Development of Smart Cities and Technology intervention

By : Mr. Raj Darji | Founder and CEO | Aarav Solutions

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The advent of modern technology has changed the world we live in, numerous technical innovations have helped in making our life easier. With the change in demography and the growth in population, governments are adopting tech-enabled citizen-centric solutions to address the needs of the changing order. In today’s world, all civic organizations are utilizing technology to provide better services to the people—the evolution of smart cities is in this direction.

In simple terms, the concept of a smart city is to make a city smarter and better for the people coupled with the utilization of technological advancement to bring down various hardships they need to overcome. Having said of the need to find solutions for its people, the government must need a broader vision to fulfill the needs of the public.

In the last couple of years, the idea of creating “smart cities” is gaining steam, and creating a tech catalyzed long-term efficient, and livable urban environment is a priority for the local bodies. The Modi government’s ambitious Smart City project is poised to sharply develop modern days cities that are really smarter, with sustainable models, and provide a decent quality of life to all. In the initial stages, the government has selected a few cities as part of the local area development to drive the project and it aims to improve the quality of life by utilizing technology that results in Smart outcomes.

The project launched by the centre in 2015 is witnessing more fund allocation and growth. According to a research report published by one of the leading consulting organizations, McKinsey– smart cities are expected to generate 60% of the world’s GDP by 2025. This is likely to create opportunities for various stakeholders like infrastructure companies, hardware manufacturers, software developers, network solution providers, and last-mile delivery players, among others.

The idea of a smart city is creating a connected environment or a network of services that can be accessed by citizens using a platform. This is expected to reduce the decision-making cycles, also increase transparency in governance. Various technologies such as Internet-of-Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) among others are a few that facilitate this. These interconnected facilities help check the gap between the authorities and the common man. The smart cities improve common citizens lifestyle with the use of cases that includes smart parking, smart traffic management, smart transportation, smart metering systems, smart street lighting, and smart waste management. Still, also these cases often combine a mix of enhanced efficiency, urban problem solving, cost reduction, better living in urban regions, and putting citizens first for a variety of reasons.

India’s Smart City Mission (SCM)

In our country, the Smart Cities Mission was envisioned with an objective to provide core infrastructure, a clean and sustainable environment, and to give a decent quality of life to the citizens through the application of smart solutions or technology. India’s Smart Cities Mission (SCM) identified 100 cities, covering 21% of India’s urban population, for a makeover in four rounds.

In India there is a steady migration of population from smaller villages and towns towards cities and urbanization is increasing at a rapid pace. According to various statistics, including the census date about a third of our population lives in cities. As mentioned before the number of city dwellers is rising with scores of young populations migrating towards cities. These migrations are fostering urbanization and it needs faster solutions for those who leave small villages in seek of better prospects in urban areas.

If we analyze the future of smart cities in India with a population of over 1.38 billion, the opportunities and challenges are plenty. We need to bolster the adoption of technology solutions in various fields like traffic, public health, utilities, waste management and other Common Services Centers (CSC) as it will fundamentally help in an enhanced citizen and authority’s engagement using various collaborative tools, virtual services. In a Smart City environment data becomes the key and a data-driven approach will help in easier problem solving, which in the current scenario is a cumbersome task.

Though the ambitious project of creating 100 smart cities in India was launched in 2015, the makeover of these cities is taking more time than was expected. There are various reasons for the same, one major reason for the slow pace is the reluctance in adopting change by the people. A parliamentary standing had also flagged the slow pace of the execution of Smart City work across the country. However, with the government underlining the need for creating a better urban ecosystem for faster growth the pace is picking up. As per media reports, as of January 31, 5,422 projects worth Rs 1,76,911 crore have been tendered and utilization of Central funds has also increased from 10% in March 2018 to 83% in January 2021.

In the view of urban planners and civic bodies, the sudden emergence of digitalized solutions to the citizens will generate perplexed scenarios all across. The municipalities not only need to invest in smart technologies but also need to educate people to enhance the adoption of smart technologies in daily life. Only then will tools like smartphones and mobile applications have the potential to revolutionize city governance and contribute to the making of people-centric smart cities.

Crucial Technology Implications

Technology acts as a crucial element even at the grassroots level of smart city development. In an overall development of a smart city, there are several technological implications that are utilized to surpass the usage of traditional methods in an established city. Firstly, it is necessary to create a bridge between the citizens and their stakeholders and this can be initiated with the usage of ICT tools such as Automated and Simplified Network Management and Automatic Security Threat Isolation and Remediation. This tool completely empowers people by providing active citizen engagements.

The technologies like IoT, Blockchain, and AI are used at peaks to enable smooth functioning of the system throughout. Blockchain technology secures data flow. Its integration into smart cities could better connect all city services while boosting security and transparency. Blockchain can also be used in smart grids to facilitate energy sharing and management. The implementation of blockchain can also prove effective with billing and processing transactions and handling facilities management as well.

Meanwhile, AI provides autonomy to systems to manipulate and collate information as per the requirement of the user and helps the policymakers. Various IoT devices provide the ability to remotely monitor, manage, and control devices and could play a key role in connected public transport, traffic monitoring and management, video surveillance, and analytics at major hubs of the city.

Bright side of Smart Cities

In any city, the optimal utilization of various utility services is an important part of citizen service. Undisturbed supply of water, power, and other basic amenities is the utmost need of society and the use of smart technologies can ensure this. In a smart city with proper AI, data and monitoring overall consumption can be mapped and be regulated based on the requirement and also the availability.

Smart Energy – For example, partnerships with stakeholders in smart energy solutions will help in proper and optimal usage of energy, it also helps in reducing the carbon footprints across the state or city. Smart Grids is the latest development in this regard and is considered the future of energy production, supply, and usage. In an attempt to enhance energy services, prepaid energy applications to advanced smart metering infrastructure have changed the traditional module. Initializing smart grids can improve outage detection, speed of data capture, continuing and disaster recovery, field service operations, and overall grid modernization techniques as well. Quick & integrated product roll out, accurate metering, flexible rating & charging plans and integrated smart meters for the next generation Smart Cities.

Smart Transportation – In a country like India where the number of vehicles and traffic congestion are soaring sky-high, an effective system that enhances the flow of traffic is the need of the hour. Smart transportation is a combined solution that links traffic movement, signalling, navigation control systems, speed cameras, etc to reduce crowd on the roads. With the technological advancements, we can implement these features in monitoring a rather broader area and integrating live data and feedback from a number of sources as well.

Safer Cities – As the whole ideology of smart cities stands with a consumer-centric outlook, it is of utmost importance to maintain and manage the safety of the consumers in the effective way possible. This can be achieved with the usage of Wi-Fi connectivity, IoT technologies, and CCTV cameras were cities with a focus on resident safety and reducing the response times at the time of any causality. Several cities around the world have implemented such systems to effectively track and allocate resources on the site and provide public safety.

Smart Waste Disposal – In anyurbanizedenvironment waste disposal is one of the essential tasks that the civic bodies need to overcome and the traditional methods have not produced any efficient result. With the utilization of ICT, there is a rapid shift from the obsolete methods and it also helps in effective monitoring of the various stages in waste management. It is estimated that these innovative methods reduce waste collection costs by at least 44.6% and also reduce carbon footprints across the city.

Smart Cities backed by abundance in technologies can result in new themes, ideas, and environments that will transform the lives of millions of people to simpler and smarter ways.