Smart Cities: The Connected Future

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This article is part of a series of articles that showcase the real world applications of IoT.

In the last 2.5 years, we have heard a lot about smart cities and how the government has kickstarted the process of “smartening” for want of a better world, for about 20 cities of the 98 shortlisted.

WHAT IS A SMART CITY?

A paper that I read recently defined smart city as a fusion of how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) might improve the functioning of cities, enhancing their efficiency, improving their competitiveness and providing new ways in which poverty, social deprivation and poor environment may be addressed.

Research on smart cities is definitely a work-in-progress and some of the implementation efforts can be considered as baby steps.

Smart cities involve the analysis of real-time flow of data made possible by sensors, videos etc., on the movement of people and material in cities that would inform urban design and other aspects of modern life. Experts in this field have identified many use-cases of where the collation and subsequent analysis can yield significant benefits.

This fundamental shift in approach to urban design or governance calls for clarity on some key issues. Urban life is highly complex and with the advent of smart city, it is only likely to become more so. A thorough understanding of the dynamics of modern concrete jungles is essential for effective embedding of ICTs in urban cities that would prove beneficial in both Paris and Patna.

Integration of data and technology in governance characterised by significant differences in institutional frameworks could prove to be one of many challenges. However, executed well this could yield significant gains in efficiency and quality of life.

 SMART CITIES ARE CHANGING THE WAY WE LIVE

The real-time data streams can be merged with more conventional data to be used to meet long-term strategic planning objectives. In order to meet objectives of participatory governance, the technology has to be tailored to ease the ability of ordinary citizens to communicate and the insights generated have to be based on a combination of data from experts and the common man. To be able to capture all of the benefits of smart cities, social objectives of enhancing equity etc., have to be woven in along with economic benefits that would accrue from this approach.

One of the best-known applications of ICTs in the urban life is in public transportation. When I looked at the TfL(Transport for London) website, I saw a number of projects which are designed to leverage the significant advances in technology such as a facility to empower visually impaired persons to navigate the Pimlico station using a combination of  bluetooth technology and audio queues.

Another application is the improved ability using data and data science to predict signal failures on the Victoria line. Similar applications have been identified in areas such as managing water wastage and energy consumption.

As the smart city movement gains momentum, we see many of the technology majors such as Cisco, Oracle, IBM etc., devote considerable resources to develop products and services to address complex issues of urban governance. Issues around privacy and security of data continue to be thorny but the  potential for significant gains from a responsible and well executed plan for smart cities.

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susanSusan Mani, Analytics Expert
Susan is a seasoned analytics professionals with over 10 years of experience working on analyses for Fortune 500 clients such as Bank of America, Proctor & Gamble, and Unilever among others. She is on the Alumni Advisory Board of the University of Cambridge, and is an expert in the practical aspects of applying analytics in different contexts to generate value.

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