ICTs and smart cities

Aug 18 2014, 01:12 IST
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SummaryThe Prime Minister’s vision of developing ‘one hundred smart cities’, allocating...

The Prime Minister’s vision of developing ‘one hundred smart cities’, allocating about R7,060 crore in the current fiscal as outlined in the budget is a laudable initiative, given the rural-urban migration and the hyper growth of cities in our country. Of late, many countries, especially in developed countries including Dubai, Amsterdam and Barcelona have embarked on smart city initiatives. Shanghai has taken the lead in China.

However, in India, at this point, except for broad themes such as ubiquitous connectivity and community Wi-Fi, details on what smart cities should have is missing. In this article, we provide some of the important requirements of smart cities, the requisite infrastructure, metrics for measuring the ‘smartness’ of the cities and the ecosystem required for the creation and maintenance of smart cities.

In general, a smart city should have: (i) efficient delivery of public utilities such as water, electricity, solid waste, sanitation, and sewerage as well as associated government services (ii) mechanism for supply-demand matching of surface transport services to provide congestion free roads, and minimal waiting time for public transport commuters (iii) active surveillance, monitoring and alerts at vantage points in the city to provide the much required public safety for citizens and (iv) on-demand availability of reliable emergency services such as ambulance, fire safety.

In all these dimensions, information and communication technologies (ICT) plays a vital role. No wonder, companies such as IBM and Cisco are investing millions of dollars in incubating technologies that support smart city initiatives.

An interesting use case is the Department of Energy, US funded smart grid network in the city of Sacramento, California where 615,000 smart meters at customer premises are connected through home area networks (HANs) which in turn are connected to advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) network. The HANs have wired intelligent thermostats among many other home appliances. These smart meters enable adjusting electricity consumption within houses in tune with grid supply so that black or brown outs are proactively avoided.

Another interesting case is Smart Amsterdam wherein the Digital Road Authority mines different types of traffic data to provide services such as on-demand parking space, and expected travel time to users, thus reducing congestion, waiting time and the associated air pollution, thereby improving road safety and quality of living of its citizens.

Various kinds of devices listed below collectively form what is called ‘Internet of Things’ that are critical in shaping future smart cities:

* Sensors that monitor the condition of

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