Friday, September 25, 2015

Creating Smart Cities - 2

The strategic components of Area-based development in the Smart Cities Mission are city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development) plus a Pan-city initiative in which Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city.

Let us get into the descriptions of the three models of Area-based Smart City Development: Retrofitting will introduce planning in an existing built-up area to achieve Smart City objectives, along with other objectives, to make the existing area more efficient and liveable. In retrofitting, an area consisting of more than 500 acres will be identified by the city in consultation with citizens. Depending on the existing level of infrastructure services in the identified area and the vision of the residents, the cities will prepare a strategy to become smart. Since existing structures are largely to remain intact in this model, it is expected that more intensive infrastructure service levels and a large number of smart applications will be packed into the retrofitted Smart City. This strategy may also be completed in a shorter time frame, leading to its replication in another part of the city.

Redevelopment will effect a replacement of the existing built-up environment and enable co-creation of a new layout with enhanced infrastructure using mixed land use and increased density. Redevelopment envisages an area of more than 50 acres, identified by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in consultation with citizens. For instance, a new layout plan of the identified area will be prepared with mixed land-use, higher FSI and high ground coverage. Two examples of the redevelopment model are the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Project in Mumbai (also called the Bhendi Bazaar Project) and the redevelopment of East Kidwai Nagar in New Delhi being undertaken by the National Building Construction Corporation.

Greenfield development will introduce most of the Smart Solutions in a previously vacant area (more than 250 acres) using innovative planning, plan financing and plan implementation tools (e.g. land pooling/ land reconstitution) with provision for affordable housing, especially for the poor. Greenfield developments are required around cities in order to address the needs of the expanding population. One well known example is the GIFT City in Gujarat. Unlike retrofitting and redevelopment, greenfield developments could be located either within the limits of the ULB or within the limits of the local Urban Development Authority (UDA).

Pan-city development envisages application of selected Smart Solutions to the existing city-wide infrastructure. Application of Smart Solutions will involve the use of technology, information and data to make infrastructure and services better. For example, applying Smart Solutions in the transport sector (intelligent traffic management system) and reducing average commute time or cost to citizens will have positive effects on productivity and quality of life of citizens. Another example can be waste water recycling and smart metering which can make a substantial contribution to better water management in the city.

The Smart City proposal of each shortlisted city is expected to encapsulate either a retrofitting or redevelopment or greenfield development model, or a mix thereof and a Pan-city feature with Smart Solution(s). It is important to note that pan-city is an additional feature to be provided. Since Smart City is taking a compact area approach, it is necessary that all the city residents feel there is something in it for them also. Therefore, the additional requirement of some (at least one) city- wide smart solution has been put in the scheme to make it inclusive.

Financing of Smart Cities 
The Smart City Mission will be operated as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) and the Central Government proposes to give financial support to the Mission to the extent of Rs. 48,000 crores over five years i.e. on an average Rs. 100 crore per city per year. An equal amount, on a matching basis, will have to be contributed by the State/ULB; therefore, nearly Rupees one lakh crore of Government/ULB funds will be available for Smart Cities development. The project cost of each Smart City proposal will vary depending upon the level of ambition, model and capacity to execute and repay. It is anticipated that substantial funds will be required to implement the Smart City proposal and towards this end, Government grants of both the Centre and State will be leveraged to attract funding from internal and external sources.

The success of this endeavour will depend upon the robustness of SPV’s revenue model and comfort provided to lenders and investors. A number of State Governments have successfully set up financial intermediaries (such as Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Orissa, Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar) which can be tapped for support and other States may consider some similar set up in their respective States. Some form of guarantee by the State or such a financial intermediary could also be considered as instrument of comfort referred to above. It is expected that a number of schemes in the Smart City will be taken up on PPP basis and the SPVs have to accomplish this.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Creating Smart Cities - 1

There's no reason why we can't dramatically improve the livability and creativity of cities. Businesses and communities worldwide are cooperating to find solutions that can be integrated flexibly, sustainably and aesthetically into urban structures to provide a better quality of life.

Most commuters are all-too familiar with traffic jams or delays in public transportation. Bikers and walkers are also affected by the stop-and-go of city traffic. Smart mobility has to be worked out for smart cities, which offers cities efficient, eco-friendly and comfortable transportation options. Cyclists and pedestrians in the smart cities of tomorrow might enjoy elevated paths that eliminate waiting at crosswalks. Urban railway stations can serve larger areas by installing fast-moving walkways that utilize overlapping panels to allow for a safe, slow start and finish, yet quicker speeds in transit. Longer distances can be traversed on raised roadways for driverless vehicles.

Improvements such as these also enrich the lives of people who don’t have cars of their own. Persons with disabilities particularly benefit from better connections that help them travel and reach new places in the cities they live in. With public transport reaching new levels of efficiency, many of today’s car drivers might decide to give up their vehicles altogether. Indeed, future public systems may work so well that cities could opt for car-free city centers.

The reduction in energy consumption and emissions that comes as a bonus protects the environment and makes the city an even better place to live. Smart cities pave the way to efficient, eco-friendly living. Traffic jams, pollution, derelict areas, these are problems that many cities face. And rising urban populations mean these problems may soon get a great deal worse.

The move toward smarter cities is one way to help urban areas grow and become better places to live at the same time. Imagine a city you know. How easy is it to drive there and find a parking space? Is the shopping district crowded; is it even safe to ride a bike? Now imagine that same city with even more cars, bikes and, of course, people. Lots more people. According to the United Nations, the world’s urban population will increase from around 3.92 billion in 2015 to 6.25 billion in 2050. That’s an increase of nearly 60 percent.

One way to accommodate this trend could be so-called “smart cities”. Cities that can source and interconnect the best solutions for mobility, sustainable energy, space utilization and, most importantly, offer a great place to live and work, despite rising population densities. Smart cities are green cities. Not only should cities function better at every level, they should achieve smart, sustainable economic growth while minimizing their impact on the environment.

At its most basic level, a city is a collection of networks: networks of people, technologies and infrastructure. When these networks work together well, they enable reduced energy consumption, optimal use of space and improved quality of life. Hoping and looking forward for Delhi as a smart city in near future. Possible only if action starts today!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Future is Smart

Smart cities make the most efficient use of the space and resources they have to provide an attractive and clean place to live. Everything and everyone works together harmoniously contributing ideas and finding solutions. If cities want to get smarter, they need to involve everybody. Citizen participation is the key. The users of public infrastructure are often the best source of ideas to inspire intelligent solutions. Social media is one way that businesses and city administrators can collaborate with the public. Users can post suggestions for improvement on company Facebook pages and interact with politicians on Twitter. Businesses can also contribute to better life in the modern metropolis. They can install the charging stations for e-vehicles, improve energy efficiency, offer cleaner energies and make getting around easier for everyone. Public-private partnerships are definitely a smart way to employ the competitive ingenuity of the private sector in order to improve public services.

The quality of urban life also depends upon having the right advocates for the environment. Ideas may flow in from so-called “think tanks”, cross-disciplinary teams in non-profit organizations or academic research centers, from anywhere. The MIT Media Lab, for example, has come up with an electric, stackable city vehicle for car sharing in urban settings. Sustainability degree programs and multi-field research teams can now also be found in universities around the world. Further support can come from standards and voluntary certification programs, which bolster the image and visibility of sustainable design. Furthermore, the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certificate is a green building certification program that recognizes buildings for efficient energy consumption, water usage, recycling practices and air quality. International and regional certifications recognize businesses for going beyond the legal requirements. In return, companies can improve their image by showcasing their high standards of sustainability.

Ultimately all of this stuff can come together, a new model for mobility, a new model for housing, a new model for how we live and work, a path to market for advanced technologies, but in the end the main thing we need to focus on are people. Cities are all about people. They're places for people. There's no reason why we can't dramatically improve the livability and creativity of cities.

There are many initiatives that lead to smarter cities. They can involve construction, building management, urban planning, revitalization, mass transportation and city administration, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Renewable energies from wind, solar and thermal sources play a major role, because, among other things, public health depends on a healthy environment. Renewable energies support reduced fuel consumption and cleaner air, but cities will also have to learn to use energy more efficiently to really go green.

Buildings, for example, are responsible for 40% of the world’s energy consumption, making them an obvious target for cities that aim to reduce their carbon footprint. Buildings are ripe for the age of smart cities, with an expanding web of development across myriad fields: green roofing, combined heat and power, solar tech and much more. Even more exotic and innovative ideas like power-generating elevators are gaining ground, as well. Smart technology can also improve city living at the personal level. E-governance programs offer a direct link between citizens and public administrators. Smartphone apps may address public health, help people improve their energy efficiency or even just find the nearest parking space or ride sharing opportunities.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mantras of the Smart City- 2

Smart cities are the cities that use information and communications technologies to improve livability —analyze them to uncover otherwise hidden clues that allow them to judge the effectiveness of programs, set budget priorities and deploy emergency relief the moment disaster strikes.

The real game is understanding, how technology can help make cities smarter:

Sharing the vision: how politicians make effective decisions based on a shared and consistent vision of the city, notably through public consultation and other means to involve all stakeholders.

Effective governance: the successful implementation of an Integrated Mobility Plan at metropolitan level is required.

Long-term political commitment: long-term political commitment is the key to realize the vision of an integrated mobility plan and turn words into action.

Strong links with land-use planning and economic development: putting integrated land-use and economic development at the heart of transport projects.

Long-term funding commitment: consistent and long-term funding strategy needs to be in place. 

Hardly a week passes without a mayor somewhere in the world unveiling the next ‘smart-city’. As they go about their business, cities produce a vast amount of data and smartness comes when you put that data to work. So far, this has rarely translated into game changing success: except in the area of public transport, apps using open data have made the jump from interesting novelty to reliable consumer service. Much can be learnt from the sector and panelists from the public transport sector, industry leaders and other smart cities.

Any smart city has to work on building a permanent infrastructure to collect Big Data. Installing hundreds of environmental sensors that will measure temperature, humidity, light, sound and cellphone signals. All this data shall enable the city to become a safer and cleaner city. The sensors can be placed on top of lampposts or other suitable locations.

Smart cities are nothing but they are true data generators, where all sensors placed within a city gathers vast amounts of data. And once the data is collected, it should be available as an open source to the public, so that anyone can access the data and make use of it. This would result in great new applications that citizens will come up with, that will have a positive affect on the city, helping it become truly a smart city.

Environmental sensors, just one of such concept for smart city, there are a lot of other possibilities when turning to sensors and data. For example:

Traffic management
Smart traffic management enabling car drivers to face less traffic jams, as data will tell which areas are busy. Traffic lights can automatically adjust to reduce congestion. Smart parking sensors automatically alerting drivers for free parking spaces and street lights only be turned on if someone is approaching, saving a lot of energy.
Maintenance management
Thanks to sensors, cities could turn to preventative maintenance management, saving the community a lot of money in unnecessary maintenance. Apart from citizens that can report damages on urban elements via smartphones, it becomes a lot more interesting if a traffic light informs the community that a repair is imminent.
Smart grids
Smart cities that contain smart energy grids will be a lot more efficient with their energy. A smart grid will be able to manage all the electric vehicles that require energy. It will be able to sense the amount of citizens present in time and location and adjust lighting accordingly. Smart grids will help community buildings also save a lot of energy and become more efficient.

Of course, these three examples are just the beginning. Cities will take another decade or two before they become true smart cities, where everything is connected.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mantras of the Smart City- 1

Cities are complex real time systems that generate huge amounts of data. The intelligent use of this data, supported by information and communication technologies, can make it easier to tackle present and future challenges. Smart cities take full advantage of the potential of these technological advances to save costs, by being more efficient, provide new economic and social services, reduce their environmental footprint, stimulate local innovation and progress towards new forms of governance.

Smart Cities are based on the technological solutions from sensors to balanced scorecards that improve cities’ efficiency and sustainability. These days, every city wants to be Smart, but it is not that simple. Many cities invest in technology to become a Smart City without first considering their needs and what they wish to achieve with all this. Cities sometimes define a platform, or several platforms, only to discover that they have isolated, independent systems, from which they cannot gather and integrate data in order to be able to obtain valuable information. A Smart City is capable of capturing the useful data generated in it, transporting them through communication networks, centralizing them in a balanced scorecard and being able to provide an appropriate response in real time, enabling proper operation of infrastructure and services. Additionally, it can anticipate possible incidents and offer appropriate urban solutions.

The design of a Smart City is necessarily a shared work at three levels. Public authority leadership, from the party responsible for city design and management, is as necessary as the collaboration of private companies as service providers. And of course, the active involvement of citizens as end users is just as important. All over the world, industrialisation and knowledge-dominated service economies are reinforcing the role of urban centres.

Many cities have grown exponentially over the last few decades, but the smaller ones, in industrialised countries, are also expanding. This growth comes with an environmental and social cost for both the cities and the people who live in them. Mobility in the early 21st century is changing and also is shrinking cities, smart technology and new behaviours are changing the way they move.

Cities may be at different stages of maturity around the world, but they all have to bring their development onto a sustainable path. Integrated Mobility Plans (IMPs) are key tools that can be used to address this challenge. An IMP provides a vision for successful urban mobility, and ensures that people and places can connect, both now and in the future. Therefore, numerous cities world-wide are thinking of, or have already written IMPs.

They are also looking at how technology, especially ICT can help reach a more efficient level of organisation, and lead the way in becoming a smart city. A wider city plan designating public transport as the backbone of the sustainable urban mobility system must be complemented and supported by efforts in other local policy areas, such as land-use planning, mobility management, combined mobility, freight. Other key sectors, such as environment, energy, social services and health care are also an important part of the development.

Drawing up the plan will bring stakeholders from all sectors together around the same table, thus helping to understand challenges from different angles. This also means consulting citizens and stakeholders during the development phase of the plan. But the main challenge lies in how these plans can be effectively implemented.

However there appear to have been three main mantras for smart cities, number one- embraced technology and development, moving tech company driven, to city government driver, to, finally, citizen driven. Shall discuss more in next post.......

Monday, September 7, 2015

Becoming a Smart City

Most of the recent articles about smart cities have originated recently, where the Prime Minister has vowed to create 100 smart cities. Unlike projects aimed at creating smart cities from the ground up, India’s efforts are focusing on turning existing cities into smart cities. It’s an ambitious plan and big companies like IBM and Cisco are scrambling to be part of it.

The transformation from a ‘normal’ city to a ‘smart city’ is more evolution than revolution. That is both good and bad news for the smart cities movement. It’s good news because evolutionary transformations are generally more affordable than revolutionary ones. It’s bad news because revolutions inspire a lot more emotion and commitment than evolutionary changes. Given that smart cities aim to improve the lives of all their residents, it may be somewhat surprising to find that the people who know the least about them are the ones who stand to gain the most.

When considering the future of cities, there are lots of areas in need of optimisation: Climate-neutrality, Multi-Modality, Sustainability etc. The term ‘smart city’ encompasses all these aspects and has become synonymous for many people with the dynamically interconnected city of tomorrow. This vision can now become reality in the not too distant future! Already, large companies such as Cisco and IBM are working with universities and civic planning authorities to develop data-driven systems for transport, waste management, law enforcement, and energy use to make them more efficient and improve the lives of citizens. We will interact and get information from these smart systems using our smart phones, watches and other wearables, and crucially, the machines will also speak to each other. Garbage trucks will be alerted to the location of refuse that needs collecting, and sensors in our cars will direct us towards available parking spaces.

No single urban plan is right for every city. Just as every city is unique, its path to becoming a smart city is unique. Every city has to determine how it envisions its future as a smart city and chart out the journey towards it. That’s why all stakeholders need to be involved in the planning and implementation of that vision. The ultimate goal is to make technologies that improve our lives such an intimate part of our daily activities that we can’t imagine how we ever lived without them. The transformation from a normal to a smart city is likely to be evolutionary not revolutionary. The transformation may be so slow that people don’t really feel the change in their daily lives until all of the pieces are in place. Even then, residents are unlikely to wake one morning with the startling realization that city they live in is smart. They’ll probably appreciate how much easier life is in a connected and optimized city; but, for them, it won’t be a brave, new world but a new normalized environment.

A successful smart city strategy requires a strong vision, effective governance, long-term political commitment, new funding arrangements and most importantly ‘connectivity’ and ‘collaboration’ within the transport sector and with other city services. Public transport plays the central role in smart cities. The Smart Cities Mission is the vision of our Prime Minister to change the face of urban India. A change that not only brings prestige to the nation, but also induces national growth and prosperity. The Smart Cities Mission complemented by AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) and PMAY(Pradhan Mantri Was Yojana) has the potential to make the Indian experience a global model of good practice and further augment prestige and national pride. To fulfill Modi’s vision, two main processes go hand in hand. Action at the national level, which including leading and coordinating activities of the Smart Cities Mission, AMRUT and PMAY, and creating an enabling environment for implementation.

It is widely expected that the process at the national level will move ahead under the leadership of the PM and his team, including the Ministries of Finance and Urban Development. Also crucial is providing leadership in collaboration with State Governments to build capacity at the local level. Action at the local level is, however, the single most important factor responsible for fulfilment of Modi’s vision. Although there exists considerable amount of good intention at the local level, implementation requires more than just good intention. It needs effective local leadership, managerial and technical capacity and skills to push the process through. Thus for municipalities to play their role effectively in implementation, their capacity must be built professionally, systematically and quickly in order to keep pace with the speed the PM wishes the implementation to proceed. Although local urban bodies need national and State leadership and assistance to build local capacity, equally important is local commitment and initiatives to build their own capacity significantly. Thus, if there is an expectation that the selected municipalities will implement the projects at the speed the PM wants, then building municipal capacity needs to begin now. Building local capacity is much more than training, it entails development of local elected representatives, officials of urban local bodies and stakeholders at the state level; the organisation of municipalities and; the environment within which municipalities operate.

The Government decision to appoint CEOs for Smart Cities, who will drive the concept and execute the programme rather than leave these tasks to municipal bodies alone, is an attempt to import capacity at the level of the organisation of municipalities. Appointment of CEOs is a good decision, however, it can’t completely fill the capacity gap. CEOs need the cooperation of many more stakeholders within and without municipalities for successful implementation. Capacity building should not stop with appointment of CEOs. Further, CEOs will be appointed only for 100 Smart Cities. The Smart Cities Mission presents a golden opportunity to improve the beauty of our cities and promote national prosperity. Never before has there been such volume of commitment at the highest level of Government to change the face of urban India. We are also anxious because we do not yet see an adequate level of capacity in urban local bodies to implement the vision, or an adequate level of commitment at the national level for building the capacity of local Governments. No doubt there is awareness and good intention, but a clear strategy and action plan are missing. A few sporadic programmes of training would be of little consequence.

India is not a small country, it is a continent. Thus the volume of capacity building must match its size. Urban India has been provided with a golden opportunity not only with the support of the most powerful man in the nation — PM Modi — but also with his strong commitment to the mission. Whether India will make use of this opportunity adequately or not is to be seen in the years to come. It will mainly depend on how seriously we take the capacity of urban local bodies in the context of the mission.