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Role of AI, IoT and Blockchain in a Smart City

Smart City means different things to different people and no universal single definition exists for this new urban phenomenon. Depending on various factors such as development level, reform agenda, citizen ambitions and available resources, the concept of Smart City changes from place to place and nation to nation. Meaning of a Smart City may be different in one country than other parts of the world. According to Smart Cities Mission of India, a Smart City is a city that meets the needs and aspirations of its citizens in terms of infrastructure and various services delivery. This would require town planners to develop city that stands on social, economic, physical and institutional pillars for a comprehensive development.

The role of technology is crucial in achieving the desired objectives of better urban quality of life and economic growth in the local city areas. The ICT applications generate very high volume of data which will further needs to be stored, processed and analyzed in a smart city infrastructure and service delivery improvements. Such development is expected to create more jobs, improve quality of life and raise income levels of all, together termed as inclusive development. Also, for inclusive development, citizens of the smart cities need to actively engage in proposed changes and governance aspects constructively for their own aspirational smart city realization.

AI refers to machines which are able to learn, think, perceive and solve problems similar in a way human beings do. AI has evolved to much broader concept which can potentially benefit vast number of tasks resulting in improved productivity. Internet-of-Things (IoT) term was first coined by Kevin Ashton for embedding sensors to objects in supply chain context. Objects with sensors can provide their status and location details in real-time to other remote systems over the internet. Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger, is a technology in which exact same time-stamped data is shared across all participants on a network and verified using consensus mechanism without the need of any central intermediary.

Smart Cities will be enabled by electronic sensors, IoT devices and cameras to continuously monitor infrastructure. This will lead to large amount of data being created which will require data collection, data processing and advanced data analytics technologies that will transition the city from urban city to smart city or intelligent city. Citizen services many a times are deteriorated due to government departments operating in silo mode and store different versions of truths. Grievance resolution process in most of the government departments is plagued by poor standards of communication and age old physical paper based practices. Many times, records are manipulated to show compliance.

AI technology is evolving and expected to deliver large competitive advantage to wide array of processes by offering huge incremental values such as automation, 24×7 service delivery and predictive maintenance. The sophistication of AI powered software solutions can lead to improved efficiencies in Smart Cities and can lead to completely new urban paradigms that transform processes related to traffic management, energy and water supply distribution, and make cities more sustainable. AI can adapt intelligently to changing conditions reported from IoT sensors generated big data and user behavior. Without analyzing the continuously generated data from sensors, smart city planners would lose a good opportunity presented by smart city's big data and thereby making it harder to achieve smart city objectives.

Similar to AI, Blockchain is another revolutionary evolving technology that can help in improving overall service delivery through its various features such as transparency, network based trust and traceability. The tracking of various government procurement using Blockchain can potentially make it very difficult for counterfeiting and frauds. Experts believe Blockchain will transform electronic transactions management for many different areas such as banking, insurance, supply chain, healthcare, telecom, education and energy. E-Government services are no exceptions to it. E-Government services currently lack secure, unalterable, real-time sharable and trustable information management across all departments. These needs are pushing governments to look at Blockchain technology for a possible solution for redefining service delivery and information management framework.

While technology is evolving rapidly, it is also important to see how citizens will adopt to such solutions. Challenges in terms of data privacy, trust in technology, social influence and any other risks needs to be overcome before widespread implementation. As with any novel technology based solutions, starting small and improve as it progresses in agile manner can be a good way to initiate journey towards smart city.

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