It is time to plan and invest on intelligent and smart cities

India has reached that point in its development cycle when it has access to technology, the resources, the opportunity, and the need to leapfrog to the next level.

Globally, the concept of intelligent cities has garnered the attention of solution providers, citizens and leaders; and many projects and initiatives are in different stages of development and implementation.
 
According to a UN report, by the year 2030 there will be more people living in urban than in rural areas.

But as more and more rural migrants flock to cities in search of jobs and the promise of a better quality of life, the urban dream will turn into a nightmare as more people fight for the same resources. 
 
City planners must be farsighted and think beyond policy-based decisions and brick and mortar blueprints - the time has come to plan and invest on intelligent cities.

Intelligent cities refer to multi-layer territorial systems of innovation that bring together knowledge intensive activities, institutions for cooperation in learning and innovation, and digital spaces for communication and interaction.

The objective of the intelligent city is to provide a high quality of life for the citizens, high economic value, well networked systems, reduction of fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

At the core of an intelligent city is a comprehensive communications and connectivity infrastructure to integrate all elements, which includes -- people, buildings, transportation, utility services, public services, energy management, safety and security.

In a city, no system operates in isolation; transport systems, buildings, and water and energy efficiency are all inter-related. In an intelligent city, these systems are interconnected and instrumented, effectively monitoring usage and wastage.

Connecting all these is the system of systems, Internet of Things (IoT). The industrial IoT architecture builds upon current and emerging technologies such as mobile and intelligent devices, wired and wireless networks, cloud computing, Big Data, analytics and visualisation tools. 
 
Different countries go through different patterns and rates of urban transition. It would be right to say that developed nations are more urbanised - in the US today, 82 per cent of its population of 317.6 million is urban based (as compared to 75 per cent in 1990); whereas, this trend gained momentum in emerging economies only in the last decade.

In China, the urban population was 712 million in 2012, which is 52.6 per cent of the total population, rising from 26 per cent in 1990; in India the urban-rural divide is approximately 30:70, but this ratio is rapidly changing.
 
There has been a steady migration to the city as communication networks (TV, internet, smart phones etc.) improved and the advantages of city living were realised.

India, when compared to China is called the ‘reluctant urbaniser.’ In 2001, 28 per cent of the population lived in cities; a decade later the figure hovered around 30 per cent.
 
But soon this number is expected to escalate.
 
Escalating figures
 
Research indicates that within the next two decades:
 
590 million people in India will live in cities; net increase in working age population will be 270 million and 68 cities in India will have a population of 1 million plus, up from 42 cities now. $1.2 trillion capital investment will be needed to meet projected demand in India’s cities.
 
Although India’s cities are economic growth engines and adequate attention and budget allocation have been given in the 12th Five Year Plan, the gap between policy and ground reality is huge.

The government has introduced various measures to reduce urban concentration, including:
 
Satellite towns (away from the main city, but close enough to avail of its facilities - like Yelahanka and Kengeri to Bangalore)
 
Industrial townships (located close to public sector undertakings, steel plants etc., like Bhilai and Vizag)
 
Private cities, like those of DLF in Delhi and Hiranandani in Mumbai, which are managed by the promoters/developers.
 
India is thinking ahead

Urban planners have begun to plan moves intelligently to reduce urban congestion, pollution and haphazard traffic systems, and attain sustainability.
 
Industrial corridors linking multiple States have moved beyond the drawing boards. The Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor is a mega project.

With Japanese collaboration, this project, now under way, will upgrade nine industrial zones, a high-speed freight line, three ports and six airports.

The project will cover six States - Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; this route will have 24 green cities.

The Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor, a project of similar scale, is also taking shape. Amitabh Kant, CEO and Managing Director of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project, says that digital technologies can enable us to create intelligent and smart cities integrating public utilities across services.

Cities must be compact, dense and vertical and evolve along mass transit 
corridors with efficient water and waste recycling systems. 
 
India's urbanisation presents a host of opportunities to catalyse investment, job creation and economic growth. What is needed now are sustainable solutions and learning from best practices successfully deployed in other countries.

The best example of water resource management is Singapore, where rainwater is stored in reservoirs and drainage water recycled.

Bogota, Columbia built 400 km of bicycle paths, which are used by over 350,000 cyclists.

The environment-friendly bus system in Curitiba, Brazil is a good model for urban transport -- it has reduced traffic snarls and fuel consumption.

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