Smart society needed for smart cities

Article from The Hindu Business Line

We all know that change is constant, and businesses must innovate to keep pace with global and local trends. Today, as the world is getting more interconnected, the pace and breadth of change is on a different scale. Disruptions are more common, pressures are bigger and so are business opportunities. In fact, the Internet of Things is driving the biggest market opportunity in history, what many are calling “the next Industrial Revolution”.

But what do these technology developments mean in a smart cities context? Our country is facing large-scale urbanisation, and large numbers of people are migrating to cities every day.

This puts a lot of pressure on the infrastructure. The need of the hour is to provide solutions for issues pertaining to rapid urbanisation. It has become imperative to deep-dive into public safety, healthcare, urban transportation, water and energy management to come up with technologies that are relevant in an Indian context.

Developing solutions

In India, over the next 20 years, 350 million people are expected to move to cities; by 2050 this number would approximately touch 700 million. These and other significant demographic shifts will mean opportunities for smart city planning, sustainable energy, improved transportation solutions, water and waste management.

To make the Smart Cities vision a reality, it is critical to develop the technology infrastructure backbone that addresses the challenges within city communities and across vertical industries.

The combination of technology with civic infrastructure and services can simplify the lives of citizens and empower the citizens and local governments.

To address this, we need to define innovation in a larger perspective, putting social values as well as economic benefits at the centre of a truly smart city. India needs transformation across infrastructure, urban transport, smart cities, water and healthcare; this must be driven by innovative technology solutions. For this, social innovation solutions should focus on verticals like automotive, power, railway systems, water management, traffic management, consumer durables and healthcare amongst others.

In India, for India

In India, the government’s ‘100 Smart Cities’ initiative is expected to not only the change the urban landscape of the entire country but also boost the nation’s economy. While both the Smart Cities and Digital India projects will create new economic and social opportunities, they will also throw up challenges related to technology adoption and implementation.

Information technology will play a major role in driving social innovation and developing smart cities in India. In order to guarantee service continuity and integrity, the ICT systems that oversee and control a ‘smart city’ need to be designed, from inception, with cyber security, robustness, reliability, privacy, information integrity, and crucially, resilience, in mind. This drives the need to create an ecosystem of ICT vendors, energy suppliers, building companies, health providers and education bodies; all engaged in providing state-of-the-art solutions in every field.

As cities around the world are becoming smarter and more connected, the ability to integrate and analyse the massive amounts of data that is generated, will determine how businesses, governments and other agencies anticipate, mitigate, and participate in delivering positive outcomes for society.

Organisations across industries should aim to build a healthier, safer, and smarter society through integrated technology and business solutions that address both larger societal trends and focused business needs.

Social innovation is the vision for the future, and it is how we will thrive for generations to come.

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