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How Can Smart Cities Be A Decisive Force During COVID-19?

STL, an end to end data networking solutions company, has implemented 3 smart cities in India – Jaipur, Gandhinagar and Kakinada. Smart city solutions for mobility, situational awareness, traffic control, smart lighting, public safety and security deployed by them are being innovatively and used in the current situation to improve the effectiveness of government initiatives at this time.

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Gandhinagar and Kakinada Smart Cities present some case examples, where time and again, the administration has used the smart city infra to effectively govern, during the times of disasters.

  1. Citizen Helpdesks are being converted to COVID 19 Help Lines and being used by government officials including the Chief Minister of Gujarat to speak directly to affected patients
  2. COVID-19 Monitoring Dashboard created by Kakinada Smart City Team has an inbuilt Hot-Spot mechanism, which is creating awareness and driving analytics for COVID 19

How is STL helping in combating such critical situations, amid such tough times? Gairika Mitra seeks answers from KS Rao, CEO- Network Services and Software, STL.

How has technology been inculcated in developing smart cities, especially during such tough times?

STL, an industry leading integrator of data networks, has partnered with central as well as state government to promote unified digital India. Our Smart city ecosystem addresses the interests of diverse communities by implementing state-of-the-art integrated solutions. It includes fibre backbone, wireless networks, IoT & sensor infrastructure, and applications. We have distinguished ourselves as a trusted technology partner to the government by delivering 3 Smart City Projects. 

  • Gandhinagar Smart City – STL led the design, development and management of Gandhinagar Smart City project, it is India’s First Live Smart Services City. Over two lakhs citizens were connected through city-wide Wi-Fi internet access and smart technologies like public security with IP surveillance, smart street lighting, digital signage with real-time weather alerts through sensors, speed and face detection system and automatic number plate recognition system were deployed. As a result, we won the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA) Industry Award 2017 for Best Connected City Deployment in Gandhinagar.
  • Jaipur Smart City – STL implemented Phase-II of the Jaipur smart city project. It included setting up citizen services kiosks with environmental sensors and citizen portals (interactive information kiosks), smart lighting and WiFi connectivity. These technologies enabled citizen safety, information dissemination and access to administrative services.
  • Kakinada Smart City – Recently done, this is one of India’s most advanced Command and Communication Centres (CCC) that has over 1,600 elements of smart city technologies integrated into it. More than 60000 units of energy is saved annually through smart lights and over 100 police cases supported with CCTV recordings at the Command and Control Centre (CCC). The project has improved the everyday living experiences of over 3.25 lakh citizens of Kakinada.

How do you think smart cities would come to aid during such critical situations?

Amidst COVID-19, we realise that smart cities can be pivotal in managing a large scale crisis. The wealth of data generated by smart cities can be put to use for various preventive measures and welfare schemes.

  • People outreach – Governments and local authorities are leveraging smart cities technology, sensors and data to trace the contacts of people infected with the coronavirus. 
  • Information dissemination – Control and Command Centres are ensuring awareness and tracking of social distancing and enabling regular communication and updates to the citizens. 
  • Welfare schemes – centralized and federated operations ensures efficient coordination with various stakeholders to roll out welfare schemes like food distribution, medicines etc. to needy
  • Healthcare – Ensures smooth coordination between government agencies and healthcare providers 
  • Sanitation & Waste Management – Smart cities have excelled in efficient waste management and sanitation through smooth coordination between government and private vendors, cleaner disposal and efficient recycling
  • Safety & Security – Most smart cities are built on fiber backbone that connects smart surveillance systems and most of them have reported less crimes than other cities

Tell us about STL’s stints at Jaipur, Gandhinagar and Kakinada.

STL has delivered 3 smart city projects in India– Jaipur, Gandhinagar and Kakinada. Smart city solutions deployed by us are being innovatively used in the current situation to improve the effectiveness of government initiatives. Gandhinagar and Kakinada Smart Cities present some shining examples of how technology can transform lives and how the administration can leverage smart city infrastructure to effectively manage challenging situations. 

  • Covid-19 Monitoring Dashboard created by the STL team. It covers local Kakinada, district, state and central data updates. This centralised Dashboard website has also been highlighted on SCM (Smart City Mission) @ Govt. of India, in the Kakinada Smart Initiative section.
  • Citizen Helpdesks are being converted to COVID 19 Help Lines, and being used by government officials including the Chief Minister of Gujarat to speak directly to affected patients, asking for their wellbeing and reassuring them of best healthcare services.
  • During these times, there is a constant need of communication to the citizens. The digital screens and city’s well spread public announcement systems are being used to send crucial information and instructions.
  • Safety and surveillance systems are helping the administration to enforce the lockdown measures effectively
  • At this time, when city operations need to be automated and operated with limited manpower, the smart city infrastructure is enabling the same.

In the Union Budget, India talked of developing 5 new smart cities. Is STL contributing?

The Govt’s Digital India program is a great initiative to transform India into a digital-savvy country. The current Bharatnet program and smart city programs are already showing some great results by empowering citizens with access to information and technology-driven applications to improve their day to day lives. With more such projects, India will witness new economic development opportunities, improved infrastructure and safer communities. STL continues to support the central and state government in these Smart City and Digital India initiatives. We are actively engaged in building the backbone and access networks in 2 states and also helping government, state and central authorities in defining roadmaps, blue prints, benchmarking studies etc. in order to come up with the right model for smart city deployment in India.

Lastly, what mode of technology are you willing to adapt (like ML or DL) for a more nuanced approach?

The best way is to put the end citizen use case at the forefront, then choosing a technology. Smart city deployments should be non-intrusive and technology should enable a progressive lifestyle change for citizens. Typically at STL, when we are designing a smart city it is very important for us to understand the objective of the program and identify the critical use cases which will impact the lives of the citizens and achieve the objective of the city (like improving tourism, safety, economic pull etc.). This critical first step will help us identify the right technology to deliver the use case effectively to the citizen and technology is always an enabler to achieve the desired outcome and it should not become a constraint. It will be very clear from the previous responses that the technologies in our solutions ranges from India’s most advanced Command and Communication Centres (CCC) to a plain vanilla offering like smart lights, digital signage etc.   

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