Industry conversation at Mexico Infrastructure and Sustainability Summit 2018

Smart Cities and IoT are the buzzwords taking over the infrastructure industry and with reason. “IoT is transforming the way in which we are living,” said Edgar Anaya, Partner at Anaya Abogados, during Mexico Infrastructure & Sustainability Summit 2018 at Hotel Marquis Reforma in Mexico City on Wednesday. Added John Donoghue, CEO of National Fiber Networks: “People have heard these buzzwords but often do not fully understand how they will impact the way of doing business.”

According to Donoghue, IoT will create new businesses but its impact also echoes in most aspects of a society. “What a tremendous opportunity it is for Mexico to control its own destiny,” he said. “Digital convergence infrastructure is key as it sets the way to what is coming regarding IoT, Smart Cities and AI. But we need to build the highway of infrastructure that will enable these buzzwords to become a reality.”

Further elaborating on the possibilities opened by IoT, Alberto Marín, Technical Director at Schindler México, explained how it allows any company to provide an enhanced experience to its clients by shifting from a reactive to a preventive approach. “In vertical transportation systems many sensors are used to gather information connected through IoT to the cloud,” he said. “Sharing information with our clients gives them predictive, proactive and preventive situations. IoT gives us an enhanced experience.”

In the end, this enhanced experience leads to a level of integration between all players that creates a Smart City. “The city belongs to us and in turn, we belong to cities,” said Jorge Martínez, Director General of Zacua and COPEMSA. “When we update information, we become part of the ecosystem. It is scary because we are constantly monitored. I feel invaded, but I also feel excited about what is coming,” he added.

The thrill and cautiousness triggered by the possibilities of IoT must in turn lead its users to attempt to understand how data flows, said Baltazar Rodríguez, Senior Architect, Blockchain Engagement Leader at IBM Blockchain. “Who is actually owning the data? By possessing the data we generate, we gain consumption power.”

While IoT remains the realm of fiction for some, it is an unavoidable reality. “The IoT is not something that is going to happen. It is something we already use on a daily basis,” said Rodríguez. Anaya, who also moderated the panel, added that “information shared through IoT is already saving lives.” He outlined the simple example of a wristwatch sending an alert to a hospital when its user is having a heart attack.

According to Rodríguez, while there is still much to be developed, the infrastructure available within Mexico can already deliver a great deal of value. “The scarcest resource is not capital or infrastructure, but resourcefulness and creativity,” he said. “To continue down this path, we need to have a point of view of securing devices.”

Luis Rubio, Partner at Holland & Knight, believes Mexico is going in the right direction. “There has been a Telecommunications Reform and there are great ideas in the pipeline,” he said. “But if we want to be closer to Smart Cities, we need more infrastructure. As technology develops very quickly, infrastructure also needs to be deployed quickly, even if we have a couple-years’ lag.”

Addressing this lag, Donoghue highlighted the need for shared digital infrastructure. “Infrastructure has to be neutral to let competition happen. It must be shared, and again, it must be neutral,” he said. “We do not have the required IoT infrastructure for Smart Cities in Mexico and the country is a greenfield. Mexico has the talent to develop it. This is Mexico’s golden age to play in this field.”

Shared infrastructure will not only foster market competition with all its economic benefits but also promote smarter and more equal cities. “We must prioritize shared responsibility because it is useless to digitalize unconsciously,” said Marín.

Rodríguez agreed. “The only form of sustainable wealth is shared wealth. All players need to reap some benefit,” he said, quoting Economics Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz. “If you build a Smart City only aligned with what is good for government, it will not serve citizens. We need to develop new network-based models where everybody can benefit.” He added the municipalities that pursue this path will be the first IoT winners.

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