Cities of the future

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Cities of the future (The Week Series IV)

Anil Bhasin, Senior VP, Services Business, Cisco India and SAARC

The world is undergoing a major transition and for the first time in human history, majority of the people in the world live in urban areas. Today, over 30% of India's population lives in urban areas. According to a UN State of the World Population report (2007), by 2030, 40.76% of India's population would be living in urban areas.

The key reason for migration to urban areas is the ease of access to key services, such as healthcare, education and banking. Given the above, world leaders are challenged to find answers to issues such as overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, resource and budget constraints that arise out of this large scale migration.

Unlike in the 20th century where cities were built on infrastructure such as roads and telephones, the contours of new cities of the 21st century are being defined by internet and broadband. By leveraging advancements in communication technologies urban planners need to develop a blueprint of urban spaces which are more livable.

Cities of the future

Making the network central to business strategy helps to plan and build better cities. All sectors such as transportation, utilities, security, entertainment, education, and healthcare in these cities can leverage the network for service delivery. Citizens and businesses can enjoy extraordinary levels of collaboration, productivity and economic prosperity.

Cities that use the network as a platform to plan, build, and manage day-to-day operations will gain a significant edge in every aspect of community administration, resulting in improved public services which in turn will help create new business models to generate revenue.

The 'Network' helps cities transform the quality of life for their citizens, drive economic growth and improve management. Besides efficiency, IP platforms bring down the cost of service delivery significantly because products, services, people, community assets and information are all woven together into a single pervasive solution.

Using the network cities of tomorrow can, for example, build highly secure, intelligent, multimodal transportation system to foster real-time communications and collaboration while ensuring safety and security. Travel services, airlines, and hotels can all be integrated on a single IP-based platform to provide a seamless transportation experience. A variety of wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and 3G/4G can also be enabled in any mode of transport.

Within connected cities, people can attend yoga or cooking class or access real-time data about their home's energy consumption from the comfort of their living room. Offices can automatically turn on and off employee business applications based on usage and notify of peaking energy use.

Communication between doctors and patients can be simplified and be enabled anytime and anywhere. Real-time interactions and collaboration in the learning environment can help to connect students and teachers.

Things like shopping in these cities will include the ability to reserve and pay for a parking spot before leaving home, receive real-time sales incentives on entering any store, or obtain personalized discount coupons. Sports and entertainment can reach a new level with fans being connected with their favorite teams and with each other in entirely new ways.

Looking ahead

Technology is a key investment that will determine the future of cities and their infrastructure. Using Information and communications technology (ICT), solutions can be enabled over IP for efficient management of public utilities such as power, water, and transport.

This will in turn improve their cost, access, and quality, making cities of the future more sustainable. All in all, better planning, foresight and judicious use of technology will help overcome the many challenges of increased urbanization.

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