Mobility and safety: key elements of smart cities

Bogota, September 20th 2011.- Solving urban mobility problems goes beyond building new infrastructure or expanding the one already in place. Successful experiences in several countries point the way towards the gradual implementation of urban automation systems.  

Urban planning in modern cities faces several challenges today. Inefficient transportation services, obsolete water and waste systems, growing levels of pollution and a greater demand for energy are just some of the obstacles that need to be surmounted.  

Facing this scenario, the introduction of smart cities becomes a must to guarantee an optimal environment and a better quality of life for future generations, through a fine-tuned balance between performance and efficiency. Smartmatic, a multinational company with expertise in the design and implementation of technological solutions on a major scale, is convinced that this is the way to go: “In an increasingly urbanized world, the creation of smart cities becomes essential. By applying urban planning methodologies together with the design and implementation of cutting-edge technology, we can optimize the inner workings of a city, and impact both significantly and positively the coexistence of its inhabitants, its mobility, its ecology, its economy; broadly speaking, we can improve the well being of its citizens”, stated Paul Babic, Vice-president of Smart Cities for Smartmatic.   

This model of smart cities is based on the notion of transforming large population centers into productive, highly performing, sociable cities that rely on urban automation; this is done by “involving the citizens and the authorities, the users and the public organisms that represent them, through the deployment of our technological developments, which are meant to make spaces more habitable, automate processes and connect citizens to one another, thus facilitating the coexistence of individuals in densely populated cities with fast-paced economies”, added Jesmina García, Marketing manager for Smartmatic’s Smart Cities Unit.   

Smart systems: allies in the transformation

When talking about key areas such as public transportation, sustainability is not always guaranteed by the mere fact of having a system that becomes “greener” over time, but also by the transparency and efficiency in the management of the service, and a proper balance between the investments made by each of the actors involved and the quality service they provide. Solving urban mobility problems goes beyond building new infrastructure or expanding the one already in place. Successful experiences in several countries point the way towards the gradual implementation of urban automation systems, applying them to those transportation systems which are inefficient due to a lack of operational integration, fare integration or even criminality.

Current advancements in information technology allow for an integral management of transportation systems, which has become more necessary and is now also conditioned by environmental, public security and socio-economic policies. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are a key tool for the application of said policies, and are fundamental to the success of a new urban coexistence model. 

Regarding security, police strategies, and the judiciary and penal systems are just not enough anymore to tackle the complexity of the issue, nor do they have the preventive character demanded by the population. Citizen security is one of the biggest concerns worldwide, in close competition with unemployment and the environment. Considering this fact, the organisms in charge of security are shifting their approach to the problem by incorporating smart management concepts into their policy guidelines; these are used as tools for crime prevention and helping citizens, since they allow the organisms to set priorities amidst the wealth of the information they collect (which is sorted out geographically). This type of management strives to guarantee the quality of the security services, follows up on the incidents and measures the efficacy of the policies adopted.   

The information technologies available today permit an integral and smart management of citizen security resources, integrating all security organisms involved in crime prevention and emergency response (Civil Protection, fire departments and the Armed Forces) under one command,  thus coordinating the responses to emergency incidents and possible natural disasters.

Is it possible to have cities that are safer, have less traffic, are cleaner and more competitive and have a more balanced relationship with the environment? Given that we count with technologies with low environmental impact, competitive prices and quick implementation, Paul Babic is convinced that the answer is “yes”, that it is possible to provide integral solutions that improve the citizens’ well being: “We are talking about the automation of manual systems that take up our time; innovating in waste collection systems which can also generate power or water;  managing traffic from smart platforms that substantially improve urban mobility, therefore reducing emissions, the use of fossil fuels and improving the quality of the air we breathe; guaranteeing an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence and the safety of citizens through intelligent video surveillance, communication and real-time coordination systems that make our streets and cities much safer places. Today, we count with extensive knowledge that ought to be used in a thought-out, rational manner to significantly improve the quality of life of the people in any city.  We are fully convinced of it.”