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Learning about smart city success

Written by Sandra Steinhauer on 21 December 2018

Barcelona is at the forefront in smart city thinking - and a smart venue for EEN to take a connection-building group of innovative companies.

Main Image
Mobile photography on Plaza Espana square in Barcelona

© Shutterstock

Barcelona is one of Europe’s best examples of urban innovation, using a variety of technologies to change the daily life of its citizens. Starting in 2012, the city deployed responsive technologies across urban systems ranging from public transit to parking, through to street lighting and water and waste management. These innovations yielded significant cost savings, improved the quality of life for residents, and made the city a centre for the young IoT industry.


As part of the Innovate UK family, EEN took a small delegation of UK companies on an outward mission to Barcelona to connect with key regional stakeholders, build international partnerships and networks and participate in face-to-face meetings during a matchmaking session at Barcelona’s Smart Cities Expo World Congress.


“Being able to network with potential partners or companies allowed us to see what others were doing - in a sense we got some market validation,” says Chris Johns, founder of the startup PassageWay, which encourages users to connect with real-time transit options through its platform which transforms any internet-connected screen into a local wayfinding point.


“As a start-up, we weren’t going in to find contracts but it was useful to meet with other companies where we could understand the perspective of the other side. We got a holistic view that gave us a better understanding of the ecosystem, how cities are looking towards the notion of smart cities and technology.”


For Tony Skurr, senior solutions director at AI company Cortexica, it was a chance to get more insight into the city. “We wanted to explore the variety of technologies and opportunities in the market and how visual recognition could be developed in collaboration,” he says. “This trip allowed us to become exposed with project directors and innovations directors, across businesses, so we understand what the needs and challenges are.”


He says that “some really strong conversations”  developed out of meetings there. “Since returning home, we have already arranged meetings and participated in joint conference calls to potentially roll out pilots with our edge computing in some regions. It is really rewarding being able to collaborate and provide solutions which could change people’s lives.”