Smart Cities are the strategic focus of an imperative need: to orient urban life and culture towards sustainability. Perhaps the perfect city does not exist. But the belief that has been installed among political, business and social leaders – emphasized from the World Economic Forum (WEF) – is that it is necessary to tend towards perfection; towards the challenge of conceiving and designing smart capitals. Because, as they recall from the OECD, if drastic measures are not taken, economic and demographic growth will have an unprecedented environmental and social impact. Given that the majority of the population will be concentrated in large cities, it is essential to overcome the challenge of the more than 2 billion additional inhabitants by 2050. The economic recovery, in the heat of the vaccination campaigns against Covid-19, have revived the dynamics of cities, explains The Economist. Very especially, that of the great capitals of the industrialized powers. In which the demands for services, lines of business and the sale and rental of real estate proliferate again. “The boost in the GDP of these nations goes hand in hand with the rebirth of their main urban centers”, in which the regeneration of employment “starts to boil” at a good pace.
In Europe, the injections of the fiscal stimulus plan – designed under the name of Recuperación, the Next Generation EU – have in the configuration of Smart Cities projects one of their channels for receiving funds of greater substance. Digitization and sustainability go hand in hand to access the disbursements of resources from the community coffers. In a matter of top priority, since Brussels had allocated more than a thousand euros to the promotion of smart cities before the epidemic and in Spain more than 80 towns joined the national network, in which several entities such as Red.es or the FEMP, the federation of municipalities and provinces, collaborate together with the College of Telecommunications Engineers, to – according to its founding objectives – “promote the automatic and efficient management of urban infrastructures and services, as well as the reduction of public spending and improvement of the quality of services, thereby attracting economic activity and generating progress ”. However, the COIT, the collegiate body of a key engineering for the urban modernization of Spanish cities, has been admitting “The lack of progress in many of the Smart City initiatives in our country”, in very early stages of its development or that did not even exceed the pilot phase. Faced with initiatives such as Berlin, which stands as the green city par excellence. The historic German capital was already, after reunification, one of the banners of urban transformation of the planet. But now, the green city seal is arrogated. To the point of having achieved that sustainability has come to dominate the political discourse in the face of the September elections. Where Berlin leads the way.
The Government of the German city-state has made the transformation of the capital into a sustainable and digital space its hallmark. Under a highly planned local strategy, immersed in the so-called Federal Sart Cities Models, to which Berlin has added its own ambitions, which have given it a degree of exclusive specificity. Its conception not only addresses construction priorities marked with a green seal and energy neutrality, but it is also formed from the approval previously worked through the participation of its citizens and economic, professional and academic agents. As the CityLab Berlin, his experimental laboratory of ideas, in which the future of the city is outlined. A forum in which the Berlin government, civil society, figures from the educational world and technology start-ups and the circular or collaborative economy are represented, from which new ideas of urban viability emanate among its 3.6 million residents. And that raises digitization as its driving policy. “An opportunity to rethink existing processes, dismantle social barriers and create new forms of civic participation”, they specify before concluding that City Lab Berlin is not a unique proposal or with an expiration date, but “a dynamic experiment in the development of the city ”.
It is one of the flagships to follow. Because the potential of Spanish cities to become smart is undeniable. Madrid and Barcelona, for example, are among the 30 smartest cities in the world according to the IESE Cities in Motion 2020 Index, which consolidates London at the top of the ranking of digital and sustainable cities; ahead of New York and Paris. In successive positions – the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth, respectively. Within a classification that examines 174 cities from 101 indicators. With the Europeans clearly dominating the challenge -27 among the top 50- compared to 14 from the United States, 5 from Asia and 4 from Oceania. The study by the Spanish business school considers that Covid-19 “represents an opportunity to rethink urban strategies and increase their capacity for recovery.” Among other reasons, because resilience to the economic and business adversities of the Great Pandemic has encouraged public-private collaboration, which may be the new paradigm for cities. As well as the beginning of a spending boom. A recent report by IDC Research Spain, figures the global outlay on technologies for the evolution of smart cities beyond 135,000 million dollars this year; directed, in this order, to connected transport, security of public access data, lighting systems, environmental monitoring, and smart infrastructures. While another study, prepared by KPMG, affirms that Spanish municipalities with more than 200,000 inhabitants will allocate between 20 and 40 million euros to their intelligent evolution. In the pages of the same -Hacia la Ciudad 4.0-, it is also advanced that the private sector will allocate another succulent part to the technological transformation of cities. “Spain has 6,210 million euros contributed by private companies, according to the Smart Start report by Siemens Financial Services.
Against this background, several listed companies, from different activity segments, offer their views on the future of Spanish Smart Cities.
Telefonica: The operator says it is working with 35 municipalities, councils and Autonomous Communities to help them become smarter cities, making technology available to public powers and citizens to improve services in cities and adapt them to new trends that they come (like the autonomous car or connected infrastructures) based on their needs, their population and their characteristics. Among them, the launch of the Thinking City platform stands out, which allows improving the quality of public services, integrating their automation (such as, for example, public lighting or the garbage collection service), and which provide anonymized information on the main indicators of the city (such as citizen mobility, the use of urban facilities, water consumption, etc.). All this -explain sources from the Hispanic multinational- allows to establish the bases for a more predictive management of the city or the territories, leading to greater planning of services and improvement in the management of resources. This is the case of Valencia Smart City, Santander Smart Citizen, or Smart Guadalajara. But “we also offer solutions related to citizens that allow us to meet and meet individual needs”, such as the indoor location and guidance application, AENA Maps for 7 Spanish airports; the implementation of a citizen card that centralizes in a single element the access to the services or payments of the City Council in Santander; the establishment of cardio protected spaces in municipal locations with a large influx of traffic, such as the Metro; or the sensorization of historical monuments to help their preventive conservation, as has happened with the walls of Ávila.
Telefónica points out that “one of the pillars of our business is to help companies of all sizes in their digitization process because technology will help them on their way to a more profitable and sustainable model.” Hence, the digital transformation not only concerns the business sector, but also the citizen; therefore, “we focus on Smart Cities as the result of applying digitization to cities and municipalities under a strategy that takes their needs into account and puts technology at the service of people.” In addition – the same sources highlight – “smart cities are basically connected cities that need an infrastructure at the base to obtain connectivity”. Therefore, the role of Telefónica and of the operators in general is basic when it comes to thinking about them.
Although, from “our company, in addition, we provide an interoperable platform that integrates all services and that facilitates their management.” All of this is linked to the society in which we live and which is based on the data economy.
This economic model allows companies and organizations to capture this information and use it to make it profitable and allow us to manage the resources we have more efficiently. This is the case of smart mobility. Through anonymized and aggregated data from the mobile network, we can have relevant information about the movement of people that can be useful when organizing transport in cities. Thanks to the data collected through different sensors installed in streets, public vehicles or in the devices that the inhabitants habitually use, we can create an efficient ecosystem of data that can optimize such important and common procedures in cities such as security, management of waste or parking spaces. Therefore, it is important to have a secure solution to store that data and make it accessible to be able to turn it into useful information on which to base ourselves to make decisions. And all that storage capacity, scalability, security and processing is what cloud computing provides.