How Smart Cities are fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: April 29, 2020 12:24 PM

Smart cities are leveraging their smart solutions in responding to this emergency situation. Here's how.

real estate, real estate in India, Smart Cities, COVID-19 pandemic, integrated command and control centres, ICCC The current COVID-19 situation requires city authorities to take various measures for containing the spread of the disease amongst citizens and treatment & care for those affected.

The 100 smart cities mission program, initiated by the Government of India, envisioned the participating cities adopting smart solutions to improve citizen service delivery and consequently their quality of living. As part of their smart city plans, many cities have focused on leveraging technology in the areas of citizen engagement, traffic management, safety & security, emergency response, healthcare management, etc. For ensuring a coordinated management of these various components, the cities have set up integrated command and control centres (ICCC). Presently, around 45 cities have operational ICCCs which has been set up under the 100 smart cities mission.

The smart solutions have, among others, entailed setting up of sensors like cameras across the city for monitoring traffic as well as citizen safety, GPS tracking of public vehicles, variable display boards for disseminating information with all data feeds being tracked, monitored, analyzed and response as required, planned at the ICCC.

The current COVID-19 situation requires city authorities to take various measures for containing the spread of the disease amongst citizens and treatment & care for those affected. Another key role for city authorities is also to provide requisite care for the vulnerable sections of society comprising senior citizens, persons with disabilities, economically weaker sections including the displaced migrant workers.

Social distancing is recognized as the most effective measure for preventing the spread of the disease the world over, and accordingly nationwide lockdown has been declared in India. In this article we will examine how smart cities are leveraging their smart solutions in responding to this emergency situation.

# Tracing and treating the affected: Most smart cities have leveraged their citizen engagement tools at the ICCC comprising city portals, citizen apps, variable display boards, public address systems, push notifications on mobiles from citizen database to disseminate information and create awareness amongst the citizens on the disease. Some cities have introduced apps through which citizens can respond to 4-5 questions, based on which it can be determined whether they are at risk. If any respondent is assessed to be at risk, connects are made for digitally consulting a doctor over phone or meeting platforms and if required, guiding the person to testing centres in their locality.

Accordingly, city health workers engage with the person identified at risk and guide them on isolation, quarantine or hospital facilities, which are already mapped across the city, by location. The concerned city health workers remain connected with the person and monitor & record his progress till the person is given an all clear. The information from the app is aggregated at the ICCC for city authorities to get a city / specific location wide view of the status of persons identified at risk and determine the hotspots for further action which includes sanitizing the neighborhood, informing citizens staying in vicinity of hotspots, taking decisions on containment measures, etc.

Smart cities like Pune, Surat, Bengaluru, etc. are tracking the status of the disease spread and identifying localized hotspots through integrated data analytics monitored at their respective ICCCs. Planning response through coordination amongst various state/ city authorities is being supported through the ICCC. Analysis of data integrated at the ICCC is also helping the cities with predictive analytics for containing the spread of the virus.

# Managing lockdown: To get citizens to comply with lockdown, city authorities have to ensure that essential services including groceries, milk supply, medicines are made available at the citizen’s doorstep. This requires that neighborhood shops providing these goods are provided with necessary permits by city authorities for bringing in stock and citizens are aware of the stores which are operating along with timings. The registration, permit issue, and dissemination of information to citizens is being done through the citizen portals, apps such that citizen have view only of operating stores within the vicinity of their residences. The cameras across the city meant for traffic and safety & surveillance are being used to monitor vehicular and people movement in the lockdown areas at the ICCC. Based on incidents of lockdown violations viewed at the ICCC in particular locations, police are informed for ensuring enforcement.

The smart city ICCCs have become the war room through which city authorities are coordinating with other city/ state agencies in the fight to contain the spread of this dreaded virus while trying to ensure that basic city services continue as well as attempting to limit inconvenience to citizens. It is expected that the experience gained in responding to this pandemic situation will help cities further develop the capabilities of their ICCC to become responsive and resilient in any challenging situations that may be faced in future.

(By Anindya Mallick, Partner, Deloitte India)

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