Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

This is part of a series on how India cities are transforming to become smarter. 

By Dhamodaran Ramakrishnan, Director, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India/South Asia

How can we rein in the wrath of torrential rains, and be better prepared even before they strike havoc disrupting city life? Well, when heavy rains lash the cities, causing traffic snarls, hit train and other services, we are forced to venture out of inertia. It’s time to wear the thinking hat. Why can’t our cities get accurate and timely weather forecasts that matter? How are cities across the world dealing with such a scenario?

Consider this…Life in Mumbai was thrown out of gear as the city received the heaviest rainfall of the season. Many local trains were cancelled or delayed, major roads got submerged and citizens returning home or going to hospital got stranded on roads and in trains – causing much public agony. Citizens were caught unaware till they hit the roads, only to get stuck.

Is there a way technology could be leveraged to prevent such recurring incidents that causes widespread public agony? Can our cities weatherproof the day to day operations to avoid such disasters? It’s great to know how the weather is going to be in our city two days from now. But, what does it take to devise a system that can help better prepare to fight such emergency? The challenge is while traditional weather forecasting can predict general weather conditions with some accuracy, it doesn’t always give government agencies and utilities the kind of information they can take action on.

Predicting the weather for a specific location down to a square kilometer, and how it will affect the people and infrastructure there, is a tough computing problem. And it’s that sort of hyper-local forecasting that advanced technologies like Deep Thunder can provide. This can offer high–resolution forecasts for a region, ranging from a metropolitan area up to an entire state, with calculations as fine as every kilometer, including the impact of the weather.

Advanced supercomputing models can help our cities leverage short-term forecasts, predicting everything from where flooding and downed power lines will likely occur to where winds will be too high. Forecasts are made up to a few days ahead of time. The reports can be customized to visualize the specific weather elements or impacts a business may be concerned about, such as wind speed and direction for a disaster management crew.

Significantly, what needs to be beefed up is not really about the weather. It’s about improving the effectiveness of a city’s weather–sensitive operations, such as emergency management, traffic management, asset management or logistics, and business continuity with very specific, up–to–the minute information.

Consider this.  IBM deployed Deep Thunder for the government of Rio De Janeiro, which is used in a new operations center, designed to help the city adequately prepare people for flash floods.  This was in response to catastrophic floods that occurred in April 2010.  Located in Cidade Nova, the center integrates and interconnects information from multiple government departments and public agencies in the municipality to improve city safety and responsiveness to various types of incidents, such as flash floods and landslides.

Consolidating data from various urban systems for real-time visualization, monitoring and analysis, such sophisticated technologies can provide City’s incident commander and responders with a single, unified view of everything happening around the city on a video wall, including surveillance cameras, maps, simulations, news updates, resources and information that they require for situational awareness.

Certainly, if only the city planners can know with accuracy what the weather will be ahead of time, they can more effectively plan effective travel conduits, avoid traffic accidents, logistics for a sports event or a live entertainment show, emergency operations, including back–up operations. This necessitates using weather analytics to optimize our citizen-centric service chain by planning around adverse weather conditions, reducing delays, protecting and maximizing use of valuable assets, and streamlining scheduling. It’s time to act smarter, and act collectively to embrace proven technologies to beef up our cities integrated response systems.

Let not the wettest day leave us high and dry as rains are there to enjoy….

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