Publication Name: Firstpost
Date: December 2015
Click here to view online
India is in a state of rapid urbanization. Being agriculture dominated country; India is experiencing steady progress in the areas of manufacturing, commercial industrialization coupled with booming growth of IT and technology. Currently, 31% of India’s population lives in urban areas or cities; these cities contribute to 63% of the nation’s economic activity. With the rapid development of the country, urban areas are expected to house 40% of India’s population and contribute 75% of India’s GDP by 2030. Such growth requires comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure aiming towards improvement of the quality of life. Implementing the concept of smart cities is nothing but government’s initiative towards building self-sustainable cities which aid in reducing the carbon footprint and efficiently utilizes energy resources for the daily sustenance.
Smart cities – A bright future for India tomorrow
The meaning of the term ‘smart city’ differs across each of the geographies, based on the levels of development, willingness to change according to the new reforms in the society, natural resources and aspiration levels of the residents. It is evident that consumer/citizen is the focus of all such efforts and the entire system has to be designed around his needs. One of the key components of the smart cities is to use data and intelligent tools to generate knowledge, information to better manage the services delivered to people who will drive the change towards a better quality of life and a sustainable future. DESIGN plays an important role in this ecosystem as designers are trained to think how people think, act, consume, conserve and live. Designers add value through their skills of understanding the consumer, mitigating risk by well crafted value proposition for services, help marketing and branding and create sustainable solutions.
The design element of smart cities helps the city to gain an edge over traditional cities. The Smart Cities Mission of the Government is a strong and new initiative, meant to set example, catalyzing replication of similar infrastructure in the surrounding vicinity.
In the approach to the Smart Cities Mission, the Government’s objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and offers a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. Government has set a target of covering 100 cities within the duration of next five years (2015 – 2020). The mission will continue post thorough evaluation conducted by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). It is projected that urban India will contribute nearly 75% of the national GDP in the next 15 years. Therefore cities are referred to as the “engines of economic growth” ensuring efficient functioning critical to the economic development. Constructing a smart city is a daunting task, connecting government, civic and private organizations to work in a collaborative way and enhance the basic functioning of a city is of utmost importance. India not being a country having pre-existing smart cities, might find it difficult to establish that very first smart city.
Untold challenges of designing smart cities
With the commencement of developing smart cities in India, various public as well private bodies have come across multiple challenges. Either building a smart city from the scratch or developing an existing city into a smart city; Authorities and design leaders from across the world are facing a tough situation for integrating technologies and services. Easy access to technology and tools for the citizens in the smart city needs to be provided and people equipped with basic civic and technical knowledge. This is still lacking in a country like India. The problems become more complex due to the inadequate technology infrastructure. All these would need heavy investments and become one of the critical challenges for the authorities. Branding, marketing and preparing right propositions plays a fairly large role in drawing attention of the investor community and designers can contribute here very effectively.
Another important shift which needs to be invoked relates to the change from CAPEX-driven city deployments to OPEX-driven approaches; the paradigm here would be a Smart City as a Service (SCaaS) . Security and managing threat measures are one of the most poignant issues while setting up a smart city. Mobile technology is expected to play a large role in the success of a smart city. As KPMG and IAMAI’s India on The Go Report 2015 states, the Indian government is committed to setting up a robust digital infrastructure and to promote adoption of Mobile Internet and related products and services. In 2014-15, the Government budgeted INR 500 crore for building infrastructure as per the National Rural Internet and Technology Mission with an additional INR 100 crore budgeted for improving e-governance.
Design – A key instigator for smart cities
Design is set to play a crucial role in resolving the challenges of establishing a smart city. Design is the primary interface between technology and people, thus attempting to deliver world class citizenship experience. Integration of various aspects of life will play a substantial role for the betterment of smart cities. Citing an example – suppose a city dweller has booked a movie ticket and while at the transaction gateway, he/she receives a notification of the probable public transport route for commuting to the movie theatre. The price reflects the entertainment as well as transport cost. Now, if one considers planning the situation, he/she will understand that there are quite a number of logistical issues that had to be taken care off prior to offering such an integrated ticketing system. Building awareness amongst the existing citizens of a proposed smart city is of utmost importance and building technical procedures that not only educates the lay man but also envisages better productivity of a smart city.
Smart cities being the future of India, is all set to revolutionize the Indian city landscape. Most of the daily activities are likely to get automated, thus reducing employment cost. IoT (Internet of Things) is all set to change the face of Indian cities by the deployment of smart homes, connected and self-driving cars and energy efficient power generation. With the advancements in smart cities, livelihood is expected to become completely hassle free with the dominant help of automation at every point of our lives. Keeping in mind about the growing population in India, the burning question will be that will smart cities succeed in India? Will smart cities be able to cater to the larger population of India, those who are not aware of the basic technology driven functions. Needless to say, smart cities might increase the cost of living of an individual; we would need to retrospect if the larger section of the population will be able to bear the cost of residing in a smart city. Alternatively, India would need to harness its technological expertise to develop cost efficient methods of making a city SMART enough.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Senior Manager – Experience Design, Tata Elxsi
Yogesh has over 15 years of experience in design. At Tata Elxsi, Yogesh leads the team in environment design, signage, way-finding & information design. His passion centers on designing smarter and better design solutions Urban Mobility & Railway Systems developing smarter and compelling design solutions through a deep understanding of user needs. He has been instrumental in driving few key metro projects in India including Kochi Metro, Mumbai Monorail, Bangalore Metro amongst others.