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Residents of Barcelona, Spain, may be introduced to the connective power of the IoT by their municipal government faster than their own personal adoption of smart devices. Barcelona is among a slew of global cities that are successfully using connected products, services, and other sensor applications to control and monitor their city’s energy use, waste management (see photo below), public safety, and more. With less than 10% of online adults owning a wearable device, it’s possible that our cities will evolve quicker than we will in using, and benefiting from, the IoT.

Barcelona smart city
Barcelona, Spain, utilizes sensors throughout its city to monitor irrigation needs, waste management, and air conditions. On the city’s website, residents can view real-time data on a map (above) from the city’s connected devices. The yellow markers in this photo signify trash receptacles; sensors monitor their capacity and alert city officials when they need tending to.

Just how effective are connected objects when considering their impact on economies? Business Insider reports that IoT deployments are expected to create $421 billion in economic value for cities worldwide by 2019, as a result of installing an anticipated 5 billion devices. Add to that, Frost & Sullivan finds that smart products can typically provide energy savings of up to 30%, and generally have a two- to three-year return on investment. That’s an excellent incentive for city governments to invest in innovation that serves not only their own interests, but also those of their residents.

But, IoT innovation depends on one crucial piece of citywide infrastructure: high-speed internet. More than 100 cities have already joined the Next Century Cities coalition to work toward bringing their residents gigabit-speed internet connections. These high-speed connections will serve as the foundation for a myriad of connected services stemming from sensor-laden equipment. From reducing traffic congestion to monitoring air pollution, these “IoCity” solutions will bring additional constituent value and may even aid in attracting future tourists and residents.

Tourist destination Barcelona, Spain, is among the most connected cities worldwide, setting pace for other local governments looking to solve resident and municipal needs through the use of decision-making devices. One such use of the IoT in Barcelona is its monitoring of city park and property irrigation needs with the tap of a (tablet) button. Via in-ground sensors, Barcelona’s environmental leaders are able to track ground humidity, temperature, wind velocity, sunlight, and atmospheric pressure. The connected irrigation system sends data back to the city’s central software system from 178 points throughout Barcelona, allowing managers to track watering needs and project future resource allocation and plant growth.

According to MIT Technology Review, Barcelona’s irrigation system is one of two dozen smart systems that the city is currently building. It’s inevitable that other global cities will follow suit once benefits are further realized and publicly reported. From smart cities, to smart campuses, to smart homes, the environments we spend time in may evolve quicker than our personal behaviors can adapt. It’s hopeful that these environments will serve as catalysts for further consumer adoption of wearables and the IoT as a means to foster innovation on a larger scale with greater global impact.

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