Known as Mexico's Silicon Valley, Guadalajara is home to more than 20 corporate campuses and 100 software companies and manufacturers. The historic city, the second-most populous in Mexico, has a strong education component with 20 universities offering engineering and IT degrees.
To advance its high-tech appeal, the city has embarked on a digital transformation — the Ciudad Creativa Digital (Digital Creative City) — designed to make it a global center of digital media creation, including animation, video games, software development and special effects for films.
"This sector of industry represents 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars of market and if Guadalajara holds only 1 percent of the world market with the Guadalajara CCD project, it represents an increase of 50 times the current GDP of the city," said Victor M. Larios, volunteer leader of the project and a professor at the University of Guadalajara's Department of Information Systems.
"Big companies will find conditions favorable to invest in facilities and projects, and many services will be developed. Some 20,000 jobs are expected to be created from this digital media industry," he added.
In addition to local software companies, the Mexican government wants to attract international giants such as Comcast, News Corp., Sony, Viacom and Walt Disney. ProMéxico, the government's economic development agency, predicts the CCD will generate $10 billion of investment in Guadalajara over the next 5-10 years.
Work is underway on a 100-acre site called the Digital Hub in the heart of Guadalajara; eventually the CCD is expected to expand beyond downtown and cover 900-plus acres, reaching housing, recreational areas, educational and cultural institutions, retail stores, restaurants and hotels.
Guadalajara was chosen in October 2013 as the first of 20 cities in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Smart Cities Initiative, which enables participating cities to collaborate with each other and with world-renowned Smart City builders and experts. IEEE, an international professional association for the advancement of technology, provides the cities with investment and other assistance to execute their Smart City strategies.
"Guadalajara is a large city where a lot of high-tech industries and universities have been installed for years," said Gilles Betis, chair of the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative and the mobility and Smart City product line manager at the Thales Group in Paris. "There is an entrepreneurial ecosystem which is very favorable to disruptive innovation and to develop successful transitions to new usages."
With 1.5 million residents among some 2.7 in its metro region, Guadalajara also has a deep and relatively young talent pool to draw upon in the future. The University of Guadalajara, for example, is Mexico's second-largest university with an enrollment of 130,000 at its main campus and more than 200,000 students overall.
"Guadalajara is the Silicon Valley of Mexico and we have many big and small companies that can participate and contribute to its Smart City Initiative," Larios added.
The project will be woven into the city's historic area, which features the Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built in the 19th century as a hospice and now houses a cultural institute. Breeze-swept courtyard buildings surrounding nearby Parque Morelos will become appealing workspaces for creative minds.
"Not only wonderful places to be, these structures are also extremely flexible and have accommodated many uses over time," said Professor Carlo Ratti, director of MIT's Senseable City Laboratory and lead designer of the Guadalajara project master plan.
"They are the organizing principle of CCD, integrating living, working and leisure in a human-scaled urban environment that can be changed, added to, and adapted over time. The design is organized around a new kind of three-dimensional, ‘permeable’ urban form, blending public and private space," he said.
The first competitions to transform the master plan into design at the urban block scale are being held now. Separately, the IEEE Standards Association is working on an architectural framework for a global Internet of Things (IoT), which a Smart City like Guadalajara could benefit from, as well as many industries.
"The Internet of Things will be incorporated for better multimodal mobility solutions mixing cars, parking, public transport, bicycles and walking connections," Larios said. "It should also improve security and ongoing projects are looking to improve health of Guadalajara’s citizens. Informative kiosks, new bus shelters with interactive maps, and devices to let the people learn about the history and traditions in the downtown are some examples. Besides in the Smart City, IoT will be used to monitor the reduction of carbon footprint in buildings, energy (smart grids), water consumption and waste management."
The project brings together federal, state and municipal levels of government, several universities, volunteers and a number of national and international companies. Like most large-scale urban projects, the master plan focuses on the long term, 10-20 years, Ratti said.
"CCD draws on the strengths of the site – its talent, historic fabric and connections – and enhances them to achieve a new social and environmental sustainability," he said. "Hopefully, it will bring together an holistic ecosystem, where the total is more than the sum of the individual parts."