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2013 Seventh International Conference on Innovative Mobile and Internet Services in Ubiquitous Computing

Smart cities as an application of Internet of Things:

Experiences and lessons learnt in Barcelona
Tomas Gea

Josep Paradells

Barcelona City Council

Barcelona, Spain

Universitat Politcnica de Catalunya UPC

Barcelona, Spain

Mariano Lamarca

David Roldn

Institut Municipal dInformtica de Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain

Ubiquitous Internet Technologies Unit

i2CAT Foundation
Barcelona, Spain

referent to the city as well as allow interaction within its

elements. The word smart is used as a synonym for
providing a set of rules and algorithms with different
complexity, which combines different types of information in
order to assist decision taking procedures. In sensor networks,
Smart Cities require different types of technologies, both at a
hardware level of the nodes themselves (transducers, signal
conditioning, communication links, energy harvesting, and so
on) and at the application level (for instance: data presentation,
geolocation or web integration).

Abstract Internet of things is a ubiquitous technology that

will be present everywhere. One of the first applications will be
smart cities. Cities are growing in population and citizens demand
better services from the administration without increasing taxes.
The only way to attend this demand is to improve information and
how this is treated to take decisions. In other words, we should
make the city smart. Smart cities are a novel concept that defines
new technologies but also reuses some of the existing ones. All
novel solutions phase the same problem: the lack of standards and
widely accepted solutions. The City of Barcelona with the
collaboration from research centers and industrial partners has
been testing the smart city concept with the double purpose to
contribute to the creation of standards and providing in the interim
a solution to cope with the heterogeneity of providers, in particular
from the wireless sensor part. This work has been structured as a
Barcelona Intelligent City project or BCI. BCI project considers
all the steps of the data process from its capture by a sensor
network to the processing to make it relevant (pointing events that
requires attention) and rich (with context information).
Conclusions from the pilots has started to be applied. One example
is the sensoring in civil works control. This paper includes some
lines about Avinguda de lEstatut Civil Works Project and its





In turn, most of the technologies involved in Smart Cities

have either their own standards, are proprietary technologies or
chosen by each company as their own solutions. In addition,
according our experience the equipment used for sensoring is
very heterogeneous. This fact is due to the existence of
multiple providers, technologies, management systems, and so
on. This is a reality that needs to be considered since the
success and viability of Smart Cities future platforms could
depend on it.
Therefore, a new approach is needed, in order to allow the
integration of the different systems than can be used to get data
from the city. This approach, in addition, has to facilitate new
deployments and the inclusion of new providers. The
development of standards or the adoption of standards widely
accepted will solve the problem, but as this might take several
years, if it becomes a reality, in the meantime a temporal
solution will be needed.



In recent years, Wireless Sensor Networks has taken special

relevance in the field of R&D&I, for example, in the area of
Smart City. Although several descriptions about Smart Cities
are possible, they can be described as those cities that apply
ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) with the
aim of providing an infrastructure which, to some extent,
ensures sustainable development, increases the citizens quality
of life as well as the efficiency in resource usage (both personal
and equipment) and improves citizen participation.

There are several possible solutions being developed in the

context of the Smart Cities. In this paper, we propose a solution
based on two elements: the adoption of open standards and the
usage of flexible platforms to build a multivendor system. This
approach is the one proposed and developed in the Barcelona
Smart City project.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2
contains an overview on the aspects considered in the
definition of the BCI project and other projects of Barcelona
City council. In Section 3 some details about the solutions

Nowadays Smart Cities are not directly related to one

specific technology or set of technologies. In contrary, they are
rather linked to those technologies that can generate data

978-0-7695-4974-3/13 $26.00 2013 IEEE

DOI 10.1109/IMIS.2013.158


adopted and implementation are given. Section 4 describes an

implementation of the solution and finally section 5 describes
the work to be done and offers conclusions reached so far.


goal is to allow this model to be adopted by any other cities

around the world. Some secondary objectives are the

Design and validate a communications network that

can be used as a backhaul for a variety of sensor
networks and from different manufacturers.

Define and validate a framework based on open

standards, avoiding proprietary solutions.

Develop a platform that is fully applicable both to large

and small cities, including metropolitan areas

Study, implement and validate the most suitable

service and business models for the optimization of
public management.


Barcelona has deployed its telecommunications network in

the period 2007-12 with a wireless extension to reach any point
of the public space. This network has the aim to provide
services to the citizens and corporate workers. This network
can be used as a backbone of a sensor and actuator network.
This allows a better control of the city and the possibility to
build applications that take profit from all the information
available. With this idea in mind the City starts its participation
on several sensoring test projects in its streets with
technological qualified partners (Abertis, AIA, Arelsa, DOXA
Aventia, Cisco, Endesa, Indra, Libellium, Urbiotica,
Worldsensing, Zolertia,) and Universities and Research
Centers (UPC, i2cat, UPF, UOC, BDigital,). In figure 1 is
shown the principal test area at 22@ District.

The BCI project covers the whole value chain ranging

from the sensors in charge of capturing data to the exploitation
of data from third parties passing by its transmission and
management. BCI summarizes all the experiences obtained in
previous pilots, mainly the one called BarcelonaSens (2009).
The first phase of the BCI project has consisted in the
development of a technical and functional analysis in order to
define all the requirements for the smart city platform. These
requirements will consolidate the specifications and the
foundations for the future implementations, both in Barcelona
and other cities. The final target is to define a value-added
system that allows using the technology forward the best
services to the citizen, the city council and even the local
business with the intention of offering new and better city
services, more efficient public management and improving the
quality of life.
Once the requirements has been developed the architecture
of the system and the functional model has been obtained.

Figure 1 - Map of the area in the 22@ business district used

as a pilot site for the different smart city projects. Some detail
is given about the type and location of the sensors)
These projects start deploying different type of sensors and
finishes with the Barcelona Smart City project [1] that offers a
platform to collect information and building services. When
this project finishes, Barcelona has started using the lessons
learned to build real applications, such the one used to control
civil works and presented in the paper.
Barcelona Smart City aims are defining, designing and
developing a reference model of a network management
platform and sensor data for a Smart City and finally
validation it in a major city such as Barcelona. The ultimate


In Figure 2 the architecture model applied in the projects is

shown, including the specified proposed protocols. There a
system of data bases that implements the conceptual City
Council Data Warehouse. The access to this data is made
available to third parties following an Open Data model with
web services or other tools controlled by an interoperability
platform. Lower layers include the corporate information
system, the management and control platforms, the transport
network, the concentration function and finally, at the bottom,
sensors and actuators devices in the field.

Figure 2 - Architecture model of the Smart City


Nowadays, Barcelona City council is trying to integrate all

the different types of sensors installed in the different pilots
and in the areas with services following the experience of BCI
Project. A large variety of sensors are available such for
example: acoustic sensors, temperature, humidity, gas, specific
smells, radiation, smart metering and level sensors used to
measure garbage containers spare capacity.


The existence of a variety of sensors networks that provide

data in different formats, and a network infrastructure that can
transport the data to a management element is assumed to be
operative in the place.
The main goal is to develop a system able to cope with this
variety of solutions, and that at the same time offers one single
point of storage for the data, with a uniform representation of
information and supporting mechanisms for data analysis and
data exploitation for third parties.

B. Gateway
In order to integrate these different infrastructures (sensor
networks) available and to minimize the number of platforms
deployed in the city, the BCI project proposes to develop a
gateway that supports the connectivity of the multiple sensor
networks and multiple transport networks.

In addition of the complexity of the problem itself, it is

needed to consider the city is not isolated and has some
previous deployed vertical solutions. The City has strong
relationship with other entities like municipalities, regional
government agencies, army, international organizations,
enterprises, etc These entities could provide information
useful for the city and/or could need information about the data
results of the city sensors. To fulfill this requirement it is
needed to have functionalities to understand information
acquired from third parties and to offer an interface to provide

So far four types of wireless sensor networks are supported,

a raw solution using 802.15.4 radio, a ZigBee 2007, a RIME
stack used with the Contiki operating system and
6LoWPAN/IPv6/RPL/UDP/CoAP interface available with
Contiki and TinyOS operating system.
The gateway differentiates three types of information: data
that is translated to a common format, sensor network
management information that should be kept proprietary for
each provider and gateway management info that should be
easy to integrate in the existing network management

A. Sensor Capabilities
The BCI proposed model has used as a sensor base for the
deployment already available in the city, in particular the one
in the area of the 22@1, which was built in the context of 22@
Urban Lab project [2] and promoted by the Barcelona
Municipality. The objective of this deployment was validating
the solution and analyzing the applicability of the data obtained
independently of manufacturer and technology.

The connection of the gateway to the Internet can be done

using the most common interfaces: Ethernet, Wi-Fi and
Cellular (GPRS, 3G and HSPA). Other interfaces, not so
common, can also be added (such for example WiMAX). The
board offers two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces with RJ-45
connector. Any of the two supports Passive Power Over
Ethernet. Also serial interfaces such USB, RS232 or RS485 are


problems in the long term. To cope with the difficulty the BCI
project has incorporated an intelligent module that is able to
correlate data in time and space to identify potential problems.
The indications generated should be validated by human
operators to verify the indication and to feed the learning
capability of the intelligent module.

available. In the specific case of Barcelona the connection of

the gateway is over the municipality network and using
powering facilities deployed on purpose.
The Wi-Fi interface is very flexible since the gateway can
be configured as an access point, as a client to be connected to
an access point and also as peer to peer to support mesh
networking. With the present hardware based on an Atheros
chipset the Wi-Fi interfaces supported are IEEE802.11b/a/g
with WEP, WPA and WPA2 security. The Barcelona
municipality uses IEEE802.1x protocol to authenticate and
authorize devices connected to the network to support
individual access control of each node connected to the

Barcelona City council considers the possibility of perform

intelligent and security tools at three levels: application level,
datawarehouse level and gateway level. The services with low
latency require Gateway intelligence. The common intelligence
modules will be placed at datawarehouse level and maybe each
service needs specific intelligence modules.
F. Front-End Applications
In BCI project, an intelligent front-end application that
provides Smart Services to the citizens and to the municipality
workers, helping them to access and understand the
information, has been developed.

C. Transport Network
The Barcelona Municipality has a corporate network using
state of the art technologies and a wide coverage: 380 km of
optical fiber and more than 2000 Access Points define the
corporate network. At the lowest level of the access network
there is a capillarity that offers Ethernet, Wi-Fi, WIMAX, and
cellular access. Depending on the location one of the listed
access options can be the most suitable but others should be
kept as backup.

The front-end application has access both to the raw and

rich data (the ones available once processed), offers them to the
final user in a friendly manner and collects all the requests and
actions to perform in the city from them.
The proposed model has been validated in a real scenario
such as the city of Barcelona. This validation phase showed
that the system developed was able to integrate the already
deployed sensors networks with the new ones. An intelligent
front-end application that provides Smart Services to the
citizens, helping them to consult and understand the
information, has been developed. It is based on the latest web
technologies, data processing and presentation.

For this reason the BCI gateway offer these types of

connectivity in one single hardware and software version.
D. Data Management
There is a part of the system that hosts and manages the
data base and supports intelligence modules intended to
identify patterns and events that result relevant for the
management of the city infrastructure. The data management
also offers web services to make available the raw and
processed data to third parties in charge of exploiting the data.
The main difficulty of this element is to support the variety of
sensor nodes and large volume of information that a city can



Once the model proposed has been validated in pilots it

arrives to a mature status to be implemented in real
deployments. The first one was the usage it to control the
environmental impact in a civil work.

To facilitate the data transfer and data availability to third

parties the BCI project uses two ways to code information
from sensors. The one used for transport inside the corporate
network uses JSON coding and a HTTP REST model for
gateway polling and notification, following the work done at
the CoRE working group of the IETF [3]. This solution has
been adopted in front of XML to reduce the bandwidth needed
in case of using a cellular interface. To minimize the
interaction with sensors the gateways performs functions of
proxy web. In this way if a sensor has been interrogated once,
later requests can be replied with the data stored in the cache
of the proxy. The gateway also supports the usage of CoAP,
even it is not used at this phase of the project. From the data
bases to third parties the format used is XML following the
SensorML encoding [4] defined by OGC. This solution allows
a detailed description of the data and its interoperability since
it is widely accepted by the community.

In order to make an effective work of control the

Environment Department of Barcelona City Council has
launched the monitoring of air pollution and noise parameters
of the works of urbanization of the area of Estatut avenue.
This work aims to make the rehabilitation of an Avenue, in a
degrade area of the city that needed improvements on mobility
(vehicle and pedestrians) and with services for residents.
These works started in 2011 and they are about to finish in
July of 2013.

E. Intelligence
The large volume of information that can be collected it is
not only difficult to handle, it is difficult to analyze and to
derive indications about alarms or trends that can result in




The project of building a smart city suffered at its initial

phases the lack of standards. This problem becomes even
worse if the aim is to build a non proprietary solution. A smart
city has to satisfy requirements from the public administration,
companies providing services to the citizen on behalf of the
administration, the citizens and third parties that want to get
profit from the information obtained by the smart city
infrastructure. The results obtained so far are a network
architecture that overlays on an existing infrastructure and
with minimal modifications fulfils the pointed objectives. The
key components of this architecture are a gateway able to
concentrate equipments from different sensor networks,
providing uniform interfaces for data gathering and
management. The second key element is the selection of data
encoding standards and protocols for handling them, widely
accepted facto standards, when possible.

Figure 3 - Drawing of the affected area and it final


Knowing that the best solution would be the existence of

open standards to support a plug-in play approach the project
offers an interim solution that uses open and well accepted

The Department of Environment, responsible of the

contract of the urbanization collaborates with the technical
areas and IT Department of the Municipality (IMI) in order to
control the effect of their works in the surrounding areas. They
define the measurement ranges, the user interface, the list of
potential users and maximum allowed values of the
parameters that produce impact on the life of citizens. They
decided to use sensors of sound, amount of particles on the air
(PM10), gases (NO, CO2), movement (cameras) and level of
the water table.

Following the conclusions of the pilots, mainly BCI and

Av. Estatut Project, Barcelona City council have taken some
strategic decisions towards building smart cities based on the
IoT principles. In the following lines main conclusions are

The water table level measurement was installed in the

ground and the rest of the sensors were grouped in eight sites
build over light poles with solar energy and lithium batteries.
Two radio interfaces were used (IEEE802.15.4 and
IEEE802.11) for communication between the sensors and
transport network that cover the area were the urbanization
works were done. The transport network has been build with a
WI-FI/WiMAX mesh network with five active nodes. The
network is self configuring so the location of sensors can be
changed as the works are done without any further
configuration. The information is delivered to the central
transform using a redundant connection based on a fiber optic
and a GPRS connection.

City council workers (policemen, fire-fighters,

inspectors,..) define the physical parameters that will be
measured, what kind of sensors will be used for a specific
service, how install these sensors in the street and how
deliver the information to municipality workers, trusted
third parties and citizens.

A set of requirements has been identified to facilitate the

deployment of a wireless sensor network:
o Transport network is based in TCP/IP protocols (IP
version 4 with tunneling for the IP version 6) over WIFI, WiMAX, Ethernet.
o Access network should allow easy internetworking
with the transport networks so they should be able to
transport IP packets. In particular intended technologies
are: WI-FI, Bluetooth, ZigBee IP corresponding to
Smart Energy Profile Version 2.0 and 6LoWPAN on
top of IEEE802.15.4e when possible.

This deployment offers a solution to the monitoring of

different parameters, it uses one single point of storage for the
data, with a uniform representation and supporting
mechanisms for data analysis and data exploitation for third

o When used, batteries should be Lithium to achieve long

duration and minimum impact to the environment.
o All the elements deployed should provide information
about its location and should be remotely managed.

The data obtained was used to control de impact of the

municipality works on the citizens and to define a set of
environmental requirements to the construction companies to
be fulfilled during the works.


The interaction between gateways and the data warehouse

and from it to the application will follow a REST
(Representational State Transfer) model using HTTP.

An extension of the language used to exchange

information on existing elements is being done to

This work is partially funded by Departament dEmpresa i

Ocupaci (Generalitat de Catalunya) with the support of the
European Union.

anticipate the introduction of new information sources

and actuation elements.
As the technology evolves rapidly the list of potential
transport and access technologies can change, but there is a
clear compromise with the usage of IP, and as a consequence
with the Internet of Things.

The authors also thank the funding from project TIN201020136-C03-03.

The list of recommendations is the result of several pilots

applied to the Barcelona Municipality. Other cities with other
interests and background may reach other recommendations.

[1] Barcelona Smart City project web site;
[2] 22@ Urban Lab project:,e
[3] IETF CoRE Working Group ,
[4] Web site of the SensorML initiative.

BCI is carried out by a consortium of companies, academic
partners and research centers. The components of the
consortium are: Abertis Telecom (leader of the project), Doxa,
Aventia, AIA, Institut Municipal dInformtica (IMI),
Universitat Politcnica de Catalunya (UPC) and i2CAT, which
make a well balanced consortium.