India is undergoing a massive urban transformation

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Jul 8 2013, 08:22am hrs
Every minute during the next 20 years, 30 Indians will leave rural India for urban areas. At this rate, India will need some 500 new cities in the next two decades, says Rahul Sharma, partner and executive-director, Global Business Services, IBM India & South Asia. Rahul is the leader for the Smarter Cities and travel & transportation industry verticals for IBM Global Business Services in the India & South Asia region. He has been responsible for setting up and driving large deals for IBM in his industry segments. He tells Sudhir Chowdhary that technology can help us create an intelligent, interconnected environment that

enhances efficiencies and sponsors effective decision making across departments. Excerpts:

How can cities optimise their systems to serve as engines of growth

As cities grow in both numbers and population, they are taking their place on the worlds centrestage, with more economic, political and technological power than ever before. Economically, they are becoming the hubs of a globally integrated, services-based society.

Every city is unique, but their leaders face many similar challengesmost of which call for exceptional creativity and innovation to resolve. Cities are perfect for promoting change, and renewable energies. Cities can serve as innovation platforms, creating clusters of business around green energy. Driving sustainable growth and prosperity through the strategic use of technology recognises the challenges that city leaders face. Proven solutions and new technologies for

data management and resource coordination can help transform city systems to make best use of funds and talent.

How can cities serve as platforms of innovation

Cities are complex interconnected network of system of systems, and an integrated and holistic approach can enable city leaders to look at the big picture and improve efficiencies across all citizen services. By doing this they can harness a citys finite

resources in a smarter way, and boost innovation, a key factor underpinning competitiveness and economic growth.

Consider this: Smart metering in Malta helps citizens pay only for the energy they use. Predictive analytics helped slash Richmonds crime rate significantly in one year. In Taiwan, almost all of the trains run on time. Data analytics helped cut crime in New York City. In downtown Stockholm smart traffic systems helped reduce gridlock.

How is IBM helping transform cities and quality of living across India and the world

A smarter city is one that uses technology to transform its core systems and optimise the return from largely finite resources. Investment in smarter systems is

also a source of sustainable employment. Smart use of technology can go a long way in transforming a citys core systems. It can help create an efficient transport management system, improve healthcare, energy, public safety, education, transportation, water and develop a robust communication network to connect all businesses, people and systems. With over 2,500 smarter city projects IBM is helping cities around the world transform into sustainable cites. For instance, the City of Rio de Janeiro automated alerts of changes in flood and landslide forecast to reduce reaction times in emergencies.

Where is India on the smart grids

IBM offers solutions for the optimisation of the entire energy value chainpower generation, transmission, distribution and renewables. We have signed

research collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras and IIT Kharagpur with the goal of developing systems that would help power grids become more efficient and resilient. The systems will analyse power grid data for predictive insights and will also help optimise grid utilisation to enhance productivity and reduce power waste. We are currently engaged in more than 150 smart grid projects around the world.

What is IBM doing in the Smart City projects in India

We recently launched the intelligent operations centre (IOC) in India, designed to help cities of all sizes integrate city systems and apply intelligence to their city

operations through one central point of command. This will enable city leaders to provide better service to the citizens. IBM intelligent operations centre monitors and manages city services. It is designed to optimise the operational efficiencies of a city and provide a unified view of all city agencies including energy, public safety, transportation, and water. It will allow cities to use information and analytics to make smarter and more timely decisions, helping local leaders manage a spectrum of events, both planned and unplanned, such as deploying water maintenance crews to repair pumps before they break, alerting fire crews to broken fire hydrants at an emergency scene, or anticipating traffic congestion and preparing redirection scenarios.

IBM India is also running pilots in some cities where it is trying to ease traffic congestion. We are helping the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) in Hyderabad to issue alerts in coastal towns to the likelihood of any tsunamis.

Also, Wave Group is currently working on two big township projects4400 acre Wave City on NH 24 and 150 acre project in Noida. IBM is working with Wave Group to making these projects smarter and thereby improving the quality of life, providing residents with a unique and differentiated life experience and

reducing the cost of maintenance.

Explain how a smart city can overcome traditional problems for a city like water scarcity, transportation and blackouts due to power scarcity

Increasingly, government, city planners, and municipal bodies are under intense pressure to provide robust services, drive economic growth, anticipate problems and coordinate their responses to crises. Technology can help us integrate information from disparate, instrumented

systems and create an intelligent, interconnected environment that fosters collaboration, enhances efficiencies and sponsors effective decision making across departments, including buildings, energy, operations, public safety, transportation and water-while facilitating virtually seamless cross-departmental integration.

Architecture and urban planning are not going to solve all of a citys problems, unless they use the information smartly, break down all the silos that have developed in cities over a long period of time. People have to think differently, and we have to act together to make it happen.