Rapid growth in cities around the world is creating unprecedented challenges for urban living. A sustainable, high quality of life for city dwellers is at risk. The current infrastructure is often inadequate for 21st-century challenges. Intelligent planning, upgraded infrastructure, advanced networks, and data in the service of citizens are needed to make our cities more appealing and livable into the future.
Today cities in many nations face similar issues, with local variations, and each has its own unique challenges. Addressing these issues and ensuring that technology serves humanity—IEEE’s core mission—are the drivers behind the IEEE Smart Cities initiative. IEEE Smart Cities is devoted to developing smart planning, processes, standards, and infrastructure that can be shared across the world to serve urban dwellers who seek vibrant city life and the opportunities it offers.
So it was exciting to see nearly 500 participants from 103 cities in 45 countries on six continents attend the inaugural IEEE International Smart Cities Conference (ISC2) held 25 to 28 October in Guadalajara, Mexico, which was the first city chosen for the initiative. The conference theme, Smart Cities of Sustainability, was reflected in the plethora of knowledge-sharing on research, case studies, best practices, tutorials, workshops, a hackathon, and technology development and implementation. And attendees enjoyed the valuable opportunity for old-fashioned networking during the four-day event.
MEET THE SMART CITIES
Two new IEEE Core Smart Cities—Kansas City, Mo., and Casablanca, Morocco—were announced just prior to the conference, and representatives from these cities attended joining those from the first three in the IEEE Smart Cities network. They include Trento, Italy; Wuxi, China; and Guadalajara. The core category means the cities already have existing plans to develop a smart city, have the funding to carry out those plans, are willing to share their knowledge and experience, and can form multidisciplinary working groups.
The diversity of these cities underscores a key strategy of the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative: these core cities on five different continents will share knowledge gained through the program with other municipalities, whether nearby and culturally similar, or distant yet facing similar challenges.
Numbers tell part of the story: five internationally recognized smart city experts delivered insights in keynote sessions, seven tutorials offered hands-on experience, eight workshops discussed important challenges and possible solutions. There were also more than 130 technical talks presented, nearly 100 papers accepted for publication, and 100 student attendees participated in a hackathon. The event focused on building mobile apps for the Internet of Things and winners received up to US $2,000 and mentorship for a semester through the Universidad de Guadalajara Smart Cities Innovation Center to see their projects through.
The breadth and depth of topics presented in Guadalajara included smart homes and buildings, smart transport, health, and manufacturing, as well as open data, smart grids, and the Internet of Things.
Ondrej Pribyl, a faculty member of transportation sciences at Czech Technical University, in Prague, said in his presentation: “In order to make a city smarter, we need to focus on services provided to the city’s inhabitants. The smart-cities concept should make a city more human, and not only high-tech. The goal should therefore be to provide the best services with minimal resources on limited infrastructure. To do that, city subsystems must cooperate to achieve synergy.”
Manuel Avalos, leader of the Guadalajara Smarter Cities Exploration Center at IBM México, discussed his work on a smart health hybrid cloud solution for breast cancer treatment using big data visualization. “The use of leading-edge technologies for health-care problems is a vital topic that should be addressed in order to reduce costs and save lives,” Avalos said. “We want to build a smart health solution for a particular group of women who struggle with cancer symptoms every day around the world. This app would support health care for women and reduce death rates.”
Travelers to the conference in Guadalajara were warmly welcomed by local dignitaries, who themselves are involved in the city’s efforts to transform itself into a smart city. Mexican officials who participated in the welcoming ceremony included Aristóteles Sandoval, governor of the state of Jalisco in which Guadalajara is located; Jaime Reyes Robles, head of Jalisco’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation; Enrique Alfaro Ramirez, Guadalajara’s municipal president; Itzcóatl Tonatiuh Bravo Padilla, rector of the University of Guadalajara; and Diana Valadez, chair of the IEEE Guadalajara Section. Other IEEE-affiliated officials included IEEE Member Gilles Betis, chair of the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative and J. Roberto Boisson de Marca, 2014 IEEE president.
As the conference agenda played out over the four days, the ever-changing factors and investments needed to fuel sustainable economic development were explored from many angles, but keynote speaker Doris B. Gonzalez from IBM succinctly summed up the value of bringing together so many people involved in this work: “Smart cities are so new that no one is an expert.”
The next IEEE Smart Cities conference will be held in Trento, Italy, in September 2016 and will address new smart developments in interconnected systems and models to sustain smart cities and their citizens worldwide.
Yinhai Wang is an IEEE member and a cochair of the 2015 IEEE Smart Cities Conference.