Expert Opinion

[EXPERT OPINION]: Marriage of Smart Cities and Startups

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Smart Cities concept started in India quite late but I was fortunate to be a part of the smart cities ideation process internationally. It was at this time that it was envisaged that the lives of people could be made better by the use of technology and problems of urban conglomerates like New York City, Washington  (especially Seattle), Dallas and some others could be solved by the sustainable and economic adoption of technology.

A smart city infographic planning.

A smart city infographic. (Image source: orfonline.org)

A small innovation by a start-up of youth from the University of Washington, then,  paved the way for garbage disposal in Seattle. Right at that moment, it was understood that there was a likely marriage between the Smart Cities and the Start-Ups.

Smart cities: parallel to Sholay(?)

So I say that the Smart City should be like Sholay in which you had all the characters playing memorable roles thereby doing their job. So you had the Thakur who was incapacitated and had to take the help of Jai and Veeru, two strong men to get rid of the evil Gabbar who plundered the town time and again.

In a smart city, we have the CEO who has the challenge of getting rid of reducing ideators who could get rid of gabbars like pollution, garbage disposal, traffic management, housing, water quality and so on. Moreover like every character in the film Sholay played a memorable role like Hangal, Sachin, Soorma Bhopali, Samba.

All these characters still remained etched in our minds apart from the main roles because of their important contribution to the film. Likewise, each department in the smart city will have to coordinate and cooperate in the city with the CEO to make the city smart. 

So firstly while the Smart Cities have to be true to the slogan “All things for all people”, the ecosystem has to be such that the youth and experience from the local populace have to be roped into ideate and implement small ideas that will make the lives of the citizens of the city better.

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the start to smart cities in India

For India, smart cities need to start small and then build on it. So we could create a public forum for surveying the issues faced by the people and compiled. Then we could identify the affected communities and divide the smart city into parts and map them agewise, occupation-wise, facility wise, markets, residential areas, entertainment zones and so on.

The issues could also be divided areawise, for eg, one area might be facing water shortage and another, traffic issues. Once the city is mapped for issues and nature of the area, an ideation contest for startups could be done for these issues to suggest solutions to these issues.

Then a team of experts scan through these solutions and zero in on the best and most practical, sustainable solutions and call the startups for presentations. These teams will present their solutions and financial repercussions.

The Smart City should then create an accelerator to fund and nurture these startups to create solutions instead of hiring big conglomerates at a premium. The smaller problems should be left to these startups at least and the high-end technology ones could be given to the established players.

This marriage of the Smart City projects and Startups will generate entrepreneurs locally and help find solutions at a much lesser cost while the funding could be done by the Smart City Project or the CSR funds of the corporate in the vicinity.

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divide and conquer: Divide the problems, find the best startup to conquer it

So we could have startup mapping the roads and markets and identify traffic congestions thereby diverting traffic to other roads and helping those markets too gain while the traffic congestions are avoided. Smart lighting, where lights dim and switch off with the external light variance could be given to another startup.

Recycling of industrial waste currently polluting our water bodies could be given to another startup who could treat it and give back the water to the city. Installing and operating alarms and safety systems for the safety of girls and women in bus stops to avoid eve-teasing could be given to one startup. Parking of vehicles could be regulated by another startup. Lack of teachers in schools could be the work of one startup so that they use digital resources to make up the shortage of teachers or supplement them with volunteers.

Smart city.

Various problems that startups can tackle in a smart city. (Image source: Geospatial World)

Creation and operation of areas of the old age so that they could discuss, entertain and be healthy with the help of open areas in the cities. Creation of micro forests in small areas and corners lying wasted in the cities to reduce pollution and its effects could be one solution. These are the small characters of Sholay that I was talking of and each of them will be crucial to make the city smart.

Of course, nothing could happen without the proud participants of the public at large who have to have the pride to participate in the city’s upliftment and one startup could create events for all ages and genders in public places to increase participation and make the city more lively and engaging. 

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