SNCF to move industrious train project under way

August 3, 2016

SNCF (National Society of French Railways), France’s state-owned railway company who are also the international consultants for the Delhi-Chandigarh semi-high speed train project, have completed the initial round of feasibility studies for the project. SNCF is also studying the way forward for the renovation of two stations – at Ambala and Ludhiana.

SNCF has prepared three options which have been presented to the Indian government. The priority in the first scenario was given to minimum investments while the second option focused on completing the train journey between Ambala and Chandigarh in just two hours. The third priority was given to a possibility where the train could achieve speeds of 200 kmph. With the preparation of the three scenarios, the end of the first phase of studies is complete.

SNCF’s Asia Director, Philippe Lorand, said that SNCF would now jointly work with the Indian government representatives to help them understand the different options and the associated costs with each option. “We hope that by the time of the second steering committee meeting by the end of September, Indian Railways will be in a position to select one of the scenarios with which they want to go forward and for which they would want us to prepare the documentation so that they could launch the tenders.” He added, “The work of the steering committee is not just to select one of the options but also to tell us how they want to tweak their requirements within the budgets they have.”

On the Indian side, the steering committee members are headed by Alok Kansal, Divisional Railway Manager, South Eastern Central Railway.

The study was financed both by France and India and launched in January. The background to this is the agreement signed between the two countries when the French President visited India in February 2013, and last year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Paris in April.

Basic Action Plan for Traffic Air Pollution Control -by Sanjay Pardeshi

January 9, 2016

SPC Photo2

Sanjay Pardeshi

 

The main reasons for Air Pollutions are:

1)      Usage of too much Private Vehicles such as cars and two Wheelers.

2)      No Separate defined lanes for two wheeler & cars on all roads resulting conjunction & slow traffic. In such cases, huge exhaust from vehicles polluted city areas tremendously.

3)      No Separate left side defined red lane (as per our planning) for public buses, resulting crossing of vehicles, conjunction, traffic jam & huge pollution.

4)      Increasing of public transport buses is one of the main solutions to control private cars & two wheelers resulting less pollution & traffic jam.

However these can achieve only when we can standardize all buses, their door positions & bus stops for the same. The separate left side “Red Line” is the key requirement for these buses.

To resolve all above problems & other transport problem, I have made ‘New Road & Transport Planning of Entire India’ for safe, smooth and pollution free travel. This action plan is ready for execution with the help of 20,000 words (approx.) & 134 sketches. This action plan has been demonstrated in the world meeting of International Road Federation (IRF) held in Riyadh.

This action plan consists of 6 innovative ideas & 24 types of standardizations, because of which traffic will regularized by 70% to 80% & accidents will be reduced substantially. Means safe, smooth and pollution free travel for everyone.

These 6 innovative ideas:-

  1. Separate lane for two wheeler (almost on all roads).
  2. Parallel parking on the road for all types of vehicles including two wheeler.
  3. Red line lane at left side for Buses, Auto rickshaw & taxies i.e. for public transport vehicles.
  4. Four door standardized Bus with unidirectional traffic system (UTS). This Bus will have separate door for ladies & family to get in & out. There will be separate seats for ladies & obviously separate bus stop also.
  5. Standardization of Bus stand, front infrastructure of Bus stand & railway station.
  6. BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) :- BRT Will run from left side instead of center of the road.

Similarly there will be 24 types of standardization comprising of different types of vehicles, Bus stops, dividers, bus stand etc.

1

City/Village internal roads.

13

Buildings of ‘Chota Pariwar’.

2

Outer city state / high / express ways.

14

Bus / Electric bus

3

Internal city over bridges.

15

School bus / taxies / auto rickshaw

4

State / high / express way over bridges.

16

Small, big & share taxi.

5

Road over the road.

17

Light Commercial vehicles.

6

Sub way & over bridges.

18

Truck & trailer.

7

All service roads.

19

City bus stop & place of bus stops.

8

Markings on roads Signal Systems.

20

Road side public toilets & toilets in trains

9

Parking system for all vehicles.

21

Unidirectional traffic system (UTS) in Bus, railways & everywhere.

10

Zebra crossing

22

Intercity Bus stand & its front infrastructure.

11

Signal Systems

23

Front infrastructure of railway stations.

12

Internal city dividers & state / high / express way dividers

24

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

 

Above standardization are shown in main 190 pages action plan. Similarly animation of six new ideas is ready & can be seen on www.newroadtransport.com

Any city will be a “smart city” provided it should have separate lane for two wheeler. In above action plan, you will find separate two wheeler lane on almost every road. We all know that India is No. 1 in the road accidents & maximum accidents occurred are of two wheeler. At present two wheeler accident death is the highest in India & hence two wheeler should have then separate lane on the roads. All two wheeler are travel wherever they find place/gap on the road. They don’t have choice. Resulting, though we draw any international standard lane marking on roads, still we will see indiscipline traffic & it is because of non availability of proper lanes, two wheeler lanes is the requirement of the Indian transport system.

Similarly about public transport vehicles, especially for buses. We will draw separate lane for the buses on maximum roads (As shown in the action plan) which will gives cause easier travel for the ladies & children.

The next work is Bus stand & bus stop. Unless we standardized these in the entire country we cannot avoid jostling. You can see animation of these on www.newroadtransport.com.

Similarly about BRT, school taxi, rickshaw, dividers etc. we have to think collectively & minutely on each issue, make standardizations & accordingly execute quality work which is the base of this action plan. Otherwise we will start metro like Delhi but still we find indiscipline rush at outdoor of this metro station like in Delhi.

If we really wish pollution free transportation system like in Dubai or in America, then we have to think on micro levels on all aspects, make action plan (which is ready) & execute it qualitatively without any compromise. If we compromise on each issue, then we will find BRT which are exist now. For example, in Delhi, government invest huge amount to built BRT & then incurred heavy expenses to destroy it. Means wastage of money, time & efforts.

Hence the main feature of ‘New Road & Transport Planning of Entire India’ is a new concept of building complete basic infrastructure of road & transportation system in minimal time, expenses & changes.

Please note, until we built complete basic infrastructure for road & transport, we will not get 100% result of any major projects like metro, BRT etc for road and transportation, Parking and Traffic Air pollution. In any country, first basic infrastructure gets developed as per their needs & then mega projects executed.

Hence we will help / support government people, departments & we will follow this action plan. For these, we can print / read one/two standardization in daily news paper along with sketches which will help us to understand action plan gradually. Once all standardization will be published, we will complied it, the compiled book will be our action plan.

I appeal to all of Indians to join this revolutionary action Plan to make it happen in India.

 

Author : Sanjay Pardeshi

Sources: www.newroadtransport.com.

Illegal toll collection at IRB toll naka at Moshi, Pune

July 31, 2015

An incident showcasing another Toll corruption was seen at IRB toll naka where a localite was forced to pay toll tax.As per NHAI rules the local people near a toll plaza are exempted from the tax,but Mr preetam was forcibly made to pay the tax.He has already lodged a complain.Following is an excerpt from his lodged complain:

 

“Hi,

Today, I was forcefully made to pay toll tax at Moshi in Pune at an IRB toll tax naka. This even after I showed that my vehichle RC (MH 14 EC 2891- Dehu Road). I also informed them that I am a local and the visit was for my flat at Chimbali (Mantra Magic). Also, that I use to cross this toll regularly and never ever have I been asked for toll payment, once they see my RC.
Inspite of this the toll staffs barricaded, obstructed my vehicle and forced me to pay the tax.
I was manage to procure the identity of one of the employee named ’Prashant’, employee id- 12295.

In this regard, I would like to request you for below-
1) Conduct an immediate inquiry within a couple of days to ascertain the facts
2) Penalize the involved employees, also the employee that I have mentioned
3) Ensure that at all toll plaza it is mentioned that local people are not required to pay toll and mention the applicable local area for each toll, or, mention the travels for which one has to pay toll
4) Contact me on my given mail id keep me updated

I have put my experience on twitter, keeping in loop the CMO, Maharashtra.

If I do not get response on this by monday, I would place my application to NHAI and CMO, Maharashtra and Ministry of Highways, GOI for cognizance and finally plan to take it to consumer court for legal remedy.

Thank you,
Abhishek Kumar Preetam”

 

Path to digital India, smart cities lies in openness and co-creation

January 12, 2015

Path to digital India, smart cities lies in openness and co-creation

What should be the common strategy when it comes to creating Smart Cities and building Digital India, the two mega projects that are preoccupying our country currently?

Technology, of course, will be a building block. But the founding principles in these two ambitious projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be a culture of openness, of shared resources and of co-creation. This is the takeaway from listening to two experts – one on Smart Cities, and the other on the Internet.

On Tuesday, even as Professor Solomon Darwin, Executive Director, Centre for Corporate Innovation at the Haas School of Business, University of Berkeley was shepherding a team of students researching smart cities across the Capital, in another corner of the city, Dr Vinton Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist, Google, and one of the founding fathers of the Internet, was holding forth at Ficci on “innovation, jobs and the Internet”. Significantly, both Darwin, drawn to India by our smart cities project, and Cerf, excited by the vision of a digital India, dwelled a lot on the importance of open innovation.

Fresh from a visit to the upcoming smart city GIFT (Gujarat Inernational Finance Tec-city), and intense meetings with Cisco, Tyco, IBM, and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Professor Darwin, who teaches a course on building smart cities through open innovation, said, “My definition of a smart city is one that saves times, one that saves cost, and one that shares resources.”

“We believe in Open Cities that give resources and take resources and provide benefits for citizens as they are cost effective.” He gave the example of Oakland and San Francisco in California, two cities that are near each other. “We don’t want two public libraries, we can share, we don’t need two of everything, we can share water systems… when there is a deficit here, and a surplus there, they can be adjusted,” he points out.

Is that happening? “No,” says Darwin ruefully. “The problem with cities is that they are becoming isolated, working in silos. Silos create barriers and also create expenses.” Instead, Darwin says, “We want to build smart cities through open innovation – where knowledge that is once created, cannot be hoarded, where knowledge flows from high to low and knowledge wants to be free. In the old days America achieved greatness because we held knowledge captive in a fortress. But the Internet has changed all that,” says Darwin.

Indeed! As Dr Vinton Cerf explained at Ficci, “When in 1973, we designed the Internet, we debated – should we have intellectual property constraints on it? In the end we decided not to and said ‘let’s just give it away’. So people will have no excuse that it costs a licence and will use it and create further.”

As a result, Cerf described how the Internet grew in an organic way. It thrived on the idea of openness, open source and open standards, and miraculously got distributed across the world cutting all barriers. “People anywhere in the world who had access to technology could build on it,” he said.

And, now in the mobile phone era, a similar thing is happening, pointed out Cerf. “In mobiles, there is an application programming interface. But without knowing anything about how the mobile phone works, by hiding a lot of unnecessary details underneath, you allow hundreds of thousands, literally millions of people to build on top, and they create apps,” he described.

Cerf, who met Union minister for Communications and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad and offered Google’s expertise and technology in bringing the Internet to the entire country, said, “The notion of digital India is very appealing. But there are challenges and obstacles.” But as his little lesson in the Internet’s history showed – the path could well lie in openness and co-creation. Hopefully, the architects are listening.

 

Source: business today.in

Smart jobs for smart cities

January 6, 2015

An ideal scenario: A coastal city with shiny new buildings. Trees are planted on every side of the street and the air is automatically purified each hour. You can pay with your phone and charge your car at every parking place. A dream? This isn’t a modern science fiction novel, but is happening as we speak. These technologies are being developed in China, often in cooperation with Western companies.

The above is what is now termed as ‘smart city’. Smart cities are a hot topic and a commonly used buzzword today. This concept primarily involves combination of human capital and technology to create a sustainable environment. Such cities work towards improving sustainable economic development, infrastructure and also create a higher quality of life for the citizens as they contribute to this process.

China probably identified this opportunity one of the earliest and acted its way through in creating several such smart cities. McKinsey Global Institute wrote in 2009 that China’s urban population will grow from 527 million in 2005 to 926 million in 2025. Cities with a population exceeding 1 million are likely to increase from 153 to 226 in that same period. In 2011, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics announced that China’s urbanisation rate had surpassed 50%. This was the first time in China that more citizens were living in cities than in rural areas.

An important drive for developing smart cities is the rising middle class. Another report from McKinsey in 2013 considers consumers in China with household incomes between 106,000 to 229,000 yuan to be the upper middle class. According to McKinsey, in 2012, this segment accounted for just 14% of urban households. Their estimates for 2022 show a turnaround, with 56% becoming upper middle class and 14% mass middle class, which are household incomes ranging from 60,000 to 106,000 yuan.

Does India fit into the above scenario? Do we see a rising opportunity in creating smart cities which, in turn, creates a sustainable environment for its citizens?

Urbanisation in India has significant implications for the future development of the country. By 2030, India’s urban population will touch 590 million or nearly twice that of the US, while Indian cities will generate close to 70% of the GDP. This will exert tremendous pressure on urban infrastructure and services. It is, therefore, imperative that we find innovative solutions for the urban challenges of growth and sustainability.
This dramatic growth also provides impetus for the creation of smart cities which leverage information and communications technology (ICT) to greatly improve the productivity, lifestyle and the prosperity of our people. Additionally, green growth strategies can build environmentally sustainable cities.

India has 50 cities with more than a million people; China now has more than 350. Job creation needs new cities because it will replace the current short-term thinking of taking people to jobs with a more sustainable solution of taking jobs to people. There will be strong regional disparities in the next 20 years; five states in the South and West of India (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) will see 50% of the country’s GDP growth but only 5% of population growth. We must define urbanisation carefully; it is not about relocating more people into the larger cities nor is it about well-planned economic wastelands like Chandigarh. We have seen emergence of small pockets of economic success in areas like Gurgaon near Delhi, Gachibowli near Hyderabad, Magarpatta near Pune, Whitefield in Bangalore and Mohali near Chandigarh, but these are from far being identified as smart cities.

The next question is, how do we create these smart cities? The recent announcement from the government to create a ‘Digital India’ is a positive move. A budget of $1.2 billion has been allocated for smart cities alone. This should encourage some of the big-wig technology firms to submit proposals to local governments, and collaborate with real estate developers to build sustainable green cities.

Industrial corridors between India’s big metropolitans like the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, the Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor and the Bangalore-Mumbai Economic Corridor seem a positive move. It is hoped that many industrial and commercial centres will be recreated as ‘smart cities’ along these belts. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), which is spread across six states, seeks to create seven new smart cities as the nodes of the corridor in its first phase.

The very idea of smart cities is based on the assumption that there are technocratic solutions for the routine problems that citizen face. Problems of inefficiency that are seen to dominate the old bureaucratic-political order are hence given a ‘smart’ solution by employing ‘Big Data’.

Another positive impact of the ‘smart city’ and ‘Digital India’ projects is job creation, which will be, needless to say, ‘smart’. While it is difficult to give an estimate of jobs that will be generated and the reduction in labour migration, one can confidently say that even if work begins on 5-10 smart cities over the next two years, we would have created a favourable ecosystem for many thousands of jobs. This will be more inclined towards white-collar jobs as IT professionals will be in greater demand; IT infrastructure being the backbone of any smart city. Data analytics, programming, high-end consulting, system and network integration will be the order of the day and professionals and students in this area can expect better opportunities. It is a great time and opportunity for the ‘Internet of Things’, as they call it.

With a burgeoning urban population, there is an immediate need for creation of infrastructure facilities to satisfy the increasing urbane aspirations of our populace and smart cities seem to the solution. While the focus seems to have shifted towards smart cities and urbanisation, care must be taken so as to ensure the large percentage of population that relies on unskilled jobs and agriculture are not left behind.

By Mohit Gupta

The author is co-founder & director, TeamLease Services

 

Source: The Financial Express

Dubai keen to develop Hyderabad as smart city

January 6, 2015

Minister for Information Technology K.T. Rama Rao Telangana Special Chief Secretary K. Pradeep Chandra, Special Chief Secretary for Industries Jayesh Ranjan, MD, TSIIC and Commissioner of Industries along with delegation from FICCI in Dubai on Sunday.
THE HINDU

Minister for Information Technology K.T. Rama Rao Telangana Special Chief Secretary K. Pradeep Chandra, Special Chief Secretary for Industries Jayesh Ranjan, MD, TSIIC and Commissioner of Industries along with delegation from FICCI in Dubai on Sunday.

KTR and his delegation interact with investors, developers.

Telangana Minister for Information Technology K.T. Rama Rao visited Smart City and interacted with the investors in Dubai on Sunday inviting investments in Telangana State.

The Minister accompanied by a delegation comprising Special Chief Secretary (Industries) K. Pradeep Chandra, Managing Director of Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (TSIIC) Jayesh Ranjan, who is also Commissioner of Industries, and representatives of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) interacted with Chief Executive Officer of Smart City Abdul Latif Al-Mulla and Managing Director Baju George.

The prospects of the Telangana government developing a smart city in Hyderabad in association with Smart City Dubai as part of the Information Technology and Investment Region (ITIR) project were discussed at the meeting. Evincing interest in the offer, Mr. Mulla decided to visit Hyderabad during the next week for follow-up discussion.

Smart City Dubai is an integrated development featuring offices for IT companies along with residential and commercial space having facilities that enable people work and lead a high quality life using various technology solutions. Smart City Dubai has been successfully replicated in Malta in Europe.

In India, the Government of Kerala has entered into a partnership with Smart City Dubai for developing a similar model spread over 250 acres in Kochi. Smart City Dubai is investing Rs. 4,000 crore over the next eight years in Kochi.

Later, an investors’ meet was conducted at Hotel Crowne Plaza in Dubai by FICCI, which was attended by over 100 investors, the Minister and the officers’ team. The Telangana officials explained the salient features of the new industrial policy unveiled recently, highlighting the advantages of availability of abundant land, fast track clearances, additional incentives and others.

Several investors enquired about the prospects of investing in Telangana, particularly in textiles, food processing, mineral-based industries, biotechnology, engineering and infrastructure development in industrial parks and townships.

The investors meet was organised in association with the India Business and Professional Council (IBPC), Dubai, and Consulate of India in Dubai.

President of IBPC Paras Shahdadpuri and Consul (Commerce) in the Indian Consulate Anitha Nandhini were among others present.

 

Source:The Hindu

Vinayak Chatterjee: What is a ‘smart city’?

January 6, 2015

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has certainly focused India’s attention on the urbanisationimperative and got the “smart city” concept buzzing. As things stand, the urbanisation agenda is in three parts:

  • urban renewal of 500 cities;
  • rejuvenation of heritage cities (like Varanasi), and
  • the implementation of 100 smart cities; understood to be both “greenfield” and “brownfield”.

While renewal and rejuvenation are relatively easier to grasp, there appears to be only an evocative imagination in the public mind as to what the contours of a smart city could be.

So, here are 10 suggested attributes that may well describe, and to some extent define a smart city.

(i) Information, communication, and technology (ICT)-enabled governance: The international and domestic big daddies of the information technology (IT) world have, with their aggressive presentations, virtually hijacked the smart city definition to only mean IT-enabled administration and governance. While such a restrictive definition is undesirable, enabling ICT is clearly one of the more important planks. Often referred to as “smart government”, the use of integrated technology platforms that are easily accessible across various devices is certainly key to providing access, transparency, speed, participation and redressal in public services. For example, on December 10, 2014, the President launched the Karnataka Mobile One app in Bengaluru that would provide citizens a range of e-governance services over mobile phones.

(ii) Efficient utilities - energy, water, solid waste and effluents: This area is often the most talked about after IT. Smart meters, renewable energy, energy conservation, water harvesting, effluent recycling, scientific solid waste disposal methods et al are all clearly the hallmark of a smart city.

(iii) Meaningful PPPs: The creative use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) is a key attribute of the smart city concept. PPPs are to be used not only as a source of much-needed capital but also for the efficient delivery of utilities with agreed service-level standards. PPPs could range from health care to street lighting; and be used wherever there is a clear connection between the provision of a service and the ability to charge for the same – directly or even indirectly.

(iv) Safety and security: This aspect is high in public consciousness, especially with disconcerting news on the safety of women, road rage, robbery attacks on the elderly and juvenile delinquency. Clearly, networks of video-cameras, brightly lit public areas, intensive patrolling and surveillance, identity-verified access, and rapid response to emergency calls are all on the expectations list.

(v) Financial sustainability: The 74th Amendment to the Constitution (1992) enjoins towns and cities to “take charge of their own destinies”. Nowhere is this more important than financial independence. This is only possible with elaborate and extensive tapping of all sources of revenue – property taxes, advertisements et al; coupled with astute collection of user-pay charges across the full range of utilities. It also has to do with the elements of fiscal discipline that would enable the raising of long-term debt like municipal bonds.

(vi) Citizen-participative local government: The enthusiastic participation of citizens in local issues needs careful designing of electoral and participative fora. The current apathy towards civic elections needs comprehensive reversal.

(vii) Sufficient social capital: Smart cities cannot be devoid of the appropriate levels of social infrastructure – like schools, hospitals, public spaces, sporting and recreational grounds and retail and entertainment venues. Along with a brain that works, and hands and legs that move, it must also have a heart that beats to the joys of daily living.

(viii) Transit-oriented habitats: “Walk-to-work” is the dream solution here. Nevertheless, conveniently networked public transportation with first- and last-mile connectivities in place, reduced motivation to use personal vehicles, use of electric cars, and bicycle paths are all in the expectation matrix.

(ix) Green features: Minimising the carbon footprint and eco-friendliness are de rigueur. Parks and verdant open spaces, absence of pollution, use of renewables, conservation and recycling are mandatory.

(x) Minimum population criteria: Towards the end of November 2014, Panasonic Corporation announced the opening of its new business vector – the sustainable smart town (SST) at Fujisawa in Japan. It has rooftop solar energy, electric cars and electric-powered bicycles. However, it comprises only 1,000 homes over 47 acres that will have a population of 3,000 people. This kind of project is at best a smart enclave, and clearly, in the Indian context, cannot be included in the definition of a city. India has 5,545 urban agglomerations. Class 1 towns (called cities) are those with a population of 100,000 and above. This should be the minimum population cut-off for a smart city.

Achieving all the 10 attributes may well be Utopian. So, maybe even if seven out of the 10 attributes are achieved, we should have no hesitation in declaring an urban habitation as a smart city.


The writer is the chairman of Feedback Infra.
vinayak.chatterjee@feedbackinfra.com
Source: Business Standard

The truth about smart cities: ‘In the end, they will destroy democracy’

January 6, 2015

A woman drives to the outskirts of the city and steps directly on to a train; her electric car then drives itself off to park and recharge. A man has a heart attack in the street; the emergency services send a drone equipped with a defibrillator to arrive crucial minutes before an ambulance can. A family of flying maintenance robots lives atop an apartment block – able to autonomously repair cracks or leaks and clear leaves from the gutters.

Such utopian, urban visions help drive the “smart city” rhetoric that has, for the past decade or so, been promulgated most energetically by big technology, engineering and consulting companies. The movement is predicated on ubiquitous wireless broadband and the embedding of computerised sensors into the urban fabric, so that bike racks and lamp posts, CCTV and traffic lights, as well as geeky home appliances such as internet fridges and remote-controlled heating systems, become part of the so-called “internet of things” (the global market for which is now estimated at $1.7tn). Better living through biochemistry gives way to a dream of better living through data. You can even take an MSc in Smart Citiesat University College, London.

Yet there are dystopian critiques, too, of what this smart city vision might mean for the ordinary citizen. The phrase itself has sparked a rhetorical battle between techno-utopianists and postmodern flâneurs: should the city be an optimised panopticon, or a melting pot of cultures and ideas?

And what role will the citizen play? That of unpaid data-clerk, voluntarily contributing information to an urban database that is monetised by private companies? Is the city-dweller best visualised as a smoothly moving pixel, travelling to work, shops and home again, on a colourful 3D graphic display? Or is the citizen rightfully an unpredictable source of obstreperous demands and assertions of rights? “Why do smart cities offer only improvement?” asks the architect Rem Koolhaas. “Where is the possibility of transgression?”

A crowd watches as new, automated traffic lights are erected at Ludgate Circus, London, in 1931.

 

Smart beginnings: a crowd watches as new, automated traffic lights are erected at Ludgate Circus, London, in 1931. Photograph: Fox Photos/Getty Images

The smart city concept arguably dates back at least as far as the invention of automated traffic lights, which were first deployed in 1922 in Houston, Texas. Leo Hollis, author of Cities Are Good For You, says the one unarguably positive achievement of smart city-style thinking in modern times is the train indicator boards on the London Underground. But in the last decade, thanks to the rise of ubiquitous internet connectivity and the miniaturisation of electronics in such now-common devices as RFID tags, the concept seems to have crystallised into an image of the city as a vast, efficient robot – a vision that originated, according toAdam Greenfield at LSE Cities, with giant technology companies such as IBM, Cisco and Software AG, all of whom hoped to profit from big municipal contracts.

“The notion of the smart city in its full contemporary form appears to have originated within these businesses,” Greenfield notes in his 2013 book Against the Smart City, “rather than with any party, group or individual recognised for their contributions to the theory or practice of urban planning.”

Promotional illustrations for a proposed new smart city in Dholera, India.

Promotional illustrations for a proposed new smart city in Dholera, India.

Whole new cities, such as Songdo in South Korea, have already been constructed according to this template. Its buildings have automatic climate control and computerised access; its roads and water, waste and electricity systems are dense with electronic sensors to enable the city’s brain to track and respond to the movement of residents. But such places retain an eerie and half-finished feel to visitors – which perhaps shouldn’t be surprising. According to Antony M Townsend, in his 2013 book Smart Cities, Songdo was originally conceived as “a weapon for fighting trade wars”; the idea was “to entice multinationals to set up Asian operations at Songdo … with lower taxes and less regulation”.

In India, meanwhile, prime minister Narendra Modi has promised to build no fewer than 100 smart cities – a competitive response, in part, to China’s inclusion of smart cities as a central tenet of its grand urban plan. Yet for the near-term at least, the sites of true “smart city creativity” arguably remain the planet’s established metropolises such as London, New York, Barcelona and San Francisco. Indeed, many people think London is the smartest city of them all just now — Duncan Wilson of Intel calls it a “living lab” for tech experiments

So what challenges face technologists hoping to weave cutting-edge networks and gadgets into centuries-old streets and deeply ingrained social habits and patterns of movement? This was the central theme of the recent “Re.Work Future Cities Summit” in London’s Docklands – for which two-day public tickets ran to an eye-watering £600.

The event was structured like a fast-cutting series of TED talks, with 15-minute investor-friendly presentations on everything from “emotional cartography” to biologically inspired buildings. Not one non-Apple-branded laptop could be spotted among the audience, and at least one attendee was seen confidently sporting the telltale fat cyan arm of Google Glass on his head.

“Instead of a smart phone, I want you all to have a smart drone in your pocket,” said one entertaining robotics researcher, before tossing up into the auditorium a camera-equipped drone that buzzed around like a fist-sized mosquito. Speakers enthused about the transport app Citymapper, and how the city of Zurich is both futuristic and remarkably civilised. People spoke about the “huge opportunity” represented by expanding city budgets for technological “solutions”.

Screengrab from Usman Haque's project Thingful.

Usman Haque’s project Thingful is billed as a ‘search engine for the internet of things’

Strikingly, though, many of the speakers took care to denigrate the idea of the smart city itself, as though it was a once-fashionable buzzphrase that had outlived its usefulness. This was done most entertainingly by Usman Haque, of the urban consultancy Umbrellium. The corporate smart-city rhetoric, he pointed out, was all about efficiency, optimisation, predictability, convenience and security. “You’ll be able to get to work on time; there’ll be a seamless shopping experience, safety through cameras, et cetera. Well, all these things make a city bearable, but they don’t make a city valuable.”

As the tech companies bid for contracts, Haque observed, the real target of their advertising is clear: “The people it really speaks to are the city managers who can say, ‘It wasn’t me who made the decision, it was the data.’”

Of course, these speakers who rejected the corporate, top-down idea of the smart city were themselves demonstrating their own technological initiatives to make the city, well, smarter. Haque’s project Thingful, for example, is billed as a search engine for the internet of things. It could be used in the morning by a cycle commuter: glancing at a personalised dashboard of local data, she could check local pollution levels and traffic, and whether there are bikes in the nearby cycle-hire rack.

“The smart city was the wrong idea pitched in the wrong way to the wrong people,” suggested Dan Hill, of urban innovators the Future Cities Catapult. “It never answered the question: ‘How is it tangibly, materially going to affect the way people live, work, and play?’” (His own work includes Cities Unlocked, an innovative smartphone audio interface that can help visually impaired people navigate the streets.) Hill is involved with Manchester’s current smart city initiative, which includes apparently unglamorous things like overhauling the Oxford Road corridor – a bit of “horrible urban fabric”. This “smart stuff”, Hill tells me, “is no longer just IT – or rather IT is too important to be called IT any more. It’s so important you can’t really ghettoise it in an IT city. A smart city might be a low-carbon city, or a city that’s easy to move around, or a city with jobs and housing. Manchester has recognised that.”

One take-home message of the conference seemed to be that whatever the smart city might be, it will be acceptable as long as it emerges from the ground up: what Hill calls “the bottom-up or citizen-led approach”. But of course, the things that enable that approach – a vast network of sensors amounting to millions of electronic ears, eyes and noses – also potentially enable the future city to be a vast arena of perfect and permanent surveillance by whomever has access to the data feeds.

Rio de Janeiro’s centre of operations: ‘a high-precision control panel for the entire city'.
Inside Rio de Janeiro’s centre of operations: ‘a high-precision control panel for the entire city’. Photograph: David Levene

One only has to look at the hi-tech nerve centre that IBM built for Rio de Janeiroto see this Nineteen Eighty-Four-style vision already alarmingly realised. It is festooned with screens like a Nasa Mission Control for the city. As Townsend writes: “What began as a tool to predict rain and manage flood response morphed into a high-precision control panel for the entire city.” He quotes Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, as boasting: “The operations centre allows us to have people looking into every corner of the city, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

What’s more, if an entire city has an “operating system”, what happens when it goes wrong? The one thing that is certain about software is that it crashes. The smart city, according to Hollis, is really just a “perpetual beta city”. We can be sure that accidents will happen – driverless cars will crash; bugs will take down whole transport subsystems or the electricity grid; drones could hit passenger aircraft. How smart will the architects of the smart city look then?

A less intrusive way to make a city smarter might be to give those who govern it a way to try out their decisions in virtual reality before inflicting them on live humans. This is the idea behind city-simulation company Simudyne, whose projects include detailed computerised models for planning earthquake response or hospital evacuation. It’s like the strategy game SimCity – for real cities. And indeed Simudyne now draws a lot of its talent from the world of videogames. “When we started, we were just mathematicians,” explains Justin Lyon, Simudyne’s CEO. “People would look at our simulations and joke that they were inscrutable. So five or six years ago we developed a new system which allows you to make visualisations – pretty pictures.” The simulation can now be run as an immersive first-person gameworld, or as a top-down SimCity-style view, where “you can literally drop policy on to the playing area”.

Another serious use of “pretty pictures” is exemplified by the work of ScanLAB Projects, which uses Lidar and ground-penetrating radar to make 3D visualisations of real places. They can be used for art installations and entertainment: for example, mapping underground ancient Rome for the BBC. But the way an area has been used over time, both above and below ground, can also be presented as a layered historical palimpsest, which can serve the purposes of archaeological justice and memory – as with ScanLAB’s Living Death Campsproject with Forensic Architecture, on two concentration-camp sites in the former Yugoslavia.

Scanlab image.

The former German pavilion at Staro Sajmište, Belgrade – produced from terrestrial laser scanning and ground-penetrating radar as part of the Living Death Camps project. Photograph: ScanLAB Projects

For Simudyne’s simulations, meanwhile, the visualisations work to “gamify” the underlying algorithms and data, so that anyone can play with the initial conditions and watch the consequences unfold. Will there one day be convergence between this kind of thing and the elaborately realistic modelled cities that are built for commercial videogames? “There’s absolutely convergence,” Lyon says. A state-of-the art urban virtual reality such as the recreation of Chicago in this year’s game Watch Dogs requires a budget that runs to scores of millions of dollars. But, Lyon foresees, “Ten years from now, what we see in Watch Dogs today will be very inexpensive.”

What if you could travel through a visually convincing city simulation wearing the VR headset, Oculus Rift? When Lyon first tried one, he says, “Everything changed for me.” Which prompts the uncomfortable thought that when such simulations are indistinguishable from the real thing (apart from the zero possibility of being mugged), some people might prefer to spend their days in them. The smartest city of the future could exist only in our heads, as we spend all our time plugged into a virtual metropolitan reality that is so much better than anything physically built, and fail to notice as the world around us crumbles.

In the meantime, when you hear that cities are being modelled down to individual people – or what in the model are called “agents” – you might still feel a jolt of the uncanny, and insist that free-will makes your actions in the city unpredictable. To which Lyon replies: “They’re absolutely right as individuals, but collectively they’re wrong. While I can’t predict what you are going to do tomorrow, I can have, with some degree of confidence, a sense of what the crowd is going to do, what a group of people is going to do. Plus, if you’re pulling in data all the time, you use that to inform the data of the virtual humans.

“Let’s say there are 30 million people in London: you can have a simulation of all 30 million people that very closely mirrors but is not an exact replica of London. You have the 30 million agents, and then let’s have a business-as-usual normal commute, let’s have a snowstorm, let’s shut down a couple of train lines, or have a terrorist incident, an earthquake, and so on.” Lyons says you will get a highly accurate sense of how people, en masse, will respond to these scenarios. “While I’m not interested in a specific individual, I’m interested in the emergent behaviour of the crowd.”

City-simulation company Simudyne creates computerised models to aid disaster-response planning.

City-simulation company Simudyne creates computerised models ‘with pretty pictures’ to aid disaster-response planning

But what about more nefarious bodies who are interested in specific individuals? As citizens stumble into a future where they will be walking around a city dense with sensors, cameras and drones tracking their every movement – even whether they are smiling (as has already been tested at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival) or feeling gloomy – there is a ticking time-bomb of arguments about surveillance and privacy that will dwarf any previous conversations about Facebook or even, perhaps, government intelligence agencies scanning our email. Unavoidable advertising spam everywhere you go, as in Minority Report, is just the most obvious potential annoyance. (There have already been “smart billboards” that recognised Minis driving past and said hello to them.) The smart city might be a place like Rio on steroids, where you can never disappear.

“If you have a mobile phone, and the right sensors are deployed across the city, people have demonstrated the ability to track those individual phones,” Lyon points out. “And there’s nothing that would prevent you from visualising that movement in a SimCity-like landscape, like in Watch Dogs where you see an avatar moving through the city and you can call up their social-media profile. If you’re trying to search a very large dataset about how someone’s moving, it’s very hard to get your head around it, but as soon as you fire up a game-style visualisation, it’s very easy to see, ‘Oh, that’s where they live, that’s where they work, that’s where their mistress must be, that’s where they go to drink a lot.’”

This is potentially an issue with open-data initiatives such as those currently under way in Bristol and Manchester, which is making publicly available the data it holds about city parking, procurement and planning, public toilets and the fire service. The democratic motivation of this strand of smart-city thinking seems unimpugnable: the creation of municipal datasets is funded by taxes on citizens, so citizens ought to have the right to use them. When presented in the right way – “curated”, if you will, by the city itself, with a sense of local character – such information can help to bring “place back into the digital world”, says Mike Rawlinson of consultancy City ID, which is working with Bristol on such plans.

But how safe is open data? It has already been demonstrated, for instance, that the openly accessible data of London’s cycle-hire scheme can be used to track individual cyclists. “There is the potential to see it all as Big Brother,” Rawlinson says. “If you’re releasing data and people are reusing it, under what purpose and authorship are they doing so?” There needs, Hill says, to be a “reframed social contract”.

The interface of Simudyne’s City Hospital EvacSim.

The interface of Simudyne’s City Hospital EvacSim

Sometimes, at least, there are good reasons to track particular individuals. Simudyne’s hospital-evacuation model, for example, needs to be tied in to real data. “Those little people that you see [on screen], those are real people, that’s linking to the patient database,” Lyon explains – because, for example, “we need to be able to track this poor child that’s been burned.” But tracking everyone is a different matter: “There could well be a backlash of people wanting literally to go off-grid,” Rawlinson says. Disgruntled smart citizens, unite: you have nothing to lose but your phones.

In truth, competing visions of the smart city are proxies for competing visions of society, and in particular about who holds power in society. “In the end, the smart city will destroy democracy,” Hollis warns. “Like Google, they’ll have enough data not to have to ask you what you want.”

You sometimes see in the smart city’s prophets a kind of casual assumption that politics as we know it is over. One enthusiastic presenter at the Future Cities Summit went so far as to say, with a shrug: “Internet eats everything, and internet will eat government.” In another presentation, about a new kind of “autocatalytic paint” for street furniture that “eats” noxious pollutants such as nitrous oxide, an engineer in a video clip complained: “No one really owns pollution as a problem.” Except that national and local governments do already own pollution as a problem, and have the power to tax and regulate it. Replacing them with smart paint ain’t necessarily the smartest thing to do.

And while some tech-boosters celebrate the power of companies such as Über – the smartphone-based unlicensed-taxi service now banned in Spain and New Delhi, and being sued in several US states – to “disrupt” existing transport infrastructure, Hill asks reasonably: “That Californian ideology that underlies that user experience, should it really be copy-pasted all over the world? Let’s not throw away the idea of universal service that Transport for London adheres to.”

Perhaps the smartest of smart city projects needn’t depend exclusively – or even at all – on sensors and computers. At Future Cities, Julia Alexander of Siemens nominated as one of the “smartest” cities in the world the once-notorious Medellin in Colombia, site of innumerable gang murders a few decades ago. Its problem favelas were reintegrated into the city not with smartphones but with publicly funded sports facilities and a cable car connecting them to the city. “All of a sudden,” Alexander said, “you’ve got communities interacting” in a way they never had before. Last year, Medellin – now the oft-cited poster child for “social urbanism” – was named the most innovative city in the world by the Urban Land Institute.

One sceptical observer of many presentations at the Future Cities Summit, Jonathan Rez of the University of New South Wales, suggests that “a smarter way” to build cities “might be for architects and urban planners to have psychologists and ethnographers on the team.” That would certainly be one way to acquire a better understanding of what technologists call the “end user” – in this case, the citizen. After all, as one of the tribunes asks the crowd in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: “What is the city but the people?”

Source: The Guardian

“Smart” Cities and the Urban Digital Revolution

January 5, 2015

Smog, sewage and congestion are three of the hallmarks of contemporary urban living. But these downsides to city living are gradually becoming things of the past. City planners are finding new ways to address these inefficiencies, leveraging connected technology to create smarter hubs that work for city dwellers.

Welcome to the era of “smart” cities. Advances in wireless sensor systems, information and communication technology (ICT), and infrastructure allow cities to collect and curate huge amounts of data capable of sustaining and improving urban life thanks to the new and ever-growing web of connected technology: The Internet of Things (IoT).

Last year, Los Angeles became the first city in the world to synchronize its traffic lights — all 4,500 of them — reducing traffic time on major LA corridors by about 12 percent, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. In Singapore, city authorities aretesting smart systems for managing parking and waste disposal to adjust to daily and weekly patterns. In New York City, mobile air pollution monitors help city leaders pinpoint those neighborhoods most affected by smog and pollutants, so residents can modify their commuting paths and preferred modes of transportation to avoid exposure to higher levels of pollution.

And cities across the U.S. — including ChicagoSeattle and Washington, D.C. — are hiring chief technology officers to oversee broad implementation of digital systems and technologies. As more and more city functions evolve from analog to digital, it makes sense for municipalities to put the improvement, functionality and security of those systems into one department. These city CTOs will quickly become indispensable cabinet positions.


What does it take for a city to earn the “smart” moniker?


So what does it take for a city to earn the “smart” moniker? Smart cities around the globe have many differences but importantly they share a few common traits. These cities invest in infrastructure and people in ways that lead to a more connected, better-informed and more-efficient environment. The dynamic use of knowledge to improve both the utilization of scarce resources and a higher quality of life for its citizens is the hallmark of a smart city.

Since the first Industrial Revolutions fueled the explosion in urban population growth, municipal governments have looked for ways to efficiently run services for densely located networks of people. The challenges of urban life have historically produced results that are less than adequate. But as sensors become more affordable and more ubiquitous, city officials have access to systems that their predecessors could never have imagined. Today, sensors are being used to monitor and dynamically adjust important public services, from parking availability to public transportation to snow removal to security.

IoT promises to put cities across the globe on the fast track to becoming “smart.” But we’re not there quite yet. The evolution of IoT involves three distinct phases. First, physical objects facilitate access to digital information. Second, physical objects are embedded with digital sensors to capture and transmit relevant information. And finally, physical objects receive digital prompts and cues which then alter the state of the physical object. This final stage will result in a seamless physical-digital sphere that holds tremendous promise in the building of smart cities.

As a society, we’re barely in the middle of phase one — most of our physical objects are not yet connected, though connection alone is not enough. Cities must also have the infrastructure for efficient data transactions: How information flows from Point A to Point B. Indeed, all city services are based on a calculation of where to expend precious resources. The more data available for these calculations, the more sophisticated and tailored they become. An example, driverless cars alone won’t solve a city’s traffic problems — but driverless cars that signal street sensors will give city officials the appropriate data to improve traffic patterns. This will require city governments to work in tandem with private companies, whether they manufacture cars or operate garbage dumps.

The challenges facing cities on the path to being “smart” are large and varied. It will require a new way of thinking — akin to mastering a new language. Nevertheless, modern cities everywhere are moving in one inexorable direction: Toward a future where city governance and urban living will be as connected as the functions on your smartphone.


Shawn DuBravac is the chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the author of the forthcoming book “Digital Destiny: How the New Age of Data Will Transform the Way We Work, Live and Communicate.” Follow him @ShawnDubravac.

 

Source:Re/code

Smart cities: Gujarat’s Dholera zone sets pace for the flagship programme in new year

January 5, 2015

 

Narendra Modi government is kicking off its ambitious smart cities programme along the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor (DMIC) leg that is located in Gujarat.

Narendra Modi government is kicking off its ambitious smart cities programme along the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor (DMIC) leg that is located in Gujarat.

NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government is kicking off its ambitious smart cities programme along the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor (DMIC) leg that is located in Gujarat.

The tendering process for the Dholera special investment region in Gujarat is to be launched shortly, inviting investments worth close to Rs 3,000 crore for building trunk infrastructure on the 22.5 square km.

The smart city close to Ahmedabad will cover a route length of 920 km on the corridor, of which 154 km will be developed in the first phase. It will be followed by three others by March. The 2,700-km DMIC was sanctioned in 2007.

Prime Minister Modi has announced 100 smart cities, some of these along industrial corridors, as it seeks to turn India into a global manufacturing hub as part of its Make in India initiative.”We are set to roll out four smart industrial cities by March, inviting bids from all across the globe. We have held several meetings with various governments and investors from different countries in the past many months including Germany, the UK, US, South Korea, etc,” said Talleen Kumar, CEO of DMIC Development Corp.


Smart cities: Gujarat’s Dholera zone sets pace for the flagship programme in new year

 

The government has floated requests for qualification (RFQ) for the ‘roads and utilities’ project at Dholera on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. After this closes by mid-January, requests for proposal will be invited after approval by the DMIC Trust and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). All investment proposals exceedingRs 1,200 crore require CCEA approval.

The other trunk infrastructure schemes for which bids will be sought include a drinking water supply system, and adminis trative centre along with water and sewage treatment plants.

Tendering is also being finalised for integrated industrial townships in Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh and Vikram Udyogpuri in Madhya Pradesh apart from the Shendra-Bidkin Industrial Park in Maharashtra for a rollout in the next two months.

“In Greater Noida, 747 acres have already been transferred to the special purpose vehicle. For the 84 square km Shendra-Bidkin industrial park, we will begin with inviting bids for the Shendra region first,” Kumar said.

Of the seven cities being developed in the first phase of the DMIC project, master planning for six is complete.

Japan has invested $4.5 billion in the first stage of DMIC through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). They hold a joint 26% stake in the project. Japan is also working closely with the government for the development of other industrial corridors.

In a bid to facilitate and fast track Japanese investment proposals, the department of industrial policy and promotion has also set up a special management team known as Japan Plus, which comprises officials of both governments.

Source:Economic Times

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