According to EY, 65 percent of world population will live in cities by 2040; in Mexico, 72 percent of the people already do. Cities will represent 60-80 percent of global energetic needs by the same year. But estimates also believe that intelligent sensors gather around 35,000 data per year, which if used smartly, will help reduce energy consumption by up to 30 percent.
By 2025 developing countries will have 440 smart cities, and Mexico will be in the Top 5 with more than 200 million devices connected to its national network by 2020, says EY. Global trends inherently push cities to become smart, not only to tackle energetic consumption issues, but also to improve life quality of the people. How does a city become smart and how is smartness measured? Keep reading!
MEASURING SMART CITIES
To measure a Smart City, one must first know what a city is. From a demographic perspective, it is understood as an urban settlement with more than 100,000 inhabitants. Following these metrics, the world has around 1,961,969 cities, according to Cuantas.net. But only a tiny percentage can be considered smart and Mexico is on the list with two of its cities.
Transport mobility, sustainability, governance, an innovation economy, digitalization and high living standards are the main axes that the EasyPark Smart Cities Index considers to rank the smartest cities in the world. “We discovered that such a city should be digitalized first and foremost—with 4G, plentiful Wi-Fi hotspots and high smartphone usage. Transport and mobility should be knowledge-based, with smart parking, traffic sensors and car sharing apps,” says EasyPark. “A Smart City is sustainable, with a focus on clean energy and environmental projection. In addition, there is excellent online access to governmental services and a high level of citizen participation.”
The organization analyzed more than 500 cities and measured how developed they were in terms of the aforementioned factors to rank the best 100. “To round off the study, we asked over 20,000 technology and urban planning journalists for their expert opinion on how the cities where they’ve lived are moving with the curve of digitalization,” says Easy Park.
Copenhagen, Singapore, Stockholm, Zurich and Boston lead the rank. In Latin America, Panama, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are the only countries included, the latter just making the cut. Monterrey was ranked the 98th smartest city with a 3.54/10 score, while Mexico City was placed number 100 with a 3.19/10 average.
The ultimate goal of a Smart City is to improve residents’ life quality. Accordingly, EY finds that a city becomes smart when its authorities advocate fulfilling citizens’ needs through better urban planning and a savvy use of technology. The latter implies collecting city data through digital channels and using this information to upgrade city services while integrating citizens in an innovative and community-centered change.
Sustainability must be a key axis of any city aiming for smartness, says EY. Reducing pollution, generating clean energy, recycling resources and enhanced waste management is vital. Likewise, access to internet and information technologies should be widely available to foster social inclusion and increase institutional transparency. Finally, a Smart City must have a wise public expenditure, increased security and a significant digital economy.
According to the consultancy, Mexican cities are still early on the path to becoming smart. Connectivity solutions, basic urban and transport infrastructure and internet network access to all citizens are just being developed. It says the first step to becoming smarter is simply having the desire achieve so.
SMART CITIES ABROAD: IT’S ASPIRATIONAL
No city becomes smart out of the blue, with most following the example of another. But, what was the first Smart City in the world? “South Korea is arguably the world’s most technologically-advanced nation, so it is no surprise its capital leads in Smart City technology,” writes James Roberts, Chief Economist at Knight Frank, in the 2018 Global Cities Report.
Accounting for smart solutions to better meet citizenry needs, Seoul’s night bus routes were planned according to smartphones’ real data on where passengers needed a stop the most. But this is just an example of why the South Korean capital is said to be the smartest. “Across the globe, city authorities and developers are on the lookout for innovations that elevate the urban environment. In some cases, this stretches beyond just a single project,” writes Roberts.
In South Korea’s case, the Songdo district is revolutionizing the whole concept of Smart City and taking it to a whole new level. “In the newly built Songdo city, near Seoul airport, there are no rubbish bins or garbage collections. Litter is sucked into an underground disposal system, where it is either recycled or burned as fuel,” says Roberts. “Energy use per person in Songdo is 40 percent less than in urban districts of comparable size.”
Built 25 miles from Seoul, Songdo was planned as an antithesis of the busy capital. The project began in 2002 and is expected to be completed by 2020. Songdo endeavors to redefine mass transit and urban planning. “A new way of thinking for more than 300,000 residents, spread out over 600 hectares of reclaimed land from the Yellow Sea,” explains South China Morning Post.
But not everything that shines is necessarily pure gold and there is still much to learn when it comes to making cities smarter. “The high cost of living in Songdo is driving local people back into Seoul and the city is now being built around foreigners,” adds South China Morning Post. The effort cities are making is evident. In the midst of unprecedented innovation, there is a thrilling future ahead for witnessing how Smart Cities will evolve.