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Smart Cities the Need of the Hour

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Dr.Abhijit Sarkar, Country Head - Corporate Real Estate, Administration, Infrastructure & Sourcing

What is Smart City?
A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement.

Background
The Concept of Smart Cities is an initiative by the Government of India to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens. Since more than two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to be urban by 2050, In order to meet the demands of urbanization, we will see a huge growth in new infrastructure put in place to support the largest population centers. Smart Cities is a mission towards Urban renewal, green field and retrofitting programme whereby the objective is to develop 100 cities across the country to make them citizen friendly and sustainable.

Focus of Smart Cities will be following elements amongst others:

Good infrastructure – The main aim of constructing a smart city is to provide good infrastructure to the residents, such as water and sanitation services, 24 X 7 electricity & water supply, efficient urban mobility and public transport etc.

Smart solutions – Smart cities are required as it would also provide smart solutions such as providing public data, electronic service delivery, 100% treatment of water waste, Sanitation, including solid waste management, monitoring water quality, robust IT connectivity and digitalization.

Promote development – Smart cities enhance the developmental activities of a region. A lot of developmental activities such as building schools, organizations, shopping malls can take place. These activities benefit everybody including citizens, businesses, government and environment.

Housing for All – The main aim of a smart city is “housing for all”. Due to the rising urbanization, a better standard of living is required. To support this rising shift, a sustainable model of housing should be developed.

Provide employment – A smart city is an economy of agglomeration. It provides various opportunities and advantages to its residents. India is expanding rapidly and the emergence of smart cities can provide employment for many. The construction of a smart city requires a lot of manpower.

How Can Smart City Technology Help
Smart city technology can help cities operate more efficiently while improving services to citizens and businesses, among many other benefits. While the definition of a smart city is still evolving, a few things have become clear. Smart cities are expected to leverage information and communication technologies to enhance service levels, citizen well-being, sustainability, and economic development.

Smart city technology can make cities more effective and efficient, which is necessary, given the projected rapid growth in urban populations over the next few decades.

Advancements in ‘big data’ and connected devices will allow these cities to access the information that’s never been available before. A well-designed data analytics strategy is expected to give city officials the ability to access and analyze a massive amount of information and easily glean meaningful, actionable insights. When a city can monitor desired metrics in real-time, service levels will definitely rise.

Smart city technology will have the ability to create a more equitable environment for citizens. To ensure digital equity, individuals must have access to high-speed internet services and to affordable devices. The adoption of public Wi-Fi hotspots strategically placed throughout a city can offer reliable internet services to all residents.

Other Advantages of Smart Cities
Smart cities are expected to transform the work environment by streamlining manual processes and giving employees greater opportunities to reach their full potential while also providing citizens with improved services.

The aim of the Smart City mission is to create urban areas that prioritize citizen’s wellbeing, the economy and the environment through the interpretation of ‘smartness’. As each city will be unique and will have different pain points, the focus will be on creating smart solutions in the areas that cause particular headaches for citizens in the individual city, whether that is transport, connectivity or safety.

Moreover the growth of a smart city project can give way to massive opportunity, particularly when we talk about demand for affordable homes. Smart cities can also offer excellent investment options with a sustainable scope for price appreciation, especially for a long-term investment purview. The smart cities project will be an amalgamation of commercial and residential projects in India, in close quarters. Evolution of these smart cities will push the demand for office spaces as well as hotels, in addition to service apartments and shopping malls. The real estate sector contributes about 6 percent to India’s GDP.

With the vision of building 100 smart cities, many expect this share to increase further. Thus, the developers will get a huge window of opportunity to offer new projects in the upcoming smart cities, which boost the regional, social and economic infrastructure.

Smart city technology can make cities more effective and efficient, which is necessary, given the projected rapid growth in urban populations over the next few decades.

Role of Smart Cities during Covid
The experience of Indian cities in responding to COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that technology and data-driven decision making are critical for ensuring effective citizen outreach and service delivery. They can serve as models for helping other governments around the world realize the benefits of smart cities in a post-pandemic world.

As seen in many countries across the globe, smart cities in India too have been playing a major role and leading the way in the country’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smart cities like Agra, Chandigarh, Vadodara, Bengaluru and Kakinada have been able to effectively tap technologies like IoT/sensors, tele-healthcare, data and analytics, and contribute significantly to India’s fight against COVID-19.

Agra Smart City, for instance, launched a tele-video consultation service, which allows citizens to book an appointment with healthcare professionals, and even download online prescriptions from a dedicated website/app. Agra Smart City also tied up with the city administration and the Agra Police to set up a control room for monitoring social distancing compliance at various locations via video surveillance. It has also started using AI-based analytics on the surveillance data to generate alerts, which are configured via an app on the field staff mobile phones.

Bengaluru and Kakinada Smart Cities on the other hand have launched data dashboards which will act as a single source for all pandemic-related action and measures, as well as data collection. The data dashboard will enable the government to monitor people under quarantine and their contacts. Additionally, the platform will also help the authorities keep a track of frontline workers like medical personnel on field or at hospitals, compiled in a city and district-wise database.

Another smart city, Varanasi has deployed drones to spray sanitizer around COVID-19-sensitive parts of the city under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The city is also making use of CCTV surveillance and GIS technology through a dedicated command and control centre set up under SCM, to keep a tight vigil on crowd movement during the lockdown period.

To conclude, Smart Cities are the need of the hour. These will bring in positive changes in the lifestyle of the citizens. It will change the existing landscape of Indian cities, making them better and automated solutions will eventually enable ease of living. It touches almost every aspect of living, including the infrastructure, environment, social inclusion, employment and economic growth. The change in lifestyle will not be radical rather subtle, which will be easy to adapt.

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