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November 18, 2016
Asset Mapping, at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona 2016
Francesca Brady

When Asset Mapping was invited to this year’s Smart City Expo in Barcelona, we couldn’t say no. After all, this Congress has become the largest event in the world to combine knowledge and business around the topic of Smart Cities.

The numbers confirm it. This sixth edition attracted over 560 cities, 485 organisations and 421 top-class speakers, including Circular Economy evangelist Ellen MacArthur, MIT Media Lab Director of City Science Initiative Kent Larson, and Big Data industry analyst Susan Etlinger.

Asset Mapping joined over 14,200 people from the 15th to the 17th of November at Fira Barcelona to learn from first-hand what technology proposals will enable the development of smart cities, to network with the most forward-thinking smart building companies in the world and to play with the latest gadgets.

This is what we learned: The top-level conversation

The focus this year focused on making cities for citizens, with special attention given to topics like urban mobility, sustainability and the emergence of new economic models capable of addressing the increasing pressure for resources within cities.

The numerous talks and round tables were organised around six areas: governance, economy, society, mobility, sustainability and big data.

Being a bit geeky, we decided to attend three key discussions on the tech that powers smart cities, given by industry leaders like Huawei CTO Joe So, Deputy CIO of Moscow City Andrey Belozerov, and Director of Microsoft CityNext Katrhyn Wilson. We also spoke with representatives from big tech players including Siemens, Telefonica, and Mastercard, as well as with smaller businesses and startups from all over the world. Combined, their insights gave us a pretty good idea of the tech architecture that cities need to develop in order to become smart. Here are three key learnings:

Gather data, break siloes, make it open:

Data is the building block of the digital revolution. Without it, there will be no insights, no operational efficiency, and no business transformation. Cities need to gather all available information about their citizens and various departments now.

To achieve this, we all need to break the data siloes. Within cities, administrations must become more transparent, and private stakeholders need to participate by bringing in anonymised data that helps cities understand certain patterns. In this respect, third-party applications like mobile data providers have a huge role to play, as they have a wealth of geo-positioning information that is crucial for cities to understand where people are and how they move around the city.

Finally, data has to be available to everyone via standardised, open digital formats. An interesting initiative is the Barcelona Open Data portal which currently offers over 1,300 historical series, 3,100 different formats and 335 resources on themes like demography, tourism, environment, and employment for citizens to use freely.

Build a platform, leverage the know-how of the experts and scale it:

As Carl Piva, VP of Strategic Programs at telecom non-profit TM Forum stated, “we live in the decade of the Platform Economy”. From Alibaba, to Airbnb and American Airlines, winning businesses have built platforms, and cities now need to follow.

Well established corporations such as SAP, Telefonica or Cisco have the technical capability to build end-to-end solutions for cities. An excellent case study is SAP’s “Buenos Aires stays dry”. The Argentinian city uses the SAP Hana platform to gather and correlate data from storm drains, ensuring streets are clear when a torrential downpour hits the city.

City platforms need to have the following characteristics to enable the development smart cities: they need to be open, so they can get any data source; they need to be flexible, so they can ingest data using any kind of protocol and they need to be scalable, so they enable the creation of a single market of connected city platforms.

Provide smart services to citizens

Once cities have data from a variety of sources and a platform to transform it into knowledge, they can start providing new services to citizens. From smart parking to smart rubbish collection or smart lighting, the possibilities are endless.

An example we enjoyed is the Mos-Robot, a public service that sends Muscovites alerts to their mobile whenever they need to renew their passport, driver license or verify their water meter reading. The service will keep improving as more people sign up for it and more data is collected.

The smart buildings

In tech, we say that collaboration breeds innovation, which is why we spent a lot of our time in Barcelona chatting to the CEOs and CTOs of the most ground-breaking startups in the smart buildings sector.

We met sensor manufacturer Libelium, who announced the release of a new IoT Sensor Platform for Smart Cities with improved sound level and air quality sensors. We were taken aback by the quality of the energy management platform built by Wiseup in just over a year and look forward to learning more about Nexus Geographics and their mapping capabilities.

We learned that we all share the same ideas regarding why we want to make buildings smart. Commercial buildings account for 40% of the total energy consumption in cities. By connecting the equipment and systems to the cloud, and using real-time analytics, we can reduce energy use by 50%, increase the value of assets three times the amount invested, and provide a healthier environment to the people working in the building.

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