a technological level there were large numbers of drone-based solutions for the development of urban services or assistance in emergencies. Some of the companies that have shown their solutions in this area were DEA drones, the ASCAMM technology centre and Hexagon.
- Finally - emphasising how smart cities consider it essential to place citizens at the centre of urban management - the mayors of the L'Hospitalet, Cornellà, Esplugues, El Prado, San Felix, San Justo and Gava councils presented an app enabling their inhabitants to communicate security alerts to the police thus improving public safety in their neighbourhoods.
From City to Intelligent Region
When we talk about smart cities we are in fact referring implicitly to large metropolitan areas, since most of the pertinent challenges and solutions are only relevant at this level. However, taking things to their logical conclusion, finding solutions to everyday problems means finding synergies between them, and to also apply common solutions to make efforts more efficient. This opens up a business opportunity, especially for technology companies (Smart Technology City Market) which one study by Navigo Research estimated at $27b per year by the year 2023.
In this context, Catalonia has a great opportunity to promote its own Smart Region, going down the same path as other countries such as Singapore or Ireland. Catalonia can build on Barcelona's international leadership, and extend the networking concept connecting cities that have significant experience in working in smart concepts. These smaller cities, highly agile and dynamic, are very common in Catalonia, and count on the support of the Catalan Government, which presented during the event the Smart CAT initiative, which is structuring this network of intelligent cities of the future.
Technology Based Companies Manager, ACCIÓ