Smart cities are the way forward: Prashant Sharma

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 28 2014, 16:38pm hrs
Smart cityIndia has been talking about the dream of being a developed country by 2020. (Reuters)
India has been talking about the dream of being a developed country by 2020. Few are, however, aware that everyday close to 30 people leave rural India to build their future in urban cities. Thus there is demanding need to develop India from the grass root level. With the amount of people migrating to the cities, India would have to have more than 100 cities in the coming years to occupy such an outburst. At this point, city and urban development boards will need to use inventive technologies and solutions to accomplish the growing demands on city infrastructures that deliver vital services.

While smart cities are the way forward, mobility is a huge factor for smarter city to become successful as mobility would mean better service and well informed citizens, says Prashant Sharma, country leader, MobileFirst, IBM India/South Asia. Mobility will help improve connectivity even in emergency situations. Imagine being sent an SMS when there is a Tsunami or an earthquake in or around your area; it would work as an alert system. In a recent interaction, he discusses with Sudhir Chowdhary how mobile technology will drive the move to smarter cities. Excerpts:

Give us an overview of how mobile technology plays a vital role in smart city

Modern technology lets us track and observe almost anything in a major urban environmentnoise, light, traffic, weather and so onand use this data to improve peoples living and working conditions. For example, in a country like India, traffic and parking availability is one area of smart city challenges that is leveraging new technology to initiate real change. New technology is emerging all the time that lets us manipulate networks more finely, taking advantage of more sensors, more cameras and more real-time data to improve road traffic.

Mobility will be the key driver of the digital universe. Faster mobile networks are at the core of smart cities and are allowing people to do more on the move. As networks offer more cloud-based services and storage, this in turn leads to more personalised content and apps being accessible to users, which both updates and is updated by ever-smarter mobile devices. Smarter devices, faster networks and the cloud becoming pervasive all combine to power greater intake of digital contentin short, users want more data all the time and want it now.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will also play a crucial role in smart city development. The pure weight of Big Data created by the IoT will have a bearing everywhere, particularly on things like traffic flowtown architects will be able to gather the data, analyse it and use it to adapt future policy and projects.

Let us say, if you have to get a patient in emergency situation from point of accident to the hospital, you may transfer signals to the route of ambulance to turn all lights green and save lives. There are hundreds of used cases where mobility can transform our lives.

How will citizens benefit from a mobile implementation in a smart city

To improve the quality of life, cities have to realise that smart technologies need to work both ways: not just for citizens but with citizens. A smart city collects and integrates knowledge from the Internet of Things (IoT), the Internet of Services (IoS) and the Internet of People. Citizens are more liberated, more conscious of the surrounding opportunities, and benefit from the integrated services that the city offers. The smart infrastructure is the intelligence of the city, governs its body and reacts to the situations intelligently. A smart city allows new ideas to thrive and new, more effective approaches to be developed in economy, politics, governance, mobility, environment and all the other facets of city life.

Let us imagine a person visiting a city for the first time. She has no idea of what the city has to offer, but she is interested in finding out about museums. With a mobile device on her (phone or tablet) and an Internet connection, she can use this application to retrieve in a few seconds all the surrounding museums. For each of them, she can than request additional details like the entrance cost, opening hours and so on. But the application is not limited to touristic information. Instead, it can display a large variety of objects, to best satisfy the users needs in every context.

What other technologies come together to make a smart city

The purpose of smarter cities is to ensure a more convenient life for citizens by generating various information types from all human behaviours and situations, such as the number of people waiting for the bus at the bus stop, bus numbers they wait for, road traffic conditions that affect the bus arrival time, music they listen to, and many others.

To manage massive amounts of various data types generated rapidly every day, big data technology is essential for the smarter cities environment. Whereas smart sensors and equipment, detecting huge volumes of data, are the sensory organs of the smarter cities environment, big data technology is the brain of smarter cities. Because the sensory organs and brain are closely related, and they function coherently, the combination of smarter cities environment and big data is required to meet the needs of each.

Which are the sectors you see, where there is a high uptake for mobility

The most common used cases is in the area of retail banking, customer self service app from B2C perspective and relationship management , wealth management, account opening from B2E perspective. In Insurance, most of the companies have launched apps to manage their agency sales force by providing the capability of customer on boarding, illustration, product selection, proposal etc.

What about the healthcare and government verticals

The health industry can completely transform and using mobility, we can help improve living standards and save life that gets compromised due to mistakes by support staff in hospitals. The app to capture patient complete records and examinations while patients remains in hospital, send alerts to doctors if key parameters like BP, heart beats exceed normal range.

Any client examples highlighting the role of mobile technology

In the retail segment, we have collaborated with DLF to provide an innovative mobile-phone based solution BlueZen that channels data insights from customers visiting DLF Promenade, a high end shopping mall serving the metropolitan New Delhi area. In the banking sector, we are working with ING Vysya Bank that has developed a mobile banking app on IBM Worklight. It is a cost effective, secure and scalable mobile banking app.