Smart city buzz: Offering superior way to residents

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Timsy Jaipuria | Updated: Aug 4 2014, 15:32pm hrs
Smart cityIndia will need some 500 new cities in the next two decades.
Do you know that every minute during the next 20 years, 30 Indians will leave rural India for urban areas And that by 2050, 70% of people will be living in cities At this rate, India will need some 500 new cities in the next two decades, says the American technology behemoth, IBM. The moot point is this: as population centres grow, they are placing greater demands on the city infrastructures that deliver vital services such as transportation, healthcare, education and public safety. Adding to the strain are ever-changing public demands for better education, greener programmes, accessible government, affordable housing and more options for senior citizens. If there were ever a time to focus on developing solutions for sustainable cities, that time is now.

With India looking forward to upgrading its urban areas and creating new world class cities, the ambitious plan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to build 100 smart cities across the country is a major step towards a Digital India. The 100 smart cities announcement by the government in the Union Budget 2014-15, with an allocation of Rs 7,060 crore in the current fiscal, clearly signal the recognition given to technology in realising the Prime Ministers digital dreams.

Navin M Raheja, chairman, National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) says, Smart city especially in Indian context is a city that has well placed smart looking planned buildings which are Wi-Fi enabled in order to provide communication connectivity through free models. Also, its various public services and management facilities including traffic management, urban lighting, waste management, technology management and its maintenance is inplace.

Some of the smart cities to be developed in India are Dholera in Gujarat, Shendra in Maharashtra, Manesar in Haryana, Khushkera in Rajasthan, Ponneri in Tamil Nadu, Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Tumkur in Karnataka. Pradeep Jain, chairman, Parsvnath Developers, says, Such cities are need of the hour given the kind of load our metros are facing in terms of migration of people from tier-2, 3 cities.

Any city is said to be smart when it is equipped with smart grids and energy efficiency, intelligent transportation, connected healthcare, public safety and security along with wireless communications and hotspots. It has ready access to government and land records, central control with regard to traffic and sustainable infrastructure for electricity and fibre lines. Anand Navani, country manager, Verint Video Systems, India, says, The successful implementation of smart cities depends primarily on information and communication technology (ICT) and security solutions as the key enabler.

According to a McKinsey study, Indias urban population is projected to grow from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million in 2030. The country will have to build the equivalent of one Mumbai of commercial and residential space every year to keep up. Anuj Puri, chairman & country head, Jones Lang LaSalle India feels that by expediting the process of smart cities the government can offer a superior way or life to its residents, and one wherein economic development and activity is sustainable and logically incremental by virtue of being based on success-oriented market drivers such as supply and demand. In a country like India, IT creates a very high number of high-paying jobs, which means that IT/ITeS employees also tend to enjoy a better lifestyle. In other words, a smart city in the Indian context generates a massive number of jobs within a sector where the services provided by it are in great demand both within and outside the city, he says.

Building new cities, according to experts in India, is one of the best ways possible to deal with the increasing urban population. Rahul Gaur, CMD, Brys Group, says, When half an hour of rain makes the entire traffic of the city go haywire, it demands a technology integrated urban management which can ensure smooth functioning of the city through technology enabled services. With increasing urbanisation and the load on the land in rural areas, the government seems to have realised the need of a smart city that could cope up with the urban challenges and also be a magnet of investment to catalyse the economy of the city.

But before that, what exactly is a smart city is something which people still do not know. While theres no single definition of a smart city, the term generally refers to cities using IT to solve urban problems. For a common man, the facilities in the smart cities means internet connectivity through Wi-Fi around the city, security camera all over the city for better control of law and order and the security of general public, to some extent use of solar energy devices to generate the power on the streets, hospitals, schools, parks and other important public places of the city. But the concept of a smart city is definitely more than all this, says

Rajesh Goyal, MD, RG Group.

Globally, says Sachin Sandhir, MD, RICS South Asia, the development of smart cities takes place in two phases: first is the new town planning strategies being generated to attain a higher level of well-being and the increased environmental integration of urban spaces. And secondly, by connecting different elements of a city by specific measures integrating town planning and ICT network for various services. For example, European policies on smart cities are expressed through the search for environmentally sustainable surroundings, in an attempt to improve quality of life in view of the quest for energy efficiency and the reduction of carbon emissions, Sandhir explains.

In Indian context, urban planning has often missed the core elements of urban design such as public services, transport and affordable housing. Thankfully, the new smart cities as planned by the government will not have all these complexities and management issues. Several several smart city projects are already in the works, including in the state of Gujarat, where Modis record as chief minister suggests a focus on the countrys urban middle class.

Typically, think of sensors monitoring water levels, energy usage, traffic flows, and security cameras, and sending that data directly to city administrators. Or apps that help residents navigate traffic, report potholes and vote. Or trash collection thats totally automated. The city will have solar panels, automated garbage collection, and water treatment and recycling plants. Commuters will receive text messages alerting them of traffic and guiding them through the citys streets.

Installing such activities in old cities is one thing, but building new cities from scratch is what India is aiming at. Because new cities have every detail planned from the outset, they allow urban officials to address problems like overcrowding or pollution before the first residents move in.

With all this said and done, is it that only India has woken up to the reality of smart cities The answer is no; other countries are also realising the future prospects including South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and China, which announced an $8 billion investment fund in smart city technology this year.

Brotin Banerjee, MD & CEO, Tata Housing Development Company says, Among the global smart cities, Amsterdam is one of the most upcoming cities to implement the smart and intelligent parameters. The city follows a 50:50 public-private model jointly with EU, city government and private companies. In the Indian context, he says that the government is yet to accept the PPP model in developing smart cities. We are looking forward to the PPP model to replicate our theme to not only provide an

environment but also a lifestyle to the people of India, he adds.

A closer look at the real estate scenario reveals that a number of new cities are already in the works, especially in the corridor between Delhi and Mumbai. Planners envision a high-tech industrial zone anchored by a major freight line and spanning six states.

Some also feel that globally the smart cities are nothing but existing cities being transformed to more intelligent and better managed cities, examples being Amsterdam and Singapore. Although the central idea in all the cases, be it global or Indian smart cites, revolves around creating better infrastructure and providing improved services through integration of various means and channels, minimising costs, reducing the impact on the climate and making the cities more sustainable in the future, says Sanjay Dutt, executive managing director, South Asia, Cushman & Wakefield.

Various studies have identified some eight key aspects that are essential for a smart city: smart governance, smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare and smart citizen. Of these smart governance is core to smart city. Using technology, the possibilities of delivering urban services is unlimited. Every little device used for shared resources such as electricity, water can be metered remotely and billed, just like we get our telephone bills, says Shyam Sunder S Pani, president, Global Initiative for Restructuring Environment and Management.

In short, safe neighbourhoods, quality housing and traffic that flowsits all possible, thanks to smart cities. The journey has begun and the first decisive step to get rid of the urban chaos has been taken!

What is a smart city

A city can be defined as smart when investments in human and social capital and traditional and modern communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement.

A smart city unifies traditionally separate facilities, departments and processes to achieve better operational efficiency and increased effectiveness while maximising resources. A smart city in action might integrate police response and reporting with transportation, energy and urban planning, public safety and more. Using a targeted and unified approach, city officials, first responders and residents benefit from proactive situation awareness and heightened information sharing.

According to Anand Navani, country manager, Verint Video Systems, India, on basic parameters a smart citys essential infrastructure works on sophisticated information technology which are centrally integrated giving ease of access to real time information to concerned departments. This drastically improves response time of authorities to handle operational and emergency situations efficiently. Services from power and water supply to transport and garbage disposal are controlled by a network of sensors, cameras, wireless devices and data centres. It is environmentally clean, fuel-efficient and crime-free. There being no universal standard, smart city definitions soon descend into a heap of fashionable phrases such as social and human capital, e-governance and citizens participation.

Thus, some of the key features of a smart city include a dedicated control room to handle all municipal and police operations of the city like infrastructure management, water, power, sewage, traffic, crime, law and order and assist faster resolution of investigations and incidents.

In India, an example of a smart city is the city Surat in Gujarat known as the diamond capital of the world. Verint Systems helped Surat put its smart city plans into action. The objective of the project is to better ensure the safety and security of residents while also protecting the many key industries that call the city home, including diamonds, textiles, engineering, and oil and gas properties and ensuring proper coordination

between different departments such as the municipal corporation, police, traffic and the government.

Surat is equipped with state-of-the-art 24/7 video surveillance and security command centre that centrally monitors, aggregates and analyses multiple surveillance feeds, all to support proactive physical security management of the city.

The surveillance centre includes a city mapping capability that provides reports on physical security, emergency situations and traffic monitoring and tracking, along with facilitating authorities with evacuation and disaster recovery plans using CCTV cameras.