Any region or geographical location using electronic/digital technology and infrastructure to gather data and use this data to track city operations, while sharing real-time information, is defined as a Smart City. Such cities boast of an elevated focus on efficiency, better communication, reduction in crime, sustainability, and a better quality of security systems. 
The industry is booming – according to forecasts, it would reach a market value of USD 820.7 billion and 14.8% CAGR by 2025!

Indian Smart Cities: Catalyzing Sustainable Development

It is estimated that by 2050 at least two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas. The rise in urbanization also brings challenges in its wake – as the city population increases, it will become imperative to not only meet their demands and needs but also ensure the protection of the environment in doing so. It is known that cities are the major polluters – responsible for about three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change today is one of the most prominent issues we face, and it is exigent that these emissions are drastically reduced if the planet is to be protected from increased and longer heat waves, global warming, and natural calamities. Since cities are the cause of the problems, it is them that must provide the solutions too – aka ‘Smart’ Cities!
Adapting to the Changes
With more people moving towards cities, the need for more information, institutions, etc, places an additional ‘burden’ on the cities. As social and economic structures undergo change, urban politics too needs to act quickly and have agile strategies to match these new ‘circumstances’. The strategies must have a sharp focus on structural, spatial, and socio-economic aspects, ensuring a balance between competition and collaboration. 
Smart Cities actively support innovation and entrepreneurship, productivity and collaboration, flexibility and agility, education and qualifications, and research and development. For an economy to be ‘smart’ it must acquire knowledge and ensure its proper dissemination, while maintaining domestic and international networks. Organizations that offer and support energy, IT, and environmental services are the front-runners and beacons for smart economies/cities. 
It is imperative for cities to reduce energy and raw material usage and judiciously manage limited resources. Additionally, supply and disposal management must be equally structured and process-driven for a city to be ‘smart’. The focus must remain on technological developments and building sustainable networks that support infrastructure, energy, mobility, and ‘green’ buildings. 
Salient Features of Smart Cities
Salient Features of Smart Cities

1. Government Services Accessible Digitally
Government services for the public must be completely and easily accessible online in a smart city. This ensures transparency for the citizens and also encourages their participation in the development and sustainability of these services. Accessibility online ensures that citizens provide feedback and show their support or dissatisfaction with services. 
2. Steady Technological Developments
A digital infrastructure that is easy to access and use, is now essential for development, connectivity, access to health services and utilities, and a lot more. Such development is an indispensable part of smart cities. 
3. Better Connectivity via Transportation Systems
With the increasing traffic, the resultant safety issues, and an increase in travel time, smart cities would need to ensure robust transportation systems. These would include safe and ample parking, proper traffic management, and the use of technology to reduce traffic-related issues and incidents. 
4. Additional and Elevated Safety in Public Spaces
Video surveillance and motion detectors are key features of smart cities – these features help to keep crime rates down, reduce natural disaster risk, protect citizens in public spaces, and raise the overall standard of living for the citizens. Such solutions also serve as preventive and proactive measures for security. 

5. Development on a Sustained Basis
About 80% of the annual energy requirement is from cities, which is why cities need to make a concerted effort to reduce energy consumption. Smart city technology can help with tracking wastage and pilferage, usage, and requirement – which would help to manage energy consumption better. Further, technology is also essential to protect wildlife, measure and manage pollution index, manage water and fuel consumption, and a lot more. These endeavors constitute sustainable development and must be part of smart cities. 
The Indian Scenario: How Is The Government Ensuring Progress? 

The Smart Cities Mission is led by the Indian Government with the aim to raise the quality of life in cities, using information and digital technology and adopting the best global practices, with collaboration between the public and private sectors/players. 

The Smart City Mission was launched in 2015 on June 25 by PM Narendra Modi, with the responsibility to implement the mission resting with the Union Ministry of Urban Development. Additionally, each state has created a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that manages the mission at a state level. A total of Rs. 720,000 crores has been sanctioned for this mission, covering 100 cities across the country that are earmarked to be upgraded as per the guidelines of the plan. 

Here’s what this ambitious project aims to achieve.

  • Keeping environmental safeguards in place, the states would have the leeway to use the land for varied purposes and put by-laws in place to support the changes
  • The aim would be to ensure that everyone has access to housing opportunities – smart cities would thus need several more housing projects that would cater to both upper and middle-income groups 
  • Enhancing security, reducing pollution and road congestion, and promoting the local economy are all part of the larger vision of smart cities. This would also include ensuring walkways for pedestrians and ride paths for cyclists. Further, additional options for public transportation would also be considered. 
  • Recreational facilities such as parks, gyms, and playgrounds with swings and greenery are also part of the smart city enhanced quality of life
  • Transparency and accountability from government bodies is expected and desired, which means that online services and easy accessibility of services by the public, without the need to make physical trips to such offices

Schemes Complementing the Smart City Mission

In the light of making this mission a success, the government has linked it to several other projects it has initiated. The aim is to ensure cumulative and sustained institutional, social, physical, and economic infrastructure. 

Some of the schemes interlinked with the Smart City Mission are: 

AMRUT- Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation, HRIDAY- Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana, Make in India, Digital India, Swach Bharat Abhiyan, and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. 

Structure of Technology for the Smart Cities
A variety of user interfaces, software, networks for communication, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are used to deliver structured solutions to the public, within smart cities. IoT is the most imperative – it is a ‘web’ of connected devices that communicate and share data – such as on-street sensors or smart homes. Data from these devices are sent to the ‘Cloud’ or on super-sensitive and secure servers. This data serves as ‘fuel’ for improvements and upgrades that would enhance the efficiency of both public and private sectors while delivering economic and social benefits to the citizens and enhancing the quality of their daily lives. Additionally, IoT-based systems enhance security systems and prevent unauthorized access to stored data. 
There is heavy reliance on technology in smart cities to form the infrastructure:

1. Digital
This infrastructure is service-oriented and connects individuals to devices and includes services such as innovation and communication infrastructure. 
2. Intelligent
Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning are ‘trained’ to read the data generated by inter-connected devices and then identify patterns. Based on interactions of humans with their surroundings, the success in terms of impact and efficacy of policy decisions can be determined. 

3. Wired
Hardware/physical components of IT systems are equally critical to the sustained development of smart cities. The wired infrastructure supports IoT and wireless technologies, providing general access to consistently updated physical and digital infrastructure. This in turn will support productivity and human capital. 
4. Ubiquitous
A U-city or ubiquitous city is the extension of the concept of a digital city from the perspective of accessibility to public services from any connected device. 
5. Hybrid
A hybrid city combines a real-world conurbation with an online community that is connected to a real-world location. These spaces can serve to realize state projects of the future for the services and integration of a smart city. 
6. Information City
The many interactive devices in smart cities generate huge amounts of data and based on the storage and interpretation of this data, the growth, and security of Smart cities can be measured. 
The main aim of the Smart Cities Mission irrefutably is to boost the standard of living of citizens and significantly enhance the economic growth of the country. Since 2015, several positive changes are visible in the ‘chosen’ cities. 
There is no denying that India has a long way to go to catch up to some of its international counterparts; but we’re getting there at a good pace. If there’s anything lacking that could elevate and speed up efforts, it would the quality and quantity of readily available tech talent in our country. 
All in all, the Smart Cities Mission is underway and seems poised for success. 
We’re pumped- are you?