Smart and efficient cities require a collaborative approach

by Sohini Bagchi    Apr 18, 2013

smart cities

In India, where smart grids are still evolving, the concept of smart cities may sound like a distant dream. But the announcement made by the Indian government on its plans to set up two smart cities in every state was like a wakeup call for many in the industry. A recent study by consulting firm Booz & Company estimates that the country requires over 500 new cities over the next 20 years, to accommodate 700 million more city dwellers. The study states that in every one minute, 30 Indians will leave rural India for urban areas at present and by 2050, urban population will constitute nearly 50 per cent of the total population in India.

A recent seminar on the Needs for Smarter Cities in India further accentuated the importance of smart cities that use technology to transform their core systems and in turn boosts innovation, a primary factor for sustaining competitiveness and economic growth. Thought leaders share the view that although the smart city concept is at a very nascent stage in India, it will become the de facto over the next few years.“The country is undergoing rapid urbanization. Changing demographics and depleting infrastructure and newer forms of threats are prompting the government to work towards the betterment of the citizens. This is where smart cities come into picture. The next one decade will see a phenomenal investment in higher intelligence in urban systems and processes,” states Dipankar Chakraborti, Research Director, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University.

Chakraborti explains that this means that there will be a complete digitalization of the present infrastructure that can be done through analyzing and integrate data that can respond intelligently. This will enable cities to become smarter and efficient without having their infrastructure overloaded, thereby providing a greater quality of life to its citizens.

“In the traditional sense, we tend to believe that smart cities include smart homes and smart buildings, but in reality, it will encompass the entire ecosystem such as smart healthcare, smart transportation, smart industrial automation as well as smart education,” says Amitabh Ray, Senior Vice President, Ericsson India Global Services. Even when we talk about smart homes or smart offices, it should connect the entire premise, from the reception to the corridor including fire security and lighting control systems to every single appliance and furniture.

A number of corporations are already working with the Indian government to make smart cities a reality. IBM, for example, is bringing best practices in smarter cities solutions to make Indian cities more efficient. According to Dhamodaran Ramakrishnan, Director, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India & South Asia, to address the challenges facing urban India, leaders from those in the government, industry, research and academia as well as non-profit organizations must collaborate and bring out new ways to drive economic growth and enhance quality of life of its citizens. To begin with they must concentrate on areas such as efficient power, traffic and transport as well as water management through efficient urban planning. For example, the organization has implemented GPS systems in Singapore to track traffic congestion. In India, it will track a traffic jam by tracking mobile phone density.

Experts believe that by adopting a proactive, collaborative and engagement-driven approach, as well as by leveraging advanced technologies, the government can achieve its goals of enabling smarter and more efficient cities in the country in the coming years.