For a country like India, which has announced a mission to build 100 Smart Cities, Jack Hidary has a few suggestions that would help the country avoid the mistakes committed by Western countries. Hidary is the Chairman of Samba Energy.
Smart City programmes encompass several components. They are smartphone penetration and fast bandwidth, power generation and storage, transportation, and health care.
The key to many Smart City programmes is the need to connect citizens, businesses and the government on a fast network. In India, the pace of smartphone penetration is rising quickly.
For fast Wi-Fi in homes and offices, India must leapfrog the West and avoid installing costly in-ground fibre. Instead, India should go directly to wireless point-to-point connections linking to network access points (NAPs).
Wireless point-to-point can now deliver fibre-like speeds at a fraction of the cost as it does not require digging of streets or overhead cables. India must avoid the monopoly/duopoly structure of bandwidth as that inhibits potential growth. South Korea, where average speeds are one gigabit per second, that is 100 times faster than the US and other industrial nations.
There should be reliable electricity, clean water, bandwidth and other services. Instead of centralised power, India should go with distributed power generation and cross-connected microgrids. This will give resilience and reliability and lower costs.
India should tap solar, wind and other clean energy sources at a distributed level instead of building more thermal plants.
The key to a Smart City is the ability to move goods and people efficiently. India should encourage the use of dispatch cars by dedicating special lanes to these vehicles.
As drivers realise that as it is more efficient to use these services, they will stop using personal cars. It will be easier to modify these fleets of shared cars to electric and other efficient technologies.
Moving cargo represents about 40 per cent of the traffic on Indian roads. There are several aviation solutions to moving cargo that are cost effective. Companies have developed blimps that are safe and can transport significant quantities of cargo from ports to distribution centres.
Smart City must deliver excellent health care to its people. More than two-third people in India have no reliable access to quality health care. What is needed is a distributed, digital approach. With the near universal penetration of smartphones in the next few years, India can distribute sensors and instruments throughout the community that can be used by people without medical training to gather key medical data in real time and transfer it to a core body of doctors and experts for analysis.
4G will allow for remote video connection, and combined with real time sensor data of blood analysis, iris scan, brain imaging, etc, experts can quickly diagnose most ailments and prescribe solutions.
Digital technology can also be used in disease prevention and increased safety. Cheap but accurate sensors tied to a mobile phone can detect pathogens and impurities in water. New sensors in the market can detect toxins in toys, paint and other household materials. Smartphone tech can encourage fitness and health
India’s Smart City programme is a wonderful idea, but only if it can rapidly find appropriate solutions and not saddle the Indian cities with outmoded programmes from the past. India has a bright future if it pioneers a new kind of Smart City for all its people.