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Smart Public Transportation to realize India’s Smart City dream

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PCQ Bureau
New Update
digital City, Smart City

According to the United Nations, 68% of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2050, increasing from 55% in 2018, and 2.5 billion more people will live in urban areas by then compared to 2018, with 90% of this increase coming from Asia and Africa. As per studies, Bengaluru & Manila's congestion rates (71%) make them the most congested cities globally, followed by Bogota, Mumbai. With the ever-growing urban population in India, an increased number of private vehicles on the streets are becoming a menace.

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Looking at the overall transportation segment, the concept of transportation has fundamentally changed over the last ten years. The trigger for this shift has been the rise of players like Uber and similar ride-sharing companies, which changed how people choose to travel. Today, Uber alone manages 17 million rides per day worldwide, and ride-sharing services are just one part of the portfolio of next-generation transportation services. Also, e-bikes and e-scooters have recently emerged as effective alternatives to car usage in urban areas given the increasing consumer consciousness to fight daily traffic frustration. India witnessed many start-ups contributing to the transportation segment with more unique ideas to change the way people commute from one point to the other and contribute to shared mobility. However, the suitability of many solutions is in question with regards to Indian infrastructure.

● According to the recent annual IQAir World Air Quality Report, 2020, India is home to 22 out of the 30 most polluted cities in the world

● According to the latest study released by the CII group, air pollution is costing Indian businesses USD 95 billion every year, which is 3% of the country's Gross Domestic Product

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One of the most efficient ways to keep the situation under control is to have an efficient public transit system. Experts are optimistic that good mobility and transportation solutions are the key factors to encourage people to choose public transport (with appropriate measures in the current scenario) and reduce traffic on streets. Even as the pandemic rages through the country, the common man is still heavily relying on the public transport system and it is imperative that the existing systems be made smarter and more efficient.

A smart, connected, safe, secure, seamless, convenient, reliable, and integrated public transportation/mobility are the fundamental backbones of a smart city. Therefore, the transformation of the Indian transport sector will ultimately lead to the development of our smart cities. The industry plans to offer unique solutions to meet objectives outlined by the Government of India (GoI) and The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) for Smart City Mission under three core ideas i.e. liveability, economic ability, and sustainability.

Read on as I decode three significant trends transforming India's public transport industry in the next five years:

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1. Internet of Things (IoT): The much-hyped IoT systems are a boon to streamline India's fragmented transport sector. Transportation congestion sensors can help tackle the burgeoning problem of traffic congestion on roads. Additionally, IoT-based public parking sensors apps can address the public parking issue, especially in urban areas.

2. Electric Mobility: The industry has received an enthusiastic push with various incentives from the government to create the required charging infrastructure and alter people's perceptions. Some experts believe that the move to Electric Vehicles (EV) might not be the ultimate solution to address India's unorganized transport sector due to the operational and investment challenges. However, if implemented correctly, this might solve the country's massive fraction of transport sector inefficiencies. Creating vast and widespread public Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to support the increasing demand for EVs will be a huge opportunity to redefine India's smart cities.

3. Predictive Data Analytics: Massive amount of heterogeneous data is available with smart cities, which can be unleashed for the public good. A robust and scalable standard Open Source Data Exchange Platforms is required to implement this data to benefit the transportation sector. In this context, the flagship initiative of Smart City Mission, MoHUA, and GoI ‘India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)’ seeks to facilitate data usage to achieve the full potential of technology and innovation within Indian cities.

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The data relating to travelers, operators, and infrastructure (parking availability, ticket booking, etc.) is instrumental in enabling a seamless journey experience in the form of a multimodal journey planner. The common mobility smartcards, smart mobile app, and biometric apps provide predictable traveling time, ease of ticketing without queuing, and decision support during incidents like breakdown, accidents, emergency services, etc.

To summarise, Mobility as a Service (MaaS) will play an increasingly important role in developing Indian smart cities. It can optimize the use of public transportation and provide valuable data to city planners and administrators.

Due to the latest demographic shift, the demand for all transportation modes is set to grow in the future. To meet such a demand, India needs to make sure that the country is planning for an integrated and developed transportation system and has a proper infrastructure, using various advancements in technology today. An entrenched infrastructure framework, which includes adequate transportation facilities, health facilities, stable and uninterrupted connectivity, and other human resources, is mandatory for people's health, safety, and security.

Given the massive amount of innovation in the transportation industry, it is likely that today's definition of travel will be totally different for tomorrow's generation.

Author: Debashish Debsikdar, AVP & SBU Head – Transportation & Logistics Division, NEC Corporation India

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