It’s time to create smart cities!

Smart Cities

An overwhelming 22 out of our major 32 cities (in India) have to struggle with the problem of water shortage on an everyday basis. Some of the cities have adequate supply but are plagued by inadequate engineering and poor maintenance.

Megatrends such as Internet of Things (IoT), big data and analytics are revolutionizing the provision of public services. After revolutionizing the business world, these trends are finding their way into the civic issues.

People from rural areas are swarming to urban regions for attaining better livelihood and lifestyles. To accommodate this change, public authorities are adopting smarter ways to manage common city challenges such as:

  • Water shortage
  • High traffic congestion
  • Power cuts and
  • High cost of living

They are thus, looking at creating smart cities, which use a network of wireless devices, cameras, censors and analytic tools to provide efficient services to citizens.

Water management

City authorities are now discovering innovative solutions such as smart metering and intelligent dashboards. Cities such as Sao Paulo, Doha and Beijing are the frontrunners in this regard, as they have been able to reduce their water leakages by 40%-50% by installing internet-connected censors on pumps, regular monitoring of reservoir levels, water pressure, and leaks.

Case study: Bengaluru uses operational dashboard to manage water supply

Due to massive population growth, the city faces challenges in equitable distribution of available water resources. To overcome this, the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) worked with a technology consulting company to create an operational dashboard for monitoring, administering and managing water supply networks. The dashboard uses big data and predictive analytics technology to monitor the water supply of flow meters.

Also, it provides real-time information such as water transmission from each meter, water supplied to various parts of the distribution system, volume of water in various reservoirs and total flow in a particular timeframe. This helps reduce water shortage and brings in predictability. Additionally, it could also help improve revenue collection by reducing billing anomalies and accurately tracking water consumption.

Traffic management

In the next 20 years, India is estimated to have nearly 450 million cars on road, adding to its already clogged road network. This creates added pressure on public authorities to ensure smooth flow of traffic, avoid accidents, and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Leading cities worldwide are using IoT-based transportation systems for traffic prediction, speed monitoring, assessing traveller information, and ticketing and fare collection.

Case study: Ahmedabad and Madhya Pradesh implement intelligent transportation systems (ITS)

The Ahmedabad Traffic Police recently launched its pilot project for traffic management. The ITS solution uses a hybrid model for information gathering through cameras, roadside sensors, radio frequency tags (RFID) and global positioning systems. This information is sent to a cloud-based control centre that analyses data and understands traffic flow. The processed information is then displayed on electronic information boards placed 200m around traffic signals to guide travel decisions. It also has mobile applications to provide real-time traffic updates.

Likewise, the Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation (MPRDC) has set up an integrated accident response system using ITS technology. It ensures immediate provision of medical assistance to casualties by using data warehousing and analytics tools.

In Delhi, around 3,156 million litres of water is supplied against a requirement of 4,158, out of which around 40% is lost in distribution — leading to a wide demand-supply gap. Mumbai residents deal with traffic woes regularly. The number of vehicles in the city has increased by almost 35% in the past six years whereas the road length has nearly remained unchanged.

The Government needs to provide lucrative incentives and involve private players to make existing cities smarter. It needs to continuously assess demand and supply situation across civic services including public safety, waste management, energy, education, health care, and agriculture, and evaluate which cities and services need implementation of IoT tools.

To start with, a pilot can be run in smaller towns and districts, and then expanded to larger cities. In fact, in Budget 2014, the Government announced plans to create 100 smart cities using cloud computing, real-time surveillance and big data analytics technologies. It has budgeted INR70.6b for creating satellite towns of large cities and modernizing existing mid-sized cities. Moreover, it also plans to augment urban infrastructure in existing 500 cities and towns.

The use of interconnected devices and internet applications has led to digital disruptions such as social media, mobility, big data and analytics. While, some Indian cities are already using these technologies for managing their day-to-day issues, others such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad can replicate these models for ensuring better quality of life for their citizens.

3 thoughts on “It’s time to create smart cities!

  1. Timely and excellent Devendra. While it is seen that some cities have initiated measures to deal with such problems, majority are yet to catch up and wake up to the realities. Case in point is Bangalore. Touted as IT Capital, its infrastructure is crumbling with vehicles of all types clogging the ever shrinking roads and increase in vehicles. Transport system just is not able to meet the requirement and at times is not reliable. The Metro is yet to be completed in all segments despite years of effort ( total lack of coordination amongst various agencies). Unless conceted efforts are put in , I am afraid Smart Cities will remain on paper.

  2. Great post! Smart cities will also result in data driven analytics, data driven decisions and data driven execution. This will, in turn, reduce the avenues of corruption and keep cities efficient.

  3. Yes, time has come to start making smart cities as we’ll not have other alternatives, looking at our explosive population growth, limited and depleting resources, crumbling systems etc.

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