Smart Citizen Opens Eyes and Ears in Barcelona

More often than not, our coverage of projects here at Hackaday tends to be one-off sort of thing. We find something interesting, write it up for our beloved readers, and keep it moving. There’s an unending world of hacks and creations out there, and not a lot of time to cover them all. Still, it’s nice when we occasionally see a project we’ve previously covered “out in the wild” so to speak. A reminder that, while a project’s time on the Hackaday front page might be fleeting, their journey is far from finished.

A perfect example can be found in a recent article posted by the BBC about the battle with noise in Barcelona’s Plaza del Sol. The Plaza is a popular meeting place for tourists and residents alike, with loud parties continuing into the middle of the night, those with homes overlooking the Plaza were struggling to sleep. But to get any changes made, they needed a way to prove to the city council that the noise was beyond reasonable levels.

Enter the Smart Citizen, an open source Arduino-compatible sensor platform developed by Fab Lab Barcelona. We originally covered the Smart Citizen board back in 2013, right after it ran a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter. Armed with the data collected by Smart Citizen sensors deployed around the Plaza, the council has enacted measures to try to quiet things down before midnight.

Today people tend to approach crowdfunded projects with a healthy dose of apprehension, so it’s nice to see validation that they aren’t all flash in the pan ideas. Some of them really do end up making a positive impact, years after the campaign ends.

Of course, we can’t talk about distributed environmental monitoring without mentioning the fantastic work of [Radu Motisan], who’s made it his mission to put advanced sensors in the hands of citizen scientists.

[Thanks to muA for the tip.]

26 thoughts on “Smart Citizen Opens Eyes and Ears in Barcelona

        1. It is a Faulty Tower’s reference. Basil, the hotel owner, often says “Sorry, he’s from Barcelona” in reponse to some sort of misunderstanding involving his employee Manual – who is in fact from Barcelona.

    1. Mark, I have thought the same thing about that very saying. Whether or not “one-off” makes sense, I also think of “one of a kind”, and making “one OF” something. The English language is … well a confusing hodge podge. Take it of leave it, it’s the only one I know. Here’s another one of my favorites, “demonstrable”, not “demonstratable” as it possibly should be. p.s. $^#@& anyone who says otherwise ;-)

      1. except that in the OP’s case, he is wrong. The two terms both exist, and their definitions are completely different. Now, in the second case you’re correct (sort of), although both are accepted, one of them is actually wrong . At least until the internet decides it not (worng).

  1. ugh, NIMBY people annoy me so much. Places like the Barcelona’s Plaza del Sol have historically been used as meeting places for all sorts of people over the past several centuries, It isnt like this is a new phenomenon. If you dont like it then dont live there, because now rather than people gathering in one place they will spread out and cause problems else where in the city in a more distributed concentration that will cost more money for the tax payers through policing.

    Its like the people who move near to race tracks and then complain about the noise from them. It continues to show that the trend of society is to place self importance over that of the larger group and thus the destruction of any sort of community anywhere. The tell tale sign is that the complainers dont care where the group they are complaining about go, so long as it isnt near them. Instead we should give people a place to congregate as not only will it appease the people wishing to congregate in that place it will allow for much easier policing of the riff raff thus ensuring things do not get out of control.

    1. I’d say it depends what the noise is. People playing loud music or shouting late at night would be unacceptable for me, that’s also something about considering the group rather than the individual. The video says they proved the noise levels reached 100 decibels inside the homes of the people around the place, that’s like a jackhammer in the street or a jet plane over the end of a runway.

      1. To be honest, I am quite sceptical about 100 dB, even with single pane glass. Double pane glass does wonders, but you will still hear some noise of course.

        The noise in certain public places has always been a part of public liife. When renting or buying you know the level of noise. Noise measurement is not really a new technology either.

        The problem is a conflict of interest, nothing prevents wealthy people/banks/… from:
        1) identifying noisy squares in the world
        2) buying up some or most houses around it at the valuation of a noisy house
        3) renting them out to different people
        4) have an accomplice start a “grassroots” resistance movement against the noise
        5) wait until the noise is banned
        6) sell or rent out the houses at a noiseless valuation

        If you can’t predict the fluctuation, you can always organize it.

    2. Yeah I live very close to there.. It’s not that bad, really.. I like the place because it has a very friendly feel, so many people sitting on the ground and having fun. The neighbourhood of Gracia has many squares but this is the only one where that happens.

      Every night the police come at midnight and shut it down.. So they are doing something about it. On a friday/saturday night you’ll hear drunken yelling all around but it’s mainly because the bars in the area close. And it’s often tourists. Just the price of living in a hip neighbourhood I guess.

      1. Just to add, one thing to consider here though is that Gracia wasn’t always the hip party neighbourhood it is now. While I moved here for that reason, there’s many older people who grew up here and lived here for all their lives and are quite old now. For most of its time Gracia was a quiet old village neighbourhood (it was originally a separate village but Barcelona grew around it, those origins are still quite clearly seen). So I can imagine those residents feel much more strongly about it.

  2. Are you saying that it is impossible for people to congregate without an excessive amount of noise?
    I think that was the point here.

    However, I wholeheartedly support your second comment. Our community has residents of a new subdivision complaining about noise from the airport that has been there the past 80 years.

    1. +1.

      I once had an ongoing feud with an uncle who moved to our neighborhood and proceeded to complain (daily) about the foot traffic on his street. The foot traffic that was a result of the high school two blocks down from him. The HS that recently celebrated a 75 year anniversary. The HS that most of our family attended. The HS that reduced the taxes of most of the homes in that area. The HS that was there before he was born.

      Now, I know the deciding factor for his purchase was the tax break he received because of the Zoning of that area. But, you can’t argue with a person’s feeling of entitlement,

  3. PRO TIP: no need to force yourself to say “Plaza” every two sentences. The actual name in vernacular language is “Plaça”. That’s how Europe works, folks, you travel 100 km and people speak a different language.

  4. Cool to have a lively street scene. Our town has noise ordinances including baring street pianos the kind with a crank, but at the same time encourages street musicians downtown. But can Barcelona be any different than what I hear around town now that blurtooth squawkers and the ghetto-boom on wheels is all that’s left. None of that was here 10-20 years ago.

    I would be all for a string of sensors moved around to random locations to catch bass bombers who knock on everyone’s door and walls in a several block area as they drive-by. An array with mics and license plate camerae can determine with high accuracy that no false positive exists. The evidence will hold up in a court of law.

    1. There’s rarely ghetto blasters in Placa del Sol. People there are generally very friendly and considerate.

      You do get that kind of stuff in Barcelona, especially in the metro, lots of random “performers” playing loud music through a boombox on wheels, and screaming along while all the passengers try to block their ears. But not in placa del sol.

      1. The Barcelona City Hall web site shows La Plaza del Sol only during the day but tripadvisor also has some weekend photos at night of the Plaza del Sol.
        Calm young people sitting in the Plaza and having some drinks.

        Spaniards are loud and always partying and having fun, but I’ve seen much worse to complain about than a hundred people chilling out sitting at a Plaza.

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