Mobility, Connectivity, Big Data, Power Grids, Cyber Security, Citizen Engagement… these are just a few of the things that are driving the Smart City concept to new levels.
While we do know Smart Cities involve development of the infrastructure, technology and data on a very large scale, how these technologies are being applied at the ground level are a little difficult to assess in the early days. Here are a few quick observations from what’s happening on this front around the world.
Smart Cities as Experiments: This applies to most cities ranging from Barcelona to Kansas City, Portland to Copenhagen, and many others. While most of these early adopters are making impressive gains in the use of smart city technologies, the application is currently limited to one key area of challenge in the given city. The pilot projects typically address issues of transportation or citizen engagement. In some of the projects where the municipalities have been working with large technology partners, there are some early results to show in terms of system efficiencies and financial savings. But experts believe, this is just the beginning. With more and more countries getting on the Smart City platform the full scale rollouts are not too far behind.
More than technology, it’s about people and processes: Apart from technology, people and processes will play a very important part in the success of Smart Cities. While technologies can be upgraded and / or replaced completely, the real success of the Smart City demands changes in mindsets: of citizens, of the government officials, the city staff, political leadership and local businesses. People need to be open to the idea of sharing data and must follow the new processes to ensure smooth functioning of Smart Cities. The effort is to create new eco-systems and that can take time.
Privacy and Governance: The very premise of Smart City emerges from the process of data collection at a very minute level – systems that over time capture every movement of a citizen. This constant monitoring and use of information thus generated will have to be managed and will demand utmost security. Evolution of laws, systems and processes to curb incidences of cyber crime is another area that calls for attention.
Increased partnerships of Public + Private kind: The future clearly indicates the growing need for public and private entities to work together, to be in sync with the needs of tomorrow. The scale of change that is being envisioned by the municipalities cannot be achieved by the government machinery alone. Private enterprises have a huge role to play, but they will have to do so as partners with the local authorities.
India’s Smart Cities Mission: The Objective
To promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a lighthouse to other aspiring cities.