As part of the Smart Cities Mission (SCM), innovative solutions have been deployed to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people. The key segments of the mission where technology interventions have been undertaken include smart mobility, smart energy, smart governance and communication.
Smart mobility involves creating connected transport systems that offer both flexibility and efficiency. From the development of physical infrastructure (such as roads, flyovers, metro/ bus corridors) to deployment of internet communication technology solutions for management and monitoring purposes, the segment plays a critical role in the realisation of the overall mission.
In a major policy change, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) has decided to launch one-day and three-day passes on Udagi. BMRCL will reportedly also refund unclaimed amounts on online smart cards. The passes will allow commuters unlimited travel in the metro for three days from the date of purchase. These passes will be available in the form of a returnable smart card, and can be bought by passengers at the station ticket counters. If commuters are unable to update the balance amount on their smart cards within 15 days, they can also get refunds on the recharge. The recharges done online through the website or the mobile apps can be updated by tapping at the automatic fare collection gates after one hour, and within seven days from the time of recharge.
In December 2021, the Minister of Tourism and Environment, Maharashtra, launched a mobile application, Chalo, as well as Chalo smart cards that facilitate digital and advance purchase of BEST bus tickets. The app allows commuters to purchase bus tickets and passes through e-wallets.
Under the smart city project in Agra, five eco-friendly electric buses were flagged off in January 2022. These electric buses have a travelling capacity of 120 km after full charging. A total of 100 such buses will be operated in the city over the next few months. The Government of Uttar Pradesh has taken a decision to replace old diesel and compressed natural gas buses with modern electric buses. Under the plan, 580 electric buses will be operated on a contractual basis in nine major cities of the state.
Future mobility will depend more on smart roads, drones, artificial intelligence, sensors and data, as well as elevated cycle paths and improved walk paths.
Smart energy is another major segment under the SCM. From the development of energy infrastructure, particularly the distribution network, to the deployment of solar panels on rooftops of buildings and schools, cities are taking initiatives under this segment to ensure reliable and sustainable supply of power to residents.
Energy consumption by buildings accounts for about 40 per cent of the city’s energy consumption. Energy conservation systems in a building can save 30-40 per cent of conventional energy. According to industry reports, India has achieved 7.17 billion square feet of green building footprint as of August 2020. The Indian Green Building Council has set the target of 10 billion square feet of green buildings by 2022 after consideration with the government and partners.
A number of buildings and schools have been mandated under the mission to deploy rooftop solar. These systems do not require land pooling or separate transmission facilities and have a short gestation period. Some notable solar projects are installation of solar panels at Cochin Smart Mission Limited, solar rooftop panels at Pimpri Chinchwad Smart City and a floating solar project in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
A smart grid is an electricity grid with communication, automation and IT systems that enable real-time monitoring and provide control of power flows. It provides information from points of generation to points of consumption. Smart grid projects have been completed in states/UTs such as Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
Smart governance and communication
Under smart governance and communication, one of the key focus areas is setting up of integrated command and control centres (ICCCs). These centres are envisaged as an integral part of a smart city. They will act as the mind and backbone of the city across different segments – surveillance system, traffic management, waste management, utilities management, public information system, environmental sensors, public address systems, etc. An ICCC collects information for collaborative monitoring and helps analyse the data for quicker decision-making. An ICCC interface provides a real-time and unified view of operations.
In March 2022, the ICCC in Chandigarh was inaugurated. It has been integrated with key citizen services such as water, electricity and sewage. Around 2,000 CCTV cameras have been installed in the city.
Bengaluru Smart City Limited will establish an ICCC at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike headquarters to bring 14 different departments serving Bengaluru city on a single platform. The ICCC will also be used as a system to raise public grievances. The command centre will be monitored 24×7, offering many other services such as analytics and business intelligence integrated emergency or disaster response coordination, integrated grievance management, integrated mobility management, public project information management and geographic information system (GIS). The ICCC command centre will be manned by 24 operators and supported by a call centre with a 25-member capacity. The team will be assisted by a project manager, a command and control system expert, data specialists, a GIS expert, a network and security expert, among others.
An ICCC is being established in Jammu city under the SCM to create an information technology-based monitoring system by bringing various smart services and solutions under one umbrella. Jammu Smart City Limited recently signed a contract agreement with Bharat Electronics Limited for setting up an ICCC for Jammu city at a cost of Rs 530 million. The ICCC will serve as the nerve centre for various citizen-centric services and will facilitate efficient monitoring and delivery of such services.
One of the key issues faced is the lack of awareness, knowledge and skilled manpower for new technologies at the centres. As the cities are being developed on a smart city model, it has become imperative for governments to incorporate e-governance to increase public participation and thereby improve public welfare.
Traditionally, the offline approach for grievance redressal used to be the norm. The aggrieved person was required to visit the concerned department to register a complaint. This is a time-consuming process, which leads to delays in complaint registration and resolution as well as under-reporting of complaints. In order to tackle these issues, the cities are setting up exclusive cells for grievance redressal and are increasingly adopting electronic portals, mobile apps, social media, etc. for registering complaints.
In a recent development, the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) began a two-week Suvidha Camp at the Jai Singh Road convention centre on April 10, 2022 to provide information, facilitation and grievance redressal to its residents, services users and employees. According to officials, the NDMC received around 114 grievances related to personnel, civil engineering, horticulture, public health, enforcement, commercial, tax and estate.
Water and waste management initiatives are a key segment of the SCM. The focus is on adequate water supply, recycling and reuse of wastewater, rain water harvesting, solid waste management, etc. Smart cities are also incorporating technologies such as smart meters, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), smart bins and vehicle tracking systems into their day-to-day operations. The Ahmedabad Smart City has installed a SCADA system for real-time monitoring of its water treatment and distribution system. Bhopal has also undertaken the initiative to install a technology-enabled SCADA system as part of the comprehensive Bhopal city water utility SCADA management project.
The way ahead
Going forward, the SCM provides city-level opportunities in segments such as mobility, water and sanitation, mobility, energy, education and healthcare. Regional players can participate by setting up the basic physical infrastructure.