top of page

Smart Cities

We could agree to define what a city is, a concept that is centuries old, that has evolved, but that still retains an essence: many people in little space.

Today we speak of cities, urban conglomerates, urban areas, metropolises, megacities, in short, different scales and complexities, but the essence remains the same.

The urban phenomenon has different meanings depending on the context, in some cases we consider the density, the size of the population or the urbanized area, but what we understand by urban culture is a universal phenomenon.

A city is a place where unforeseen things happen, every day. Where commuting and life have the component of randomness and that plus that arises from that dynamic in terms of culture, fashion, trends, technology, social, family organization, work and leisure.

Now, if we have to define "intelligence" and specifically smart cities, the subject becomes more difficult and confusing: defining what an intelligent person is, is already complex: is it cunning? Ability? Creativity? Someone who knows how to use technology? Messi is smart? And Elon Musk?

Probably you would answer me, it depends for what, surely Messi would not know how to organize a company, get funding and put into orbit 20,000 nanosatellites, or 3 astronauts in the international space station through a reusable spacecraft, or create a brand of autonomous electric cars and a long etc ... and surely Elon Musk could not make 1000 goals, win the champions ... and the World Cup, someday….

Therefore, intelligence is an attribute that has to do with one's own conditions, with the environment and with the proposed objective.

Returning to cities, the same question applies to better define what an intelligent city is.

What city, with what resources (material, historical, geographic, human and symbolic) for what model and strategic objective, what insertion it wants to have in the world, what type of services it wants to provide to its citizens, how it uses public space and, importantly, what conditions it will leave to future generations.

A smart city is an emerging concept, a project under development, still unfinished.

But let us try to underpin the term, listing some basic components:

  • Sustainability: cities generate their own economic resources, they are the main contributors to the wealth of countries, but traditionally the basic necessities for its operation are external: water, electricity, waste treatment, food production, industries.

  • Cities do not have control of processes that directly affect them, define their organization, functioning and, above all, their future.

  • Digitalization: is the new district of any city, a transversal layer linking production, services, government, participation and social relationships.

  • Participation: almost as a consequence of the above. There are no more excuses for participatory processes not to be a blockage that slows down the city's progress. Today, citizens can not only opt for government proposals, but can also be co-creators and designers of projects. From the smallest thing, what the design of urban waste garbage cans will look like, the bicycle racks, and bigger infrastructures like the future library of the city, or the train station.

  • Data: is a crucial input for the functioning of the city, not only as a matter of transparency. Data is as critical an input as cement or asphalt. If a city wants to be smart must have collection systems, processing software, but above all, prepare its human resources to make data-driven decisions while protecting the privacy of citizens.. Open data is also a tool for democratic participation.

  • Use of public space: density has to be balanced with quality public space, both in the macro, streets, avenues, urban parks, and to every corner, what today is called Placemaking, blurring the boundaries between homes and public space

  • Intelligent transportation: discounting the obvious benefits of having an efficient and modern public transportation system, and the inconvenience of private transportation, especially in private cars, it would be smart to regulate digital platforms in a great system that takes advantage of the best of each system to seek greater fluidity, inclusion and respect for the environment.

  • Environment: there is no such thing as a smart city without green policies

  • Focus on citizens and their lives; there are no models or closed solutions. It is necessary to copy and paste but adapting to context, capabilities and use. Analyze to innovate. Iterate with citizen participation.

  • Start-up city or entrepreneurial city. To govern uncertainty, it is necessary to have a resilient organization, a start-up mentality. Encourage the incorporation of flexible operating structures in certain areas of governance that encourage innovation and horizontal teamwork.

  • Have a National, regional and international outlook to seek niches of opportunity economic and social processes that help internal development.

These are just a few sketches of what a true city project should be, a task to which I dared to make some contributions, in the certainty that it is too important a subject to be left only in the hands of architects, urban planners or politicians.


bottom of page