Smart services, connectivity and regulation

Smart Services

The integration of ICT into services rendered normal in urban settings is what gives meaning to the expression ‘smart’.

According to figures from the Comisión del Mercado de Telecomunicaciones (the Spanish telecommunications regulator) for June 2012, almost 16.6 millon users have accessed the Internet via smartphones and tablets. 

The E.C. published a document outlining the need for a confidentiality guarantee; the right to so-called ‘silence of the chips’, referring to people who can be disconnected at any time from their network. 

In general terms, Smart Cities are considered to be those whose essential services for citizens are performed with efficiency and sustainability, and in which the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) becomes one of the main management tools.

It is precisely the incorporation of ICT services rendered normal in urban environments, from street lighting to mobility management, which gives meaning to the expression smart. During the last Barcelona Smartcity World Congress in November 2012, discussion arose about what services could be considered smart or not. In each case, there was unanimity in keeping the Smart Cities concept as an integrator of all projects aimed at the optimal and sustainable management of services in cities. Within this discussion, the project to establish a certification system for cities to assess their level of efficiency, the City Protocol, makes sense.

The development of ICT in general and in particular new forms of mobile connectivity, have brought about a revolution in the management of these services. This has three aspects:

(1) Thanks to mobile broadband and the increasing use of smartphones, information on various services of interest to citizens can be consulted in a user friendly way via mobile,

(2) The coverage of GPRS, 3G and, in the future 4G mobile services enable a large distribution of sensors in urban and peripheral locations, without requiring specific ad hoc networks, and

(3) many initiatives are being launched to convert smartphones into special devices which primarily provide highly accurate position data and also to enhance certain public information services through comments posted by users themselves.

The appearance of huge numbers of smartphone models, coupled with the policy of subsidised handsets by mobile operators in Spain until the spring of 2012, have allowed the number of mobile broadband users, to be the highest in the E.U.

Also, certain regulatory decisions made by the CMT[1], such as reducing wholesale call termination prices and promoting the creation of Mobile Virtual Network Operators, operators without their own network and which currently account for 9% of the market, have encouraged competition and thus reduced user prices and seen growth in the number of lines and handsets. According to CMT[2] figures from June 2012, almost 16.6 millon users had accessed the internet via smartphones and tablets.  

The development of mobile broadband has provided a catalyst towards the deployment of services based on the Internet of Things(IoT). The spread of new devices connected by mobile broadband SIM card networks for services that can support Smart Cities on web platforms are capable of processing large amounts of data and providing real-time information without needing specific network interconnections. According to figures from the quarterly CMT report cited previously, the number of M2M (Mobile to Mobile) lines which are largely credit card payment terminals, today amounts to 2.64 million. This figure will increase rapidly in the coming years to include mobile connectivity from cars to obtain the best traffic information and reduce emissions, to appliances which optimise energy management. The E.C. published a paper about IoT[3] in which a number of devices / phones are provided with wireless, traceable sensors. This exposed the need for a confidentiality guarantee in data processing, a normalisation for different device systems are interoperable and the right to the so-called silence of the chips, referring to people who can be disconnected from their network at any time. The E.U. public consultation about IoT was completed in July 2012, and their recommendation is set to be published in the summer of 2013.

As mentioned earlier, mobile phones and more importantly smartphones incorporating GPS, are devices on which new applications are appearing in the field of Smart Cities. The availability of real-time location data for populations about urban connections may enable immediate decision-making to improve mobility and effectiveness: think of public transport management and private traffic optimisation. However, location at the individual level requires incentives for the public to give their consent to the use of their location data, unless such data is added anonymously. At the most recent Barcelona Smartcity World Congress different experiences were identified (Smart City Santander, iCity, Barcelona Digital) in which the ability to access real time traffic or transportation information was both an incentive to participate like a passive location device, and by quickly responding to a few predetermined questions or participating in a short game while using a means of transport (

The E.C.. document about location data on mobile devices[4] describes the different degrees of accuracy that can be obtained in the conventional mobile phone location; about 50 m in dense urban areas, or smartphones with GPS activation which gather WIFI data from 15m to 4 m away. For phones with mobile broadband access, this information is available from the purely technical point of view.

However, as indicated in this document, the use of the data associated to individuals by others is subject to general data protection[5] directives and any localisation data from smartphones[6] involves the prior consent of the client on the part of the operator. These limitations do not apply if the data is anonymous and cannot identify the individual.

The importance of mobile broadband is reflected in the Barcelona Mobile World Capital project, which has the use of mobile phones in Smart Cities and urban mobility applications as one of its featured programs. It will be an excellent opportunity to generate significant economic activity in the areas of Smart Cities and mobile applications in general.

In my opinion and with the aim of securing important industrial returns, among other initiatives being carried out by the MWC (Mobile World Congress) Barcelona organisation, an advisory body composed of independent experts with industry knowledge and its technological progress must be provided. Also, a task force should be created to promote the incorporation of innovative SMEs into projects led by large companies as well as public excellence centres being integrated into these projects.


by Albert Martí

Ex Adviser to the Comisión del Mercado de Telecomunicaciones (CMT)


[1] Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones: Definition and analysis of voice call termination costs for individual mobile networks - Mercado 7 (Mayo 2012).

Wholesale market for access and call origination in mobile networks – Old Market 15 (2 February 2006, currently under review)

[2] CMT. 2nd Quarterly Report 2012

[3] Internet of Things — An Action Plan for Europe COM(2009) 278 final

[4] Opinion 13/2011 on Geolocation Services on Smart Mobile Devices  881/11/EN / WP 185, 16 mayo 2011

[5] Directive 95/46/EC; Proposal on General Data Protection Regulation COM(2012) 11 final

[6] Directive 2009/136/EC


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