Around ten traffic-free minutes by car from the Diagonal is Plaza Sant Jaume, in the middle of the Gothic Quarter, where countless tourists squeeze through the alleyways like the cars through the streets. The centerpiece of the plaza is Barcelona’s city hall. Here, in this magnificent building with a neoclassical façade and courtyard in the Gothic style, is the administrative center of the Barcelona of the future.
The city is attempting to position itself as a Smart City, using intelligent solutions to improve the lives of its citizens. Barcelona has been suffering quite a bit since the 2008 economic downturn, as has all of Spain. The crisis was a warning shot across the bow, and has thus led the city to make massive investments in innovation centers over the past six years and to support start-ups. Politicians want to connect people and data, with the vision of an open-source city in which residents can access a multitude of different data.
Mobility also plays a role in this, even if the current government isn’t quite as intensively focused on sensors as the previous one was. The current solutions being pursued involve more public transportation and fewer private cars—to help decrease air pollution. The connected car, however, could be of assistance, as it can easily be linked to promising transportation forms such as car sharing.
For José Miguel García, the city government’s efforts are so far just the beginning. He wants to take things further. “Barcelona,” he says, “should become the world capital of the connected car.”
On Plaza España, one of the city’s most representative plazas, where the locals are driving to work and the tourist buses are rolling into the city on the roundabout, García is planning ways to promote the smart car even further. García is director of Automobile Barcelona, an automotive trade show held every two years that attracts the world’s most important carmakers. Yet the show will be undergoing significant changes this coming May. “What we’re doing is unique worldwide,” García says. “There are traditional car shows, and there are technology trade shows such as the CES in Las Vegas. But we’re bringing these two worlds together, and it’s about time. The car show will still go on, but it will also be about expanding it with the Connected Hub.”
García’s desktop is buried beneath a heap of documents and brochures. As always, carmakers from around the world have been contacting him—but only recently have technology companies also been doing the same, including IBM, Microsoft and T-Systems. García describes it as follows: “If you put a car key and a smartphone on a table in front of an eighteen-year old, chances are that she will almost always go for the smartphone nowadays. The world is undergoing massive changes—and recognizing that is essential.”