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The concept of Smart City hit the country a few years back and various modalities of its development have been worked out. It can range from green field development to retrofitting with the aim of making our cities move in the planned direction. The challenge to select the cities supposedly brought the best of the lot, cities best placed to work out this change in a planned manner. Undeniably, our cities have grown as a natural and wild urban jungle, which seems to be creaking in normal time and extraordinarily creaking, if forced to handle even one single solid rain. Even small issues related to construction quality, ex. in roads, keep gaping at the commuters with death. The life of the ordinary urban Indian needs to change. 

The 98 selected cities were to bring about the much wanted transformation of urban India. Success of this model would lead to making it more intensive in the cities already working on this model and also extend to the cities which missed the bus in the first round. One is the change in the  look and utilities thus provided would be integrated as a part of single plan, intended to provide some form of uniformity to the city. From the old style patchy method of urban development the change of gear was in favour of plug and play mechanisms of the modern age. The back end information infrastructure, with the dynamic and real time creation of data would converge in the Smart City Control Room, bringing in operations control and response to a totally different level.

Dashboards and seeing what is happening in the city was in itself a welcome change, bringing the much needed clarity to the official operators of the city, in whichever utility or area they might be working in. Has it brought any synthesis in the work of civic agencies, Bengaluru can be a case point? Availability of data and its proper usage is the name of the game. The backend is that the creation of utility, its damage, repair and renovation can have numerous data points, which can help us in moving towards a smart direction. Are we capturing this data? Have we even thought of it? One is today’s data, the other is legacy data, so readily available with the civic agencies can be fed into the system to create one of its kind databases, providing the reference points, including financial spends and duration and issues any project  has faced.

How far are we from the dynamic data stage? Have we started harnessing data for dynamic decisions or maybe for autonomous or at least automated decision making? What can a smart city control room generate out of the data created in its systems? Is data a part of vision? Data generates trillions of dollars for our IT behemoths, so it can also solve some of real life city issues. Even with available technology today we can have an intelligent traffic signalling system. Which roads do we need and how do we bring them into operation? Seoul runs its Metro at dynamic periodicity depending on the traffic. Sewerage and waste tests are able to give health conditions in an area. Are we integrating data and finding an interdisciplinary  or inter-sectoral meaning out of it? Machine learning and artificial intelligence can provide the unseen connections or correlations and we move further based on experience of the systems and quantum of data safe predictions can be made.


Sanjay Sahay 

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