Smart Sustainable Cities and Internet of Things

Barcelona is useful place to live. Besides friendly people, free food and low cost of my basic needs, something interesting is happening always. And I’m not talking about protest marches, but about conferences and seminars I have attended here. After a stressful life period in UK, things are totally different here. First I got to their mobile events and their slogan: “Barcelona – Mobile World Capital” is true. From those events I got my enthusiasm to write some mobile apps to the market which still after three years lack the resources to get them to the market.

Somehow I have got my name and email to organisers list so now I’m getting invitations to other events as well. Besides useful information, they usually offer free tapas, beer and even free wine so obviously I’m interested to attend. So last week there was big exhibition “Smart Cities” where City of Barcelona had a small conference organised by Apps4Bcn group. Apps4Bcn is co-operation of AppCircus and Barcelona City Council.
It was interesting to learn how in future City of Barcelona is data driven from traffic, to social services and education. And sure City always support independent app programers to build mobile interfaces for their open APIs.

While Estonia claiming to be innovative e-country, actually they have only made web interfaces to existing bureaucracy while Barcelona truly “think different” to solve City problems. And I first heard the term “Sharing Economy”.

Practically it means that instead of owning something that you may have need you just rent it when you need it. Good example is drill. An average drill is used only 40 seconds in it’s lifetime! So why own it. Better to have “just on time” service when you have need to make a hole. Bicycle rental network has been around in Barcelona since I arrived here and now they are building one seat electric cars network. Imagine average middle class family in US must have their personal car for each family member and then minivan when family takes holiday together. Even the public transport network here is modern, the ticket cost to use it is too expensive for me so I better walk as I have lot of free time and very little money.
To my personality this sharing economy idea fits perfectly. More things you own, creates you more problems, which makes you more stressed to sort them out. Once in my lifetime I have made a mistake to buy myself real-estate and afterwards I have been happy not to own much anything. I have my sleeping bag and all necessary items will fit to my back-bag.
Yesterday, I visited a conference “Internet of Things” organised by bDigital who each year in early November organises two day mobile market and technology event as well. I have attended two times but this year decided not to attend. Because, first it’s held up in mountains where I have to walk five hours uphill and afterwards three hours back downhill. And secondly this year wasn’t much anything new there. But as this one was held in Mobile World Centre located on Plaza Catalynia square near where I’m usual hanging around, so I decided to attend.
When I got there the topic just starting was again “Smart Cities” with a brief introduction of Masdar City located near Abu Dhabi, Arab Emirates. Masdar is high tech, self-supporting City where all the energy becomes from solar. The City climate is regulated being always lower than nearby desert. And car ownership is banned there. You just use your PodCar, e.g. Personal Rapid Transit vehicle. But Masdar can accommodate maximum 50,000 habitants while globally each day 160,000 new persons are moving to live in City. So we have to rethink our current Cities to be more efficient rather than building five Masdars per day.
Alter ways how to bring technology innovation to the city was presented there. For example if somebody comes with an idea how to reduce water consumption 10% it could save something over 5 million for Rome per year (that presenter was from Rome, Italy). So city can make deal that they will pay 50% of amount saved to that business while they are still winning some millions from their budget. But this all needs different thinking from people in City Management. The City Managements seems to be everywhere most corrupted political institutions capable only to outsource City functions to their friends businesses using ostensible democratic underbidding system.

Last section of this conference was actually in “Internet of Things” topic. When every product in shop have iBeacon, this could create totally different shopping experiences for customers. Instead being a victim of obtrusive shopkeeper (or assistant) desperate to close the deal, consumer can now use personal mobile device in decision making process.

Somehow I have always felt very optimistic after participation on those events in Barcelona as they are talking what I’m thinking. But after some days my life reality comes back to me which includes Greed and Stupidity, two characteristics I disgust most. Why we are restricted to do wonderful innovative things and enjoy our better lives.


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