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Data> Big Data Updated: 31 Oct 2018

BBVA uses big data to 'restructure' maps of Madrid, Barcelona and Mexico City

BBVA launches Urban Discovery, an interactive tool open to everyone that analyzes the cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Mexico City through the prism of their commercial activity. The analysis led to the creation of new maps that redraw urban borders and identify the most touristic and residential areas or those where young people go shopping.


The project developed by BBVA Data & Analytics analyzed more than 413 million card transactions throughout the year – always with anonymous, aggregated data – to get an updated perspective on the dynamics taking place in these cities.

The results can be viewed on an interactive display of the data – developed in collaboration with CARTO. Users are invited to explore the maps of each city and even create their own tags to define the new divisions.

“Data science allows us to better understand the dynamics in these cities, examine how citizens are using them according to their lifestyle, and describe each area’s specialization, patterns and predominant activities. In addition to enriching the project with its contributions, we encourage them to create categories that help us incorporate new perspectives in these results,” says Juan Murillo, the Head of Territorial Analysis at BBVA & Analytics.

Communities and tags

In the first section, Urban Discovery shows how citizens – both residents and visitors – move around the city to make their purchases. After dividing cities into small hexagonal cells, the study analyzed where consecutive purchases were made by the same customers within a three hour time period. Using algorithms that group together the cells with the strongest connections (from having a high number of common shoppers) the divisions are automatically drawn, revealing a new urban configuration based on consumers most common movements.

The second section shows new divisions, defined by characteristics that reveal the predominant activities in each area, the residents’ standard of living or the residents’ or tourists’ preferences. This is how tags were created that separate the studied cities into six zones: center/downtown, affluent neighborhood, working-class neighborhood, business district, new development and places where consumer spending is associated with shopping centers.

“These tags are interesting because apart from classifying all the communities, the same criteria were applied to all three cities included in the study. This allows us to find areas with similar characteristics in Madrid, Barcelona and Mexico City,” adds Murillo.

This means that the tool allows for comparisons among the cities and also lets users discover the peculiarities of each one, such as those that were discovered in the analysis of Madrid and Barcelona.

Availability of results

This study, whose results are open to everyone and reusable, are part of BBVA’s vision of sharing its data to contribute to the development of society, fostering innovation and development by applying new methodologies and information sources to very different uses.

The applied research center, BBVA Data & Analytics, actively collaborates with different institutions to use their team’s financial data and analytical capacities to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, providing an extensive and dynamic perspective of the reality on the ground.