Spain's Santander, The City that Runs on Sensors
Buried under the streets of Santander, Spain—or discreetly affixed to buses, utility poles, and dumpsters—are some 12,000 electronic sensors that track everything from traffic to noise to surfing conditions at local beaches. This digital nervous system puts the city of 180,000 at the forefront of one of the hottest trends in urban management: streaming real-time data to the public in an effort to increase the efficiency and reduce the stress of city life.
Santander’s narrow downtown streets are dotted with electronic signs that direct drivers to the nearest available parking spaces, reducing traffic congestion. Sensors are being installed on dumpsters to signal when they need emptying and are being buried in parks to measure soil dampness, preventing sprinkler overuse. Coming soon: wireless-enabled meters that monitor water consumption at homes and businesses, phasing out door-to-door meter readers. Mayor Iñigo de la Serna says the effort, known as SmartSantander, will cut city waste-management bills 20 percent this year, and he projects a 25 percent drop in energy bills as sensors conserve use in public building systems. “Smart innovation is improving our economic fabric and the quality of life,” the mayor says. “It has changed the way we work.”
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