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Smart Cities

05 August 2019

There is an unstoppable trend towards the concentration of the world's population in urban areas, to the detriment of the rural settlement.

According to the demographic data available:

More than 50% of the world's population lives in cities and this percentage will reach 75% in 2050 (Lola Ripollés, in abc.es).

It is estimated that the population of the big world cities grows at a rate of two inhabitants per second (Iberdrola in abc.es)

Since 2008, there are more urban than rural populations in the world (...) The United Nations has proposed to make cities and urban settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable (P. Baños p. 324). These are the four points of UN SDG 11. (UN Development Goal on Sustainable Cities and Communities) of the United Nations Global Compact.

While it is estimated that in 2050 more than two thirds of the world's population will live in cities, all indications suggest that before, by 2025, 14% of the world's population will live in just 37 megacities (Siemens.com in abc.es)

We graph the eleven "urban areas" (cities) that exceed 20 million inhabitants today. The data is taken from Demographia World Urban Areas. 15th Annual Edition: 2019. These eleven mega-cities are followed by a set of twenty-seven, which exceed 10 million inhabitants.

It is evident that these hyper-agglomerations (megalopolis) generate a series of difficult problems (suburbs, violence, basic services, health infrastructure, energy needs, traffic or mobility, waste, emissions, etc.)

According to Enerclub, the energy consumption of cities (3% of the planet's surface) represents 67% of the world's primary energy demand (A. Velázquez in abc. Es).

For UN-Habitat (United Nations Human Settlements Program) one in three urban residents in the world lives below the poverty line, and at least 90% of residents in urban slums are in the developing world (P. Baños p.326).

An index of the CO2 emission according to the urban development we have it in the following table:

The United Nations Human Settlements Program -UN-Habitat- works with all issues related to city life and with all types of actors, such as governments (federal , state and municipal), universities, NGOs and other UN institutions, third sector, private sector, etc. (…) The main projects address the following topics:

Against  the complex problems presented by these increasingly populated cities, supranational entities (UN, EU), the governments of each country, autonomous institutions and municipal entities, together with private initiative, business world, various social agents and the whole of the citizens join forces with the objective of improving the habitability for the citizen, who occupies the center of all these programs, and the sustainability of the environment in general, through planning, transformation, improvement of management and efficiency, use of synergies, application of modern technologies, use of the immensity of data provided by ICT, etc. In short, set up a smart city.

In 2015, the Spanish government created the first National Plan for Smart Cities, supervised by the Secretary of State for the Information Society and the Digital Agenda (Sesiad), current Secretary of State for Digital Advancement (SEAD) (A. Velázquez in abc. es), although already in 2011, the city of Malaga ranked first in this regard in the ranking of certain censuses.

According to the IESE Cities in Motion index, University of Navarra, in 2019, Málaga ranks 5th among Spanish cities (80th in the global-world ranking): 

“Of the 174 cities analyzed, ten are Spanish: Madrid (26), Barcelona (28), Valencia (61), Sevilla (76), Málaga (80), Palma de Mallorca (88), Zaragoza (101), A Coruña (102), Murcia (105), Bilbao (107).

There are many different definitions of ‘smart city’ as the emphasis is put on one or the other of the different facets that the issue entails:

1. Local entity that declares and makes a conscious effort to adopt information and communication technologies to transform its essential modus operandi (IDC).

2. A smart city is a city that seeks to address public problems through ICT-based solutions based on a multi-stakeholder association with a municipal base '(Rand Europe)

3. There are three fundamental parameters to be able to say that a city is "smart": the first has to do with climate change, the second with technology and the third with the level of participation and citizen coexistence (Lola Ripollés in abc.es)

4. “(…) the main mission of the city of the future: to create a visible regional and civic structure, designed so that man feels in harmony with his deepest self and with his wider world, attached to images of human education and love ”(Lewis Mumford).

5. An smart city is a city with good performance in 6 characteristics, built on the “smart” combination of endowments and activities of self-determined, independent and conscious citizens.

6. IESE. Cities in Motion Strategies: a city that, through technology and data analysis, aims to improve the basic needs of citizens, businesses and institutions, making the environment more sustainable, improving communication, making transport more efficient and all that is included in environmental sustainability.

7. Villarejo Galende, Helena: a city can be defined as "smart" when investments in human and social capital and in transport and ICT infrastructure contribute to sustainable economic development and improve the quality of life, with a rational management of resources natural, through a participatory government.

8. Grupo T-Solar would emphasize two aspects in this matter:

1. Contribute to the generation of renewable energy for the supply of these communities.

2. The necessary synchronization and synergy between the different agents (state, administration, companies, academia, NGOs, private sector) in order to the unavoidable prior planning and subsequent evaluations.

The “Mapping Smart Cities in the EU” report prepared by the EU defines six point on which the Smart City configuration moves:

«Smart Living» (Citizens): connection with social, administrative and cultural services.
«Smart People» (Citizens): training and awareness of the advantages of «smart cities».
«Smart Governance» (Administration and government): efficiency and transparency in the relationship with the citizen.
«Smart Environment» (Environment and efficiency): efficient and sustainable energy management.
«Smart Mobility» (Mobility): "intelligent" transport systems).
«Smart Economy» (Economy): sustainable economic development.

It is clear that the characteristic about environment / energy is the most worked point. “For the transformation of cities into“ smart cities ”, energy is a key concept (…) Some studies suggest that it will be necessary to connect more than one million self-consumption facilities in the coming years” (Iberdrola.com).

Abc.es in its Sunday edition of 09/06/19, issues a dossier called Smart Cities, where one of the articles presented is called ' Fifth edition of the Smart Cities Congress', which under the auspices of Grupo Tecma Red and the Secretary of State for Digital Advance SEAD, and with the institutional collaboration of red.es took place on June 26, 2019, at the City Council of Madrid. We take advantage of the content of this article to make a (comparative) enumeration of the possible and numerous thematic areas that an overview of the Smart Cities entails:

We conclude with the main conclusions of a report referring to the Smart Spanish cities made by the COIT (Official College of Telecommunications Engineers): Report on the smart trend of cities in Spain. 2018:

1. The  interest of transformation of cities in Spain is extremely high.

2. There is a high number of municipalities (with less than 20,000 inhabitants) that have been excluded from this transformation but that can be solved through the new edition of the Plan (National Plan of Smart Territories).

3. Although business solutions and the demand of governments in Spain are focused on specific areas, smart measurement of cities usually continues to be based on the homogeneous development of classical areas (mobility, economy, environment, etc.). It is time to promote the rules so that the trend takes a better definition (giving appropriate advice to organizations that require it).

4. Tourism is a key area that fortunately is already considered a priority in this new stage (as of 2018).

5. A good part of the funded projects have not been completed or started. It is early to analyze the real impact of many implementations, nor to evaluate or measure the profitability and efficiency of the investments made.

6. Despite the spirit of sharing solutions, there is still little public information on the projects to be deployed (yes, on specific initiatives), so monitoring actions becomes an arduous task.

7. The scope of smart solutions must be counted to be really smart. The initiatives must try to be global (aimed at the maximum number of citizens / visitors) and, in addition, efficient.

8. The intelligence-efficiency relation is not clear. And it does not allow to obtain a more approximate assessment of the results of the transformation. In addition, we will have to look for more mechanisms that link or balance savings with the quality of life that citizens expect.

9. Small cities and rural areas are a pending subject. It is paradoxical that small cities cannot solve and be more attractive (and efficient) for citizens who, sooner or later, will try to migrate to more cosmopolitan environments.

Some of the authors / pages consulted:

Emilio Ontiveros, Diego Vizcaíno, Verónica López Sabater. The cities of the future: smart, digital and sustainable. pdf Ariel-Telefónica, 2016.
Iberdrola.com. Smart energy for smart cities,abc.es.

Unesco  Publishing. Smart Cities. Shaping the Society of 2030. 2019.

Javier Gutiérrez Hurtado. The urbanization of the world. Roles of eco-social relations and global change, nº 111 2010, pp. 41-55.
IDC (International Data Corporation).  Analysis of Smart Cities in Spain.Sept 2011.
IDC (International Data Corporation) Analysis of Smart Cities in Spain 2012 - The Journey to the Smart City. Sept 2012.
Alberto Velázquez. Mmore technology, more efficiency and sustainability, abc.es.
Pedro Baños. World domination, Ariel. 2018.
Catriona Manville. RAND Europe. Mapping smart cities in the EU. 2015.

Mumford, Lewis. The city in history: its origins, transformations and perspectives. 1961.
ONTSI (National Telecommunications and SI Observatory). Study and Methodological Guide on Smart Cities. 2015.

UN-HÁBITAT. Cities and Climate Change Global report on human settlements 2011.

United Nations Human Settlements Programme

RETINA.ELPAIS.com: These are the six smartest Spanish cities, according to the index IESE Cities in Motion. Mayo 2019.

Red.es: Smart City Expo World Congress will host a selection of 21 national projects. 19-21 nov 2019. 

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