Sustainability, the main factor for smart cities

One of the main challenges of nations is to build smart cities through innovation and technology implementation.

According to expert Daniel Madariga Barrilado, the construction of this type of city will be part of the benefit of its inhabitants

According to the Cities in Motion Index (CIMI), there are 30 metropolises leading the so-called Smart Cities movement, distributed around the world.

To elaborate this ranking, indicators such as the degree of technology and innovation applied by governments, the quality, and variety of mobility and transport services, urban planning, public management, commitment to the environment, human capital, among others, were taken into account.

However, Madariaga Barrilado emphasizes that the factors in which the cities that make up the CIMI list have been best evaluated are those related to sustainability.

"It is true that an important pillar is in the implementation of technology, but what truly makes them Intelligent Cities, what makes them be catalogued in that way, is the efficient use of the resources they have, technology has the role of being the perfect complement or ally to achieve that task, but the basis is knowing how to take advantage of the resources," he explains.

Although Latin American cities are far from making the top 30 in the CIMI ranking, Daniel Madariaga highlights the case of Mexico, where some cities are already working on the construction of intelligent buildings, smart parking and sustainable construction.

"Cancún is a clear example that there is a commitment by the government, the citizens and the private sector to make that city more aware and sustainable. There is the case of the sargassum, which turned the eyes of the world towards our country by affecting the beaches of the Caribbean during 2018 and 2019.

However, there was a positive reaction and we saw how from that algae that at first represented a threat to the ecosystem, sustainable constructions could be created. In other words, not only were the beaches cleaned, but also the sargassum was used, which also turned out to be a much more resistant and durable material for the construction industry," he says.

Madariaga Barrilado assures that the Intelligent Cities model will be consolidated in Mexico, but important efforts must be made in terms of sustainability, mobility, equity among citizens and territorial connection to achieve it.

"Estimates indicate that the global market for smart cities will be valued in 2023 at about $717.2 billion dollars, so a lot of intelligence will be required from those governments that want to take their citizens to a better quality of life," he said.


In Mexico, there are four cities that are considered Intelligent Cities by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The international organization declared Maderas, in Querétaro; Ciudad Creativa and Tequila, in Jalisco; and Smart, in Puebla, as intelligent zones. In addition, there is Mexico City, which although not 100% intelligent, has several characteristics that lead to that category.

There are only four smart cities developing in Mexico. Image: Digital Creative City, Jalisco
There are only four smart cities developing in Mexico. Image: Digital Creative City, Jalisco

A Smart City is a region in which all its dimensions: mobility, security, government, health, among others, operate guided by technology. While there are several initiatives underway, such as Ciudad Creativa and Tequila in Jalisco and Smart in Puebla, these projects are still in various stages of maturity.

Mexico lacks federal programs that promote this city model and function as a guiding framework. There is no 'National Strategy for Smart Cities' or financial instruments of development banks that can finance these components.

The IDB understands that an intelligent city is one that places people at the center of development, incorporates information and communication technologies in urban management and uses these elements as tools to stimulate the formation of an efficient government.

Although there are already spaces in Mexico considered intelligent, they are still in the process of maturation. A smart city uses technology to generate better living conditions for its inhabitants.

Mexico is a territory with great potential for the development of this type of city. Mainly for two reasons. In Mexico there are clear problems, such as security or mobility, that can find an interesting solution in technology. The second is a large number of cities with a vocation such as tourist sites, which have the possibility of promoting their advancement through technology.

This makes Mexico a fertile ground for the emergence of intelligent cities, a beneficial model, with a multiplier effect, which in the current context takes on special relevance due to the potential it has to improve people's quality of life.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, these are the Smart Cities that can be found in Mexico:

1. Maderas, Querétaro

Located in the municipality of Santiago, Maderas was the first intelligent city to be built in Mexico. It began in 2013 and is expected to be completed by 2020. It is currently developing 100,000 homes on 400 hectares, plus 20,000 properties on the periphery.

2. Tequila, Jalisco

This magical town works to be catalogued as an intelligent city since 2014, and is expected to conclude its process in 2040. Considered the first intelligent tourist city, local authorities seek to promote mobility, connectivity, and open data, and thus replicate this model in other magical towns in the country.

3. Digital Creative City, Jalisco

This project has been developed since 2014 within Guadalajara, as a bet to favor the digital and creative industry. This site will have 380 hectares and will house 50,000 people. The average price of houses in the capital city is $1,849,000 pesos (USD 94,764).

4. Smart, Puebla

Located within the state capital, this city aims to focus on the economic development of its inhabitants on technological innovation. That is why universities and civil society organizations work in it in order to improve integral sustainability.

Since 2011, the IDB has supported cities in Latin America and the Caribbean in developing intelligent management studies in conjunction with the Korean Institute of Human Settlements and companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, IDOM, and Everis.


The Italian architect Stefano Boeri presented to the authorities of Quintana Roo Smart Forest Cancun, an intelligent city project surrounded by forests and that will be presented as a precursor construction in the eco-efficient building.

Smart Forest Cancun: a smart city in Cancun
Smart Forest Cancun: a smart city in Cancun

The development will cover 557 hectares, will have 130,000 inhabitants and will house 7.5 million plants, shrubs, and trees.

"It is a botanical garden within a contemporary city, based on Mayan heritage and its relationship with the natural and sacred world [...] It is an urban ecosystem where nature and the city are intertwined and act as a single organism," said Stefano Boeri.

According to the Dezeen portal, it will have sensors and big data for the management of the city, the consumption of energy and the life of citizens, so it is estimated that it will be self-sufficient and that the locals themselves will produce their own energy and food.

Stefano Boeri partnered with Transsolar, an engineering company, to include solar panels and to irrigate farmland with an integrated water system.

In addition to sustainability, "Smart Forest City Cancun is expected to absorb 116,000 tons of carbon dioxide with 5,800 tons of CO2 stored per year [...] and could make our world a better place, significantly reducing negative impacts on the environment," he said.

Because of its proximity to Cancun and the Caribbean Sea, the development will be surrounded by "water gardens," in order to reinforce the project against flooding, and can also be used to navigate around the smart city.

Smart Forest Cancun
Smart Forest Cancun

In terms of mobility, there will be an internal electrical and semi-automatic system that will be developed by Mobility in Chain (MIC), so the inhabitants will have to leave their vehicles out of the development.

The housing to be built on this site will be of two affordable types and the complex will be a research center with six facilities that will address issues such as bio-health care; astrophysics planetary science; coral reef restoration; precision agriculture and regenerative technology; intelligent city; mobility and robotics.

It is worth mentioning that this project is part of the architect's concept of Forest City, which are cities formed by skyscrapers covered with plants in urban areas of China. In addition to being awaiting resolution by the authorities.

By Mexicanist