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» Smart Cities: Moving beyond the hype

Smart Cities: Moving beyond the hype

Article | Smart Cities - Aug 05, 2015 | 10:00 AM
If you happen to be in Amsterdam, among the many striking aspects of this lovely city, you can see how ubiquitous wireless connectivity, symmetrical broadband and IP-based utility networks have enabled the city to develop a connected public lighting system that not only saves energy but also improves the citizens’ quality of life.

The city of Amsterdam’s broader objective is to connect all of its citizens by 2018. Once connected, residents and businesses will be able to access rich information and media resources, friends and colleagues, and a wealth of innovative services that improve life across the city.
In Chicago public and private stakeholders including Cisco embarked on the idea of advancing a series of Smart+Connected Community initiatives with the objective of fostering smarter working practices, incubating technology innovation, and promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration to investigate and enhance the social life of the city.

The consortium proposed initiatives such as ‘Stay Safe’ and ‘Community Report’ that focus on synthesizing different sources of data (both user-generated reports and data collected by police, public agencies, or community organizations) and making this information available in a smartphone application that uses a simple mapping interface and GPS.

In New York one can marvel at the ingenuity of concepts like City24/7, where Cisco and the City of New York overcame barriers and smartly leveraged the network mixing in seamless platform support, ace analytics and all the insights gathered on ‘Smart Screens’. This added unprecedented value to businesses, and citizens, and consequentially led to better services.

Examples like these are many; from Busan in South Korea where Cisco has contributed to transforming economic sustainability with Public Cloud and helped Busan Metropolitan Government in augmenting ICT’s prowess and the impact of the Busan Information Highway; to the city of Nice in France where Cisco successfully unraveled the mystique of IoE for cities. With the great benefits that smart cities bring along, it won’t be long before smart cities become the norm rather than the exception.

Smart cities in India

India is already on its way to create smart cities. The Digital India program of Prime Minister Narendra Modi envisions the creation of 100 smart cities across the country by 2022 and aims to make our cities safer, efficient and smarter than ever before. With nearly INR. 6000 crore allocated for development of smart cities, spadework has already begun in cities like Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, Bhivandi – Maharashtra, and Durgapur, Haldia and Habra - West Bengal.
Surat, Bhopal, Navi Mumbai, Vashi and Gandhinagar have already made some key advances in deploying technologies around analytics, Big Data, digital services, cloud technology, mobile applications, and social networks for better delivery of civic services, basic utilities and achieve navigation control, digital governance and smarter emergency management.
Clearly smart cities are the future in India like the rest of the world. Navigant Research has forecasted that global smart city technology revenue will grow from $8.8 billion annually in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023. A report from Sustainability Outlook pegs the smart city market opportunity in India at $45-$50 billion over the next five years. The Internet of Everything (IoE) value at stake in India from 2013-2022 is $511 billion. Of this, private sector value at stake is $394.4 billion and public sector value is $116.2 billion. As Digital India begins to take shape, organizations like Cisco are looking to tap the emerging opportunity with a special focus on IoE solutions for manufacturing, healthcare, education, public safety and security.

Creating a smart city

Despite the several obvious benefits of a smart city - digital urbanization, sustainability, quality of life, smart transportation, better governance etc.; a successful implementation need several considerations. It needs a candid look at current operating models, architecture, planning orientations, resources, ROI and finance constraints, and process improvement.

Cisco’s report titled ‘The Internet of Everything for Cities in 2013’ describes the emergence of a new imperative from public leaders and industries, where “Digital urbanism” is rapidly becoming a central pillar for urban planners, architects, developers, and transportation providers, as well as in public service provision. The report also talks about the need for city leadership to understand how the components of IoE — people, process, data, and things — play specific roles, and work together, to enable our future cities and communities.
Some of the considerations for building a smart city are:
• Timely and strategic infrastructure upgrades
• Connectivity evolution
• Market challenges
• Optimising Smart City Communications
• Impact of Open Data, Big Data
• Robust and Scalable Architecture

The UK Design Council has identified many challenges with respect to finance, accommodating multiple stakeholders, apt development of standards, political decision-making snags, managing citizen engagement and resistance, eco-system approach, procurement of technology components, pre-emptive readiness for privacy and security or the myriad technology issues.
By embracing technologies that will help local governments and civic bodies secure revenues, explore investment partnerships, make organizational changes that eliminate overlapping roles and manage expenses, it is possible to build an effective ecosystem to enable urban areas become smart using digital technology.
There is also a need to establish radically new standards to ensure the effective use of technology to deliver services and manage complex civic problems. Smart city leaders must benchmark their cities against the very best cities globally - particularly on the use of IoT and digital technology. City authorities must also use their political will to mandate - via regulation - the use of smart technologies while safeguarding citizens. Issues around liability, security and privacy need to be addressed through comprehensive regulatory frameworks. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) are key to build and operate both physical and digital infrastructure, especially given continually tightening civic budgets and enormous infrastructural requirements.

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