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Smart Cities and the Technology behind them

by Yashwant Singh


A smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare. Converting a city into a smart city means driving its economic growth and improving the quality of life for its citizens using smart technology and data analysis. Urban planning is one of the core parts of smart city projects.


Smart City is a city that utilizes Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in order to

a) Efficiently manage existing infrastructure and assist in the development of new infrastructure.
b)  Provide efficient services to citizens.
c) Enable efficient organization of city authorities in order to deliver these efficient services to citizens in a fashion that complies to the environmental mandates. 
d) Enable the private and public sector to develop new and innovative businesses that serve the citizens.

                                               Seoul, among the top 10 smart cities of the world.

Why do we need to make our cities smarter?

To reach out for the next level of progress in urban culture and to raise the social and economic level of the society we need to implement the concept of smart cities. This is needed to make life better and secure. This is about the availability of resources to the public with minimum efforts. This is the concept of making a crime-free environment and using technology to make life better. It is not only about the skyscrapers and availability of internet but it is about developing a culture in which each and every human being lives a life full of joy and hope.

Challenges in smart city development and how to overcome them?

Now as we understand why this concept and its implementation is so important for urban development, we must know the challenges and the hurdles that occur during the practical application of this concept. This is definitely not as easy as it sounds. Ensuring transparency in administration along with citizen participation comes with its own set of challenges. Following are some of the challenges that governments face when they start out on the blue print for a smart city.

Decentralization of information:

Every government has a legacy system to store the information about city infrastructures. To centralize the same, and mold it into the smart format is a massive challenge.

Multi-party collaboration:

This is not a one-man army job or we can say it is not a project executed by a single entity. This needs many key players. The smooth and effective flow of information and coordination among them is the basic requirement. Hence, success totally depends on how strong is the collaboration and coordination among the stakeholders.

Transparency in Projects:

There are multiple projects under this concept. For completing projects on time and for an efficient tracking of status by key stakeholders there must be transparency at each and every step involved. Without transparency, such technologically driven projects are not successful.

Documentation Management:

With such kind of projects, we need a lot of data. It is a challenge to handle because of the huge and sophisticated amounts and levels of data. This is one of the basic and early-stage tasks that need to be done very carefully. This involves management of the data, its categorization, and its security.

Tracking of Benefits disbursed during services:

Initiating a smart city project means making promises to society for an improved quality of life. This means that the government provides them extra benefits over and above any other government beneficiary programmes. Automation of processes and their availability is not an easy task to accomplish.
e-Service delivery channels

e-services are among the core benefits that citizens get in smart cities. Smart cities are heavily dependent on municipal bodies for essential services such as basic utilities. These services need to be available for citizens in an uninterrupted way.


Role of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) in Smart City

Internet of Things (IoT)

This is a concept of connecting the things around us through wired and wireless networks. This is about providing advanced intelligent services to users. Owing to the recent advances in mobile devices equipped with various sensors and communication modules, together with communication network technologies such as Wi-Fi and LTE, the IoT has gained considerable academic interests.


Enterprise Content Management (ECM) refers to methodologies and technologies used for managing a company's content, or information, in support of its business processes. Besides enhancing Business Process Management (BPM) ECM is designed to enable more effective information-sharing, better operational performance and improved compliance with internal rules and government regulations. Technology platforms like BPM and ECM will enable various agencies/department of the city to manage their processes in an efficient and cost-effective way. They will reduce the manual intervention in the processes and flexibly route the processes based on various events. Social Media integration will empower the capturing of data from different sites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc adding a new faster and cost-effective channel of data ingestion.

Mobility to serve citizens at their doorstep

With the Innovations such as Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP), Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) and Mobile Device Management, government agencies can create mobile application driven citizen services. For example, government agencies can create apps to enable citizen to make swifter payments for utilities such as electricity bills, gas connections.


Role of Geospatial Technology

Following are some concrete and practical uses of geospatial technology for smart cities.

  • GIS Technologies can increase efficiency in public services and utilities by increasing collaboration between departments, crews, and different stakeholders.
  • Public maps are a great way to inform and engage citizens, therefore improving governance and city administration.
  • The geospatial component can assist emergency response and help in saving lives.
  • Digital maps can be a great way to bring communities together and preserve cultural heritage.
  • GIS applications are an essential part in improving daily commute and city transportation systems.
  • Geospatial awareness plays an important role in controlling diseases and improving public health.
  • Cloud-based collaboration on a map improves communication, decision-making, and efficiency in conducting different projects such as watershed cleanup events and landfill remediation.
  • Remote sensing can deliver geospatial data in different fields of expertise quickly and relatively inexpensive.
  • 3D city modeling represents an actual 3D view of the buildings and contains all the details and dimensions of the infrastructure. This is important for a better understanding of housing and property.
  • Multispectral remote sensing can be used for urban vegetation analysis to improve the quality of urban life.
  • Route planning can be assisted with the latest GIS base maps.
  • Infrared remote sensing can be used for thermal condition forecasting in urban areas as urban areas suffer the most heat load, which negatively affects human health.
  • Land use change mapping by remote sensing data is useful in urban planning
  • Using DEM and slope generation tools, slope maps can be generated for flooding hazard detection in an urban area.
  • 3D planimetric maps based on high-resolution stereo pair satellite imageries or aerial photographs are produced using photogrammetry workstations and they depict the best feature collection of all the features like roads, buildings, walls, parking and many more. 
  • Telecom network planning and design for smart cities are also based on precise survey techniques.
  • UAV (Drones) can be used to get ultra high-resolution images of the area which is a cost-effective and time-saving process.


                                                                Map showing properties at risk during the flood  in a city

India's Smart Cities Mission

This is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with the mission to develop 100 cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable. The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.

The objective of the Smart Cities Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions.

Smart City need Smart Citizens

Traditionally, initiatives like the Smart Cities Mission are indicators of developed economies. A developing country will become a successfully developed country when its citizens also upgrade and update themselves.

The most vital aspect — the citizens who live and work in these cities — must be integral to the implementation process as well. The success of the Mission is firmly dependent on smart citizens. For example, energy saving cannot be achieved merely with smart meters in a house. In order to reduce energy consumption and save money on bills, consumers need to not only monitor their energy use but also make an effort to change the whole family’s daily energy usage behavior.

Most developed cities ensure that citizens participate in every aspect, from cleaning to safety requirements. Citizen participation ensures citizen satisfaction, which in turn ensures maximum efficiency of the proposed technology. So now it's time to be more responsible and smarter.


Smart City is a city that utilizes Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for its overall development. Smart city drives its economic growth and improves the quality of life for its citizens by using smart technology and data analysis. There are many challenges and the hurdles in the process of smart city development but the latest technology is capable of overcoming it. Geospatial technology is playing a vital role but at the same time, smart cities need smart citizens too. 

SATPALDA is a privately owned company and a leading provider of satellite imagery and GeoSpatial services to the user community. Established in 2002, SATPALDA has successfully completed wide range of photogrammetric and Remote Sensing Projects.

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