Palava, near Mumbai in India, is unlike most other cities. For a start, it’s a new city, and it’s been carefully designed. Most cities across the globe have grown up over time, and large chunks of them have happened more or less by chance. There are a few exceptions – Paris springs to mind – but as a rule, cities, especially old ones, were not planned, and this shows.

A city designed for living

What does this mean in practice? It means that Palava has been designed to make it pleasant to live there. There’s plenty of open space, and it’s possible to walk to work in the city. There will be high quality education, sporting and cultural facilities available, and it’s conveniently located within reach of major transport hubs such as the port at Mumbai, and the planned new airport at Navi Mumbai. Palava is ambitious in its scope, and by the time it is complete will be India’s largest private completely-planned urban development. It hopes to be among the top 50 places to live in the world by 2020.

But there’s more to it than just a pleasant place to live. Palava’s developer, the Lodha Group, has used the opportunity to build in smart city technology, and employed IBM to create the smart city architecture to make this happen. This collaboration, which will bring together data from all the city operations into one place, to not only increase efficiency, but also improve the quality of life for residents.

IBM will  integrate information from multiple city agencies, helping them to collaborate better.  There are several aspects to this:

  • Palava’s website describes smart traffic management, designed to make traffic jams a thing of the past, by providing real-time information about congestion. The city’s fleets of buses, rubbish trucks and emergency vehicles will also be managed in a coordinated way, as will parking.
  • Integration of energy, water, public safety and smart cards. This will allow a more coordinated response to any problems, and particularly to any emergencies. In future, Big Data analytics will support management of issues that could cause problems or affect quality of life.
  • The system will enable better user involvement in government. Palava’s City Management Association already consists of administrators, city planners and citizens, giving end-users a key voice on the central committee running the city. Analytics and an overview of the city’s functions will enable better allocation of resources and preventative maintenance. But more than that, there will be a social media platform that enables service users to interact with the city administration, and manage their own services. This will include the facility to report issues and receive feedback, enabling conversations between officials and service users.
  • There’s also a big focus on public safety with centralised city operations for better and more coordinated responses to any incidents with public safety implications.

Delivering an ambitious vision

Lodha’s vision for Palava is certainly ambitious. But it’s also realistic, not least because of the steps that they have already taken to make it happen.  Better information about the infrastructure, used alongside user-provided information, will mean that services can genuinely be user- and citizen-centric. It should also make for a more efficient system, with better allocation of resources to meet the city’s priorities.

Recent projections suggest that India’s urban population will grow from 340 million in 2008 to 590 million by 2030. And there are plenty of other countries, especially in the developing world, that are looking at similar urban growth. Smart cities are likely to be key to managing this growth in an efficient and cost-effective way. Many will argue that it is easier to implement smart solutions into a new city, and certainly having no legacy systems or older infrastructure does make life simpler. Palava’s success might set the trend for the next 20 to 50 years of urban planning.


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