Smart cities look doable

Written by Shubhra Tandon | Updated: May 29 2014, 00:38am hrs
CompIndia is expected to see 40% of its population living in cities in the next 15 years.
India is expected to see 40% of its population living in cities in the next 15 years. By 2030, India will have 68 cities with a one-million-plus population, contributing 70% to its GDP. Of these, at least 20-30 will be new cities, which will need to function as smart cities to provide quality life to its citizens.

Smart cities find a place in the new governments electoral manifesto as well. The BJP has said it will initiate building 100 new cities; enabled with the latest in technology and infrastructure---adhering to concepts like sustainability, walk to work, etc. and focused on specialised domains.

What exactly is a smart city According to Tilak Raj Seth, head (infrastructure & cities), South Asia, Siemens, a smart city is where a citys development or demand matches its infrastructure.

There has to be affordable mobility, which is a critical component, reliable power availability, safe and secure systems and information availability, so that a city-dweller could choose to use this information in the best context possible. It could be as simple as having ready information on which road to take to avoid traffic, says Seth.

However, in India, capabilities need to be developed to achieve scale. Abhaya Agarwal, partner (infrastructure and PPP), EY, says, One of the basic success factors of smart cities is integration of public services and amenities. ICT plays a major role in the success of smart cities. ICT is needed for integration of services. Technology to use renewable energy and waste recycling and disposal also need to be enhanced.

Explaining how ICT works, Nalinikanth Gollagunta, director (business development), Cisco, says, Having a basic wired and wireless network all over the city is where you start from, and then use that network to enable any digitally enabled transportation, healthcare, education, utilities, grid and construction etc. Cisco is involved with the government in planning seven clusters along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) on the lines of smart cities concept.

In India, the plan is still at a nascent stage and only baby steps have been taken in some places for better management of traffic through ICT, like in Navi Mumbai. In contrast, in Barcelona, Ciscos systems used for smart waste management enabled the citys garbage collection systems to reduce operational cost by 35%.

Affordable, integrated multi-modal transportation system providing last mile connectivity to the commuter will be another component of a smart city. A commuter should be able to get out from a railway station or an airport get into a metro, get off take a tram or a funicular and then get out to take a bus that will drop him/her near residence, and all this on a common ticket generated right at start of the journey, is what a smart citys definition of transportation should be, says Harsh Dhingra, chief country representative, Bombardier India.

However, working standards, master plans, and functioning of city administrations will remain a challenge for the government in making the concept a success, says Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner, (infrastructure) KPMG. However, he adds that Indias skills in ICT and the large number of skilled professionals in analytics give it an advantage in adopting this concept.

As for the investments, sky could be the limit, but according to Seth of Siemens, at least 5% of the $1 trillion that the government intends to spend on infrastructure, could go into making new smart cities.