Safety First: Smart cities adopt solutions to deal with emergencies

Smart cities adopt solutions to deal with emergencies

Safety is a very crucial aspect to ensure that a city is liveable for its inhabitants. Safety and security have been accorded high priority under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). Measures such as the deployment of CCTV cameras, development of integrated command and control centres (ICCCs), and creation of emergency response rooms, etc. have all helped the cities in reducing crime rates, improving the safety of its citizens, and monitoring cities’ day-to-day activities in real time.

Solutions in sight

One of the primary tools for improving the security apparatus of a city are CCTV cameras. To enable this, high resolution cameras with large storage capacity and advanced analytical tools are required. Besides crime prevention, cameras help in managing emergency situations. For instance, during the Mumbai floods in 2017, the police deployed manpower in the worst-affected areas, based on CCTV camera footage. CCTV camera systems can also send alerts to command and control centres (CCCs) in case of security threats. As per government data, Lucknow has allocated the highest budget, amounting to around Rs 5 billion, for enhancing the existing control centre and setting up modern police kiosks under a new smart city surveillance system. Some cities have also deployed next-generation technologies, for example, drone surveillance in Kochi and automatic facial recognition from a criminal database and behavioural monitoring in Vellore. A number of cities have leveraged budgets from the Nirbhaya Fund in addition to the SCM budget allocated for safety and security.

Another technological advancement in the segment relates to the setting up of ICCCs or smart city centres that connect various departments with information and communications technology. The key objective of an ICCC is to serve as a single source of information for all civic functions, provide a platform with the ability to receive, intelligently correlate and share information with stakeholders, and serve as an emergency and disaster management platform. India’s first ICCC was inaugurated in Bhopal. It enabled authorities to monitor the status of various civic utilities on a real-time basis using global positioning system sensors. The ICCC in Ahmedabad was inaugurated in February 2018. Located in a dedicated four-floor building, it has been designed to monitor city operations by integrating data from various smart city solutions installed for different Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) departments.

Smart cities have also encouraged the use of street lights with energy efficient LEDs that reduce the carbon footprint and long-term operation costs. Operational integration with real-time data allows lighting control as and when required. It helps in monitoring street disturbances and the law and order situation through noise detection, CCTVs and community response, traffic flow monitoring, etc. The AMC has deployed a centralised monitoring system to record the power consumption of street lights. About 6,000 smart street lights are connected through the ZigBee protocol and are individually controlled from the CCC for on/off and dimming functionalities.

The Pune Municipal Corporation has replaced over 70,000 lights with LEDs. As a result, the city has been able to reduce its power consumption from 14,823 kW per day to 6,000 kW per day, leading to annual savings of Rs 180 million. Emergency response systems are an important part of smart cities. These systems facilitate faster response time to emergency calls from multiple communication channels including mobiles and social media. An emergency response system could be equipped with features to upload pictures or videos, which would get tagged with the calls and forwarded to the concerned department electronically. Raipur has installed emergency call boxes at 83 places in the city, using which people can seek help during an emergency by just pressing a button. Meanwhile, Visakhapatnam has installed 50 emergency call boxes at major junctions.

Safety initiatives on the anvil

Among the various upcoming projects for safety and security under the SCM, Coimbatore has planned a surveillance project with the installation of CCTV cameras, poles, a server, a junction switch and field component at all junctions/critical locations at a cost of Rs 800 million. Sagar, in Madhya Pradesh, has planned an investment of Rs 790 million for safety and security infrastructure and management under Project Unnati – Urban Infrastructure Development and Regeneration. Further, New Town, Kolkata has set aside Rs 470 million for city safety. Dharamshala, in Himachal Pradesh, plans to spend Rs 370 million on a fire and emergency response system. Bhubaneswar has earmarked Rs 240 million for emergency response and city incidence management while Bengaluru has allocated Rs 320 million for the improvement of neighbourhood safety.

The way forward

Advanced and robust security solutions have become the need of the hour with the increasing crime rates on the physical and cyber fronts. Factors such as social awareness, strict law enforcement and citizen sensitivity play an equally vital role in ensuring the safety and security of a city. However, existing surveillance systems suffer from issues pertaining to data storage and incident data retrieval, thus making the use of smart solutions pertinent.