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Four technologies for your smart neighbourhood

A look at some technologies that can help design cities to match increasingly technology-centric neighbourhoods

E-scooters from Yulu Bikes can be picked up from specific parking lots in a city.
E-scooters from Yulu Bikes can be picked up from specific parking lots in a city.

The UN Population Fund estimates that by 2030, about five billion people will be living in urban towns and cities. While finding space for a swelling population is important, a key prerequisite is to design cities to match the demands of an increasingly digital and technology-centric population. Smart cities, quite simply, can’t be smart without the right technology. Here’s a look at four smart technologies to connect you to your neighbourhood, and also keep it safe.

1 Neighbourhood apps

Launched in 2018, Google’s Neighbourly marked the arrival of another “India-first service" from the technology giant. Neighbourly keeps you updated on your neighbourhood. The app is available in seven cities so far and comes with a simple interface where users can post questions, conduct polls and find answers to questions pertaining to the neighbourhood. Users can share important local updates and create events for others to join in. The app also comes with options to personalize the feed: They can choose to see posts and content on different topics—parenting, property, education, health, local services, etc.

Nextdoor is another social networking platform (though the app is not available in India as of now) which enables the exchange of useful information and services in a neighbourhood.

2 Digital addresses

Smart digital addresses are designed to replace the conventional address. Startups across India—EasyZip, Zippr, MapMyIndia—are working in multiple cities with unique eight- or nine-digit number addresses that are more accurate and easy to navigate than street addresses. The common thread is the idea of a standardized address format. In 2018, Google rolled out a new feature on Maps called Plus Codes, which is based on a system of identifying locations that don’t have a street address—called geocode—with a short code generated using latitude and longitude coordinates. Writing a blog on the occasion of Google Maps’ 15th anniversary, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said, “One of the next frontiers for Maps will be to help the billions of people who live without a physical address get a digital one." These Plus Codes, he wrote, could be used freely by anyone.

3 Security tech

With a slew of gadgets that can turn a regular home into a smart home on the inside, it is also important to think of technologies that make it “smart" from the outside. For instance, smart home security company Ring, owned by Amazon, offers products like the Video Doorbell, which can detect the motion of anyone approaching your home. Apart from getting notifications on your PC or smartphone app, you can see, hear and speak to visitors at your door in real time with HD video and two-way audio system. Users can also answer remotely if they are not at home. Ring also offers a smart security cam and lighting system that is designed to make neighbourhoods safer. Other companies like Eufy and Remo+ also offer video doorbells that can store video footage on a local drive and stream it directly to your smartphone to keep your data safe.

4 E-scooters

There is no doubt that a sustainable transport system will be an important factor in a smart city. And an e-scooter revolution is at our doorstep. Yulu Bikes, which entered the Indian market last year, offers compact electric scooters that can be picked up from specific parking lots in a city and left at another one. The e-mobility startup now has a presence in Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Bhubaneswar. Last-mile connectivity has always been an issue for neighbourhoods—but e-scooters might just be the answer. In a recent opinion piece, Alex Hern, the UK technology editor for The Guardian, wrote that the UK was finally inching towards “legalizing electric scooters on roads", but reiterated that the laws should focus more on safety, not horsepower. “Micromobility can succeed with or without the Silicon Valley business models—but it can’t succeed without being given a chance on the roads," he wrote.

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