Experiencing an urban revolution at the Smart City Expo World Congress

Held every year in Barcelona, Spain, the Smart City Expo features the best of the world’s smart city pioneers, all together in one large-but-very-walkable exhibition space.

Team Point 6 made a tapas-fuelled trek to the sunny city to check out the latest and greatest in smart city technology. Having been immersed in the smart technology sector for many years, we were keen to discover the newest developments and trends that could inform the future of the industry.

With over 1,000 exhibitors, and representatives from 700 cities, the amount of information and experiences on offer was almost overwhelming – but definitely exciting.

Surviving driverless

Straight away, we were keen to check out the driverless automated vehicles. So we joined the queue (‘Brits abroad’ doesn’t always have to be bad thing!), and waited patiently for an action-packed demo trip around the side of the expo building and back.

Travelling at heady speeds of up to 20km/hr, and holding up to nine people, EasyMile offers a pioneering – if not surprisingly low-key – mode of driverless transport. It was certainly surreal to watch the vehicle perform a precise three-point-turn with not a human in sight.

The ride itself was pretty smooth. The demo featured ‘obstacles’ (assistants) who stepped in the way to demonstrate the emergency brake function, something that seems like an obvious drawback of automated mobility. It’s interesting to think about how this technology could revolutionise smart city centres, but also about its possible limitations. For example, how would it work on a larger scale? Who would help if something went wrong? And what if the vehicles gained sentience and took over the world?

Either way, automated mobility had a strong presence throughout the expo, and we got the impression it won’t be long until it’s gaining traction in smart cities across the world.

Together forever

We then moseyed on over to a talk by City Possible, an incentive created to promote urban co-development within cities across the globe.

A group of city leaders discussed the importance of engaging with citizens. After all, they are the ones living with the tech day-to-day! Involving them early on into any project is key to not only ensuring they feel they are playing a pivotal role in the future of their space, but also in helping them form a trusting relationship with official channels.

The panel also spoke about how cities can band together with local companies, stimulating the economy while improving their own services. The City Innovation Manager from Belfast admitted his team were limited when it came to collating or interpreting data, so they employed a local analytics agency to help them out.

He suggested that governments aren’t always good at coming up with solutions to issues themselves, which we think plays into the idea that everyone needs to work together to make cities better places. In fact, a poignant Henry Ford quote was used to describe the process:

‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.’

A sentiment that team Point 6 can definitely relate to!

We crammed a lot into our investigative smart city excursion, so stay tuned for part two, where you can discover what happened when we tried out VR!

Want to talk to us about your smart city project? Get in touch!

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