The pandemic highlights the need to analyze and make decisions based on data management.
Although in Mexico there is still no city that is classified as 100% intelligent, the health crisis caused by covid-19 put on the table the need for the different cities of the country to bet on this model of urban development.
For Marco Martínez, author of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation’s Manual of Best Practices in Smart Cities, the health crisis exposed the flaws of the traditional models of large cities, which, for the most part, focus on the use of cars and they neglect to guarantee basic services such as water, electricity and housing, in addition they exclude the care of the environment and the quality of life of the population.
“With the health crisis came the need for a new urban planning model. The cities that promoted the lack of proximity between buildings to live and places to work, as well as access to services, have presented the biggest problems during the pandemic, ”says Marco Martínez.
According to the author, smartcities, as smart cities are also known, are the ones that have the best capacities to solve the new challenges derived from the pandemic and, also, of the next scenarios that come when entering a more connected world .
These new urban models are based on caring for the health of the population through the generation of green spaces, commitment to technological connectivity, integrated mobility, development of friendly energy and that generates a better quality of life among the population that lives in the city.
The specialist points out that although there is not a single smart city in Mexico that meets all the characteristics to be considered smart, there are cases of cities that seek to become so and have developed programs to move towards that category in the future.
The consulting firm PwC estimates that smart cities would reach a certain maturity as a sector worldwide in 2025, when it could register a value of 2.5 trillion dollars.
The pandemic will not change the trend. According to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in Mexico there are four metropolises that could be considered smart cities, these are: Maderas, in Querétaro; Creative City and Tequila, in Jalisco and in the capital of Puebla.
Surrounded by agave walls, the Magic Town of Tequila, in Jalisco, is an example of how a region can cope with the pandemic, due to the efficient monitoring of covid-19, with the help of an intelligent data analysis system, cameras, and Wi-Fi access points, have helped the municipality to more easily track the cases that are registered.
“If before this was important, now it has been maximized with the issue of healthy distance, where more and more destinations have to know how to deconcentrate (people). The pandemic has exposed the problems that already existed ”, says Federico de Arteaga, director of the Tequila Inteligente project and expert in Smart Cities. The municipality’s access point systems allow the visualization of the traffic density of people and measurements in real-time, “with which it is possible to decide on a certain behavior given the information available and work on decongestion decisions…
Minute by minute, the evolution of the pandemic in Tequila has been reported; Within the information system, a cluster called Tequila Salud was created, which everyone can consult. This has helped a lot to give people certainty, ”says De Arteaga.
The project, which began as a public-private alliance between the state government and Grupo JB, a subsidiary of José Cuervo, initially allocated $ 2 million in joint investment for this development in 2014.
Subsequently, an annual investment of $ 200,000 has been made to maintain the project, which has made it possible to connect the historic center of the municipality with hotspots for free and develop apps to encourage local commerce, in addition to monitoring and registering tourism. to measure your habits and preferences.
Thanks to these measurements, it is now known that 450,000 people enter the municipality annually, which facilitated health care in the pandemic and to think about local options for home office and connectivity in the area.
“Having the municipality connected helps people to do home office more easily. What we had promoted from the beginning, now we see that it is bearing fruit, and when this is over and it can be returned to normality, the smart city issue will gain credibility and use, ”says De Arteaga.
The case of Tequila shows an example to follow. The pandemic is creating an opportunity for urban connectivity and smart city developments in Mexico, which had not finished taking off before and now reveal their advantages. Thus, more and more cities will be able to connect with better technology, internet access points, more “intelligent” shops, and digitized health services.
“We had been trying for many years to improve in many aspects and maturing towards an intelligent magical town. Some of the things that we implement work very well and are already being used to make decisions,” says Arteaga and points out that, on the health issue They saw where the people who arrive come from and how they arrive.
“We are trying to become a benchmark for the people of Tequila.”
Another of the cases of urban intelligence implementation, which was accelerated by the health contingency, was in Ciudad Maderas, in Querétaro. There, they used Oracle technology to digitize service stations for the population and carry out telemedicine actions, online consultations, and management of possible infections through a mobile application, of which more than 13,000 downloads have been registered.
“The app was launched at the beginning of the pandemic and the cabinet was summoned to make a digital strategy to face the crisis.
From the beginning, the government detected that it would be important to prevent the saturation of hospitals with technology and asked to design the application to make self-diagnoses and see if the patients required to go to the hospital or not, ”explains Pedro Toscount, in charge of the government’s digital strategy Queretaro.
As he highlights, the city has sought to become smarter in recent years and advance the plan to connect with sensors. In 2019 alone, the state government had already implemented 80% of the necessary sensors and 24 communication antennas that will make technologies such as the Internet of Things useful in Querétaro, according to the Center for Engineering and Industrial Development (CIDESI).
In addition, the pandemic made visible the need to implement more connectivity technology in day-to-day urban processes, especially when dealing with problems that require managing large volumes of information. “Citizen participation is very important for the strategy to work and these technological components have helped to achieve that.
The objective on this occasion was not to saturate the health services and to guarantee that possible infections are referred to a hospital, ”says Toscount. In these two cases in particular, the covid-19 pandemic was the differentiator for the government, society and companies to push to improve urban connectivity.
Additionally, it could encourage other cities to invest in smart technologies such as data analytics systems, cameras, and Wi-Fi hotspots. “The benefits they bring in the long term can be even greater,” says Toscount and affirms that “cities will get smarter and smarter.”
Eduardo de la Garza, general manager of Monterrey Digital Hub, points out that Mexican cities are already investing to be smart, “the most developed ecosystem is Mexico City, there are other cities, such as Monterrey, Nuevo León, that are integrating their economic model with the use of technology, and Guadalajara that is committed to digitization ”.
Although he reiterates that they are not yet smart cities, they are in process and it may be that in five years they will be.