Mumbai, India’s most populous metropolis and the country’s financial capital, came to a grinding halt a few weeks ago, thanks to something as innocuous as heavy rainfall. The rains stalled transport, crippled productivity and caused huge losses to businesses and individuals. The question that everyone was asking was: how could this have been handled better?
At a time when the Indian Government is planning to spend around INR 7.7 Billion over the next 5 years to build 100 smart cities in India; it is equally important to see how our existing cities can become smart. How can we retrofit existing cities with smart features that can perhaps prevent major disruptions such as the ones caused by Mumbai monsoons?
In the case of Mumbai, features such as sensors to detect rising water levels in real time; an evolved system to communicate real-time updates to citizens; or maybe a mechanism to automatically flush excess water into the sea would probably have helped.
Smart cities are built around strong digital technology. The emergence of devices, cloud and analytics technology is changing the way cities are built.
But the real challenge is to ensure that existing cities are efficient, sustainable and most importantly, livable. Below are some relatively simple ways to make your city smart.
Smart Water: Census data, weather updates and data from sensors planted in the water pipeline and can be analyzed and used to control domestic water supply. Sensors to monitor ground water levels can help raise awareness. This can ensure reliable, high-quality, and sustainable water supply for cities.
Smart Power: Efficient usage and distribution of resources can be ensured through a smart electricity supply, smart street lamps etc. Smart grids, which can control and intelligently regulate supply based on consumption, can help improve quality and efficiency. With analytics, we are in a position to determine power demand.
Citizen services: Digitization can enable the availability of citizen centric services such as government approvals, registration etc. without being inhibited by time or geography.
Effective traffic and parking management: There are systems already in place to manage real-time traffic using devices. They provide real-time traffic flow and congestion alerts. Sensors and cameras fixed on roads and traffic junctions can provide data to maintain smooth traffic.
Access to quality healthcare and education services etc.: Public wi-fi for emergency services, sophisticated emergency response systems that are tied in with the traffic systems, for example, can help deliver better healthcare. Since there is expected to be a shortage of trained educators and health professionals in large cities, telemedicine and video based education can help increase their reach.
The emergence of IoT means that cities will need to rely heavily on sensors, devices, computing and analytics etc. if they hope to survive, sustain and grow. We can definitely look forward to more of our cities becoming smarter over the next few years.