Smart Cities: Barcelona incorporating IoT, Big Data to drive tourism management


d-LAB, the Mobile World Capital Barcelona (MWCapital) digital transformation programme, has presented in GSMA Mobile World Congress the results of its project connecting the latest Big Data and IoT technologies with tourism at the Sagrada Familia church.

The project has been completed in partnership with Barcelona City Hall, Eurecat and Orange with the support of GSMA.

The project applies Big Data and Internet of Things solutions in the analysis of the tourist flows around the temple, in order to know the dynamics of mobility of the visitors, how their presence impacts in the environment and the use that they make of the public transportation to move around, among other aspects.

After the launch of this pilot project in November – which was presented in the last edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress – Bárbara Vallespín, the Programme Director at d-LAB, has highlighted the impact and benefits of technology in city governance. The initiative has allowed information on the behavioural and mobility patterns of visitors to Gaudí’s church to be gathered and analysed.

During the presentation, which also saw the participation of Marc Torrent, Director of the Big Data Centre of Excellence at Eurecat, Vallespín has detailed the three phases of the project and the main conclusions that can be applied to services management, mobility and resources available to tourism in Barcelona.

The Sagrada Familia case study: technology applied to a major tourist attraction

The data was collected on both macro and micro levels. The macro phase, built on Big Data technology, gathered information on visitor profiles: tourists, visitors with at least one overnight stay, travellers, day trippers who do not stay in the city overnight, or visitors who only venture into the city for its nightlife, with an average stay from 18:00 to 06:00.

Using these models, the project analysed the city’s internal mobility patterns. This initiative has transcended traditional evaluation methods (surveys) and applied Big Data and the data of a mobile operator (Orange) to analyse these movements.

This macro level of analysis established that the routes between city districts most followed by tourists plot a course through the Eixample, Ciutat Vella and Sants-Montjuïc (in both directions). However, the second phase of the project (micro analysis) was launched to determine mobility patterns at street level: IoT elements were implemented in order to evaluate the reach of micro mobility in the Sagrada Familia area.

Using Wi-Fi, GSM and 3D sensors over the course of 4 weeks, the main entry and exit points at the church were determined, and the crossroads between Mallorca and Marina streets was identified as having the maximum density of movement.

This phase demonstrated that 50% of tourists stay in the Sagrada Familia area for less than 40 minutes, while only 20% enter the church itself. The busiest visiting times are between 10:00 and 12:00, and this pattern is repeated at the weekend, with an increased number of visitors in the afternoon.

From the analysis to the streets

Undertaking a study with the use of cutting-edge technological solutions in the vicinity of the church has allowed a series of recommendations on the management of the city and its tourism to be defined along with possible local government measures.

For example, the report highlights Big Data’s potential in using visitor behaviour to discover details such as their journeys within the city. Likewise, understanding the type of visitors at any tourist attraction allows tailored content and recommendations to be offered in order to promote new tourist experiences.

These opportunities also allow future challenges in the analysis of busy tourist areas to be defined. Specifically, the results underline the options that real-time monitoring in these types of spaces can offer, with direct applications for detecting unexpected agglomerations of visitors or the predictive analysis of movements within the city, etc.

This in-depth analysis to the reality of tourism at the Sagrada Familia has also brought to light the importance of developing a method of combining offline and online data to speed up obtaining real-time information in the street.

Pilot projects with a social impact

d-LAB currently has 2 other active pilot projects that take a closer look at the potential of digital transformation in sectors such as health or relations between citizens and public administration agencies.

The second project, based on the use of the mConnect solution for digital public services, works towards the construction of secure, barrier-free digital environments allowing access to the services offered by public administration agencies. This pilot project is at an advanced stage and also involves three Catalan City Halls – Manlleu, Castellar del Vallès and Esparreguera – that will use mConnect to manage the digital services they offer to their local citizens.

The final pilot project underway applies mConnect in the private health sector. Specifically, it promotes the implementation of mConnect as a new digital authentication standard in the health sector. This pilot project will allow citizens simple, private and secure access to their personal online health data file via mobile devices without the need for a password.

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