New insights open up "enormous possibilities" in Spanish cities

Wed, 2013-11-27 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Irun City HallUsing data from trash containers that know how much is thrown away, smart street lights that report out when they need maintenance and parking places that know when they are empty is opening up "enormous possibilities" for better public sector management, according to Jose Antonio Santano, the mayor of Irun, Spain.

Irun and Hondarribia are towns in Spain's Basque region that are working with Council Lead Partner IBM on a smart cities project that leverages technology to provide real-time insights that in turn drive better decisions.

The foundation of the project is IBM's Intelligent Operations Center software that provides real-time insight into all city operations. It also powers the Smart City Center, an integrated command center where data is analyzed and shared. Here's an example: City leaders can see the correlation between water consumption and waste generation, monitor and predict the effect of bad weather on incidents within the area, or visualize the amount of resources used across water, waste management, transportation, energy and public works departments.

"The possibility of analyzing large amounts of data through new technology opens up enormous possibilities for better public sector management," said Mayor Santano. "We live in an era of global crisis and it is precisely at this time when we need to sharpen our ingenuity to better know how to apply talent and technology for the benefit of our citizens."

The region has been very progressive in adopting smart cities technologies. Here are two more examples:

  • Installing 32,000 sensors that collect water consumption data in real time. As a result, according to IBM, water leaks decreased by 70%; water supply pumping costs decreased by 14%; and unnecessary water treatment decreased by 40% as a result of the ability to see and manage water systems in real-time.

  • Improving waste management and encouraging more citizen participation in recycling. More than 750 compost bins were distributed to citizens. And volunteers are placing RFID tags on trash bins, allowing waste generation to be more accurately measured and provide better insight into which social or environmental conditions create more waste and how to prevent it.

In addition to IBM, the initiatives in Irun and Hondarribia have also involved local companies, including Servicios de Txingudi, the local water and waste water management and street cleaning agency, and Smartland Technologies, a group of six companies.