Imagine a city where there’s no pollution, no traffic congestion, resources are used efficiently, public places are free of litter, and the streets are oblivious to the slightest hint of crime – in other words, a utopian world for anyone to live in. But as much of a utopia as it sounds, we are stepping precisely into such a future as India gears up to unveil similar cities with the country’s ambitious Smart City Mission.
A critical figure that is going to help the concept become a reality and bind the tether of smart cities together is an invisible ‘eye’ driven by technology. We are talking of surveillance technologies and their role in addressing many persistent challenges associated with making the Smart Cities’ dream come true.
An ‘eye’ that paves the way for future
One of the most perceptible differences that Smart Cities offer is in terms of urban mobility. Urban mobility is the movement of traffic through collective, individual, and freight transportation across a metropolitan region. But how is that an issue? Mismanagement of traffic leads to congestion, which directly results in loss of man hours and fossil fuel through fuel idling. It, moreover, results in greater discharge of exhaust gases and carbon emission, which, as a result, degrades the air quality and thereby the quality of life. Such traffic congestion also contributes to the breach of Service Level Agreements of businesses – adding to long list of tangible losses. But smart management of resources, envisioned by smart cities, can turn things around.
As about hundred cities gear up to become smart in the coming decade, smart solutions can help them become more efficient. Traffic movement in a region is by and large the same, mainly comprising school and college buses, public transportation systems, municipal vehicles, officegoers, incoming and outgoing commercial vehicles, et cetera, and can be easily managed using the given resources. For instance, the local authority can mandate specific school and college timings so that their vehicular movement does not coincide with regular traffic at respective time slots. Similarly, municipal vehicles for different localities can be allocated suitable timings. Say if a region is more likely to be affected by traffic during a certain period in a day, such tasks can either be delayed or conducted in-advanced to ease the congestion. Moreover, studying the vehicular movement, freight vehicles can be dynamically managed by the traffic personnel so that they do not affect the intra-city traffic. But the biggest issue lies in the enforcement, and this is where technology makes a considerable difference.
ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) systems can automate the process of traffic management and book vehicles involved in traffic violations along with a video proof. They can further be used to identify the vehicles breaching the mandated guidelines. The 360-degree technology with zero blind spots ensures that no vehicle is missed and there are no lapses on the part of the traffic police. Cameras posted at intersections also encourage safe driving habits and discourage violations, thus decreasing vehicular accidents and increasing road safety. As their direct result, such systems also increase the collection of fines which can be used in development projects.
But surveillance systems well and truly go beyond the use case of urban mobility, and can bring visible differences in the overall standard of living. With innovative technology, larger areas can be covered using a single camera, and help measure the cleanliness at public places such as train stations, markets, and popular attractions in a city. It can be used to improve the aesthetics of a city and help in reducing health-related issues including epidemics.
Surveillance technologies have an impact on all aspects of city dwelling. Security can also be enhanced considerably using smart surveillance. For instance, new systems can be built using advanced technology to effectively identify certain anomalies, such as violence, and can redirect the video feed in real-time to the control center for further analysis. It can further be used to send the security personnel towards the incident in a timely fashion, thereby containing the situation. Facial recognition, drawing considerable power from the Aadhaar database, can identify the culprits and bring them to book instantly. This can also have security enhancement on a macroscopic scale as these technologies can as well be used to identify absconding criminals – ensuring a safe and secure atmosphere for the city inhabitants.
Surveillance solutions also make city planning quite dynamic. Changing traffic and infrastructural patterns can be studied with regard to each other and lead to pre-planned development so that emerging city challenges can be dealt with well in advance. It can also be used to analyze the imminent requirements in terms of support staff and departmental deployments, leading to strategic skill development and timely recruitments.
Technology, surely, has been changing the face of life as it is increasing its trail in the modern lifestyle. And as it is going to be ingrained in the core of up-and-coming smart cities where we are going to dwell, thankfully, the state of affairs is going to be a lot different and much more evolved than it is today.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house