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Spain's Santander hailed as global pioneering 'smart city'

  • Fecha de evento 15 abril 2016
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  • Publicación 15 abril 2016
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The northern Spanish city and historic port of Santander has become the testing ground for "smart cities" around the world.

In Santander, parking is no longer a headache, rubbish bins never overflow and grass is watered only when needed since this northern resort became a testing ground for "smart cities" around the world.

Thousands of sensors have transformed the metropolis, known for the grand hotels and high-end casinos lining its beach on Spain's northern Atlantic coast, into a high-tech laboratory.


Four hundred alone are buried beneath streets in the city's busy heart to monitor whether parking spots are free or occupied. Light panels at intersections and GPS devices direct drivers to the nearest available parking spaces, reducing traffic congestion.


Sensors installed in bins for inorganic waste warn when they are full and ready to be collected. The city receives 180 days of rainfall per year and the sensors ensure the automatic irrigation system in public parks only starts working when the soil is dry.


Santander will soon use sensors to ensure that its elegant wrought-iron streetlights reduce the light they emit when no one is nearby. "A smart city is one where if anything happens, all services start to act automatically. For example, if there is a crack in the pavement, a smart city should boost lighting on that street, send an alarm to locals and automatically detour traffic," said Santander Mayor Iñigo de la Serna.

The University of Cantabria holds regular meetings with local residents to hear their ideas for apps and also helps put them into practice. It helped a pregnant woman create an app that outlines the easiest route for someone with a baby buggy, for example.


With funding from the European Commission and a handful of foreign universities, around 20,000 sensors are up, down and all around - under the asphalt, affixed to street lamps and riding on top of city buses.

 The devices, about the size of a shoebox with four antennae, collect data on rainfall and road traffic which is sent to a control centre to help the city provide services more efficiently and cheaply.


“The pilot project has made Santander the most connected city in Europe in terms of installed infrastructure", said Luis  Munoz, an IT professor at the University of Cantabria.  On a recent day, the professor welcomed a delegation from Singapore that wants to share in the Spanish city's experience. Other cities such as Boston in the United States and Aarhus in Denmark have also shown interest in working with Santander.


The city is taking part in a dozen international projects whose results are being closely monitored at a time when cities across the world, such as London and Tel Aviv, are deploying IT to deliver services.