In recent times, it has become imperative for city-level governments to incorporate e-governance to strengthen democracy, increase public participation and thereby increase public welfare. The extensive use of digital solutions not only creates a progressive government, but also makes the entire system more transparent and citizens more informed.
Technology for convenience
Under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM), a number of mobile applications are being developed that aim to integrate citizens and the government. Various cities are developing apps to improve the overall management in areas such as parking, traffic and surveillance. Gwalior has developed an all-in-one app solution consisting of four modules, namely, Veerangana (for women’s safety and security), a blood bank management system, Paryatan (for tourism promotion), and citizen-centric services (taxi services, hotel bookings, travel planner, etc.).
Smart cities are also setting up exclusive cells for grievance redressal and are increasingly adopting electronic portals, mobile applications and social media for registering complaints. This is being adopted with the aim of doing away with the offline approach for grievance redressal as it is time-consuming, leading to delays in complaint registration and resolution as well as under-reporting of complaints. In October 2019, Kanpur launched an app called Kanpur Smart City to enable its residents to register complaints related to sanitation, dilapidated roads, strewn garbage, leakages in the water pipeline, encroachment, choked drains, etc.
Besides, a number of upcoming smart cities are implementing projects to enhance the ease of paying bills. For this, options for bill payment through e-portals, mobile apps and smart kiosks are being developed. The cities are also setting up Wi-Fi hotspots, free Wi-Fi zones, Wi-Fi lounges, Wi-Fi hubs, etc. at various locations in order to provide efficient and robust connectivity. Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited (PSCDCL) launched 150 Wi-Fi hotspots across the city in January 2018. PSCDCL, in collaboration with Google, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and RailTel, provides the “Pune Wi-Fi” service across select hospitals, gardens, police stations, government offices and bus stops.
Optic fibre cable (OFC), with its virtually unlimited capacity, is the perfect backbone for the delivery of high speed internet. OFC facilitates the installation of sensors, which are crucial to the development of intelligent solutions for smart cities. The cities selected under the SCM have submitted proposals for city-wide OFC deployments, ducting for OFC networks, installation of OFC for command and control centres and other OFC-related civil works. In December 2018, the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation gave a contract of Rs 2.55 billion to L&T for laying 750 km of OFC in the city. The project aims to connect all the areas in the city including civic offices, bus stops and marketplaces.
Smart cities also consider integrated command and control centres (ICCCs) integral to gathering information in the city across different systems such as those for surveillance, traffic management, waste management, utility management, public information, environmental sensors and public address. The ICCC interface provides a real-time and unified view of operations. The Bhopal ICCC has been set up for all seven smart cities of Madhya Pradesh, namely, Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Satna, and Sagar, and is located at Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Limited’s facility in Barkheda. Further, completed in a record time of seven months, Phase I of the Vadodara ICCC was inaugurated in October 2017. The project includes CCTV cameras, smart traffic solutions, environmental sensors, public address systems, emergency call boxes, a public transit management system and other smart components.
Amongst the upcoming smart governance projects, there is one on environment monitoring sensors and warning systems in Amaravati, being developed at an estimated cost of Rs 2.68 billion. Dehradun has planned setting up of smart sensors or iPoles at a cost of Rs 2.35 billion. Further, New Town Kolkata has an upcoming data centre and Wi-Fi project being developed at a cost of Rs 990 million. Other upcoming area based development (ABD) projects in New Town Kolkata include setting up of Wi-Fi hotspots, OFC and LEDs at a cost of Rs 990 million. Besides, Bhopal has planned an investment of Rs 990 million on information and communications technology under ABD whereas Amritsar has an upcoming investment of Rs 990 million on e-governance.
IoT: Uses and potential
A lot of investment and good talent is being attracted with cities becoming data-driven. A number of players are exploring ways to tap the available data for their own use. While telecom players are trying to identify additional roles to play beyond that of a data carrier, automakers and suppliers are exploring data to redefine nontraditional service delivery. Further, insurance companies need digital data companies that provide data on real-time client behaviour.
With the advent of internet of things (IoT) in the digital space, there is the emerging need for an IoT policy framework for smart cities. IoT can be defined as the interplay of the software, telecom and electronic hardware industries and promises to offer tremendous opportunities for many sectors. IoT involves three distinct stages – sensors to collect data, applications to analyse the data, and transmission of data to the decision-making server. A well-defined framework is needed for the purpose of managing the legal aspects of IoT and monitoring its deployment and usage. Further, it is needed for human resource development so that education and awareness programmes can introduce IoT and allow widespread utilisation and workforce building. A framework is also needed to develop and showcase industry use cases for the promotion of IoT across various domains like connected cities, water management, environmental regulations, remote health, waste management, safety, supply chain and logistics.
The government took its first step towards the preparation of an IoT policy framework in 2015. The technology has gained momentum through two major programmes – the SCM and Digital India. A draft IoT policy has been prepared with a vision to develop connected and smart IoT-based systems. There are four main objectives of this draft policy. It aims to create an IoT industry worth $15 billion by 2020, undertake capacity development for IoT-specific skillsets, undertake research and development for assisting technologies and develop IoT products specific to Indian needs.
IoT applications have successfully eased processes. It has simplified last-mile delivery by making shipment tracking more efficient, safer and hassle-free while optimising delivery routes. Fleet management is being widely adopted to make real-time intelligent business decisions with improvements in operational efficiency, reduction in maintenance costs, etc. It ensures predictive maintenance, a customised dashboard, remote monitoring as well as geofencing. Besides, the emergence of IoT has provided visibility into the supply chain network of warehouse management through real-time tracking of inventory. It provides services of smart inventory management, damage detection, optimal asset utilisation and predictive maintenance, among others.
The way forward
Smart governance projects involve the deployment of technology to enhance administrative efficiency. IoT has huge potential for improving the standard of living, increasing safety, and ensuring better traffic control, more efficient use of energy and lower pollution levels. Some of the current IoT applications include smart parking, traffic monitoring, city surveillance, waste management and smart lighting. However, there is a need for increased awareness and an adequate IoT policy framework as the application of the technology in improving key factors that service delivery rests upon (like parking, public safety, street lighting, etc.) are new to citizens as well as officials. w
Based on a presentation by Atul Tripathi, Chief Data Scientist, Cyber Security, Tech Mahindra, at a recent India Infrastructure conference
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