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Background info

Santander is one of the main cities of the North coast of Spain, with a population of over 172.000 inhabitants. The Santander City Council has a strong and proved commitment towards innovation and technology deployment for advancing quality of life of citizens, and as a lever for the creation of employment and economic activity.

Problems to solve

Santander has a higher proportion of older people (25%) than the regional average (22%), which is already one of the highest in the country (Spain has a value of near 20%, data of 2020). This proportion is expected to be increased in the following years. This scenario is producing demand in services at the local authority for improved and new public services to the general public to all the aspects of the city, from which liveability and city friendliness could be good examples.

As many other cities, Santander has started to put in place different measures to soften the difficulties experienced by older adults in several aspect of their daily life like mobility, and since 2012 the city has been member of the WHO Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities.

Several more concrete actions have been carried out, as the creation of new facilities to improve the mobility. The hilly nature of Santander makes it difficult for people to move in some transversal directions and easier in longitudinal ones. This special orography not only makes these movements difficult but also prevents the municipal bus transport service from adequately covering this demand. The impact on citizens is important but is logically greater for those who have special mobility difficulties such as the older adults.


In order to solve this problem, an important number of mechanical ramps, escalators and elevators have been installed in recent years that have been very well received by the citizens and specially, by the older ones. However, as it will be seen below, the concepts of age-friendliness and liveability in the city go beyond infrastructures that ease the physical difficulties of mobility.


These concepts are determined by an important set of factors, many of which are already well known from local government and public administration officials in general. In this context, the following needs have been identified: 

  • to contrast the existing knowledge of municipal decision-makers with the vision of the real users of the city, the citizens and, in particular, of those groups clearly most affected, the older people;

  • to optimise new investments, once the clearest decisions on setting up new mobility facilities (escalators, etc.) have been taken, with the aim of fine-tuning the balance between impact and investment as much as possible, in an economic scenario with a significant limitation of resources;

  • to increase transparency in decision-making, helping decision-makers to make informed decisions while stakeholders can gain a better understanding of the criteria that have been used and the results that have been achieved.


In order to meet these needs, it becomes clear that technologically advanced tools are needed to satisfy all stakeholders in a specific, customized and personalized way. As described above, the citizens have a strong demand for improved liveability in the city. The current context of the city and its characteristics have different degree of impact for each population segment. One of these segments is the older adults who, due, among others, to the process of ageing, have a diminished physical capacity to cope with the obstacles they face in their daily lives. However, there are others segments of the population, not directly associated with age, such as people with reduced mobility, which need to be considered. In this sense, it is worth highlighting the concept of degree of impact on the different segments of the population, a factor to be taken into account in the development of any action.

Why Urbanage solution?

Setting up a digital twin of the city would allow simulating and obtaining objective comparisons about the relative benefit of a new intervention or the inconveniences and difficulties that for example a public work or the remodeling of a street could produce in a specific segment of the population, in this case, the older population. Having a digital twin of the city will be of great value to make a more objective and deeper multi-criteria analysis to make informed decisions. Furthermore, extending, enriching, and updating the digital twin along time will allow future analysis, comparing the expected with the actual results.

  • The digital twin will be used to simulate simple scenarios such as breakdowns in installations and complex ones, such as remodeling areas of a neighborhood.

  • In relation to the new General Urban Plan, the digital twin will be able to provide objective information based on the most up-to-date data regarding the consequences of each of the options considered in the planning.

3 target urban areas have been identified in which the digital twin should gather as much information as possible, in at least one of them. There are the following:


  • “Entrehuertas” at the southern slopes of “General Dávila” street (District 3), census sections from no. 03.002 to 03.009 and from 03.013 to 03.014;

  • “Barrio del rey”, close to the downtown, full census sections no. 02.008, 02.009 and 02.013;

  • “Arrabal de fuera” between “Vargas” and “Alta” streets (District 6), the full census section no. 01.011, and partially 06.004, 01.009 and 01.010.


These three areas have been chosen because their characteristics, especially for their need of urban regeneration. In fact, one of them is included in a specific action plan within the municipality and the other two are of great interest in the new urban planning action under development.

The needs of those involved in making decisions about the city and those who must implement those decisions must be considered.  It is important to highlight that these needs are directly related to their professional responsibilities and this is a factor that impacts on their awareness and expectations on the results. Two important stakeholder groups must be considered. The first of these would be politicians and high-level civil servants. 

The socio-economic context in which this group has to work creates new challenges and demands for them. First, decisions become more complex, and the optimisation of solutions becomes more and more important. Secondly, there is a challenge in the growing f accountability of their decisions, in a society that is becoming more knowledgeable and more willing to participate in decision-making.

To properly achieve the above-mentioned projects and initiatives, civil servants must have tools that allow them to carry out their responsibilities easily and more efficiently. The expected outcomes pursued can be divided into three aspects:

  • on the social side, it is important that public investments are made with the highest possible degree of optimisation, seeking for a fair and legitimate balance between the different stakeholders and areas of the city and with the greatest possible transparency in all processes, but mainly in decision-making.

  • on the political side, having the capacity to make informed decisions, with adapted upcoming information and adapted values of parameters, to the level of responsibility of the civil servants. e.g. appropriate level of data abstraction allowing them to be more effective within the political agenda and timing.


On the communication side, in addition to the transparency mentioned above, there are additional important aspects. The initiatives taken within the Urbanage project are other examples of the city council's commitment to improve municipal services and create new services adapted to the current innovative technological context, and particularly with the Smart City concept, to which Santander has been committed since 2010. The co-creation activities developed in the project make citizens aware not only that the city council takes their opinions into account on an ongoing basis and not only in specific situations, but also that a greater degree of participation is required on their part in the provision of their needs and their points of view, working to share responsibility in the development of the city and in the search for and implementation of solutions to the new challenges that arise. The activities and the general results of this project can set an example of the way to tackle new initiatives and also an example of good practice in the development of responsibilities of public administrations.

expected benefits

  • Improved co-creation processes based on the information provided to the citizenship.

  • Integration of the URBANAGE Ecosystem with the rest of Smart City components of the municipality i.e. Smart City platform and SmartCitizen among others forming an advanced system for decision making based on objective data and future scenarios modellin

  • Appraisal of the areas and segments of population in which the URBANAGE Ecosystem produces the highest
    impact on the way decisions are taken.





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