Guadalajara: Smart City of the Near Future

IEEE will work to make Mexico’s Silicon Valley more efficient

13 June 2014

Mexico’s second-most-populous city is a high-tech powerhouse. Guadalajara, capital of the state of Jalisco, is home to more than 100 software companies and manufacturers, including Foxconn, Intel, Jabil, Oracle, SCI Systems, and Tata. Known as the country’s Silicon Valley, the city is dotted with more than 20 corporate campuses. And the area’s talent pool is young: The average age is 24. Guadalajara also has a strong education element: More than 20 universities offer engineering and IT courses. According to the American Chamber of Commerce Mexico, more than 7000 students graduated with degrees in engineering in 2012, the most recent figure available.

With so much high-tech talent, it’s no wonder Mexico’s leaders selected Guadalajara as the site for the Ciudad Creativa Digital, a smart-city development project. The CCD is expected to advance the country’s leadership position in media by using technology to create a socially integrated urban environment that can attract those working in advertising, gaming, movies, television, and related fields. Housing, recreational areas, educational and cultural institutions, retail stores, restaurants, and hotels are part of the project.

Guadalajara began the development efforts in October in a 40-hectare area downtown it calls the Digital Hub. Eventually, the CCD is expected to expand beyond the downtown and cover some 380 hectares.

To be considered a smart city, a municipality must do such things as retrofit buildings to make them more energy efficient; update aging power grids, public transportation systems, and roads; integrate related but separate government services and departments; and use social media to communicate with residents. Guadalajara plans to use information and communication technologies to improve its infrastructure and develop more efficient ways to provide services to its citizens and businesses.

Overhauling a city’s infrastructure and services requires a lot of technology: telecommunications, wireless networks, a smart grid, sensors, facial-recognition systems, renewable energy sources, integrated transportation, crowdsourcing, and data aggregation—the list goes on and on. Who better to understand how to put it all together and make it work than members of IEEE?

One of the many courtyards that will make up Ciudad Creativa Digital (CCD). Image: Carlo Ratti Associati & team for Guadalajara CCD A.C.

“Designing successful and sustainable smart cities requires careful planning of energy, water, transportation, and communications facilities and for the citizens’ public health and safety,” says Gilles Betis, chair of the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative. The initiative is a global, multidisciplinary effort through which IEEE seeks to help municipalities address the huge demands on land, resources, and services associated with population growth.

Along with access to IEEE experts, municipalities receive help with a number of activities, including workshops to develop white papers describing what the city would like to accomplish, an international conference on smart cities, and access to members of the IEEE Distinguished Lecturers program. IEEE also plans to help build a repository to serve as a source of lessons learned and to develop massive open online courses and support postgraduate students working on smart cities–related disciplines.

“IEEE has cultivated a powerful and talented brain trust that can assist municipalities in addressing the essential services that must be managed in unison while providing a clean and safe environment for residents to live, work, and play,” Betis says.


Because of its CCD master plan, Guadalajara was chosen as the pilot for the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative.

“We selected Guadalajara as our first city because it has a well-defined plan in the CCD and welcomed support from IEEE,” says IEEE Senior Member Roberto Saracco, chair of IEEE’s Future Directions Committee, which oversees the initiative.

“IEEE has established cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union and other organizations, recognizing the need for a multidisciplinary and multiperspective approach,” Saracco says. “We are going to provide CCD with support in introducing new technologies and, more important, team it up with professors and students at local universities.

“Local IEEE chapters will follow the city’s day-by-day progress. Guadalajara can create a ripple effect for other cities with similar goals,” he continues.


The team working on the CCD plan includes engineers from MIT as well as IEEE members from the Guadalajara Section and engineering students from the city’s universities. The group has proposed several plans for orchestrating the transition. These include developing network architectures for communication systems, putting up efficient new buildings and retrofitting old ones, and developing tools to make the data being generated available to residents. One such tool, for example, could be an app to check whether buses are on time.

6wguadalajaraf3 An artistic rendering of the site. The CCD’s Digital Hub will surround Parque Morelos, a park located in the city’s historic downtown area. Image: Carlo Ratti Associati & team for Guadalajara CCD A.C.

The city’s strengths and weaknesses must be identified, as well as trends about how services are being used. Trends could include a spike in crime, the use of electricity, and calls to government offices during certain times of the day.

The team realizes it can’t realistically improve every aspect of the city, so it is focusing on eight areas: public transportation and parking, waste collection, safety and security, telecommunications, the economy, the environment, government operations, and how involved citizens want to be in improving their communities.

For the telecommunications infrastructure, engineers will need to combine legacy networks with new communication architectures, which include sensor and mobile networks. The goal is to configure the networks to be compatible at the very least with the ones being used by law enforcement, hospitals, highway authorities, and weather forecasters.

The CCD plan calls for an optical network using fiber-to-the-home technology. FTTH involves installing optical fiber from a telephone switch in the street directly to the subscriber’s home or business. That enables faster connection speeds and greater carrying capacity—ideal for the large audio, data, and video files handled by the digital media industry. The network is also being designed to incorporate such features as big-data analysis, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communication, and wireless sensor networks.

The data generated will provide a treasure trove of information about matters like traffic patterns, energy consumption, and public transit, according to organizers, but the data must be turned into something that residents and businesses can use.

To that end, the team plans to build what it calls an urban operating system (UOS): a big-data platform to help analyze how the city operates and to help it find better ways to make use of its resources.

The UOS is expected to provide a comprehensive set of digital services for supporting business processes and managing data. The catalog of services provided by the UOS includes intelligent streetlights to reduce energy usage and increase citizens’ security by means of optimizing the lights’ intensity, an app that locates parking spaces via mobile devices or public displays, and an education platform that will make a wide variety of courses accessible to residents.

If the smart-city transition proves successful, the CCD will be replicated across the country and Latin America, according to the team.

“IEEE can provide city leaders unbiased help with accessing the technology and becoming aware of the options that exist. Even more important, IEEE members can help leverage their experience to the benefit of others,” Saracco says. “It is something we have to do, because IEEE is about the well-being of the world, with technology as a tool, not an end.”

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