Citizen safety and security: An essential pillar needed to transform our cities into smart cities

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Citizen safety and security: An essential pillar needed to transform our cities into smart citiesThe 100 smart cities project, part of the Smart Cities Mission, recently got further impetus when with the government shortlisted 20 cities, which will first be developed as smart cities.

The smart cities project seeks to develop 100 cities that will be more citizen-friendly and sustainable, with an endeavor to push urbanization in India. The NDMC area of New Delhi among others is in the recently announced shortlist of 20.

Currently, at around a population of 350 million with an estimate to touch 600 million by 2030, urbanization in India is lagging behind developed nations and BRIC nations. Most developed nations, for instance, have an urban population of over 80%. China’s urban population is 54% and Brazil’s is at a surprising 90%.

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India’s urban population is at around 30% and this is set to increase rapidly because of her huge youth population, migrating to cities for growth and employment opportunities.

The vision for smart cities is to provide urban services that address citizens’ needs with efficient governance, thus improving the quality of life in Indian cities. It will involve infrastructure investments, efficient transport systems, waste management and water management systems, energy efficiency systems, design and architectural innovations, IT connectivity, and e-governance mechanisms, which in order to fall in place will require Public Private Partnerships.

However, for the mission to be successful, a grassroot-level requirement would be to ensure safety and security of citizens. The reality is that Indian cities are not safe.

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Delhi has been adjudged as one of the most violent places in India, even cities like Bengaluru, which is known as the start-up hub of the country, features as a high crime region, making its citizens fear for their personal safety.

Safety and security in smart cities: What it entails

Safety and security is in fact an important feature of smart cities. CCTVs, vehicle tracking systems, GPS enabled transport modes are all part of the equation, but also needed is a prompt, reliable, and fool-proof safety and security assistance that can actually be present to protect the individual from real or perceived harm.

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Providing this service is not rocket science but it requires in today’s age of connectedness, a strong technology backed by a trustworthy and capable service.

While it may be true that about half the crimes are solved by police authorities in NCR and the criminals are brought to book, it may be in some cases the crime could have been averted if the affected party had access to prompt action and someone who could help.

There are private enterprises that have risen to the occasion and are attempting to fill the gap that in developed nations is provided for the most part by government.

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Because of the huge infiltration of smartphones, there are a lot of apps that act as an alerting mechanism to family members when one’s security and safety are under threat.

These apps act as great communication mechanisms, but will need to be backed by timely action. In times of panic, though, the best of us may lose judgment of what may be the right thing to do. At such a time, having the right assistance, of someone trained, who is well versed in handling a broad range of situations, can prevent an edgy situation from further escalation. These could include a personal medical emergency or a road rage situation that’s become uncontrollable or simply having someone check on you to ensure your personal safety when using public transport in late evening hours or to deserted areas.

There’s a broad range of crisis situations we face on a daily basis that make us feel vulnerable—this holds true whether one is living in smart cities or in our cities as they are today. If a personal safety and immediate assistance service is able to make a difference to even the life of one person, then getting this type of safety and security service in place for citizens would create goodwill and make urban life less stressful for citizens.

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Start with the basics—ease of reach through an app or a help line, an embedded GPS that would help determine an affected party’s location (again something that has been amiss in several incidents reported till even recently in NCR), a command and control center that is able to guide callers until live help in the form of a trained responders team reaches, a partnership with government authorities, police, hospitals that are able to help in such situations, is a good place to start. Things companies such as One Touch Response have already done, in our effort to make citizens of Delhi NCR feel more secure.

(The author of this article is Arvind Khanna, Founder of One Touch Response)