Barcelona shutting up neighbours via sensors

Technology transforming modern cities into future cities


Published: June 03, 2018 14:13:46 | Updated: June 05, 2018 14:25:26


This new sensor can detect air pollution, noise levels, humidity and temperature. Image Courtesy: BBC

Spain’s Barcelona is hushing their neighbourhoods with state of the art easy to use sensors that can detect air pollution, noise levels, humidity and temperature.

In the heart of the bustling city of Barcelona is a square that at first sight seems like an oasis of calm. The Plaza del Sol, as the name suggests, is a suntrap and the perfect place to while away a few hours.

The problem is that the square is just too popular and for many of the city's young inhabitants has become the number one venue to meet friends and hang out until the small hours.

One resident said it was like living in a permanent party.

Even the shops around the square reflect its reputation for late-night carousing, selling beer, pizza and little else.

The situation had become unbearable for those with apartments around the square, who have lived with unacceptable noise levels for the past 20 years.

Step in Barcelona's fabrication laboratory, one of a network of 1,200 workshops around the world that allow people to test out new designs and ideas, and build products and new technology using a range of cutting-edge tools. Labs share their designs online so that something built in Boston can be replicated in a lab in Shenzhen.

With the help of some EU money, the lab built these low-cost sensors that are proving to enhance a sound reduction around its cities.

"This was not only about being part of a scientific project but about enabling political action," said Tomas Diez, who runs the lab.

Families placed the sensors on their balconies and were able to demonstrate that night-time noise levels - with peaks of 100 decibels - were far higher than World Health Organization recommendations.

Armed with this information, the residents went to the city council, pressing them to rethink the use of the plaza.

Police now move people on at 23:00. Rubbish lorries, which had previously cleared up when the partygoers left in the early hours, have been rescheduled for the morning, and steps that provided seating for gatherers have now been filled with plant boxes.

"Now the square is not just for people who want to party at night," said Mr Diez.

His vision for fab labs goes further, imagining them as a vehicle to allow cities to become truly self-sufficient. They can provide its citizens with technology to grow their own food, 3D-print new products whenever they need them and offer them the tools they need to fight the growing problems of urbanism.

He, along with other technologists, designers and architects, is backing a project known as Fab City - a collective of 18 cities from Europe, India, China and America - that aims to create more sustainable and productive cities around the world in the next 30 years, reports BBC.

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