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Critical Infrastructure: How Smart Cities Will Transform Latin America

July 1, 2014 - 3 Comments

Although Latin America is a developing region, the area is making strides towards becoming more efficient, cleaner and more innovative—characteristics of smart cities and the Internet of Everything (IoE) are making it possible. Many people now beg the question, “Are smart cities real?” Wim Elfrink answers the question with a firm yes, referring to smart cities as tangible and necessary to foster economic and developmental growth.

With more and more people flocking to urban areas, cities that don’t embrace the digital economy will lag behind. Leading cities are reinventing themselves with real-time, networked applications to improve everything from traffic flow and parking to water usage and city-wide energy consumption. In some, passersby can instantly find nearby restaurants, shopping deals, mass transit and more at their fingertips through connected mobile devices.


Internet of Everything Enabling Connected Cities
Recently, Cisco partnered with AGT to develop an upcoming Internet of Things-enabled traffic management system that incorporates sensors embedded in pavements, license plate-reading systems, social media feeds, and video cameras to “identify, respond to, and resolve” traffic incidents in real time. These traffic management systems would be beneficial solutions to the traffic problems that are prevalent in many Latin American cities and would provide long-term analytics on traffic accidents and allow different agencies to share video feeds. In fact, cities like Santiago and Bogota have already begun testing several smart traffic solutions to solve the traffic congestion problem.

Cities are the epicenter of the IoE, where people, things, data and processes can be connected to deliver new and amazing value.

In Latin America, a host of metropolitan areas are becoming smarter, more connected cities that will specialize in reducing waste, maximizing efficiency and providing residents with viable solutions to help make life a little easier. These leading municipalities are regenerating themselves with real-time, networked applications to improve everything from waste management, street lights and water management to bus stops, traffic management and energy consumption. In some cities, passersby can instantly find nearby restaurants, shopping deals, mass transit and more at their fingertips through connected mobile devices.

Smart City Adoption in Latin America
For instance, in Gran Concepcion, Chile, the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunication recently deployed the “Smart City Gran Concepcion.” This project has five components designed to improve local and municipal service delivery with open innovation and lay the framework for the development of a local and sustainable innovation ecosystem.

In Brazil, the city of Curitiba is also working on a new light rail system which will be interconnected to their extensive BRT system. Curitiba is also currently working to address climate resilience by creating green spaces which, during rainy season, are used to absorb runoff and in dry season, function as parks for use by locals and tourists.

Rio de Janeiro has invested in an integrated operations center that hosts connected software, allowing for real-time monitoring of meteorological, crime, traffic and emergency data as well as live camera feeds. Sensors in the hillsides combined with meteorological data and new communications tools equip the center to warn communities in advance by predicting natural disasters such as mudslides and hurricanes. Officials have also begun hiring local teenagers to take digital images of problem areas in order to create a digital map of hot spots and enabling city staff to begin tackling challenges such as removing accumulated trash, which attracted mosquitoes and contributed to higher incidences of dengue fever.

In Mexico City, Mexico, city officials have started looking at technology that would allow buildings to absorb nearby smog, creating a cleaner, safer city atmosphere. In Santiago, Chile, they are testing everything from smart grids to electric vehicles (EVs) and starting a pilot program to support an EV car-sharing, which would be the first of its kind in Latin America. Santiago’s Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications (MTT) has also started testing several smart solutions that include variable automated toll pricing on the highways and developing control centers to monitor traffic in real time through USB sensors that track traffic congestion.

The Impact of Smart Cities
The growing use of digital devices connected to networks through the IoE will enhance the experience of citizens and businesses while improving city-wide sustainability and performance initiatives. In fact, smart cities are inspiring strong visionary leaders everywhere to transform their cityscapes into digital networks by connecting the unconnected. Cisco already has agreements with major cities like Barcelona, where the installation of sensors in public water pipes and parking meters have reduced costs by about $3.1 billion a year and encouraged more efficient usage. These capabilities are being driven by the IoE and Cisco is committed to helping more cities harness IoE’s potential and grow smarter.

Smart cities will generate huge value for the cities and their inhabitants. Similarly, opportunities will arise for the cities’ vendors and partners to create and operate these cities of the future. Stuart Taylor details the value smart cities will provide in his latest blog, How Service Providers Can Profit From Smart Cities.

The Internet of Everything is changing the game for smart cities and other industries. Visit  to discover how our solutions can help you make your business, city or house connect to the IoE.

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  2. I lived in Rio de Janeiro for a year, and hope it continues to invest in digital technology to help streamline its infrastructure. The traffic is horrendous, and it would be great if they manage to improve it. I've heard excellent things about Curitiba's urban planning. You discuss the growing trend for digital devices, and I agree that this will improve how citizens experience their cities. Brazilians, for example, use their smartphones primarily to access local information, although smartphone penetration per population is still lower than other countries. I put together a nifty infographic on Brazilian internet habits can be found here, although it was difficult to obtain data from 2013 so most of it is as of 2012:

  3. You said "The growing use of digital devices connected to networks through the IoE will enhance the experience of citizens and businesses while improving city-wide sustainability and performance initiatives." FYI, the "World Economic Forum on Latin America" event - that was held in Panama City during April this year - uncovered some of the regions big challenges and opportunities. Video highlights of the key sessions are here