Smart Cities and Analytics

Pradeep Pendse on the various layers of using data to make cities more responsive to their citizens’ needs

Pradeep pendse my take data and city 2 - shutterstock_37230730

Smart City and ‘analytics’ have both become buzz words of our times. A Smart City is essentially one that transforms itself into an inclusive, liveable, sustainable and self-evolving one by effectively leveraging technology and resources in a unique and contextually relevant manner to elevate the experience of its citizens. One of its important pillars is the ability of its elements to ‘sense’ and proactively-respond to the needs of all stakeholders, as compared to more conventional responses that are reactive and bureaucratic, at best. Consider the humble garbage bin on a city road. Once full, it can ‘signal’ the same to the local municipality, enabling it to quickly identify and empty such full bins, while working out an optimum route for the collection truck to take. Disasters, for example, like a train derailment that is stranding several thousand commuters or road accidents causing a traffic pile up, to incessant rains flooding the roads or an emergency health situation are all scenarios that need smart responses. Smart cities need to be designed keeping such scenarios in mind. Apart from automatically sensing such scenarios, a smart city can detect underlying patterns and activate proactive action by the appropriate agency, which, in turn, must be armed with the ability to analyse and simulate appropriate response. Herein lies the role of data analytics. At its most basic level, this requires accurate demographic information to optimally mobilise every resource available, for smart cities are also about good governance and the smart delivery of public services. Smartness needs to pervade the government-citizen interface and services on the one hand and internal efficiencies and effectiveness, on the other. Analytics would play a role in both these aspects. An analytics dashboard would enable senior officials and planners to monitor the performance of each public service with respect to committed turnaround times and optimise costs and resource consumption. Analytics would also help understand roadblocks to internal coordination and improve the overall efficiency and productivity of public departments while providing them with early warning signs. Effectively analysing the opinion and latent needs of citizens and aligning them with appropriate policies has been made easy with mobile-phone penetration where it is now possible to engage each and every citizen in one way or another. At an individual level, it can help with remote monitoring of, say, citizens’ health and raise alerts. Smart water or electricity meters can measure or forecast consumption and help conserve precious resources while providing early alerts to citizens themselves about possible over-consumption. These are only a few examples. The possibilities are endless.