As Puerto Rico continues to slowly reopen its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to focus all our efforts towards an effective, sustainable and rapid economic recovery. Taking advantage of the federal programs available for safe and resilient reconstruction of our urban centers, is one of them.
To have a long-term successful plan, as part of the reconstruction efforts in our cities, we need to also focus attention on how they operate. Construction takes a finite amount of time, while operation and management do not. This makes it a much more important, often forgotten, element of the successful life cycle of a city.
However, one cannot operate or successfully manage a city without data. One of the biggest challenges that we have encountered during these trying times, has been the lack of both; reliable data available and adequate systems in place to better manage these adverse situations. Developing a comprehensive Smart City approach will eliminate the traditional “putting out fires approach,” which is not an efficient or effective way to prepare ourselves for any strain in our existing city operational structures.
The idea of a Smart City holistic framework will help with all the operational city and urbanization challenges that we continue to face. As a once in a generation federal funding opportunity continues to flow and adequate planning becomes an increasingly important part of Puerto Rico’s redevelopment, a Smart City approach will help optimize infrastructure, mobility, public services and utilities.
But what is a Smart City?
A Smart City is a framework of mostly Information and Communication Technologies (ICP), that is used to help citizen welfare through development, organization, implementation and data sharing to improve the quality of government services and promote sustainable development practices to address growing urbanization challenges.
The concept focuses mainly on several investment targets and addresses the changing role of government from enforcer to enabler. This disruption aims to shift the focus towards citizen participation and civic innovation. The intent is for citizens to engage with all city ecosystems and infrastructure directly- via smartphones, connected vehicles and homes- to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and overall services. Communities will also be able to streamline trash collection, decrease traffic congestion, detect free parking spaces, efficiently light streets, potentially improve air quality, energy distribution and provide open data.
This is done using Cloud-based- Internet of Things (IoT) applications to manage, analyze and receive data in real time, through an intelligent network of connected objects and machines that transmit data using wireless technology.
To efficiently invest in a Smart City concept and successfully implement this vision, there are several target areas that need to be attended to. These include the modernization of the existing infrastructure, forward-thinking public policy and implementation, having a clear list of short term project needs, developing business incentives for all to adopt new technologies, improve efficiencies and cyber security standards, develop sustainability strategies and develop strategic partnerships.
As we continue to take advantage of all the federal programs available and invest in the future of our cities, it is crucial to consider and implement efficient mechanisms that can enable us to develop our urban centers to be flexible. Smart cities are one of those strategies that should be considered.