“Smart Cities” have become the most talked about opportunity in Indian business scenario for last couple of years. While the world looks at 20-25 cities becoming Smart, India vision to have 100 Smart Cities is not only a huge initiative, but very ambitious also. With our kind of Population and scale, making 100 Cities smart is a huge challenge we have taken up. But we are known to such large roll-outs, be it Aadhar or NREGA or GST – we have done it and done well.
However, there is lot of mist and confusion, I must say, around the word “Smart”. While we define Smart Cities which will have Solutions aimed at making our life easier, there is no single definition of how do we define a Smart City? Whereas most of the time, the word “smart” relates to “Intelligent”, it is also important to look it from a Digital adoption angle. Be default, we have aligned Smart Cities to Digital adoption and enablement of various City functions be it Traffic, Solid Waste Management, City wide Lighting, Security or so.
From Technology perspective, it won’t be out of place to use the phrase “Digital Cities” instead out of Smart Cities. Digital signifies the transformation we are seeing in every industry vertical and domain. What we do today in our daily life, how we interact with Public and Private Entities and how we react to situations – everything has a Digital enablement wrapped around it. Digital technologies built on Software, Hardware and Automation concepts is key to solve our complex problems.
Cities today require a high degree of Automation & intelligence to make it more livable for Citizens. Smart Cities has an agenda to achieve livability by inducing a “Technologically enabled” solution framework which is automated and intelligent. In other words, Smart Cities are Cities run on Digital Frameworks.
The 5th Utility: Like basic utilities in Cities (Electricity, Gas, Water & Waste, Digital is the 5th utility. Digital is a critical utility, just like the other four, and must be treated as such. However, digital is unique in the sense that not only is it critical in and of itself, it also connects all the other utilities and breaks down silos.
Four key operational outcomes which Digital Cities can achieve are:
Agile Cities: The ever changing pace of Urbanization is a big reasons why our cities need a makeover. Global population will touch 7 Bn in next 20 years and 75% of this will be in urban areas. This will increase load on cities and all infra what we plan today will be too fragile to manage that load. Agility is a key outcome our cities need to have, and Digital technologies can help us achieve this result faster. Software defined Cities with AI and high degree of Automation brought by IOT is a key parameter to achieve this success.
Secure Cities: Globally security is the second most challenge our Cities are facing today. Complexity in Security threats and emerging terror skills need a very highly efficient, Intelligent and robust security framework. This can be achieved by using Technology driven AI/Robotics and Predictive Analytics using a blend of solutions and tools. Both Physical and Cyber threats our cities’ face can be managed by Digital Security techniques and tools.
Efficient Cities: Day to day operational issues like Waste, Traffic & utilities management is a key task for City operators. Municipal corporations on an average spend more than 70% of their budgets in operational tasks leaving them very little with enhancing capabilities. This makes livability of cities regressive as time passes and over few years, the basic civic infrastructure starts crumbling. Digital Transformation is bringing a key change in the way we can manage our City Operations. Innovative models like Cloud based management, Predictive maintenance & Robotics are defining efficiency and productivity in City operations.
Simple Cities: Digital Technologies might be complex but the outcome is always simple. We talk of End user experience, Digital Cities provide their Citizens with a high degree of Simplicity and ease when it comes to using such solutions. App based accessibility to Citizen Services, Web based services and 24x7 access with simple interface are some of the Simple ways we can interact with Cities.