What, exactly, is a smart city, and how do you measure its “IQ”? Those are the questions leaders in Barcelona hope to answer by...

What, exactly, is a smart city, and how do you measure its “IQ”? Those are the questions leaders in Barcelona hope to answer by developing what they call a “City Protocol.”

The City Protocol, officials say, will make it possible to measure both efficiency and quality of city projects, processes and policies in a way that promotes progress with sustainability in mind. The goal, says Mayor Xavier Trias, is to “enhance citizens’ quality of life and reduce the cost of government operations while revitalizing our whole community and creating long-term economic growth through high-tech innovation and entrepreneurship.”

A concept already endorsed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the City Protocol is being designed as a blueprint that can by used by any city in the world.

Barcelona leaders last year unveiled their 2020 vision for transforming the city to become “a global reference model for sustainable urban development and the economic engine for Southern Europe.” They’re undertaking the project with the help of Cisco, which has its own platform for improving the sustainability of cities: Smart+Connected Communities.

Cisco is also becoming a sponsor of the Spanish city’s newly announced Barcelona Institute of Technology for the Habitat (BIT for the Habitat). The institute will work with both public- and private-sector partners to foster sustainable growth and “innovation in new urban services.”

“Barcelona is becoming the first city to measure the degree of sustainability and capacity to generate a higher-quality of life for its citizens,” says Antoni Vives, the city council’s Deputy Mayor for Urban Habitat. “This recipe for what a smart city should become will be used not only to merge urbanism, ecology and IT to optimize city services, but also generate new revenue streams for service providers and cities around the world.”

Barcelona has plans to test several new types of services:

  • “Pay per light,” in which the city pays for lumens — a measure of light output — instead of a fixed number of street lights.
  • Self-sufficient city blocks for energy, guided by a holistic map of energy usage across the community.
  • Real-time energy monitoring and analysis for Barcelona’s 2,000 public buildings.
  • Maximized collection and use of rainwater and groundwater.
  • A smart bus network that provides real-time information to citizens.
  • Sensor-enabled parking that provides real-time information about available spaces.
  • An “internet of the neighborhood” that uses embedded information systems to promote social interaction.

“Growth, overcrowding, budget constraints and inadequate infrastructures are putting increasing pressure on cities, states, and countries,” says Jordi Botifoll, senior vice president of Cisco for the south of Europe. “Transforming the way these spaces are designed, built and renewed is key to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability.”