New app allows citizens to participate in city development

12th June 2013 Nick Michell

A new smartphone app launched by the city of Santander, Spain, will allow citizens to become actively involved in the development of the city through the real time reporting of events.

“We have introduced a new service called Participatory Sensing,” said Íñigo de la Serna, Mayor of Santander, at the Smart to Future Cities 2013 event held today in London. “The users, through their smartphone app El Pulso de la Ciudad (The Pulse of the City), report events and incidents occurring in the city, for example a hole in the pavement. The service interacts with the municipality management platform that receive such reports, before the corresponding municipality opens an incident report, which is made available to the citizen, allowing them to trace how the incident is solved on a daily basis. The service has forced us to change the way in which the city is managed in terms of services. Now most of the incidents are solved in fewer than six or seven days.”

Santander has installed 10,000 sensors around the centre of the city, throughout an area of 6 square kilometres. The sensors are hidden inside small grey boxes attached to street lamps, poles and building walls. Some are even buried beneath the asphalt of parking lots. Everyday these sensors measure light, pressure, temperature, humidity, and the movements of cars and people.

Every couple of minutes, the sensors transmit their data to a laboratory at the University of Cantabria, the central location that collates data from across the city. Every bus transmits its position, mileage and speed, as well as data from its environment, such as ozone or nitric oxide pollution levels. Taxis and police cars do the same. Through the Pulse of the City app the citizens of Santander become human sensors themselves.

“About 5,000 users are now using this application,” said Mayor de la Serna. “The citizens not only receive information, send events and incidents but become actively involved in the development of the city. We have made another application available to the citizens, Santander City Brain. It is an open ideas platform, provided by Santander City Council for anyone who wishes to share their ideas and projects, comment and vote on suggestions and upcoming initiatives. It allows them to participate in the development of Santander as a smart city and the development of the city’s strategic plan.”