Information and communications technology, or ICT, now underlies nearly all the world’s major commercial sectors. Spain has risen to the top in a number of these sectors, as Spain’s information companies have provided international solutions for needs such as air and road traffic control, security in public spaces and digital ones, and mobile telecommunications. Spain was also the first country to employ a single broadcasting network for digital television. As a result, Spanish companies became experts in both low- and highpower transmitters and are active around the world in digital processing and transmission.
“The ICT sector in Spain boasts a large group of solid and competitive companies that are favorably positioned internationally, and are leading in their activity areas,” says Jesús Banegas, president of AMETIC, Spain’s association of information technology and communications companies.
A number of key factors in Spain have encouraged the flourishing of the ICT sector. Since autumn 2008, all national identity cards have been issued in an electronic format. Spain was one of the first countries in the EU to adopt this technology and, with more than 25 million e-ID cards issued, Spain is an international
leader in electronic signatures. Spain has also experienced rapid growth in the use of electronic health records.
Both have led to advances in information processing, and in security systems that safeguard a user’s digital data and all transactions the citizen makes electronically. Companies have developed solutions to verify personal identification and allow safe and secure card use both in person and online.
The implementation of the electronic ID has prompted the development of additional technologies. Informática el Corte Inglés, working with Investrónica, created the first digital TV decoder that is compatible with the electronic ID card. The device contains an ID reader and even allows users to access services via the television, if they have no computer or are unfamiliar with computer use.
Tourism, according to Juan José González, Indra’s director of development strategy, temporarily doubles Spain’s population every year. The country has built a modern network of internal flights and high-speed rail to accommodate their travel—and its companies developed sophisticated technology to manage air traffic and rail traffic. Indra’s air traffic control system, implemented around the world, helps three out of every five flights in the world land safely.
The high demands of tourism and travel have also led to new technologies to securely identify travelers. One such solution, which the Ministry of the Interior has installed, is called the Automatic Border Control System, or ABC System. The first of its kind in Europe, the system pairs facial recognition with the signals from electronic passports or electronic IDs, and links the information to four large databases: passport inspection, electronic ID authorization, police data, and border control. And for the financial security
of tourists and residents, in Spain and internationally, the company GMV developed a system to ensure monitoring of all ATM operations, and prevention of any unauthorized access.
Transportation and security systems come together in intelligent traffic systems, which can manage and operate sections of road, and also communicate data related to public transportation to riders. Spanish companies are implementing intelligent traffic control in a number of cities in China, and are also operating toll roads in North America.
The smart electrical grid provides another opportunity for ICT companies to manage huge amounts of data from electric companies together with usage information from consumers, in order to conserve energy and save money. South and Central America may be important new markets for this technology, as their emerging economies are deploying the new technologies from the bottom up rather than substituting for old ones.
The migration of digital services to the cloud has influenced the activities of Spain’s two largest ICT companies, Indra and Telefónica (which is the world’s fifth largest telecom company). Both Indra and Telefónica, along with other major ICT companies, are moving into digital services and cloud computing, and are integrating data from different services in order to create the smarter cities of tomorrow. Their solutions might involve integrating traffic control, police notifications, and hospitals and paramedics in order to deal quickly with any emergency.
Spanish digital skills extend to excellence in visualization as well: its companies created graphics for the televised vote tally in the U.S. 2008 presidential elections and the NASDAQ displays in Times Square. A Spanish company designed a program to create the realistic water images used in computer graphics in Hollywood. Yet another is playing a key role in the postproduction stereo 3-D processing for Peter Jackson’s two upcoming film adaptations of The Hobbit.
Connectivity remains crucial across all sectors, says AMETIC’s Banegas, pointing out that Spain heads European countries in smartphone ownership and use of 3G networks, and Spanish companies lead in providing Internet and broadband access. He says the sector will surge ahead “anywhere connectivity and mobility are a key factor.”