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  • Writer's pictureSofa Summits

Spain’s Smart Cities

A smart city is defined as a local city, district or region which holistically employs information technology and real-time analysis to encourage sustainable development of its economy. There are six key areas a city is evaluated on to determine its smart ranking: energy generation, environment, delivery and usage, buildings, mobility and government.  

The need for smart cities is evident by the fact that 70 percent of carbon dioxide is emitted by cities while only half of the world’s population lives in them. Spain has invested heavily in transforming its major cities into smart cities by improving the transportation systems, citizen engagement, environmental impact and education of citizens.


Barcelona is the one of the two largest cities in Spain in terms of population. It ranks high on the smartness index due to it being more enabled for information technology integration. The city has a high penetration of communications technology and mobile solutions. Barcelona is the smartest digital city in Spain when it comes to transportation.

The city is a pioneer in the transport sector and has revolutionised its transportation being the area where electric vehicles are being developed and improved. Since transportation in Spain accounts for 37.9% of energy consumption and is responsible for over a quarter of the total carbon dioxide emissions, the country is actively advocating the purchase of low emission vehicles. The government is offering subsidies on each electric plug-in and hybrid vehicle of up to 7,000 euros and by replacing street lamps with LED bulbs, the energy consumption of public lighting is down by 30 percent.

The LIVE project has made Barcelona the hub for innovation of electric vehicles. It is a public-private stage which supports and promotes electric mobility development in the city and metropolitan area. Barcelona City Council on Economic Protection, Environment and Mobility, The Catalan Energy Institute affiliated with the Government of Catalonia, Seat and Endesa are the development partners for this project. Other parties working in collaboration are the Technical Automotive Societies, Institute for the Diversification and Saving of Energy, Ministry of Industry, Nissan-Renault, Siemens, Toyota, Circutor, Volt-Tour, Altran and Quimera.


Madrid, the capital of Spain is another digital city that already has a strong footing in information communications technology and economy. Economy-wise, Madrid is the most powerful city in Spain and it has also been identified as the 14th most powerful city in the world by the Global Economic Power Index (2011) – with a total output of $188 billion.

The Madrid government has spent a lot of resources on smart services and mobility.

The authorities have concentrated their efforts on turning Madrid into a digital city with more citizen engagement by integrating technology in the city’s major sectors. Since Madrid is also the largest city in Spain and experiences a lot of tourism, the mobility and transportation system is also being improved under the new smart city initiative. Having a smart government not only benefits Madrid but is an advantage to all of Spain. San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a budding digital city of Spain with a high involvement in making the economy and people more smart-enabled through an integration of information communications technology. With a smaller population compared to other smart cities, San Sebastián is able to focus on a variety projects in its smart city plan. The city is investing in smart services for citizen engagement and smart mobility.

The city has laid out further plans to turn the urban area into a digital zone by 2020. The project focusses on encouraging citizen engagement through an updated participation policy. The city is to be connected with all areas through an integrated network, more utilities and smart facilities will be provided to the people and their quality of life will be improved by the continuous development.


Valencia City Council has invested heavily in smart solutions, enabling the city through its smart city platform. The project allows the city to collect information on all municipal services by using a technological solution developed by Telefonica. Municipal management will now be much smarter, making Valencia the first city in Spain to have a cloud-based internal city management system.

The platform acquires data about key indicators of the city’s urban services, allowing them to improve citizen engagement through transparency. The efficiency of the municipal services will be much higher and improve the quality of life for citizens of Valencia. The smart city platform helps to compare different cities on the smartness index using several tools. The aim of the municipal authorities is to make the governance model more pragmatic and encourage citizen engagement, company participation and organizational input in the provision of urban services.

Smart cities are home to the cutting-edge technology used in education to make learning more interactive and easily accessible for students of Spain. Furthermore, they collect data on 350 indicators from all over the country to monitor and integrate the quality of life in every region. The indicators under observation include local police, street lighting, gardens, pollution levels, waste disposal, weather and the environment. The information is gathered through a number of devices installed all over cities such as street light sensors, bus monitoring systems and individual smartphones. The data is then analysed by the municipal services and entrepreneurs who develop applications to improve public service management. The service is supposed to integrate public resource management through increased efficiency in multiple facets of the city including energy, transport and the environment.

Business figures presented by consultants and the policies promoted and defended by international, national and regional bodies are a sign that this is a digital era and smart cities are the future. The executive for Spain recently approved 188.3 million euros for a National Smart Cities Plan. Currently, all cities of Spain, no matter how small are in some way or another smart-enabled. It is surprising that a country such as Spain that has been struggling with recession has invested more in building smart cities than the United States which has more than six times the inhabitants.


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