Bringing Alive the Indian Smart City Dream

A smart city is a continuous process -- a series of steps by which cities continuously become more liveable and resilient by responding quickly to newer challenges and adapting to newer technologies

A city connotes various meanings. Tall buildings, refreshing parks, easy commutation etc are pictured as ideal cities in general. However, cities have more to them. An ideal smart city is one where technology, people, government and processes converge to offer its patrons an ideal living condition that ensures livable, economically viable and sustainable urban settlements for many years to come. Be it greenfield or brownfield, crafting out cities with harmonious operations, hassle – free commutation, easy access to core facilities, pollution free atmosphere, safer communities and tourist-friendly neighborhoods is essential for cities deemed to be ‘smart’. Times are changing fast, and so are the values and conventions. The rapid pace of technology has always led us believe that at some point, we will face a modern digital revolution spreading across the world at a rapid pace. In fact, this particular scenario is happening right now. The world is growing interconnected today and smart devices are playing a significant role in driving this communication wave. With Digitalization currently being the buzzword for today, the Government is focussing largely on building a Digital India. In fact, there is no better timeframe than now, especially to look at technology as infrastructure. Today, the necessity to be constantly “connected” has led to the theory of the Internet of Things which essentially allows devices to correspond over the Internet. The Indian Government is currently concentrating on building the infrastructure to support technology especially because security can be at risk with an inadequate IoT framework. Post the announcement of the 100 smart cities campaign, the country has been slowly identifying potential areas of adoption. In India, it is common sight to see people cutting lanes, racing through red signals and unorganized traffic.  Hence, the Indian smart city plan should definitely have amends to provide the citizens with real-time traffic updates, automatic toll booths, highway weather updates in case of heavy rains to provide safety, etc. In fact, smart cities with sensors can monitor weather, pollution, energy usage, manage traffic flow, parking, and improve air quality, energy efficiency, and public safety.  All these smart devices use a host of connectivity like Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Bluetooth, and mobile broadband technology. Demystifying the smart city The operation of a smart city is key to successful economic development in the country. It follows a targeted investment approach and is implemented only in areas guaranteeing energy efficiency. For instance, while Dubai has invested in industrial infrastructure like transport, energy and telecom; Singapore has invested in an intelligent transportation system and big data. The main rule that needs to be followed here is long-term targets in terms of reducing costs will need to be planned tactically. Securing the smart city Security invasion is one of the biggest threats a smart city is subjected to. It is extremely crucial to ensure that all components of an Internet of Things (IoT) solution – including things, sensor networks, wireless/wired communication network, IoT Platform, and gateways – are not vulnerable to threat. With the increasing number of people wired to the connected ecosystem, maintaining privacy is paramount, mainly to protect the massive IoT framework from any kind of theft. A tiny loophole in the smart city ecosystem can pave way for attackers to halt the critical services, and even indulge in crime and terrorism. Therefore, prior to deployment of pilot smart city projects in India, it is vital to devise security standards and mitigation strategies. Integrating Big Data & Analytics Exploding streams of data generated from thousands of smart devices and sensors across the city can be put to good use by Big Data & analytics. Device data when coupled with other applications creates myriad of possibilities. For instance, public safety can be improved by:

  • Integrating data from divergent systems viz fire/smoke sensors, surveillance cameras with fire and police services.
  • Providing real-time traffic update or warning on unfavorable weather conditions through Smart Billboards.
  • Predictive analytics to protect the city against natural disasters and crime
Empowering the smart Indian While all the smart cities around the world are unique with their own smart agenda, however, one thing which is common for all the smart city deployments is that they use Big Data. Some smart cities across the world include London, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rio de Janeiro, and Dublin (to name a few). These cities have implemented innovative solutions within transport, waste, water, alternative energy sources. We only hope that India truly lives up to the smart city dream where regular problems like power cuts, traffic and road safety need to be regulated. In addition, the convergence of smart city and smart grids improve energy efficiency, enhance grid security, and optimize energy distribution process. Advanced smart metering will benefit citizens to manage energy consumption and allow them to take advantage of time-based rates, by dropping energy consumption during peak hours. Having said that, it’s very important to note that the concept of smart city is not a static one. There is no absolute definition of a smart city. There’s no end point that has to be achieved. A smart city is a continuous process -- a series of steps by which cities continuously become more liveable and resilient by responding quickly to newer challenges and adapting to newer technologies. Prabhu is the Director - WebNMS, WebNMS


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