The smart cities movement has been picking up steam the past few years as old and new cities around the globe embrace technology, ubiquitous transit, green infrastructure and support for entrepreneurial ecosystems. Much of the smart cities discussion has focused on cities in the developed world. For example, in my first ranking of smart cities around the globe, eight of the top 10 cities were in Europe and North America, with Tokyo and Hong Kong filling out the top 10. This is not surprising given the financial resources required to become early adopters of integrated smart technology infrastructure.
However, cities in developing countries have gotten on the smart cities bandwagon as well. Here in Latin America, Rio de Janeiro has been actively implementing smart city solutions. It will, of course, be hosting the next Summer Olympics, with some saying it is likely to be the most sustainable ever—more than Vancouver and London. I also recently wrote about Buenos Aires’s low tech initiatives in the smart city arena. Bogota and Medellin, Colombia have been additional regional leaders in the smart city movement.
Many of the smart cities initiatives in Latin America have not been based on the early adoption of vanguard smart cities technology. But earlier this month, the city of Santiago, Chile announced a collaborative partnership with Ciudad Empresarial (a high profile business park in the Northeastern part of Santiago) to develop a high-tech integrated smart city pilot project. The project, known as Smartcity Santiago, is due to be completed in 2013 and will be integrated into the business park. Chilectra, the leading private utility in Chile, is collaborating on the ambitious project, which will "integrate a range of initiatives designed to pilot technologies of the future."
Among the technologies: electric mobility, e-health, smart homes,and integration of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy connected to a smart grid and free Wi-Fi. Smartcity Santiago will be the first project in Chile to provide full EV support with charging stations and EV buses and taxis.
Claudio Inzunsa of Chilectra summarized the project goals: "The idea of this living laboratory called SmartCity is to bring technologies that are available in the developed world and make them accessible. We aim to show that actually we are not that far from them and that their use can have direct benefits to our community´s pocketbooks and for quality of life."
The smart city movement has taken flight in Latin America, and with Smartcity Santiago we can observe how a pilot project leveraging the latest smart city technology can function and be embraced in the Latin American context. If this development goes well, it could open a huge market opportunity for smart cities entrepreneurs and multinational companies. After all, Latin America and the Caribbean have a total population of nearly 600 million people—twice the size of the U.S.—and they are home to several megacities in desperate need of solutions.