Aris de Juan
Regional President for Latin America and Southern Europe
Clear Channel

Communication Channels: Unlocking Smart City Potential

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 09:52

Communication and advertising channels can play a significant role in addressing urban problems and providing services, helping cities become smarter in the process, says Aris de Juan, Regional President for Latin America and Southern Europe of Clear Channel International. He is convinced that the further development of IoT will unlock more possibilities and that the potential for enriching the exterior is unlimited. “Our mindset is to constantly think of what new solutions to offer. Our bet is to use the accessibility and underselling of technology to transform the business,” he says.
As technology and IoT take on a larger role in the development of Mexican cities, companies like Clear Channel can use their expertise to contribute solutions to the plethora of problems cities face. “City mayors must address three key issues: safety, waste management and mobility. We believe these should be the central axes for city services, and our goal is to provide the solutions,” de Juan says.
Clear Channel International was a pioneer in the mobility sector, introducing its Smart Bike systems into Mexico City in 2000 by exchanging its services for advertising spaces. “SmartBike is not the end but a beginning. It is the start of a journey toward city transformation,” says de Juan. Eight years later, Clear Channel’s SmartBike system in Mexico City is now the largest bicycle-sharing system in Latin America and it is pioneering the integration of electric bikes. De Juan explains that the efficiency and systematic growth of Mexico City’s system has made it one of the three most successful SmartBike systems in the world, following Barcelona and Montpellier. “Mexico is now recognized for its sustainable public mobility around the world. This is our main contribution to the mobility problem,” he says.
The success of the SmartBike system lies not only in improving mobility but in self-financing the maintenance and operation of the system through outdoor advertising. With SmartBike self-sustaining, Clear Channel began looking for new ways to contribute to the country’s “smart” evolution and turned its attention to security. The company offers surveillance cameras that can be incorporated into SmartBike stations or other Clear Channel urban furniture to enhance security and help prevent crimes, as they are directly connected to the city’s central security systems.
Apart from surveillance, these stations can increase connectivity by using their urban furniture as a communication platform that incorporates Wi-Fi antennas. As 90 percent of Clear Channel’s advertising screens are digital, the company broadcasts valuable content such as real-time traffic information and emergency messages during contingencies. After the September 2017 earthquake that struck Mexico City and other areas, Clear Channel International committed 100 percent of its advertising spaces to transmit civil protection messages throughout Mexico City. As a result, in February 2018 it was awarded the Best Corporate Digital Signage Award for using its digital infrastructure to serve the public as a response to the disasters.
Taking its civil service another step further, the company is also involved in waste management, a problem that requires an innovative solution as Mexico’s cities are expected to grow rapidly. Similar to its mobility exchange scheme, Clear Channel offers recyclable waste containers and manages waste treatment. In exchange, cities provide it with permits to install broadcasting platforms that the company then sells to advertisers while reinvesting part of the earnings in city services. “This is a 360° model. The city gives us the means to generate the resources to provide the services, such as waste management, without implying an extra cost for the government,” says de Juan. This model has already been implemented in Madrid. In Mexico, the company has started developing projects in Puebla.
Even as the company innovates its solutions, de Juan says there is still untapped potential for improving quality of life in Clear Channel’s roots: outdoor advertising. Digital billboards can be used to display valuable information such as temperature, time and traffic. With more than 70 percent of the Latin American population living in urban areas, the street is a place where people are spending up to 25 percent more time. “They can skip TV commercials, online ads and other methods of advertising but street advertising is inevitable. Why not take advantage for the good of the city?”