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Smart Cities: A symbiosis of heritage, ecology, architecture & technology

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The term “Smart City” has been around since the 1990’s and various definitions have emphasized different aspects of the term. Common elements among these definitions are that ‘Smart Cities’ use information – communication technology (ICT) (i.e. e-bricks) to engage citizens, to deliver city services and to enhance urban systems.

Smart cities are expected to be the key in combining a sustainable future with continued economic growth and a new identity to the lifestyle. They are designed to optimize residents’ quality of life by leveraging technology and integrating several essential functions like managing citizens’ data, intelligent transportation, public safety and security among others mart cities are expected to be the key in combining a sustainable future with continued economic growth and a new identity to the lifestyle. They are designed to optimize residents’ quality of life by leveraging technology and integrating several essential functions like managing citizens’ data, intelligent transportation, public safety and security among others

Primarily, smart city developments include ICT implementation and diverse ecosystems of technology providers. Various devices like sensors, gateways, communication infrastructure and servers will collectively bring to life the concept of ‘Internet of Things’ – a critical component in shaping the cities of the future.

The Vision of Smart Cities

The future urban centres are envisioned to be efficient in addressing the issues related to urbanization and associated social, environmental and economic issues in a holistic manner, while making the most of future opportunities. All structures – whether for power, water, transportation, etc. will be designed, constructed and maintained making use of advanced, integrated materials, sensors, electronics, and networks which are interfaced with computerized systems comprised of databases, tracking, and decision-making algorithms.

The research and engineering challenges to this vision encompass many technical fields including physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, computing science, systems, mechanical, electronics and civil engineering. Each of these vital elements must be identified or, if already existing, tailored for the appropriate application.

At the next level is the design of the system making use of these components. Associated with this would be the interface to the computerized “monitoring” capability for each given function. Next is the full structure or service supplied, and lastly, the integration of information across all related and seemingly unrelated aspects of an urban centers essential infrastructure.

A city that monitors and integrates conditions of all of its critical infrastructures can better optimize its resources, plan its preventive maintenance activities, and monitor security aspects while maximizing services to its citizens. Emergency response management to both natural as well as man-made challenges to the system can be focused and rapid. With the advanced monitoring systems and built-in smart sensors, data can be collected and evaluated in real time, enhancing city management’s decision-making.

In a Smart city, among other things, the physical environment, air, water, and surrounding green spaces will have to be monitored in non-obtrusive ways for optimal quality thus, creating an enhanced living and working environment that is clean, efficient, and secure and that offers these advantages within the framework of the most effective use of all resources.

However, the ultimate goal of a Smart city is the greatly improved living and working environment for its people. Commerce, transportation, a multitude of human services, education, and housing along with a greatly improved environment and safety & security can be achieved sooner and more cost effectively with this Initiative.

Benchmarking of the city on a globally competitive basis, good governance and rendering civic utility services, at its best, can be some of the hallmarks of ‘sustainable’ ‘Smart cities’ in the new era. The new innovations being put forth and built around the Smart city framework now include: eco-city, eco-town, eco-village; and last but not the least, ‘aerotropolis.

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