Smart City Santander: Proven Technology, Uncertain Business Models

The city of Santander boasts 20,000 fixed and mobile sensors throughout the city – on buses, in parks, waste bins and in buildings.  These sensors capture bus locations, humidity in the air and soil, pollution etc. They tell bus riders when their bus will arrive; they tell city park workers when to water the gardens. They also dim lights when there is no one on the street at night, and turn them on when cars or pedestrians pass. They create a complex internet of things and a rich source of data. Together with the platform enabling the aggregation, analysis and visualization of these data, they (will) provide a valuable tool at the disposal of city leaders, enterprises, developers and citizens. Today Smart Santander is a living lab (with an application pending to be part of the European Network of Living Labs). 

Having launched in September 2010 with €6 million budget (primarily from the EU) and 15 partners, the project is now in its 3rd and final phase.  With its sensor network, the city demonstrates the benefits of the Internet of Things across several initiatives:

  • Urban mobility: Sensors on buses and in taxis make it easier for citizens and tourists to find transportation; parking sensors help drivers find available places more quickly.
  • Water management: Sensors embedded in urban gardens detect soil humidity and enable more efficient watering; the broader water initiative envisions smart water meters in homes and buildings, and use of the sensors by Aqualia, the city’s water company.
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There Is No Internet Of Things

More than a decade ago — in May 2001 — Forrester authored a report heralding the coming of the X Internet, or extended Internet, defined as “Internet devices and applications that sense, analyze, and control the real world.” We proclaimed that “the Web is fading fast . . . smart devices will push the scale of the Internet far beyond today’s PC-based Net.”

Turns out that the vision we laid out in 2001 still hasn’t come to fruition. While enterprises in healthcare, manufacturing, and utilities are well down the path of the X Internet — better known today as the Internet of Things, the industrial Internet, or in Cisco Systems' parlance, the Internet of Everything — consumer adoption and general business adoption of sensor devices and services are just getting started.

The sensor-laden consumer products that are starting to hit the market are “smart” in sensing and relaying information about the physical bodies wearing them or the physical environments they inhabit — a phenomenon we call “smart body, smart world.”  But these smart products could get a lot smarter: Today they are largely fragmented and not as useful as they could be.

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