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Is Palava the Smart City That India Today Needs?

December 26, 2016
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Consider these scenarios: A completely Wi-Fi enabled city where citizens can connect to work while resting under a tree in their neighbourhood park. A universal ID card that can be used for cashless transactions and also acts as a key to enter your building with advanced security systems. A dedicated mobile app that can be used in a crisis to summon an emergency response team in less than 10 minutes. Sounds like a Hollywood movie with a plot set in the future?

These features may appear to be somewhat futuristic but are already a reality at Palava, a greenfield first-of-its-kind smart city project coming up rapidly on the outskirts of Mumbai. The project’s uniqueness lies in the fact that a real estate developer is developing it, rather than any nodal agency in Urban Planning. With over 25,000 homes sold in 6 years since its inception, the city is planned to be a home to 4 lac families and have 3.5 lac jobs in its business district by 2025.

For Palava, the city developer Lodha Group has a franchise agreement with Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd for near-uninterrupted electricity supply and solar panels power its street lights. It has a tie-up with General Electric Co. (GE) for 100% flush water recycling, and automated water metering and billing to ensure transparency and zero water loss. The city has also tied up with IBM to incorporate its smarter cities technology using advanced, data-driven systems to integrate information from all city operations into a single system, to improve efficiency and deliver an enhanced quality of life for the residents.

Information technology accounts for only 5% of the total project cost, says Shaishav Dharia, Regional CEO (Palava) at Lodha Group, adding: “The Lodha Group has also set up Palava City Management Association with urban experts and citizens as members to deal with day-to-day issues, as well as a 311 grievance helpline number and 911 emergency helpline number for citizens, and a mobile app. Palava’s smart technology also extends to 500 surveillance cameras that capture real-time data and in future will support facial recognition for entry and have panic alarms every 200 meters. A smart card given to all Palava citizens will allow cashless transactions at retail centres, access to bus service, public Wi-Fi within Palava’s premises, building, and commercial points entry, and information access from the Palava command centre.”

Two operational schools, the Lodha World School and Pawar Public School offer an all established Indian and international syllabi. Shri Ram Universal School (from the stable of “Shri Ram Schools” widely acknowledged as the holy grail of schooling in India) is set to open shortly. “My children and I love to cycle, and we do it just for leisure around the riverside promenade or even to catch the latest movie at PVR at the neighbourhood Xperia Mall! Everything is just a 5-minute ride from my home, therefore, one doesn’t have to rush all the time,” says Tasneem Pithawala, a resident of South Mumbai who bought a golf-course facing villa at Palava in 2013.

The potential for smart cities in India is enormous—something that makes Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 100 smart cities goal an achievable one. “India’s urban population will reach 590 million by 2030, living in at least 60 cities with a population of more than one million, requiring an investment of $1.2 trillion by the government for their development,” Dharia says.

The Maharashtra State Government has given its nod to the construction of a 21km flyover starting from Kalyan, the first step towards building the Mumbai-Nagpur super highway. In addition to the same, there is 1.7km road tunnel planned to connect Airoli in Navi Mumbai to Shil-phata. And the most recent announcement is that of the 7.5km JVLR-Khoparkhairane-Ghansoli Bridge, to provide a seamless corridor for travelling to Kalyan, Thane, Dombivali, and provide a direct corridor to the upcoming second international airport.

Sharing the plans for the near future, a Lodha Group spokesperson shared that Palava will soon have an Olympic-standard Sports Complex, a Centre for Arts and Culture, 20 schools and much more. While real estate developers often ride the trend wave on impulse, the structured planning and dynamic execution of Palava seems to define the onset of Smart City development in India. Whether this will define the route for others to follow is definitely worth the watch.

For enquiries around buying a home at Palava, SMS PALAVA to 52424.

Carpool With sRide to Save Trees

December 1, 2016

Palava continues to strengthen its bonhomie with the start-up community and build new partnerships. Its newest hyperlocal partner is ‘sRide’, a service dedicated to carpooling in India. Since its launch in Palava in August, this carpool app has not only helped citizens save time and money on travel to and from Palava but has also saved 1056 Kgs of carbon dioxide, equivalent to planting 50 trees a month. sRide’s COO, Nitin Chadha shares insights on the journey of this transportation startup.

How is sRide changing the way commute is undertaken in the city?

sRide is present across 4 cities, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore & Mumbai and the one trend that we have seen in common across all cities is that when we launch in a city, there are early adopters who have been waiting for a service like this for a while and start using it from day one. There are some who get references from their friends or colleagues and start using it 2-3 times in a week. Eventually, a large part of the office going population uses it on a day to day basis to commute to their workplaces, which they do approximately 10 times a week and 44 times a month. While people generally use any another taxi app based services twice or thrice in a month, the possibility of using sRide is about 44 times a month. It is as easy as using some of the other social media applications (WhatsApp, Facebook) that are used on a daily basis. This has given riders (who were earlier using public transport) a comfortable & cost-effective commute facility. The saving is substantial in the case of both riders as well as car-owners. Apart from that, carpooling not only reduces the pressure on roads but also creates a strong social community with people that you are carpooling with. It connects people with others from their community, office, or neighborhood who they have never met earlier. It creates social impact and exchange of interesting stories during the commute. The social networking that people are able to do while carpooling is exclusive to our platform.

Do you see a trend in the commuters becoming more eco-friendly?

Absolutely! This is a very exciting time to be in the transportation industry. Today’s generation is very eco-conscious. People are not only looking for easy to use, eco-friendly transportation but are also looking for a transportation that is impactful, cost-effective and that gives back to society. Carpooling is the only way of commuting that fulfills all these requirements. It helps you reduce traffic & pollution, saves cost, and helps one create a green impact on an individual level by reducing levels of CO2. Our users are very conscious and aware of the number of kilometers they are carpooling and the amount of carbon emissions being reduced.

Can you share some highlights of the operation strategy that makes sRide a distinct service?

sRide platform focuses on making its service a way of life. It lays special emphasis on aspects important to users: security, ease of use, online payments, and professional networking. We have partnerships with some of the largest IT companies across these cities (sRide works with 150+ companies across cities) and have helped both organizations, as well as employees, reduce their transportation cost. The platform is very advanced and can support both intra-city carpool and long distance carpooling. It can be used in any part of the world. Currently, in India, we are focusing only on the home-office commute as that forms the bulk of what we like to call as peak hour traffic. This traffic takes place every day, sometimes twice a day and is something everyone wants relief from. A 20% reduction in this issue can bring a huge improvement in employee productivity and health status of people.

How is sRide helping build community engagement?

sRide is helping communities in a huge way. If you take the example of Palava and the IT companies in Navi Mumbai, there are at least 4000-5000 people in each of these companies and a lot of them might be living in Palava or the nearby areas. The chances of a person knowing all the people from his or her organization are remote but on availing sRide, one gets the option to access and connect with them and to network with other professionals. One has the option to carpool with the same person every day or connect with new people on a daily basis. You can connect with all the people who live within 1-2kms from your residence. Who knows one may even find a salsa partner or tennis companion while riding to work!

How are you encouraging commuters to ride with sRide?

Most of our users are self-motivated and see the value in carpooling. Over 50% of our users come from referrals and are encouraged by their friends or family to carpool every day. They realize the value of the impact they have on the food chain and the environment by reducing CO2 emissions and saving trees. Other periodical incentives offered to them are often overshadowed by this achievement. A lot of the people who are genuinely eco-friendly and want to conserve the environment, in reality, have never even planted a tree. You can verify this by asking around. It often never occurs to people that they have never planted a single tree in their lifetime, so when we tell people that by carpooling for 105 km they are reducing CO2 that is equivalent to 1 tree in a year it suddenly makes them beam with pride. Everyone wants to contribute to society and sRide helps one accomplish the same. The motivation drawn from this accomplishment is the biggest encouragement for our commuters. Another encouraging factor is the effective cost saving that is possible by carpooling every day, in the long run, for all users be it riders or car owners. By using sRide commuters have been able to cut down their travel costs by up to 70% per month. That is substantial saving if calculated on a yearly basis.

Is sRide redefining the statistics often shared for transport and commute?

Carpooling is a not a new concept in India. It has been around for decades. Sharing a car or a bike ride with your friend while going to college was nothing but carpooling. But back then, it was unorganized, not trackable and did not give any options to the user if his/her co-rider was not available on a particular day. Today at sRide, we work with the city management about information on the city and its traffic routes. We use technology to access relevant information in an effective way to make transportation easier and carpooling more organized and reliable.

Can you tell us about the partnership of sRide with Palava?

We are very proud to be associated with Palava and grateful to have this opportunity to be a part of a Smart City that encourages sustainable transportation. Citizens of Palava are very eco-friendly and we have seen its impact in the very first month of our launch. The number of trips completed and the number of kilometers carpooled have been very encouraging, considering carpool is a density based solution that takes a while to create a high-density corridor. We expect to make Palava the top Smart City in India with the least amount of carbon footprint from transportation. Our aim is to reduce carbon emission during office commute by 25%.

What are the future plans for your partnership with Palava?

Palava is still developing and in the next 2-3 years, the number of citizens living there will be huge. That’ll also increase the need for better infrastructure and transportation not only within Palava but essentially outside the city, connecting to Mumbai. We have committed our full support to the Palava City Management Association to make sustainable transportation as one of the focus points and increase the density & usage of carpooling in the next one year. We want to set Palava as a benchmark for Smart Cities in terms of sustainable transportation as it has the potential to do so.

What are the future plans of sRide in India?

Currently, sRide is present in Pune, Hyderabad & Bangalore (apart from Palava). We do have a plan to expand to other major cities in India but as of now, we want to focus on what we are doing in the existing cities and make a larger impact there.

Could you share some insights about your team?

sRide has a small team of 15 people and we are very proud of what we have achieved with a very small and agile core. Our CEO and Founder, Lakshan Jha has 18+ years of experience in IT and has worked with companies like Infosys and Cognizant.

Designing An Eco-Friendly City

August 5, 2016
Palava's eco-friendly design

Professor Aniket Bhagwat is a third generation landscape architect practising in Ahmedabad with m/s Prabhaker B Bhagwat and manages the landscaping for Palava. A stimulating writer, thinker and academician, he co-edits and writes for SPADE, a chronicle on design research.

(inputs for the article given by Prof. Aniket Bhagwat)

Cities have always been, and are even today, engines of growth. They attract a rising tide of people that hope for a better life for themselves and their future generations.

Palava, the Greenfield smart city, has been envisioned to be amongst the 50 most livable places in the world by 2025.

The success of smart cities lies in their sustainability and thus Palava endeavours to be a ‘sustainable’ city and have its characteristics designed in accordance to achieve that vision. A ‘sustainable city’ is also known as an ‘eco-city’, which means it is designed in consideration of environmental impact to ensure that with its high-density, walkable urban fabric, focus on public transport, significant recycling and significant amounts of landscaping, it has the lowest levels of per capita carbon emission globally.

Palava has been carefully planned to incorporate the essential principles of eco-friendly liveability.

The city’s green landscape has been designed to preserve the indigenous flora and create a balance of all strata’s of vegetation that contribute to the diversity of the aesthetics of the city. Preserving the mandate of building a city without disrupting its natural surroundings, the developments have been planned such that they do not disturb the natural surface hydrology, there is no cutting of the rock strata nor is there any disturbance to the natural gradient. The topography of the city’s green spaces focuses on environmental improvement and enhancement of natural resources such as bettering the topsoil quality, preserving existing trees and valuing the natural river, lake and swale that form natural landmarks along with the grasslands and rocky outcrops.

Palava’s land was always dotted with trees and the planning strategy ensured that all those trees were untouched or transplanted, as best suited, to fulfill design requirements of the open greens within the master plan. The plantation palette was carefully chosen after taking into consideration the land topography and its soil.

Understanding that planting new saplings would need several years to grow and provide the much-needed benefits, we set up a nursery at Posari, a village close to Palava, well in advance, to grow trees that are presently being used across the city.

The trees are procured and nurtured for their growth and health and thereafter planted around the city to enhance its green cover.

Phase I presently has over 21,000 trees while Phase II is planned to have over 1,00,000 trees.

While designing the open green space, the focus remains to strengthen the existing greens and nurturing the present environs to create a healthy experience for the citizens. And the recently held Go Green initiative, undertaken by the Palava City Management Association with support from the citizens reaffirmed our line of thought, as they came together to plant over 5,000 saplings across different neighbourhoods.

The parks, waterfronts and community greens in the city are designed to provide a diverse experience to the sensory palette. While the lake is 5 times the size of the Banganga Tank, the riverfront stretches up to 2.4 km, which is thrice the distance of Girgaum Chowpatty.

Today, Palava’s ratio of open spaces accounts to 2.5 sq.m./person as compared to 1.1 sq.m./person in Mumbai.

The masterplan is also designed keeping in focus walkability, having basic amenities such as schools, clubs, retail and parks within a 5 minutes walking distance. Therefore, pavements are well shaded and equipped with essential signages, benches and bins. Aiming to encourage a car-free environment and reduce pollution due to gas combustion, the city has dedicated bicycle tracks to ride through its neighbourhoods.

While at the macro level, the present design and proposed development is well aligned with the existing natural elements and planning flexibilities, at a micro level, it focuses on the citizen’s aspirations and needs. In all, the landscape design of the Palava tries to create opportunities with a diverse range of programs within a cohesive master plan that is primarily essential to improve the quality of urban living.

Smart Technology Can Make Or Break A Smart City

July 15, 2016
Smart technology

Smart cities are the need of the hour and they have to adopt and take advantage of information, communication technologies and data analytics to improve the management of traffic, solid waste, energy, water and citizen services.

Nestled in 330 acres of sylvan surroundings and home to over 5,000 residents, India’s Rashtrapati Bhavan is being given an ‘intelligent’ makeover with smart technologies and devices like smart meters and smart security, water and waste-management solutions besides smart citizen services.

To ensure that all these services are connected and work seamlessly but without destroying the iconic institution’s heritage, the self-sustained presidential estate in New Delhi now has an Intelligent Operations Centre (IOC) that was launched by President Pranab Mukherjee on 19 May.

The IOC system, implemented by International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), has been integrated with the electrical billing system to provide data on consumption patterns of consumers, public and common areas within the estate. Given that Rashtrapati Bhavan consumes over 100,000 units of electricity daily, the move will help optimize energy management.

Additionally, newer eco-friendly technology such as solar power, LED lamps for street lighting and other applications to reduce energy consumptions are deployed. IBM has also mapped all water domain assets such as underground water reservoirs, pump locations and tube well assets the entire water distribution pipeline on a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) layer to enable faster diagnostic and resolution of water incidents, and allow residents to track complaints in real-time.

IBM has also mapped waste management from waste bin collections, rickshaw routes, disposals, landfill, and processing onto its IOC system. A mobile app platform assists teams in maintaining a cleaner estate. Besides, a Citizens Mobile App, created by IBM’s IOC allows residents to report issues using the web and mobile. The data will be supplied to city offices which can use the insights to make informed decisions.

“The move to convert the Rashtrapati Bhavan into a smart city is unique not because of the significance of that institution but because we also had to preserve its heritage, which means that we could not simply redo the place and put up a lot of instrumentation that would mar the look of the place,” Prashant Pradhan, director-smarter planet business, IBM India and South Asia, said.

As with the work done in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a poster-boy for the government’s Smart Cities vision, a typical smart city would take advantage of information and communications technologies (ICT) and data analytics to improve the management of traffic, solid waste, energy, water and citizen services. While smart transportation can reduce traffic congestion and air pollution with the help of parking meters and sensors, enhancing surveillance systems can reduce the crime rate and create a smart public safety system. A smart city’s power distribution infrastructure would be built on smart grid technologies and integrated with power demand patterns and grid supply variations.

Cisco Systems Inc. has been collaborating with several state governments in India for Smart City projects across areas like surveillance, smart cities, automation, etc. Cisco recently named Jaipur as the first Smart + Connected Community Lighthouse City in South Asia. The Cisco Lighthouse City status credential is assigned to a select list of cities all over the world.

Cisco has also established a Smart City surveillance system in Lucknow with 280 cameras, 10,000 drones and night-vision mobile vans. Smart surveillance projects that drive citizen safety with round-the-clock monitoring will make digital crime fighting a key focus area.

Vizag Smart City is equipped with the Andhra Pradesh (AP) fibre Net, a state-wide broadband project. Cisco has announced an Internet of Everything (IoE) Innovation Centre in Vizag and is also deploying technologies like Smart Wi-Fi, Smart Safety and Security, Smart Lighting, Smart Parking, Smart Transport, Smart Bus Stops, Smart Kiosks, a Remote Expert for government Services (REGS) and Smart Education.

Microsoft Corp. has partnered with the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) in Gujarat to transform Surat; the hub of India’s diamond trade into a smart city. Surat is the fourth-fastest growing city in the world, with a population of 5 million and a business hub that processes 80% of the world’s diamonds and meets 40% of India’s demand for textiles, according to Milind Torawane, Surat’s municipal commissioner. SMC is working with Microsoft and its partners to develop solutions for water management and urban planning (building plan approvals). Surat has already implemented several e-governance and citizen-centric solutions developed on Microsoft technologies, including those for property tax and revenue collections and material management. Microsoft has also created a city dashboard that provides a customized view of key performance indicators for the city.

Palava’s smart technology, for which it has partnered with IBM, also extends to 500 surveillance cameras that capture real-time data and, in future, will support face recognition for entry and have panic alarms every 200 metres. A smart card given to all Palava citizens will allow cashless transactions at retail centres, access to bus service, public Wi-Fi within the city’s premises, buildings and commercial points of entry.

The fact that cities are bursting at the seams is not lost on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which, on 29 April 2015, signed off on a plan to create 100 ‘smart cities’ and the rolling out of a new five-year urban development mission for 500 cities. The combined cost: Rs.1 trillion. This January, the government selected 20 cities, including five state capitals, to launch its larger urban makeover plan—the first phase of the larger plan to set up 100 smart cities. The next round of the competition is to select 40 cities this year.

To be sure, there are major challenges that the government needs to address as it goes about the task of building smart cities. Besides, building a smart city is “not always about IT but is more about smartly designing a city” according to Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner, infrastructure and government services, at consulting firm KPMG.

Bhattacharya pointed out that most of the work that technology companies are doing for the designated smart cities so far has been ‘pro bono’, implying that now tenders will have to be floated to execute the projects. According to Bhattacharya, a “command and control system (referring to the IOC) is important but there is also a need for a common IT architecture for all states, failing which they (the states) will have to retrofit this”.

Another hurdle is that India has a federal democratic structure, so it needs the cooperation and coordination of states, coupled with that of urban local bodies, to build smart cities.

This article first appeared on Live Mint.

Read more to find out how Palava has adopted smart technology for a brighter future on Palava’s website.

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