April 29 - As the centrepiece of an ambitious experiment to make cities more efficient and easier to live in, Santander in Spain is being hailed as the smartest in Europe. With thousands of near-field sensors installed throughout the city, Santander authorities say they have created a technology template for others to follow. Ben Gruber reports.
The port city of Santandar, located on Spain's north coast is the cleverest (most intelligent?) city in the world, according to professor Luis Munoz of the "SmartSantader" project. The city is part of an EU funded experiment to make cities more efficient. Thousands of sensors placed in strategic locations, collect data that feeds into an online network that anyone with an ap on their mobile device can read as real-time information. It provides all kinds of data from live traffic updates, to information about air quality and weather. Munoz says it will even find you a parking spot.. (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) LUIS MUNOZ, PROFESSOR AND SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR OF THE "SMART SANTANDER" PROJECT, SAYING: "This is calibrated with the earth's magnetic field in this area. And when something comes and parks on it, a vehicle in this case, it produces alterations in the magnetic field lines and those changes are interpreted as the presence of a car." There are twelve thousand sensors placed throughout Santander to form a network that mayor Inigo de la Serna says, is bringing a new level of efficiency to the city. He says the data stream has also brought significant energy savings. The sensors can tell when the city's parks need irrigating or when street lights need to be turned on. Using a smart phone the city's residents can use the application to report problems in their neighborhoods.. (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) SANTANDER'S MAYOR, INIGO DE LA SERNA, SAYING: "If, through the application, a citizen reports a faulty pavement at a side walk, they can see how, as if by magic, in two days, a maintenance team arrives without anyone having to get in touch with anyone personally to fix the problem." It's a convenience, Santandar resident Jose Carlos Cebollos, says is proving to be very popular.. (SOUNDBITE)(Spanish) SANTANDER RESIDENT, JOSE CARLOS CEBOLLOS, SAYING: "I think it is a good step forward to improve the interaction between citizens and the city's administration and a good way to have access to more information. It's also an evolution in the way citizens get access to information, which in many cases is through mobile technology. I think it is just the first step." Professor Munoz says the experiment is working. He believes Santander's technological evolution could be a model for other cities, not just in Europe but around the world..