‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, and the need for smart cities was also born of the same idea in a broader sense. What was the necessity?
The accelerated growth of urbanization brought along challenges like shortages of power, shortages of potable water, unregulated and chaotic traffic, growth of slums, creation of garbage dumps, lack of transportation facilities, pressure and subsequent break down of civic services, and many other connected ills that needed to be addressed promptly. Smart cities being one of the objectives that could help overcome these challenge if dealt with timely, and in a planned manner.
So what is the definition of a smart city?
There is no precise definition of the term ‘smart city’. A city can be defined as smart when it fulfils the need of a high quality life with the help of modern technology.
How can a high quality life be achieved?
A high quality life calls for investments in human and social capital combined with communication infrastructure (transport and ICT) to sustain economic development with wilful, wise and optimum management of all available resources.
Human capital + social capital + communication infrastructure + wise management of all available resources → high quality life
What is human capital?
Human capital includes the knowledge and skills gathered by people through formal and informal learning.
What is social capital?
Social capital is the network of relationships built through meaningful interactions between people, the society’s goodwill, which creates a cohesive society thus enabling the society to function effectively. The network of relationship and goodwill is based on trust, respect and concern for each other.
Human capital when combined with social capital, facilitates rapid learning and use of these skills and knowledge.
What does learning provide?
Learning (information technology) provides the necessary platform/pillar for further action as it encourages informed decision making from commonly identified parameters for each stage that goes into the making of a smart city.
What is the role of Information technology?
By Information technology we understand it to mean, Information technology, based on a combination of telecommunication network, internet, wireless broadband, and other sensor networks with IoT (Internet of Things) at its core that will be instrumental in the development of a smart city.
So what is Internet of Things?
Put simply, it is about using various sensors and connecting them to the internet for communication and exchange of information to achieve intelligent recognition in order to locate, track, monitor and manage the various components of a smart city. This may sound simple but it is a problem that requires a great deal of study/work before it can actually be put to use on a large scale network. Although sensors are being used in various industries up to a certain extent.
What must be done to overcome these problems?
The problem lies in the implementation of these applications in the existing infrastructure. This requires ingenious research by engineers, researchers, and administrators using technology for the development of reliable and efficient (IoT). Interactions between vendors and citizens with administrative authorities at all levels would provide inputs as they can best offer solutions to their specific problems.
What action must we take to change our city into a smart city?
The transition of a city to a smart city involves optimizing technology to meet the needs of the citizens and for sustainable development. However it is imperative to understand that use of information technology and decision-making would also be based on the demographic implications of a place. Each location would pose a different challenge in terms of vehicular traffic, parking, pollution, transportation etc. and would therefore have to be considered as an area specific challenge.
Depending on the need, area specific solutions could be adapted to optimize the efficacy of the place.
What will a smart city provide us with?
Having understood the basic grounds for building smart cities we can now proceed to see what a smart city will provide. The domain of a smart city is far and wide; some of the concepts are as follows:
Smart energy management (smart city lighting, smart meters, smart homes, smart buildings)
Smart urban mobility/transportation (traffic management, parking, smart vehicles-solar powered/electric)
Smart maintenance of environment and space (smart waste management, smart monitoring of air quality, smart water resource management)
Smart public services (e-government, smart education, smart health care systems, smart security)
Smart applications for natural disaster management
Smart economic and sustainable development (to achieve economic and industrial advancement through innovation and creativity. Using technology to increase production and optimization of existing facilities. To attempt to get the best combination of people, space and technology.)
To achieve the above mentioned outcomes we must find a way to intelligently bring together global technology (investment in human and social capital).
This will open up the gates to progress heretofore unseen.