Urbanization Meets Smart City Tech in LATAM

A 5-step guide for governments to interconnect IoT systems at the digital edge

Gustavo Garcia
Urbanization Meets Smart City Tech in LATAM

Latin America (LATAM) has experienced rapid urban growth over the past several decades and is now the second most urbanized region in the world after North America.[i] What’s remarkable is how fast the shift toward urbanization has been – in 1950, 42% of the population lived in urban areas and that has spiked to over 82% this year.[ii] Rapid urbanization creates enormous challenges for municipalities as they must scale city operations to handle the influx of new citizens. Common areas of focus include air and water quality, energy, waste and sanitation, healthcare, public safety and transportation. Smart city technologies such as internet of things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence (AI) and real-time analytics, combined with distributed IT architectures are quickly becoming an ally to city leaders who need to address these needs.

Governments are paving the way for digital innovation

Giving the challenges with rapid urbanization in LATAM, it’s no surprise that governments are at the forefront of clearing a path for digital innovation. For example:[iii]

Brazil published a National IoT plan decree that aims to accelerate the development of these technologies by encouraging/initiating projects between public and private entities to promote the use of IoT solutions. The plan will build on Brazil’s “Internet For All” program, which previously deployed a government-funded satellite to bring connectivity to 57 million digitally excluded citizens.

Colombia recently signed a new information and communications technology (ICT) modernization bill into law that aims to bring internet to 100% of Colombians by 2022. Along with initiatives to boost sector investment and simplify regulations, the Colombian government is allocating an estimated $8.9 million to bring internet access to over 10,000 rural localities.

With government support like this, combined with LATAM’s flourishing tech boom, the region is well positioned to harness smart technologies to make its cities more intelligent, sustainable and healthier. However, achieving the full potential of these transformative technologies will depend on shortening the distance between digital services and users, and that means exchanging data. Ensuring that data is exchanged securely and reliably is a major concern with the rise of data breaches. By leveraging private interconnection, which bypasses the public internet, cities can keep data safe in transit on a low-latency, high-bandwidth infrastructure. A common design pattern for smart cities, based on Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA®) best practices, can help LATAM city leaders accelerate the development of smart city applications such as congestion pricing, early warning systems, predictive policing and other digital services.

Harnessing interconnection to accelerate urban digital transformation

For smart city applications to work, real-time data from sensors throughout the city must be collected and analyzed in real-time, so that cities can respond to situations faster and more intelligently. Sensors produce a deluge of raw, unfiltered data, requiring rapid cleansing and analysis to provide meaningful value. This translates into four significant hurdles that cities need to overcome – security, cross-cloud application integration and exponential data growth management. The solution is to move the collection and refinement of IoT data to a digital edge node located at the intersection point of networks, such as those found on Platform Equinix®. This approach shortens the distance between IoT devices, data and systems platforms, while providing repositories and compute power to pass clean aggregated data to cloud-based analytics. This enables cities to scale at speed with the control they need to keep data safe.

The IOA IoT Playbook provides a guideline on how organizations can deploy IoT platforms to enhance operations and the user experience. By placing distributed IoT solutions at the digital edge and interconnecting them to digital technologies like data analytics and AI, organizations can get more accurate insights faster. The playbook also illustrates how direct and secure interconnection to networks, clouds and industry ecosystems speeds the development of innovative IoT solutions.

IOA Blueprint for the Internet of Things

5 steps to interconnect IoT systems at the digital edge

Here are the five steps that cities can take to move collection and refinement of IoT data to the digital edge:

1. Control the data deluge: Start by moving data collection, filtering and analytic processing to the edge where data is gathered from IoT devices. This will make quality insight and actions feasible and minimize transmission times to cloud-based applications.

2. Enforce input security: Control privacy, security and compliance by driving policy enforcement decisions to local regions through edge-based security service composition. This will reduce risk, complexity and costs.

3. Optimize multicloud analysis: Enhance responsiveness of multicloud-based analytic workloads by securely integrating them at the edge. This will reduce latency and manage increasing data gravity with fast-access edge caches to improve decision response times.

4. Scale for exponential data growth: Strategically add capacity, improving “systems of insight” performance globally, via distributed scaling of data and workloads through an interconnected mesh of digital edge nodes. Add services as needed.

5. Monetize data services: Leverage IOA ecosystem interconnections to build new business models by composing discoverable services, creating new packaged offerings and continually adapting to changing needs, regulations, technologies, and emerging partners and markets.

Priority 1: Solving congestion in LATAM smart cities

One of the key impacts from LATAM’s rapid urbanization has been soaring traffic congestion. Three of the top five most congested cities in the world are in LATAM according the INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard.[iv] IDC predicts that that LATAM’s intelligent transportation market will triple in the next four years to over $972 million by 2022.[v]

The following is an example of a smart city use case in action in the region that would benefit from high-speed, low-latency interconnection between IoT devices and mobile wireless services:[vi]

Intelligent micro-mobility: Bogota, Colombia is one of the most gridlocked cities in the world. In 2018, drivers in the city lost 272 hours due to congestion – more than any other city in the world. Bogota has implemented an intelligent traffic management solution that integrates data from IoT sensors and citizen input via a mobile app in real-time to improve decision-making and planning. The city is now turning its eye to micro-mobility services, such as e-scooters that travel short distances around an urban area, as the next logical step in its smart transportation journey. It is a founding member of the Open Mobility Foundation (OMF), which is based on a platform of Mobility Data Specifications (MDS) to help manage dockless micro-mobility programs (including shared dockless e-scooters). By creating standardized two-way communications for cities and companies to share information about their operations, MDS is enabling cities to collect data that can inform real-time traffic management decisions. In one of the first projects, Bogota partnered with startup Grow Mobility to implement an e-scooter sharing service at eight stations in its bus-rapid transit system.

Our white paper on multimodal mobility discusses how the future of connected mobility in smart vehicles will help address the twin challenges of rapid population growth and urbanization.

You can also read the IOA IoT Blueprint to learn more about how private interconnection can enable smart cities to deploy high-performance, safe and reliable connected IoT infrastructures.

Intrigued by smart cities? Check out the whole smart city series below (more to come!).

Part 1: Introduction –Build a Smart City in 3 Easy Steps

Part 2: APAC – Why Are Smart Cities Booming in Asia Pacific?

Part 3: EMEA –What’s Shaping EMEA’s Smart Cities? (It’s Not Just GDPR!)

Part 4: Digital Twins – The Secrets of Digital Twins for the Cities of Tomorrow

Part 5: Smart Transportation – Driving Through The Data Downpour with Smart Transportation

Part 6: North America – 4 Examples of Smart City Innovations in the U.S. and Canada

Part 7: LATAM  – Urbanization Meets Smart City Tech in LATAM (see above)


[i] United Nations, World Urbanization Prospects 2018: Highlights.

[ii]IDB, The Road toward Smart Cities: Migrating from Traditional City Management to the Smart City, July 2016; Worldometers, Latin America and the Caribbean Population, 2019 live.

[iii] GIP Digital Watch, Brazil publishes IoT national plan, June 2019; ZDNet, Brazilian IoT plan inches closer to reality, June 2018 and “Internet for All” plan advances in Brazil, Feb 2018; telecompaper, Colombian ICT modernisation law enters into force, July 2019 and Colombia to bring internet to 10,000 localities in new rural ICT plan, May 2019.

[iv]INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard

[v]IDC, Latin America Public Transportation Initiatives within Smart City Programs, July 2019.

[vi]World Sensing, Bogotá Takes City Mobility Management to the Next Level++; CISION PRWeb, Global Coalition of Cities Launches the ‘Open Mobility Foundation’, June 2019; Global Fleet, Transmilenio, Grow Mobility launch Bogota micro-mobility solution, Aug 2019.

Subscribe to the Equinix Blog