Ravinder Pal Singh, APJC Head, Software Enabled Services, Cisco Systems
The article was published in CXO Today
Smart Cities’is the latest buzzword to have caught the fancy of people across the industry. It has become an integral part of all discussions related to the productive use of technology in daily life.Over the last decade, technologies like Mobility, Cloud and Social Platforms, commonly referred to as SoCoMo, have made it possible for the masses to adopt technology that can enrich their lives - whether it’s simply paying utility bills using mobile banking or getting that much-awaited movie ticket at the click of a button technology has really changed the way we live, play and work.
Though smart cities have always been of interest in India, the concept is now gaining momentum thanks to the budget announcement on the development of 100 smart cities in the country. The possibilities that come with this vision look promising; but what can smart cities really offer us? And how can technology help Indian citizens overcome some of the most critical urban challenges we are faced with? Let’s look at a few examples.
Smart Traffic Management
With the increase in purchasing power and the availability of affordable cars, the number of automobiles owned per family has increased exponentially over the past two decades. The number of cars sold in India last year was a few times more than the number of cars sold over an entire decade, 20 years ago. Though rapid urbanization has helped commuters, it has also created issues in terms of road congestion and traffic in our cities. We have all heard of the 100 kilometer long traffic jam in China which lasted ten days, involving thousands of cars. Before India reaches such a state, there are several technologies that we can leverage, use data and information to make traffic management much smoother, easier and safer.
For instance, connecting traffic management systems (traffic signals and traffic command centers) with a GIS enabled digital road map of any city and using the power of analytics can help to implement a hiccup-free traffic management. Using real time analysis of data from these sources and linking the analytics to available live feeds, it is possible to manage traffic flow in a much simpler manner.
Imagine a scenario where a smart traffic management system sends out an SMS alert to drivers informing them about a traffic jam up ahead and guides them via an alternate route. This will not only help drivers avoid traffic, but will also help in clearing congestion faster. The same system can also help identify empty parking spaces in a big parking lot with multiple levels of parking. With information from these systems being projected in real time on digital screens, drivers can save on time and fuel, thus placing less strain on the environment and contributing to a better overall experience for road users.
Smart Energy Management
Today, the majority of corporate and government organizations are making significant efforts to create a greener and more sustainable environment.However, when it comes to saving and optimizing energy, attempts have primarily been made around two major areas: Air-conditioning and Lighting. If we look at our dependence on technology and increase in ICT systems and solutions over the last 10 years, it is very clear that more dedicated efforts are required to manage IT energy consumption. IT encompasses the 24 hour running networks, data centers, printers, ATMs, and large consumer devices like cooling machines and freezers that are found in most urban buildings.
If we look the distributed workplaces that are a norm today, it is quite evident that there is ample opportunity available to reduce energy consumption at least for 6-8 hours a day. A Proof Of Concept (POC) has clearly indicated that focusing only on IP Phone network in a mid-size organization results in a minimum of $2 per phone per year in savings. Multiply this by a few thousand number of IP Phones in a typical organization and then add printers, PCs/laptops, photocopiers etc. and the organization is then looking at savings in the range of a couple of hundred thousand dollars per year. What is needed therefore, is a smart automation tool that offers real time monitoring, analysis, management and control of energy consumption.Again, by making the most of data available on typical devices in the office and by adding an analytics component, we can create a sustainable and effective environment in our offices and homes.
Smart Operations Management
For a government department running operations in a smart city can be a bit cumbersome because of the need to work closely with multiple vendors, suppliers and systems. It requires a different approach to manage these operations as there is much dependency on modern technologies.
In a typical city management office (City Municipal Corporation for example), there are different teams responsible for various activities.Under normal circumstances, these civic bodies usually operate independently making it cumbersome for citizens to reach out to multiple departments for basic services.
A typical example in Indian cities is the digging of roads to lay a new water pipe. After this is done, the road laying team has to re-lay the road. Next the sewage team starts digging as they need to repair the sewage, followed by a Telco provider for fiber laying and so on. At every stage, this leads to difficulty for citizens living in the area because they have to constantly deal with a dug up roads and their impact on traffic. New technology however, makes it simpler for civic bodies to be connected to a common platform on the cloud, so that all teams have visibility into what the other is planning so that activities are scheduled around the same time as well instead of reinventing the wheel.
These are just a few examples that showcase the true potential that smart technology can offer us to overcome several of the existing deficiencies and challenges that our metros are currently faced with. Deploying technology in a holistic, strategic and phased manner will allow the government, civic bodies and citizens to derive the maximum benefit from the new smart city vision, through enhanced urban safety and security, improved infrastructure, and better service delivery for all.