'Surveillance key to smart city but has no master plan'

India is investing Rs 1.9 lakh crore in 89 cities as part of smart city project but surveillance, a key factor of such a makeover, doesn’t have a master plan, said members of the government’s Electronic Validation Committee.

They spoke at a roundtable discussion on ‘Technology modernisation for safer and smarter cities’. Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Sanjay Sahay and Shankar T, a technical consultant from IISc, stressed the need for a conceptual framework for smart city and blueprints for the factors that make a city smart.

“Surveillance occupies central stage in a smart city as the world tussles with terrorism. Yet, we don’t know the scope and limits of surveillance. Even the limited opportunity we have is yet to be explored,” Sahay said.

Shankar said CCTV cameras, which make up the central grid of any surveillance network, will play a major role in the coming years. “We have CCTV camera network for traffic and security reasons. However, there is no technical expertise to decide the equipment required for a particular location,” he said.

Noting that most of the traffic CCTV cameras in Bengaluru were old, Shankar said even the new ones are not installed scientifically to get the maximum benefit. “A camera that has a coverage area of 20 feet is installed in such a way that it becomes useless,” he said.

Shankar said without expert master guide, different departments and different government import different equipment. “Governments and agencies follow each other and never spend their resources on research. So, the result is many CCTV cameras in Bengaluru are useless innight time. Camera lens are blinded by headlights,” he said.

Pratap Padode from Smart Cities Council India, a private company, said 45% of the electronic products imported by India were substandard.

Western Digital sales director Khwaja Saifuddin said effective surveillance can solve criminal cases swiftly. “Today, smart surveillance plays a pivotal role in managing surveillance for major public events. It is not enough you have a good camera, you need to have a camera that sends only what is important,” he said.

Former Vigilance Commissioner, Central Vigilance Commission, R Srikumar, who spoke as a special guest, said governments fail to see beyond economics of things. “Governments are focussed on immediate results. They don't worry about prevention of a problem. They worry about tackling it," he said.

Noting that mere information was not enough, Srikumar said data will be information when given a perspective. “A shared information gathers value and becomes intelligence. Converting that into actionable intelligence is the real smartness," he added.

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