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How sustainable business practices can equal a sustainable smart city

JCDecaux is working with Panama City to help it become, what it claims, will be the first smart city in Latin America


Sustainability is at the heart of any smart city movement on so many levels. Finding ways to make smart initiatives financially stable though is one of the biggest challenges of all. Grants and funding from local, national and international initiatives and programmes are great until they run out and momentum is lost.


This is, of course, why private sector investment and participation is crucial. As the World Economic Forum has pointed out in reports and speeches, it is vital to "unlock digital potential" and meet the challenges of rapid urbanisation


JCDecaux is the number one outdoor advertising company worldwide but not the first name you think of when discussing smart cities. It has, however, potentially provided one of the best models of a sustainable smart city solution to date.


The company is the global leader in street furniture with 524,580 advertising panels and in transport advertising with not far off 400,000 advertising panels in airports, metros, buses, trains and tramways around the world.


It is working with Panama City to help it become, what it claims, will be the first smart city in Latin America. In January, it launched a free wi-fi service at 50 bus shelters with the country’s free hotspot network Wigo and is partnering with mobile network operators to offer them the opportunity to install small cells in its street furniture.


As well as access transit information and geo-locate the next bus on a city map, citizens can receive public service announcements from the city government.


JCDecaux explains that it wants to use an enhanced wireless network and connected street furniture to help circulate public service announcements in real-time in areas of the city that are easily accessible to citizens. And while doing so, it will also meet its advertisers’ needs.


Chairman of the executive board and co-CEO Jean-Charles Decaux said that through a "virtuous ecosystem" it hopes to achieve both aims and tackle head-on the challenge of rolling out high-quality networks that will facilitate a range of smart city services. It wants to offer access to information that is for the "greater good" of the cities and citizens as well as for advertisers and their brands.


While it is still early days, the Panama City project and its success will come down to a simple equation: a vision for a city which also equals fulfilment of business goals. When such a strategy is executed well, with trust built on both sides, it is the ultimate private-public partnership win-win.


Sue Weekes,

News editor

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