5 reasons why Barcelona is one of the world’s leading smart cities

Catalan Economy

29 Oct 2019

Barcelona holds one of the top global positions as a smart city and is a pioneer in adopting new technologies aimed at making the city more energy efficient, connected, data-rich and sustainable in terms of mobility. Through both public and private initiatives, Barcelona and Catalonia are developing internationally recognised projects in the sector and building a strong smart cities ecosystem.

According to Navigant Research, revenue for the global smart city technology market will reach $1.7 million by 2028. Here are 5 reasons why Barcelona and Catalonia are making their mark in a world-changing sector and becoming an international benchmark for smart cities today.

1. Barcelona leads the way in smart city projects

The Barcelona City Council is embracing smart city technology to tackle environmental and social urban challenges such as climate change, energy transition or sustainable mobility.

One of the ways it is doing so is through the Sentilo project, a network of 19,000 active sensors that capture real time information on noise levels, temperature, air quality or the traffic flow of people and bicycles, just to mention a few. This open-source software won the 2016 Open Awards as the most innovative open-source IoT platform for cities.

Another example of a smart city project is City OS, an open data infrastructure that allows the City Council to distribute municipal resources more efficiently (in transport, energy or water) and offer new data-driven services suited to citizens’ needs.

Additionally, Barcelona has recently implemented the superblocks, an innovative solution for better urban planning. These are mini neighborhoods with less traffic congestion, better air quality and more leisure and green spaces.

As far as mobility is concerned, Barcelona implemented this year an electric city bike system, and the metropolitan tram system is celebrating its 15th anniversary while getting the highest rating by local users of any mode of public transport.

2. In November the Smart City Expo World Congress will bring together the world’s international experts in Barcelona

The Smart City Expo World Congress is the leading worldwide meeting on today’s urban issues and the technological revolution. It has been held in Barcelona since 2011 and has become a leading platform for ideas, networking, experiences and international business agreements, uniting the world’s top decision makers in the context of urban development.

Barcelona will hold the ninth edition from November 19th to 21st, 2019 expecting to feature over 700 cities from around the world; as well as 840 exhibitors, more than 400 speakers and 21,000 attendees. Under the theme 'Cities made of dreams', it will showcase major capitals such as Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, Bangkok, Kyoto, Moscow, Paris, Seoul or Tel Aviv.

At the congress, Catalonia Trade & Investment will promote the participation of 32 local companies at the Catalonia Stand, and will also organize a Brokerage Event where companies and organizations can carry out one-to-one meetings. The catalogue Catalan Exhibitors at the Smart City Expo World Congress 2019 contains information on over 50 Catalan companies that are attending this Congress.

The agency will also organize smart tours open to international companies that want to discover the strengths and opportunities of the sector in Catalonia. The tours include a visit to some of Catalonia’s leading infrastructures, such as the Port of Barcelona. If you are an international company and you wish to attend, please contact us.

3. Catalonia has a solid smart city ecosystem

The smart city sector in Catalonia is made up by 270 companies with a workforce of more than 116,000 people. Their collective turnover, solely linked to the smart city sector, comes to 6,968.3M€. This figure represents 3% of the Catalan GDP, proof of how important this sector is for Catalonia’s business environment.

The sector is largely made up of small and medium sized companies (82%) that are extremely internationalised: 51% of Catalan smart city companies export and 17% have branch offices abroad. The three areas composing the largest critical mass for companies working in the smart city sector are waste management, mobility and lighting.

As per international events, it is noteworthy that Catalonia won the candidature to host the 2020 edition of the Circular Economy Hotspot, an international meeting of governments, companies and organizations aimed at the development of the circular economy.

4. Catalonia and Barcelona provide investment opportunities in the smart city sector

Catalonia has opportunities for foreign investment in the smart city sector for companies with a high technological development profile. Some of the international firms that have already set up in Catalonia are Engie, Cisco, IBM, HP and Ricoh.

One of the most recent investments is from Mexican telecom company Jaguar, that just opened their European hub in Barcelona with the aim to deploy customized technological projects. Jaguar plans to grow to 60 employees in 2020, taking advantage of the potential of the Internet of Things and smart city sectors in Catalonia.

It is also important to note that the existence of clusters, technological centres and universities that have specialised in smart cities play an important role when explaining the motives behind the development of business activity in this sector in recent years.

Additionally, in Catalonia there are 64 municipalities with over 20,000 inhabitants, creating a testing ground for the new technologies developed by sector companies, not to mention the public administration’s commitment in this area.

 5. Catalonia Trade & Investment is your partner when investing in Catalonia

Catalonia Trade & Investment is actively participating in forums together with all the agents that intervene in the deployment of a smart city project: governments, research and scientific institutions, companies and citizens. The agency is highly active in attracting foreign investment through seminars, congresses, international missions and networking with governmental administrations around the world.

Additionally, the network of 40 Trade & Investment Offices provide qualified support, insight and advice through experts in the smart cities sector, and help international companies with the right steps to get started in Catalonia. If you need assessment with your investment project, please contact us.


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