How does a city handle one of the world’s biggest technology conferences?
Barcelona will answer that question this week, as it hosts the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which starts today and promises to be the largest mobile conference and trade show of its kind ever held.
Designated the Mobile World Capital by the mobile industry group GSMA until 2018, Barcelona has prepared thoughtfully for the event, reinforcing public transportation, tightening security, and hosting special activities around the city for the 77,000+ delegates and Barcelona residents alike. Here are some of the notable measures the city has taken to encourage success:
All MWC attendees receive a four-day special public transportation pass giving them access to all transit services (metro, buses, trams, and regional trains). In addition, special buses shuttle people between the airport and fairgrounds, and the major hotels.
All MWC attendees receive a special four-day public transportation pass. (Photo: Pablo Valerio)
Most taxis in Barcelona have been equipped with contactless payment terminals that accept both standard and contactless credit cards, plus mobile NFC payments. La Caixa, the largest Catalonian bank, has launched mobile payment wallets with the three main mobile operators in Spain: Movistar, Orange, and Vodafone.
To ensure all delegates enjoy fast, unlimited, and unbroken connectivity, the Fira de Barcelona, the organization responsible setting up this event, has deployed one of the largest WiFi networks ever installed anywhere, with more than 1,200 connection points, 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) of fiber optic cable, and 50 (31 miles) kilometers of wired network, covering the 240,000 square meters (2.6 million square feet) fairgrounds, with a total capacity of 10,000 megabits per second.
During MWC this week as well as the following week, visitors to Barcelona can enjoy the Mobile City Tour, an augmented reality experience in Passeig de Gracia (the main shopping street), which will guide them to special features and services in historic buildings and landmark shops.
For example, visitors of Casa Batlló can see the original furniture designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudì when snapping pictures inside the building (currently most of the rooms are empty). And the dragon that crowns the building’s facade awakens from a hundred year sleep and swoops down to surprise people taking pictures of the building.
While the MWC disrupts the normal pace of the city, the economic impact is enormous. Barcelona Mayor Xavier Trias confirmed last week that the city council expects the event to generate €360 million ($496 million) for the city economy and create more than 7,000 jobs during the event.
Attendees at the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. (Photo: Pablo Valerio)
Incidentally, today everyone is waiting for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to deliver the keynote address -- and possibly to explain why Facebook has agreed to pay $19 billion for a messaging app.
I’m sitting next to the conference hall and they are preparing for long lines. Just after that, at the other side of town, Samsung will unveil their latest member of the smartphone family, the Galaxy S5.
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? That's interesting, and probably especially true for visitors unfamiliar with the city. I was also thinking that many of these attendees never look up from their devices - so they wouldn't know when to get off of the train!
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? I do think it combines great marketing and confidence in the infrastructure being promoted. People take advantage of free transportation, investigate your city, and communicate it to thers!
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? In this particular case, because you have to change station with a complicated change (from train to metro and a long walk) and for this trip, I think taxi is faster.
Seems that you CAN catch one as there are like 3000 millions waiting outside :-)
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? You say taxis are faster in Barcelona than public transit, Leantricity, but that's really not the case in other cities. In NYC, for instance, it can take twice as long to crawl through traffic in a cab -- not to mention longer to get a cab -- than it does to walk to the station and take the train.
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? Thanks Pablo. Taxis are faster for sure, the question is how much faster is needed when you are out of city, going to have a beer with your friends???
The "problem" with that train line is that it ends in a station (Espanya) that makes you change lines if you want to go closer to the city center. So yes, taxi is faster but I guess it costs around 20€ to go from the venue to downtown, while the train is free or 1.3€ :-)
Maybe the Catalan train Network should flood attendees with information about the station around the corner and the travel times to the important places in town. Don't you agree? I think that the "mobility" concept can't live without public transport, mainly in a country where using your phone while driving is a no go. Also, with all the intelligence they are adding to the information systems of transports, you can perfectly match the waiting time to use any vehicle, so eliminating the bad part of public transport that's waiting at the stop.
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? I've seen it several times in other events. I thought it was something more globally done. Barcelona has a fantastic public transports network, so big events attendees get free passes during the events duration: for the cost of it (you can buy a 10 trips card for 10€ that works on bus, trains and metro) they "deploy" foreigners and visitors everywhere. I think the gains for the city commerce are much bigger than the present the city gives away. I've seen it combined with museums free passes also. Another positive thing. But, you first have to have a good network to give it away and make it work for you.
Re: Protesters Pre-Plan By Mobile? It strikes me as more disappointing than abnormal for there to be a long taxi line right near the public transport entrance. I'd love to know how many people are bypassing the cabs. Giving attendees transportation passes is a really genius idea.
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