Lahore on way to become Smart City

Oct 26, 2018

LAHORE: Every city has its own challenges and unique problems, so no specific technology solution is available in the world to cope up with the issues.
Thus, the stakeholders of each city asked the technology companies to provide the solution for the city to make the city smart and modernised. The stakeholders keep the requirements of the different departments of the city such as police, civil defence, municipality, water and sanitation, traffic engineering and others to establish the required infrastructure in the city.

The same formula applied when the Punjab government started the Punjab Safe Cities Project from Lahore. Apparently, people believed that the project was only for policing and surveillance of the city, including the traffic management in the city. The first successful impact of the project was observed in February 2017, suicide incident on Mall Road in which two top police officials, one DIG and SSP were martyred other than 14 citizens. Police tracked the handlers of the suicide bomber through the safe city cameras besides other technology, including the mobile network fencing in the surrounding area. Resultantly, the police successfully nabbed the handlers and busted the sleeper network within 72 hours after incident.

The Punjab government acquired the technology services from a mobile company. The company provided a one-stop integrated Safe City solution, including the municipal emergency command centre, broadband trunking, video surveillance, facial recognition, automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR), and motorcycle recognition, implementing visualised command in the entire process. The installation of the technology benefited the with city-wide video surveillance for crime deterrence, pre-detection, and timely warning, converged command and efficient cross-agency collaboration, shortening the police response time to 9–11 minutes. The story did not end here, rather just started.

The Punjab government one month ago announced that it had started e-challans of the motorist violation of signal. In the first phase, out of total 24 traffic violations, e-challans are started with traffic signal violation. In the short span of one month, more than 87,000 e-challans were issued and posted to the vehicle owners’ postal address out of which more than 35,000 deposited their fine which generated over Rs11 million to provincial exchequer. Besides revenue to provincial exchequer, improving the traffic situation and abiding by the traffic rules in the city was observed. Motorists gradually started changing their road using habits. Additionally, the PSCA has notified Excise and Taxation Department about more than 9,000 vehicle records for correction so far. Since September 23, over 1,000 vehicles have been blacklisted for displaying fake registration numbers; over 100 vehicles detained in police stations.

Chief Operating Officer of Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) Akber Nasir Khan said that now the three more traffic violations were being added to the e-challans, including the stop-line, U-turn and one-way. ‘The changes come gradually with consistent work. So the case is in traffic management of Lahore through technology’, he said. About the usefulnessof the deployed infrastructure of safe city in Lahore, he mentioned that it’s a Smart City supporting network. But the project was named safe city so there was no need to change the name. However, the deployed network is supporting all the departments.

From control room, everything ranging from open manhole, eruption of fire, raising smoke, congestion of traffic, public protest, accident, hanging electric wire, etc, happening in Lahore is being monitored. As proactively approach, the command and control room is communicating this to all the departments concerned promptly for required actions. Referring, the example of recent encroachment drive started by the government, PSCA has given its report generated from the surveillance cameras to the authorities concerned about the encroachments.

What happening is, Akber Nasir said that different departments are not currently taking action promptly on the alerts generated by the PSCA. However, in the long run all departments have to sync with the PSCA for required action. The government has spent huge resources for the deployment of smart city infrastructure in Lahore which made it the first smart city network in the country. Now people and departments have to be smart to use the smart city infrastructure.

He said just imagine that what Karachi or other mega city of Pakistan are losing annually in term of monetary gains in the absence of smart city network is the government has given Rs2 billion revenue target to PSCA for eight months in the budget and for year it would be Rs3 billion. Making it benchmark, Karachi is losing minimum 4 to 5 billion annually for not deploying the smart city infrastructure. Additionally, Lahore safe city project is going to be self-sustainable within one year while the project cost will also be recovered within three to four years. This is simple monetary benefits of the project. However, the economic benefits of the projects are huge and not calculated yet.

According to a research conducted by Syed Muhammad Hasan of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) titling ‘Traffic congestion in Lahore – Costs and solutions’ estimated that Lahore annually suffers almost Rs100 billion economic cost due to traffic congestion. Interestingly, this amount is almost equal to the total annual budget of Punjab police.

Other than traffic congestion, environmental impact, fuel consumption of the vehicles, citizens’ lives and happiness indicators are correlated with the smart city in the modern world.

For example, five different type censors are installed at various areas of the city which provide real time data. On the basis of the data gathered from the system, required policy can easily be chalked out for the betterment of the city, including the pollution ranging from noise to environmental and others.

In Lahore, Safe City project has built a security system featuring device-pipe-cloud synergy to safeguard the Safe City system. The device side of the safe city solution includes cameras and trunking terminals. For cameras, it provided methods such as authentication, access control, and video encryption to prevent video information from being spoofed, hijacked, and disclosed. The pipe side of the safe city solution includes wired and wireless networks.

For wired networks, it established encryption mechanisms such as IPSec to ensure that data is not tampered with or stolen during network transmission. For wireless networks, the 4G-based trunking system inherits the LTE air interface encryption feature and encrypts signaling and user data using encryption algorithms to prevent user data from being disclosed. The cloud side of the safe city solution includes the data centre, cloud platform, and big data platform. In this field, mobile phone uses, firewall, IPS, and other security measures to ensure network infrastructure security of data centres, provides a variety of security strategies such as virtualisation security, host security, application security, data security, and identity and access management, and constructs a unified security management system to enable situation awareness, linked disposal, and threat tracing.

Chief Technology Officer of a Chinese mobile company in the Middle East, Faisal Malik, who previously worked in Pakistan, believed that smart city enabler infrastructure was deployed in Lahore. The infrastructure deployed in Lahore is almost of similar capacity installed in Dubai which could be improved with passage of time in accordance of future needs. For example, if the government wants to install more cameras, censors and other surveillance equipment, the existing deployed infrastructure will support it. Further, now it depends on the government and authorities how to maximise the benefits of the deployed infrastructure and convert Lahore into a modern smart city, he commented.

(The News)