Smart cities and chatbots

The most renowned science fiction authors have tried for years to predict what the cities of the future would look like. Some imagined products like cell phones, bullet trains, and planes. Others focused on the architectural aspect of the cities. The vision was fed by Hollywood movies which nurtured our imagery from an early age with movies like Wall-e and cartoons like the supersonics.

What this genre has in common is that normally the cities that are portrayed in the stories belong to countries like United States, United Kingdom, China and Japan . No author bet on what the future of the cities of Latin America would be like. None of the authors managed to imagine the potential that we have as a region.

To show the world everything that Hispanics have accomplished, I decided to take stock of how some cities in the region are redefining the smart city concept by implementing technology and using tools such as chatbots to improve, among other things mobility in our cities.

Spain: Citizen participation

For a city to be considered a smart city, it must implement technological tools that favor citizen participation. The modernization of the infrastructure of cities must be a democratic matter where citizens have access to the city and its government in an equitable manner.

Cities such as Zaragoza, Seville, La Coruña and Santa Cruz de Tenerife implemented software that allows its citizens to connect with each other and have a direct channel of communication with the government. The result of the pilot programs was so successful that the Chinese government ended up implementing them in several of its cities.

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In addition to generating communication channels, Spain was one of the pioneer countries in taking measures to improve the mobility of its citizens and contribute to the reduction of pollution. The city of San Sebastián is an example in this field.

Argentina: Improving mobility

The cities of Buenos Aires , Salta and Mendoza decided to take a technological leap to improve the mobility and quality of life of its inhabitants. The Argentine strategy was concentrated on three fronts:

With the implementation of this type of technology, the city of Buenos Aires was second in the ranking of the smartest cities in the region.

Additionally, the Government of Buenos Aires was recognized with the first place in the world cup of chatbots where the best conversational technology initiatives competed. Nearly one million Buenos Aires citizens used Boti, a chatbot for WhatsApp winner of the Planet ChatBot Award 2019.

In this way, they were the first city in the world with WhatsApp, managing to be in the hand of citizens 24 hours a day to solve doubts ranging from vaccines to the requirements for technical vehicle inspection.

Colombia: Connecting citizens with local government

According to the National University of Colombia and a study published in the Wall Street Journal, Medellín has become a world benchmark for transformation and innovation, and it is expected that by 2023 it will be recognized as the capital of innovation in Latin America.

On the other hand, the city of Bogotá has invested a large part of its budget in the international system transport grade. In addition, this city has street motion sensors, intelligent traffic light control, and dynamic digital signage systems, just to name a few.

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Currently, the Bogotá Mobility Secretariat plans to implement technology that allows the city to connect citizens with the authorities. To achieve this, it is planned to implement chatbots that allow reporting of badly parked vehicles reporting of suspicious activities, and consulting on road closures.

In the process, the city evaluated the different tools that were available in the market. In other cities around the world, specialized applications have been developed to connect citizens. However, the rate of use of said applications was very low.

The Mayor of Bogotá, together with the Ministry of Mobility, bet on strengthening the emergency hotlines so that citizens could communicate with the authorities in a timely manner. This strategy worked for a short period of time, since, when the pandemic began, these lines collapsed and it became difficult to monitor activities aimed at improving safety, mobility, and road conditions.

It was, as well as during the month of May and inspired by the work of the city of Buenos Aires, the team of the Mobility Secretariat decided to concentrate their efforts on searching for a chatbot tool that allow citizens to have an instant communication channel with the authorities without the need to congest the telephone hotlines.

While Boti, a WhatsApp chatbot, was implemented in Buenos Aires, the Mobility Secretariat is evaluating the possibility of implementing Twnel, a chatbots construction solution developed by an American company with Colombian roots that is used by more than 1,000 companies worldwide. Twnel has been implemented in other Colombian cities, such as Barranquilla and Cartagena, to allow citizens to make a self-diagnosis of coronavirus as a complementary monitoring mechanism to the test.

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The idea is that by implementing Twnel, citizens can solve their concerns, report badly parked vehicles through photos and geolocation, file complaints and receive news about the mobility of the city.

This new conversational channel does not use WhatsApp . Twnel is available in a downloadable mobile application format and through a progressive web app (PWA). So that the download of the application is not an obstacle for citizens, and these, as in the case of Buenos Aires, only require their cell phone to communicate with the city.

The plan in a The future is power, not only allowing citizens to communicate with the authorities through this new channel, but also, the city’s Ministry of Mobility plans to implement more services. All this to optimize communication and automate certain processes within the organization, such as the coordination and dispatch of road maintenance teams, among many other things.

Mexico: Energy sustainable, transportation and smart signage

Unlike the cities mentioned above, Mexico decided not only to invest in its cities so that they were smart, but also, since 2013, building entire cities like Maderas in the State of Querétaro.

Mexico City, on the other hand, developed a chatbot called Victoria in which users can send their complaints or reports.

Unlike Buenos Aires and Bogotá, Mexicans developed Victoria so that she could be consulted through Facebook, Twitter and even text messages. For this reason, to access the chatbot it is necessary to access the official government accounts and send the message or send the word “victory” to the corresponding number.

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