The French developed an entire cuisine based on ingredients that others discarded, the Italians have worked out how to make flour and water taste good, Monaco worked out how to turn a small cliff face into a playground for the rich and famous; all too often it’s not about the resources themselves, its more about the need to build something out of nothing.
Santander, a relatively small City in the North of Spain, is a modern day example of how visionary thinking and necessity can combine and deliver outstanding value and opportunity to its residents. It is no accident that Global heavyweights in the Internet of Things have come knocking and wanting to partner and be part of the game at Santander. It should also come as no surprise that many of the leading players in the Internet of Things were start-ups that were propagated out of Santander.
Santander, like so much of Spain, found itself to be grappling with the GFC and dealing with an unemployment rate of about 25%. Mayor of Santander, 42 year old visionary engineer, Íñigo de la Serna, committed to innovation and technology as a way out of the crisis. Many global cities aim to become “smart cities”, Santander has actually made this vision a reality. Santander is well known as a global leader in smart city development, frequently welcoming visitors from corporations such as Google, Microsoft or IBM.
Mayor Íñigo de la Serna, sees this as an essential investment, helping to secure the future, “This is the future, all cities will have to do this, it’s about doing more with less. We want a city where residents want to live and a city where business wants to invest”.
Some 12,000 sensors, located around the city, monitor traffic, parking availability, taxi and bus locations, soil moisture in parks, air quality – residents can also choose to become mobile sensors by downloading the city app to their smart phone. The whole idea is to improve quality of life, improving efficiency, and of course increase prosperity and insulate the future.
The interesting part of this story is that it demonstrates the impact of visionary leaders with a plan. Former President of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yu, is another example of a visionary leader able to build something great out of nothing. The difference between a visionary leader and a “manager” is that the visionary leader grows the top line and is prepared to invest and put his reputation on line; the manager doesn’t have the vision and targets costs – the easy bit.
I guess there are no surprises, the essential ingredients are a creative leader with a vision and plan, just like any good business!
Image: Íñigo and Grant at IoT Asia 2014 – Singapore