Washington — Car makers hope new technology can help save lives. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, deadly pedestrian accidents are up 45 percent nationwide since 2009. The Department of Transportation finds the nearly 6,000 killed in 2017 made up 19 percent of all traffic fatalities.
Now IIHS is testing technology it believes could prevent up to 65 percent of pedestrians collisions, cutting deaths by 58 percent.
The technology uses cameras and sensors to warn drivers and, if needed, automatically applies the brakes. The institute tested the system on 11 small SUVs. Nine earned either superior or advanced ratings for avoiding or reducing the severity of collisions at speeds ranging from 12 to 37 miles an hour.
The Subraru Forester and Toyota RAV4 did the best. But the BMW system did so poorly it received no credit at all.
“It either didn’t break or didn’t mitigate the speed enough,” said David Aylor, with IIHS.
IIHS wants the technology to be standard on all vehicles in the near future.
Paytm Money, the wholly owned subsidiary of One97 Communications Limited, has announced the appointment of Suresh Vasudevan as its Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Paytm Money is the online platform for mutual fund investments.
Talking about his selection, Suresh Vasudevan, CTO, Paytm Money said “I have been an early adopter of Paytm Money as a user; and admired the focus & passion with which the engineering team has built the product, and scaled it to its leadership position within just a few months of its launch. I am humbled to lead this team on the journey to build a world-class investment product for millions of Indians.”
Vasudevan will be based out of Bangalore and would lead the engineering and technology functions of Paytm Money. Before joining Paytm Money, Vasudevan had held a role of VP – Engineering with Paytm Mall.
Announcing the appointment on Twitter, Paytm Money said, “We’re thrilled to have Suresh on board as our Chief Technology Officer and scale to new heights together.”
We’re thrilled to have Suresh on board as our Chief Technology Officer and scale to new heights together.
1:37 PM – Feb 20, 2019
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Prior to Paytm Money, Suresh Vasudevan worked with several startups and enterprise product companies across payments, e-commerce and fintech domains. He possesses over 20 years of experience in product development.
Suresh Vasudevan had also worked at Amazon India as the Head of Engineering for Alexa Skills Certification platform and Unicel Technologies as VP Engineering. He had also served in a leadership role at Sify and mChek.
Announcing the appointment of Suresh Vasudevan, Pravin Jadhav, Whole-time Director, Paytm Money said “We are very excited to welcome Suresh onboard as our Chief Technology Officer to lead our engineering teams. His rich experience across multiple technology & industry verticals would be of immense value to help build and scale our investment platform. Suresh will also be working on building Data Science and AI capabilities for Paytm Money as we continue focusing on automating our platform and building robo-advisory based investment products to ease the investment advice and decision-making process for our users”.
My Internet has been down since the morning of February 7 and, at the time of writing this on February 14, the problem was ongoing. So much for the “we will send a technician in three to five working days” promise made by my service provider. Imagine in this day and age that policy still exists, though. Life certainly is not on in that regard.
To be honest, this experience has taught me that in as much as I frequently threaten to drop everything and get off the technology grid for a few days, I really can’t do it. I feel completely lost. As lost as Hansel and Gretel wandering through a forest of technological frustration. All the devices and gadgets are there, but it’s like they serve no purpose. And to make matters worse, a few months ago I had cancelled my mobile data plan and opted for a call-as-you-go plan because I saw no need to keep paying for a data plan when there is wifi just about everywhere.
So basically, it meant that because I could not possibly work from home. I had to get up, get dressed, spend at least two hours in traffic to the office and back. And while I was at home, I had no way of getting quick information, no Netflix, no social media, no YouTube. I had no idea what mischief Fallon was up to in the latest Dynasty episode, had no idea what was trending on FB, unable to communicate via WhatsApp, nothing. When it came to helping my son with homework, I was unable to Google fast answers and had to resort to old school methods of guiding him along. It was either I read and re-read the method to change a decimal into a fraction until I grasped the concept (never did at school), or phone a friend (easier option). And while I did get time to do quite a bit of reading, my tech withdrawal symptoms were bad, to the point where I felt like the walls were closing in.
This whole experience got me to thinking, if my old Gen X tail, which is tottering on the borders of barely understanding the technology and embracing it, was having such a hard time coping with the absence of said technology, what can I expect of my ten-year-old who knows nothing else? Who, it seems, knew everything there was to know about an iPad from the day he was born. Who was so confused the first time he picked up a landline and heard a dial tone. “Aunty, come and hear the strange noise the phone is making,” he had said as he led her in earnest to where the fixed line was plugged in. Who assists me when I’m having problems with my computer and phone, very impatiently, mind you, because I’m “too slow”. The same kid who, a few weeks ago sat with his manual and set up his new PS4 with zero assistance from me because I didn’t know how to begin to help him. How can I now expect him to do things in the same way I did them?
I recall about a year ago he was doing his Vocabulary homework, and instead of using his hard copy dictionary he googled the words and wrote down the meanings. I, of course, insisted that he do it the traditional way – the way I knew how. “You won’t have a computer and Internet service in the exam room to Google the words,” I told him. “Neither will I have a dictionary,” he countered. “You are always saying I take too long to complete my homework. This way is easier and faster,” he pressed. He beefed up his argument with the fact that he knows how to use the dictionary in case there is a tech failure. He was right and I relented. Because lets face it, there is no going back to doing some things the old school way. Things like hard copy encyclopedias and dictionaries can now be deemed pre-historic.
So, I thought, if I have suffered so much from this experience, I can only imagine what he must be going through. How can I reprimand him for being in a foul mood because he can’t hook up with his friends on the PS to play Fortnite? Or because he can’t get some well-deserved time off after lessons to binge on one of his favourite Netflix series? Or that he can’t chat with his friend Isabella in Ohio on WhatsApp? I understand that reading, outdoor play etc are important and that there should be a limit on the amount of time children spend on screens. But just as my generation and the generations before and after had that special something that was “our life”, technology is this generation’s and we can’t fight it. No wonder he reacted as if there was a death in the family each time I threatened to sell or give away his precious devices as a form of punishment. After this experience, I will have to be a bit more lenient with my threats. Note to self, stay away from “sell” or “give away”.
As for my former Internet service provider, I thank you for the lesson, but I’ve learnt it well enough. I don’t want or need a repeat.
As Valentine’s Day rolls around, here’s how technology took centre-stage in our ‘self-love lives’ — for better or worse
At 10.30 pm on October 29, 1969, the first message on the Internet was sent by UCLA student Charley Kline in the form of two letters ‘lo’. Romantics, to this day, debate that it was obviously meant to be ‘love’, whereas irrefutable records show Charley meant to type ‘login’ and the system had crashed after the first two letters.
Fast forward 50 years to present-day and we can send all sorts of lovey-dovey messages in the form of quick texts, GIFs, SnapChats, videos, Instagram stories… the list is endless. Given there are countless expressions and forms of love in the digital space, thanks to technology mediating everything we do, this behemoth blanket of binaries became more than just an aid — it is now a crutch, a platform and our confidante.
We’ve seen love traverse from paper to screen to holograms to Artificial Intelligence — even to the point when, if we’re bored enough, we can ask Siri if they love us. It’s not just romantic love to which our technology panders; there is body positivity and self-love, so let’s take a look at these, and evaluate if the Internet is doing justice or doing harm.
Micro-blogging sites such as Instagram and Facebook have contributed big-time to both the depreciation and appreciation of self-love. We tend to judge our self-worth in terms of likes, responses, the number of private messages we get, and so on. Maybe, ease up on social media, whether it means taking a break for a few days or even going full-Monty and removing yourself entirely from the platform to become more purposeful in other ways.
That’s what psychologist Raisa Luther of Hope Trust recommends too. “Mental health is impacted by everything around us. As the saying goes for our body: you are what you eat, the same goes for our mind as well. What we feed our mind manifests in good or ill mental health.”
“Further, technology is a highly powerful tool in developing or destroying relationships. It reduces the importance and need for face-to-face interaction — this can result in changing the very face and nature of human relationships,” Raisa continues, “I fear that we are so influenced by technology and its various components that we may one day forget what it means to be human, or feel human. I have seen the same in my practice, where people get so influenced by technology that it affects their self-worth, self-esteem and even their identity. FOMO leads to a lot of my clients leading dual lives — and sometimes it is difficult to maintain boundaries between an online persona and the real, offline self.”
We heart pods
Though the rise of the podcast was driven by true crime narratives, stories on the world of startups and more, Love and relationships have not been very far behind. The popular Modern Love podcast by The New York Times is one of the most popular podcasts in this genre. Bengaluru-based Paravathi Shiva, an IT specialist, says, “When I was growing up, dealing with college breakups and infatuations, you only had agony aunt columns or extremely weird late-night radio shows, where the host spoke in a high-pitched voice and dispensed repetitive advice. That has changed now. I am married now and listen to podcasts on relationships and more. Most of these podcasts are conversational and extremely relatable, making you feel like you are part of the conversation and not just a member of the audience. In the Modern Love podcast, I was very moved by the reading of You May Want to Marry my Husband, an essay written by writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It was beautifully-written, of course, but listening to it was even better.” Sales manager Shuvan C from Delhi agrees with this assessment. “I do not listen to many podcasts. However, I do like to listen in to the art of love podcast, where a dating expert offers an entertaining take on love and relationships. The best part about podcasts is that it is more informative and has lovely stories. I am single and feel that it makes me more confident to negotiate the complex web of relationships.”
(As told to Nikhil Varma)
However, studies show the response is quite dependent on a person’s disposition; are they naturally vulnerable to social pressures imbibed by technology? “We found that having a sense of purpose allowed people to navigate virtual feedback with more rigidity and persistence. With a sense of purpose, they’re not so malleable to the number of likes they receive… Purposeful people noticed the positive feedback, but did not rely on it to feel good about themselves,” surmises Cornell University professor Anthony Burrow, co-author of study ‘‘Likes’ less likely to affect self-esteem of people with purpose’.
YouTube, despite its ongoing strife around policy and content creation, does have its happy corners, and with beauty vlogging an all-time rage, the subculture of body positivity channels has been crawling up the subscriber ladder, but not necessarily T-series-style. And no, we aren’t referring to over-hyped fitness gurus or flat-tummy-detox-tea sponsors who live for monetisation!
Pooja Kochar runs one of India’s growing channels, ‘30ish’, for body positivity chats. “30ish is trusting its internal GPS and turning towards YouTube. We are being mentored by #YouTubeSpaceMumbai to understand viewer preference for digital content,” she says on her site, “We conceptualise, create content and manage execution of social media campaigns which are completely customised. These campaigns are further supported through our blog, Twitter feed and Instagram page. We will live your brand, to give it the most authentic narrative.”
The cross-promotion of platforms for community-driven positivity is ideal in rebuilding the YouTube algorithms a lot of users have a problem with, especially with the site’s very flawed and clearly capitalistic ‘Trending’ section. With the Internet brimming with life-threatening challenge videos and dangerous pranks, it’ll be useful to employ to our advantage.
So this Valentine’s Day, when you see hearts and cheesy texts floating around, be sure to love yourself first and foremost.
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) There’s new hope in this new year that fewer scam or robo-calls will bother people thanks to new technology and blocking efforts by service providers who are being pushed by the FCC to make changes.
In March, Verizon says it’ll be providing its customers with a free app that will help filter out scam and robo-calls.
It will join T-Mobile and AT&T who also offer various forms of free filters aimed at reducing the annoying calls.
Robo-calls from telemarketers and scam calls are inundating mobile phones.
Many of the scam calls originate from overseas using technology that clones or spoofs legit numbers to make it look like the call is coming from someone you know.
It’s getting worse, according to a company that offers data solutions to mobile carriers.
First Orion says it’s anticipating in 2019 at least half of all calls made to cell phones will be fraudulent.
“What we tell people is if you don’t recognize the phone number, don’t answer it,” says Gavin Macomber who is a Senior vice president of First Orion.
He says when you answer a call and start engaging with someone — like pressing a number to connect to an agent, “as soon as you do that, you’ll start receiving a lot more scam calls.”
But there is technology being brought on line that may start eliminating scam or robo-calls right from the source of that call.
Last week T-Mobile began offering “Caller Verified” service.
It’s using a new technology nicknamed STIR and SHAKEN which the FCC wants all carriers to adopt.
STIR stands for Secure Telephony Identity Revisited and SHAKEN is an acronym for Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.
It’s sort of like a digital fingerprint for phone calls.
Here’s how STIR AND SHAKEN technology work:
When a person makes a call, the caller’s service provider checks the source of the call and the number with an authentication service to make sure it’s legit.
It then sends the call to your service provider using a special authentication code.
Before the call is passed on to you, your service provider does a double check by sending the authentication code to another verification service.
That verification service checks the number against a database called a certificate repository.
If it all checks out, and isn’t a robo-call or a cloned number, the call is then passed to your phone.
This all happens in a matter of seconds because it’s all done electronically.
The STIR and SHAKEN technology will work best when all carriers adopt it.
Otherwise, a scam or robo-call from a non-participating carrier can still get through to your phone even if your provider is using that tech.
Right now, only calls to and from T-Mobile phones are screened with this technology.
Other carriers have said they’ll get on board with STIR and SHAKEN soon — and the FCC is pushing them to do it as quickly as possible.
From foldable cellphones to high tech burgers, more than 4,500 companies showcased their latest technology at CES, the world’s largest consumer electronics show which took place in Las Vegas earlier this month.
Even though tech behemoth Apple does not make an appearance, the trade show gives the public a glimpse at emerging tech trends for 2019 and beyond.
One of the most anticipated technologies is 5G – the next generation wireless network that experts say could be as much as ten times faster than broadband.
Cutting edge tech 12:31 PM ET Fri, 18 Jan 2019 | 04:23
“I see a huge quantum leap from going from 4G to 5G, much bigger than 3G to 4G. And of course, my expectation is that we are going to see so much more innovation,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told CNBC recently.
Chris Velazco, Engadget’s senior mobile editor told CNBC’s “On the Money” in an interview that “2019 is going to be the year of 5G, this is going to be the first year people will actually be able to buy devices and jump on the 5G networks,” he said.
As a result, 5G “will have really big ramifications for the way we use our devices and the way these devices talk to each other,” he added.
The technology won’t be for everyone, however – at least not right away. Meanwhile, Velazo admitted that 5G technology “still feels like it’s a lot of talk. We don’t have a great sense of how these things pan out in more concrete ways.”
Yet one technology that did make an impression at CES was foldable screen technology. At the event, LG showcased a 4K OLED TV that rolls up when you don’t want to watch it.
Watch this super thin TV roll up and disappear in seconds 11:46 AM ET Mon, 7 Jan 2019 | 01:31
But it’s not just big screens: A Chinese company called Royole showed off its flexible screen technology for a smartphone/table called the FlexPai. This is the world’s first commercially available foldable phone, and it beat Samsung and Apple to market. The company is currently taking orders: The cost? A whopping $1,318, even more than an iPhone.
However you may want to hold off. Velazco had a chance to check out the device while at CES, and he admitted “they’re maybe not the most polished devices.”
Yet he found the technology compelling. “The ability to fold out and use the phone as a tablet is frankly really powerful,” he told CNBC.
If you’re looking to take a deeper dive into meditation, a Canadian company called Interaxon recently released the Muse 2.
The headband goes across your forehead and reads brainwaves in real-time. It then uses auditory cues to provide feedback on the user’s meditation state.
When it comes to virtual and augmented reality (AR) technology, it usually means wearing large glasses over your eyes, blocking out the world around you.
Chinese startup Nreal has plans this year to release their version called Light – which as its name suggests – is a lighter version.
“They’ve been able to take the technology that makes some really impressive AR devices like the Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap and converted it down to this form factor,” Velazco told CNBC.
Air New Zealand
But the tech editor admits one of the bigger surprises at CES, based on the level of people that seemed into it, was Gillette’s heated razor. And the name really says it all.
“It’s a heated razor that’s meant to sort of replicate the experience of getting a hot towel wet shave at a barber shop.” The razor is not in stores yet but according to Engadet’s report, it will retail for $160.
Another surprising find at CES was burgers. Impossible Foods showed off their latest meatless burger recipe: Impossible Burger 2.0.
“The original Impossible Burger used wheat protein and it tasted pretty good, but it kind of didn’t give you the same kind of mouth feel that a traditional burger would,” Velazco explained. “So they rejiggered the formula. This [latest version] is based on soy protein.”
He added: “You actually get a bit more of the experience of eating meat, plus I think the flavor has been upgraded as well.”
Be it in New York City or a small town in Oklahoma, Target stores look similar in design, but not so when it comes to the way goods are stacked.
In a world where the placement of products is counted as a key driver of sales, even the positioning of a can of beans is significant. Often, the decision on where to place a product or how to highlight a brand is made halfway across the world, here in Namma Bengaluru.
At Target, decisions such as the floor plan and where to stock what are increasingly made with the help of experts in India’s technology capital. Data scientists here scan shop sales data to find patterns on customer spending and look for ways to nudge them to spend more. The team in Bengaluru also engages with the shoppers on smartphones to get them buy online from Target, rather than rival Amazon.
As the world’s largest retail companies look to tank up on technology skills to stay ahead, they are flocking to Bengaluru. Out of 25 Fortune 500 retailers, about 10 have set up technology shops in India and smaller retailers are following their larger rivals, show data from IT industry lobby Nasscom. When they are not setting up their own captive units, these retailers are working with Indian IT companies to outsource services.
The early entrants came in the mid-2000s and as they experienced success, rivals started facing the ‘peer pressure’ to join them. From US-headquartered Walmart and Target to Japan’s Rakuten and Chile’s Falabella, retailers are expanding their engineering workforce in India and even more are looking to set shop here.
“We are talking to about 80% of the top retailers, not just in the US but in Europe as well, and almost everyone is looking at setting up captives in India. They are at different stages of the plans, but three years out, I would expect about 80% of the world’s top retailers to have a presence here,” Lalit Ahuja, CEO of consultancy ANSR, told ET.
Ahuja’s firm has helped about three dozen companies set up inhouse centres in India. As many as 11 of these were in the retail sector and four in consumer products.
If the early players came looking for the technology talent that India offered, they now realise that the country has not just technology but a concentration retail expertise, he said. Others too have similar views.
“Initially, everyone saw what Amazon did and tried to replicate it. Now they want to go beyond Amazon and India has everything — digital native talent (and) a thriving retail and ecommerce market that is open to experimentation,” KS Viswanathan, vice president of industry initiatives at Nasscom, said. “The cost of failure is lower here as well.”
Amazon has had executives working on global product development for more than 12 years in India, long before the 2013 launch of its marketplace in the country.
No single company is as invested in beating Amazon as Walmart. The world’s largest retailer got its India tech foothold through an acquisition, of Kosmix which it rebranded Walmart Labs. The country is now key to its tech plans.
“We have four chief technology officers in Walmart and we meet every week and we’re constantly talking about growth plans and how many seats in Bangalore we get. Bangalore is the one place we all are. It’s serving as the seed for the new models,” Jeremy King, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Walmart, told ET. King said Walmart had begun piloting robots in stores to help clean spills and spot empty gaps on shelves.
In addition to its $19 billion acquisition of ecommerce company Flipkart and boosting talent at Walmart Labs, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company is scouting for startups it can take over for the talent they have. ET reported that the company made its second acqui-hire, Int.AI, in India last month, as part of its plan to buy about five startups a year in the country. It even has a unit of what it calls the CIA — competitive intelligence analytics — in India to help win the global ecommerce race.
Even for those companies that have come to Bengaluru initially to handle customer calls and process employee payrolls, their operations here have advanced to handle more critical business roles.
“Over the years, our business at Bengaluru has evolved from being a shared service to a business service model. Technology has evolved from service delivery, to a ‘Dev-Ops’ model,” said Sumit Mitra, chief executive of Tesco Business Services and Tesco Bengaluru. “Some 78% of all our Technology colleagues working here are engineering-focused.”
The scale at which retail companies are growing is leading to a massive hunt for talent with senior leadership coming from homegrown ecommerce players. Walmart’s India Lab is headed by Hari Vasudev, who was previously a senior vice- president of engineering at Flipkart. Online commerce and Internet company Rakuten’s India unit is also headed by a former Flipkart executive, Sunil Gopinath.
“We have been able to grow Rakuten as a technology brand in India. If you look at the kind of talent we are getting, we are hiring people from Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, from fin-tech companies like Paytm, startups and from big software companies like Oracle. There is probably no top company in Bangalore that is not represented as a hire by Rakuten,” Gopinath told ET in a recent interview.
Rakuten’s India headcount is currently about 450 and the company plans to double that in the next 12-18 months. Indian talent is also part of its operations in Japan — out of the 2,500 engineers in its home country, about 60% are non-Japanese, from India, China, the US and Korea.
Smaller retailers that have established centres in India are also expanding their technology operations here. Jobs at these companies span the spectrum, though, unlike traditional IT services, there are limited requirements for freshers. Mid-level jobs are more common and senior leaders are also in demand.
For some companies, the employee growth rates have been significant. Lowe’s began its India operation four years ago with 20 employees. It now has 1,600, and expects to add more. “In the coming years, we plan to hire more people to join our team in Bangalore, to enable our technology transformation initiatives and be a part of our growth story,” said James Brandt, senior vice president and managing director of Lowe’s India.
Lowe’s employees work on ecommerce and digital solutions, data management and analytics, finance, infrastructure, quality and operations.
Given the long distance between Bengaluru and the retailers’ locations across the globe, companies go the extra mile to keep the operations here connected to their global strategy. Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Target, one of the earliest retailers to bet on Indian talent, has a yearly strategy meeting that takes place at the start of the financial year for its Minneapolis and India leadership. Its CEO and chairman, Brian Cornell, and his executive team attend the annual India meeting.
“Visits by our team members to our headquarters in Minneapolis help them get a better sense of the Target experience and our guests. Team members collaborate at every level. A matrixed approach to organisational structure is adopted where product ownership lies wherever the expertise is,” Ankur Mittal, vice president of Digital Technology for Target India, said. Target has nearly 3,000 employees in India, Mittal said.
Retailers are also focused on hiring and keeping the best employees. Most companies are transferring the ownership of products to Bengaluru — to allow employees here to make decisions without needing to constantly check back with the headquarters, and help motivate them. “It comes to the quality of work. As long as you are able to drive the right models of ownership, then that is the number one motivator,” Walmart’s Vasudev said. “Money alone has stopped being a motivator.”
Art and technology can be an effective tool for social change and sensitisation. This one-of-its-kind exhibition in the Capital demonstrates the same. Priya’s Mirror, the ongoing exhibition, uses augmented reality for the cause of acid attack survivors.
The exhibition is about India’s first female superhero Priya Shakti, who is a rape survivor, and was named by UN Women as a gender equality champion. She is now helping a group of acid attack survivors to find their strength and conquer their fears – similar to how she overcame her fears after surviving a brutal rape — highlights the works at the exhibition. One needs to download a free mobile app and scan the comic book images at the exhibition, using the phone camera. And, that’s all you need to interact with the 2D images.
“Art is not just for visual aesthetical enjoyment but is an important tool to enable conversations and lead the way forward. Our epics are full of stories of women who were violated and the violators had to differ karmic lessons whether it was Indra Dev (violated Ahalya) or Ravan (collated Ramba and many other women). But these stories perhaps have no resonance in modern world. Hence we need contemporary stories in contemporary mediums to explain not just how heinous the crimes against women are but also women have the power to overcome the suffering through their own inner strength and that society has a responsibility to support these women,” says Mukta Ahluwalia, the curator of the exhibition.
Priya’s Mirror has been created by filmmaker Paromita Vohra, and documentary filmmaker Ram Devineni, actor Shubhra Prakash and one of the comic book creators Dan Goldman. “Priya is the main character of our comic book series and is India’s first female superhero who is a rape survivor. The reason why she is in this chapter, “Priya’s Mirror” is because we observed that acid attack survivors and rape survivors face the same cultural stigmas, prejudices and fears. So, this was an opportunity to make correlations between them through Priya,” says Devineni who has designed the augmented reality experience.
To come up with the series, the team has worked closely with the acid attack survivors in India, Colombia and USA and interviewed them. “Listening to the interviews was very important, because while we look at acid attack victims and think of the horror of their crime, visually evident in scars, when we listen we hear the person they are: mischievous, sweet, hopeful, intelligent. We learn to see them again as the people they are, not only the way we are schooled to see their appearance. This was a very crucial holistic way of looking at the women as multi-faceted people,” says filmmaker Paromita Vohra.
Smart city is the new buzzword and everyone is trying to decipher what it means to be smart. While this has become a talking point across India and abroad, there is actually not much clarity as to what it means to be a smart city.
Ever so often, it is considered to be a city with technological innovations and solutions. In fact, what a smart city should be about is attaining a high quality of life for all residents, especially the most vulnerable. Technology, then, becomes the means to the end, rather than the end itself. Thus, we should define and understand smart cities as those which are innovating for solutions to improve quality of life.
Defined like this, a smart city won’t be synonymous to the cities with smart light poles or CCTV cameras. Rather, these innovations will be seen as contributors to improving the safety and people’s access to the street. If a smart city is concerned with innovating to improve safety and inclusion, the light pole and the camera will be seen as part of the solution, rather than the solution itself.
The Indian government launched the Smart Cities Mission in 2016, with the aim of including 100 cities in the mission as a model for other cities to eventually adopt. The official smart city document states that there is no single definition of a smart city, but it does use the terms sustainability and inclusion. These are important elements and need to be understood to give smartness a wider connotation.
Sustainability, in the context of cities, refers to building systems that can respond continuously to needs and problems, while inclusion accepts that a diverse set of residents need to be catered to in the process of city development. The 100 cities were chosen in four rounds and the projects implemented are estimated to eventually impact the lives of nearly a 100 crore people.
Cities had to compete to be part of the mission and while Gurugram participated in the competition, it did not eventually get chosen as one of the 100 cities. While this means that the city will not get earmarked funds from the Centre for developing smart solutions, Gurugram can still work towards finding smart and innovative solutions to address key urban challenges. The areas identified under the mission include e-governance, waste management, energy management, urban mobility and other issues. It is clear that Gurugram has great challenges in each of these areas as it has grown in a largely unplanned and haphazard manner.
While the private sector has played an important role in addressing civic and urban problems in the city, many of these core issues of waste management, mobility or energy management are issues of governance and which need strategic responses from the city government.
The Municipal Corporation in Gurugram (MCG) is fairly new body set up in 2008, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has been set up only last year. Governance mechanisms in the city are in the process of being developed need to be made much more robust and participatory.
A few months ago the GMDA facilitated a workshop to get citizen input into the liveability index. Building such an index will provide a good roadmap and indicators to plan projects and innovations in the city. As Gurugram aspires to become a smart city, it needs to be able to be smart and innovative in order to help its resident achieve a better quality of life, rather than smartness as a goal in itself.