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.

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.
[email protected]
Source: Business Standard

Security China eyes Pune for smart city projects

January 6, 2015

Chinese Government Officials today visited Pune to explore opportunities to collaborate on the Smart City project announced by the government of India. A team led by Senior Chinese Government Officials participated in a conference organised by Unique Delta Force Security.

Pune based Unique Delta Force Security, today also inked a 50:50 joint venture with China-based Security China to market their products and concepts. Both the companies declined to share financial details of the JV.

According to Alan Chow, CEO Security China, firm providing security solutions and services, said that the security solutions market of India is of $ 2.5 billion which is 5 per cent of the global market.

“India has a huge potential for security solutions. The Government of India is keen on developing smart cities, our company will create a cluster to provide security solutions. We are beginning with Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporations in association with Unique Delta Security. We will provide techno commercial assistance to develop such initiatives as a part of “China – India Mutually Beneficially Co-operation Plan,” said Chow.

The company has established a smart and security cluster in Shaoxing District in China. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) in China has set up 90 smart city demonstration areas and more applications are under review.

The company focuses on three sectors- business, production and service and targets to build a global network of permanent resource providing centers globally through its National Premier Partners.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has focused India’s attention on the urbanisation imperative and got the “smart city” concept buzzing. The agenda includes 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”.

Several countries like Japan, Germany, Sweden, Singapore, Israel, United Kingdom, the United States of America, Hongkong and the Netherlands besides multinational corporate have shown keen interest in partnering in building smart cities in India. Many private players like Microsoft, IBM, Essel Group and Prince of Qatar have shown interest in developing smart cities in India.


Source:Business Standard

10 Key Factors That Contribute To Develop ‘Smart Cities’ In India

January 6, 2015

BANGALORE: As the global population continues to grow at a steady pace, more and more people are moving to cities every day. Cities are referred as the engines of economic growth and ‘The National Democratic Alliance’ government’s decision to develop 100 “Smart Cities” in the country has brought the focus on smart cities concept.

What is a smart city? Smartness in city means smart design, smart utilities, smart housing, smart mobility, and smart technology. There is need for the cities to get smarter to manage complexity, increase efficiency, reduce expenses, and improve quality of life. Here are 10 factors that make a city really smart as compiled by ‘’.

1. Mobility
Most of the cities have gone rapid motorization and this has lead to congestion, increasing energy bills, road accidents and poor air quality. Ease of being able to move from place to place and sound transport system is at the core of a “Smart City”.

The smart transport system emphasizes walking, cycling and public transport as the primary means  for mobility with personal motor vehicles being discouraged.

2. Utility Services
Reliable, adequate and high quality utility services like electricity, sanitation and ICT are part of a  smart city. Similarly, municipal services such as water supply, drainage, solid waste management  are of very high quality and available round the clock.

A Smart City cannot have only a few hours of water supply a day or electricity that goes off for  several hours or the streets littered with garbage.


Source:Silicon India News

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

PM Modi looks to push urban infra; stresses on smart cities in tune with 21st century

January 5, 2015

Aiming to improve urban infrastructure and governance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday chaired a high-level meeting with government officials on the ‘Smart City’ initiative. The meeting was part of series of consultations on smart cities.

PM Modi said, “One of the aims of the smart city initiative should be to improve the quality of urban governance, thereby lending greater strength to the overall governance processes of the country.”

Modi asked officials to identify the basics of infrastructure, quality of life, and citizen-centric services that would be essential to cities of the 21st century. Modi said He also said cities should be identified as hubs of economic activity. “Focus on “waste to wealth” – i.e. – solid-waste management, and waste-water treatment would be an important part of the development of smart cities,” Modi said.

He asked officials to visualize “urban-dependent” population, in addition to “urban” population, while planning for smart cities.

Modi asked the Ministry of Urban Development to convene a workshop of all central and state Urban Development Authorities at the earliest. He said the workshop should also focus on reforms in laws related to urban development.

“The Prime Minister called for identifying parameters that could be laid down for smart cities,” the government press release said. “The Prime Minister asked Government officials to visualize “urban-dependent” population, in addition to “urban” population, while planning for Smart Cities,” the release added.

Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Urban Development, and Ministry of Information Technology, were present for the meeting.


Source:Economic Times

A New Chicago Every Year’: PM’s Meet on Smart City Plans

January 5, 2015

'A New Chicago Every Year': PM's Meet on Smart City Plans

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has promised to build a 100 smart cities in the country, met senior government officials today in one of a series of consultations on the project.

He asked officials to identify the basics of infrastructure, quality of life, and citizen-centric services that would be essential to these 21st century cities, which will be built as satellite towns of metropolises and by modernising existing mid-sized cities.

Officials made presentations on urban statistics with one presentation suggesting that “a new Chicago needs to be built every year.”

 The Prime Minister said at the meeting that the smart cities should be identified as hubs of economic activity and that the focus would be on turning “waste to wealth” with waste management and waste-water treatment processes, a  Press Information Bureau release said.

PM Modi has asked the Ministry of Urban Development to organise a workshop on this at the soonest, where officials would focus on reforms in laws related to urban development. The Prime Minister wants the smart city initiative to aim at improving the quality of urban governance, which would then strengthen the overall governance processes in the country.

The focus of the smart city – envisaged in a government note as one that would offer “decent living options to every resident” and provide a “very high quality of life comparable with any developed European city” – must not only be on the urban population, but also on the “urban-dependent” population, PM Modi has instructed.

India, the second most populated country on the planet, is projected to add another 404 million urban dwellers by 2050, the largest addition in the world, followed by China with 292 million, a UN report had said this year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had told the parliament that “smart” cities are needed to accommodate the rising numbers, pointing to a burgeoning middle-class with “aspirations of better living standards”.

The urban development ministry’s concept note earlier this year had released preliminary ideas for the cities.



Development of 100 smart cities saw push in 2014

January 5, 2015

NEW DELHI: Development of 100 smart cities and housing for all by 2022 were the mantra of Ministry of Urban Development and Housing and Poverty Alleviation in 2014.

With the NDA government replacing the UPA in May, BJPveteran M Venkaiah Naidu assumed charge of the twin ministries giving a push to cleanliness and punctuality at office.

The year also witnessed launch of Swachh Bharat Mission and urban renewal of 500 cities for providing better amenities in urban areas. National Urban Renewal Mission for 500 cities replaced UPA government’s flagship programme Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), a massive city-based modernisation scheme launched in 2005 for seven years and then extended for two years.

Referring to cities as the “engine of growth”, UD Ministry aims to draw out growth path to ensure that they function efficiently because an effective engine is critical to economic development.

Speeding up urbanisation with the help of latest technology offers employment opportunities and also improves quality of life, Naidu has maintained.

Taking note of large-scale migration from rural areas to cities, the NDA government in its budget announced that “unless new cities are developed to accommodate burgeoning number of people, the existing cities would soon become unlivable”.

Keeping the need for rapid urbanisation in mind, the ministry chalked out an action plan to develop 100 smart cities as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernising the existing mid-sized cities.

These cities will be equipped with modern facilities like continuous power and water supply, easy healthcare, clean air, sanitation, security and entertainment among other parameters.

While the total budget allocation of the ministry was around Rs 7060 crore for 2014-15, Rs 500 crore was earmarked in the first phase for Smart City and heritage city projects alone.

Pursued under Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), government has shortlisted 12 heritage cities – Amritsar, Ajmer, Mathura, Gaya, Kanchpuram, Vellankanni, Varanasi, Puri, Dwarka, Badami, Warrangal and Amrawati in the first phase.

Housing for all by 2022 was a major policy announcement by the Modi government in 2014.

Housing and Poverty Alleviation Ministry is mandated to formulate policy for providing affordable housing and also regulation and development for economic and caste census in the urban areas.

According to ministry data, there is a shortage of 18.7 million houses in urban areas at the beginning of the 12th Plan. The ministry aims to spend Rs 36,000 crore during the 12th Plan period to construct one million houses and provide interest subsidy for another one million houses.

In order to provide housing for all, the ministry wants to attract private investment in a big way. It has got about Rs 4000 crore in the current fiscal. With the aim of facilitating construction of houses in a proper way, it is bringing about a bill for regulation of the real estate sector keeping the consumers interest in mind.

The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, crucial for construction of affordable housing, is likely to be taken up for consideration in the next Budget Session of Parliament.

Naidu has emphasised that the bill, while seeking to promote housing activities, should aim at harmonising the concerns of consumers and real estate developers, rather than introducing strangulation in the name of regulation.

He has also maintained that the bill should promote transparency in disclosures by developers regarding to all relevant information about real estate projects by registering them with the proposed regulator.

Besides HUPA, ministries of Environment and Forests and Climate Change and Consumer Affairs are also involved in the finalisation of the bill.

Issues like protection of consumers’ interests and single window system for approval of real estate projects are being taken care in the bill.

There is a suggestion from the real estate sector to rename the Bill as Real Estate (Regulation and Promotion) Bill.


Source:Economic Times

Huawei listed as key smart city vendor

January 5, 2015


Huawei — a global ICT solutions provider — has recently been listed as one the world’s leading smart city technology vendors as part of a global study by Navigant Research.
The report cites that Huawei’s smart city strategy and execution were key areas of strength that makes Huawei a strong Contender in the smart city market.
In a bid to highlight the key players in the market, Navigant Research developed an assessment that offers an evaluation of vendors that have the capacity to support cities across a range of operational and infrastructural issues.
The report also assessed vendors who were able to deliver on large-scale projects spanning multiple city requirements.
The Navigant Research report, published as of Q4 2014, outlined the position of 16 of the world’s most prominent smart city vendors and where they place in the market.
The report maintains the growing importance of benchmarking vendors as city service providers go in search of technology providers who can help them deliver on their smart city vision.
Eric Woods, research drector, Navigant Research said: “Huawei’s appearance on the Smart City Suppliers Leaderboard reflects both its core role delivering communications and IT infrastructures for smart city initiatives and the growing ambitions of suppliers in this market.”
The director said: “The research is a reflection of the competition in the market as vendors are becoming much more serious about developing Smarty City initiatives. Governments and city leaders are looking to deepen their vendor relationships to plan for larger scale programs and deployments. We look forward to seeing the maturity of Smart Cities develop, where they can leverage the integration of technology into a strategic approach to sustainability, citizen well-being, and economic development.”
The vendor eco-system for smart city developments continues to expand at an increasing rate, which has created a complex and dynamic market, especially in the Middle East.
The smart city technology market is characterized by a diverse range of vendors spanning across a variety of sectors, which makes a comparison of their strengths and capabilities a challenging exercise.
Huawei was identified as a strong Contender on the Navigant Research Smart City Leaderboard by meeting a series of criteria that showed its ability to: deliver smart infrastructure IT and communications solutions, support cities across multiple operational and vertical sector infrastructure issues and use its global network in order to work with cities in multiple regions.
According to Navigant Research estimates, the global smart city technology market is expected to be worth more than $27.5 billion annually by 2023, compared to $8.8 billion in 2014.
This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during that period of 13.5 percent.
Cumulative global investment in smart city technologies over the decade is expected to reach $174.4 billion.
The concept of the smart city covers a wide range of communities and governance models spanning from mega city regions to small towns and from historic urban centers to greenfield developments. Similarly, an incredible diversity of customers, suppliers, technologies, and requirements fall under the smart city banner.
Commenting on the announcement, Safder Nazir, regional vice president of Smart Cities & IoT at Huawei, Middle East, said: “It is encouraging to see that the industry is recognizing our Smart City capabilities a strong contender in this market. Following the announcement of Huawei’s Smart City ‘Center of Excellence’ in 2014, Huawei is in a position to provide the right expertise to transform regional smart city initiatives from concept to reality.”
A key player in supporting the development of the region’s smart city initiatives, Huawei believes that the future of smart cities lies in Mobile Broadband-based services.
The global ICT solutions provider recently launched a white paper in collaboration with IDC highlighting the enablement of smart cities with Mobile Broadband.
The white paper follows another recent IDC report unveiling figures that government spending in the Middle East and Africa is set to top $8.27 billion, an 11.4 percent increase as more regional governments expand their mobile government, online services and mobile broadband networks.
Huawei has been working on a range of Smart City initiatives across the globe including the deployment of an extensive range of Mobile Broadband technology such as 4G (LTE) for nearly 40 telecom operators in Asia, the Middle East, North America, Western Europe, Russia and Africa. Huawei’s value proposition for Smart Cities lies in its expertise in end-to-end network planning and the development of cutting-edge technologies.
These include mobile broadband infrastructure and communication technology to niche industry applications and data center innovations.
The company has participated in over 60 Smart City projects in more than 20 countries worldwide and cooperates with over 1,100 technology providers and 800 services and system integration firms.
Its recent acquisition of Neul in September 2014 reflects Huawei’s ambition to be at the leading edge of innovative communications solutions for cities.
Neul is a specialist IoT communications provider based in the United Kingdom that has been focusing on smart city applications.


Source: arab news

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