Do you live in a city? Chances are that, even if you don’t now, you may in the future. More than two thirds of the European population currently live in cities, with this global urban population expected to grow almost two percent per year between 2015 and 2020.
For city leaders around the continent, this presents a number of important challenges. Traffic congestion and pollution are continuing to rise. Public sector budget constraints and increasingly demanding citizens go against the need to ensure cities stay innovative and competitive.
In the race to solve these problems, a new wave of businesses has sprung up around the region, using technology to improve public services, many of which will be present at Smart City Expo this week in Barcelona. Along with government leaders and industry groups, partners are gathering together to discuss these challenges, and how the smart services available can help create more sustainable, mobile and economically competitive cities.
The home for this event is no coincidence. Thanks to technologies such as the Internet of Things, big data and the cloud, Barcelona itself is widely considered a leader in smart cities, powered by companies such as Microsoft CityNext partner Bismart.
As one of the most visited cities in Europe, tourism is a major driver for Barcelona’s economy. However, combining the city’s residents and commuters with tourists can produce pressure points, particularly during rush hour. As a city that prides itself on having a wide range of public transport options, services must perform to the highest standard, and continue to operate without interruption, whatever the circumstances. How do city leaders ensure they provide a transport solution that runs smoothly even in extraordinary circumstances?
Working with Bismart, Barcelona uses big data tools like HDInsight Server and Microsoft SQL Server to ensure citizens and visitors can move efficiently and get home faster. One thing they track is the movement of different forms of transport throughout the city – including bicycles. By following the movement of their shared bicycles system, the City can identify discrepancies between supply and demand and can distribute the bicycles accordingly, ensuring they can be used in an efficient way.
The City of Gaudi is also taking advantage of live data analytics and the Internet of Things to keep its reputation as a top holiday destination, while boosting the city’s economy. The city recently deployed Smart Destination, a mobile application created by Bismart on the Microsoft Azure platform, which offers intelligent travel routes for tourists by gathering live data from city sensors. By reviewing the multiple and complex sources available, the app can highlight alternative points of interest outside the city centre to avoid crowded spaces while contributing to the development of less favoured areas in the city. Combined, this makes the experience easier for visitors, as well as providing inspiration on new places to visit.
These are just two examples of smart city projects taking place around the world. By using smart solutions and data analytics, city councils are overcoming the challenges they face today and optimising public services, helping to build stronger economies. Barcelona has shown how working in partnership with industry leaders such as Bismart can help cities become healthier places to work, live and enjoy.
If you are ready to embrace change in your city and want to read more about our initiatives in the sector, visit our Microsoft CityNext blog.