Smart Cities: Sustainable development and quality of life for urbanites
Caracas, August 20th, 2013.- According to figures provided by the UN, the population living in cities will go from the current 3.2 billion to close to 5 billion by 2030; this is, 3 out of 5 people will live in an urban centre. It is estimated that there will be 600 megacities that will concentrate 65% of the world’s population. Facing this outcome, and starting today, it’s necessary to increase the efforts and investments to deal with the impact this overpopulation will have in the near future. How can we guarantee a better quality of life to citizens in face of this new reality coming upon us?
“In Latin America, we are aware that we lag behind the European countries when it comes to sustainability. We have to make converge, all in the same direction, the efforts of the different sectors of society, public and private authorities, and develop policies for collective well-being that can be implemented and made a reality.”
Dr. Juan Omar Cofré, Rector (S) of the Austral University of Chile
A city will be as smart as it is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable for its inhabitants. In fact, the most common definition of a smart city is based on the presence of a participative society, one which acts on its own accord to integrate actions aiming to improve their quality of life, an efficient managing of resources and sustainability.
"Sustainability is a requisite for development. It can’t be development if it isn’t sustainable."
Carlos Martínez. Specialist in Environmental Matters, Director of Oikos Corporation.
According to Jesmina García, Director of Smartmatic’s Smart Cities business unit, the need to provide urban services in an optimal way will make the adoption of new technologies indispensable. The offered solutions will not only need to optimize services, but must also offer personalized experiences to every user, stimulating sustainable development and a conscious management of natural resources.
From this perspective, Smartmatic designs models that allow the development and application of technologies aimed for sustainability and the improvement of services, tailored to every city. As García commented, "it’s about knowing how to combine a deep local knowledge of every region with the capacity to create and adapt integral solutions, since the great changes that are coming won’t be built with cement but with technology, planning, and the commitment of authorities and citizens alike."
Governments are, on average, two decades behind the private sector in terms of technologies that would help them meet their goals. They will only reduce their massive debts and be able to provide the quality of services their citizens need if they become more efficient.
Efficiency can only be attained by using technology in full force. This is the only approach that allows the redesign of key governmental processes.
Public entities, being responsible for the supply and/or management of several basic services and urban infrastructure, are fundamental to the majority of processes that can modernize cities. Likewise, the importance of private industries cannot be underestimated, since by applying their innovations they can make technologies available that would allow the automation, optimization and control of different key elements of a city, such as urban mobility, public security, electrical power, etc. Finally, we have the inhabitants of the city themselves, the end users of these technologies; they become fundamental actors since they generate information and feedback that keep them working and improving.
"Our Smart Cities unit develops technology with specific purposes, with the aim of helping governments meet their goals. At the same time, we provide all the necessary services to deploy and successfully implement these technologies, and to efficiently manage the changes they bring".
Smart cities will be the utmost example of interconnectivity, since every information system and sensor network (including those in buildings, schools, hospitals, government buildings, transportation systems, service networks and shops) will be linked to each other. This is why, as García puts it, it’s necessary and imperative to "develop urban intelligence; creating innovating, interconnected and socially cohesive spaces, focused on the citizens, whose leading part in the development of the cities of the future will be key."