A machine worth two-hundred trees


On World Environment Day we meet a pair of forward-thinking friends who combined nature and technology to make the cities of Mexico more liveable and sustainable, turning pollution into fresh oxygen

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It was an entrepreneurial spirit, an insider’s knowledge of public administration and a shared passion for protecting the environment and improving the quality of life in Mexico’s cities that led Alfonso Velez and Jaime Ferrer to create AutoTraffic, Mexico’s leading ‘mobility 3.0’ business. Every day, as they have for 15 years, the pair and their team of 140 collaborators work to make Mexico’s roads safer, cleaner and more efficient.

 

Mobility 3.0: keeping people safe all-round

Mexico City’s traffic jams and lack of road safety convinced Alfonso that bringing traffic control technology that was already common in Europe in early 2000s would not only improve road safety, it would also significantly ease traffic flows and boost productivity. Alfonso decided to bring his long-time friend Jaime, an employee of the Ministry of Finance, on his business adventure to create AutoTraffic.

 

The company has now successfully installed 350 control systems across the country. These innovative integrated systems not only control speed and traffic flows, they also monitor eight other potentially dangerous behaviours, such as using a mobile phone, not wearing a seatbelt or having a young child in the front seat.

 

Having helped to reduce mortality rates and congestion on the roads – the first two pillars of what they call ‘Mobility 3.0’ - Jaime and Alfonso are now adding a third pillar to their business: making cities more sustainable for all by dramatically reducing pollution and producing fresh oxygen.

 

Ground-breaking technology inspired by nature

With the support of scientists and entrepreneurs, Jaime and Alfonso are developing a new product, BioUrban, which combines a natural component – algaes – with technology to reproduce photosynthesis. The device absorbs polluted air, cleans it from carbon dioxide, nitrogen and particles, and breathes out fresh oxygen. And it takes only four weeks to build.

 

One BioUrban device is so powerful that it can supply enough fresh oxygen for 550 people each day, and reduce carbon emissions from a thousand vehicles. That’s equivalent to 200 young trees.

 

BioUrban also collects data on air pollution using real-time sensors, and is completely self-reliant, with solar panels providing the device with its energy supply.

 

The BioUrban technology – which will shortly obtain its patent – is already hitting the streets of Mexico.

 

Bringing green cities to life

The World Health Organisation estimates that every year, between 6 and 7 million deaths (circa 12% of all global deaths) are associated with air pollution. By cutting carbon emissions, BioUrban technology is a ground-breaking innovation that can play a key role in tomorrow’s green cities, alongside smart energy grids, renewable power plants and low-carbon transportation systems.

Supporting environmentally-mindful businesses like AutoTraffic to help them realise their ambitions for a greener, more sustainable future, is a critical step. But to effectively bring green cities to life, investment is desperately needed.

Some USD90 trillion is required in new green infrastructure over the next 15 years, according to the New Climate Economy. So it’s critical that policymakers, multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and commercial banks work together to set financial rules that will give investors the right incentives and encourage spending on green infrastructure.