Artificial intelligence (AI) will be deployed as part of a collaboration involving the University of Toronto and IIT-Bombay to make Pune a truly smart city.
This will be among the first of the projects to be tackled under a recent memorandum of understanding signed by the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Ltd, IIT-Bombay and University of Toronto (UofT).
Four areas have been identified for the long-term partnership — affordable housing, rural immigrants arriving in large numbers in Pune, cyber security and digital systems interoperability.
The objective, according to a the statement from the university, is to “focus on finding solutions to urban problems by tapping into technology-based ‘smart solutions’ that aim not only to improve economic growth for the city of approximately six million but also to create a more sustainable and resilient region”.
That project is being headed by Mark Fox, distinguished professor of urban systems engineering at the university, and will use AI to standardise the sheer volume of data generated by the city. “The development of data standards could help Pune and other Indian cities improve the analysis, design and delivery of city services,” according to the statement.
In an interview at his office in Toronto, Fox, who has been in the AI field since 1974, said a virtual “Tower of Babel” currently exists in terms of how data related to urban services is available. Creating “knowledge representation” that is “logical” will help to better “analyse and optimise” how the public is served, he added
“These definitions are machine understandable and we can build intelligent systems that use those definitions to do analysis,” he said.
When Fox travels to Pune in early December, the aim will be to identify initial areas of the partnership. He said the advantage of this relationship was that the university has more than 220 faculty members who work in urban research across a range of disciplines.
Fox, the statement said, is an expert “on ontologies that provide precise city data, analysed and culled from many different sources — key to digital systems interoperability — and designs computational searches that can look for solutions to urban problems”.
He was first interested in working in India in 2015 as the initiative for creating 100 smart cities by 2020 came on stream. Pune will be a test case and possibly, a “template” for AI that can be leveraged to find solutions in a rapidly urbanising nation.
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