Smart cities – ushering India into the future
By: HT Brand Studio
The core principle of a smart city is to help redefine the urban space and make it citizen-friendly — far easier to navigate and thrive in — with a central focus on information technology as its driving infrastructure. Wastage of natural resources is minimised, making future growth sustainable while keeping costs low.
What makes a smart city?
Before going any further, it would be wise to understand what exactly a smart city is. There's actually no fixed definition as it's a far-ranging concept incorporating multiple elements. Yet, one major factor that goes towards establishing a smart city is the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) to enhance the livability, workability and sustainability of the city. The Internet of things (IoT), defined as the inter-networking between different devices — or the connectivity across smart devices — is used as a means to link the different elements of a city together. Ultimately, a smart city is a testament to innovation and technological development — with a clear focus on improving the socio-infrastructure of the place — bringing its inhabitants closer together, improving their quality of life in both tangible and intangible ways.
Smart examples from around the world
It is estimated that the global smart cities market size will grow from over USD 312 billion in 2015 to USD 757.74 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 19.4%. When thinking of smart cities, grand visuals of Barcelona, London, or New York would undoubtedly pop up. London, for instance, has always had a forward-thinking approach to technology. The Smart London plan was implemented in 2013 as a way to integrate technology into the functioning of the city, thus helping create jobs and infrastructure as a means to support growth. A smart transport network has a substantial role in servicing a rapid rate of expansion in a city.
Singapore is another important smart city, where a large chunk of government services are accessible to its citizens online. Seoul, too, is considered a leading smart city globally, gently nudging along its residents into the future. They're also using OLEV (online electric vehicle) technology, which allows vehicles to recharge while on the move, increasing efficiency. Healthcare facilities are another major element that Seoul has focused its energies on.
An exceptional traffic management system is in place in Copenhagen, with communication between street lighting and traffic signals, flexible use of car parking areas, and smart traffic lights which adapt to the flow of the traffic. In addition, the city is committed to green technology and is working towards reducing its carbon emissions. In Helsinki, there exists the Smart Kalasatama district. It acts as a living lab, a massive innovation platform where new solutions can be tested in real-time, in the urban environment. The residents of the district are testers and developers, thus encouraging citizen involvement, and there is a focus on modernisation and development through this project. They've made inroads in reducing energy consumption, developed parking spaces with electric car charging, reduced traffic, and are constantly on the lookout to innovate further.
Closer to home, there have been considerable technological leaps, making smart cities a reality in India. In 2015, the Indian government introduced the Smart Cities Mission, which aims to develop and sustain a city's infrastructure using smart solutions. An official explanation on the website states: "The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities." A total of 109 cities have been selected for this ambitious project that could provide a blueprint for urban development in the country. It will be rolled out in multiple phases, with the first round featuring a total of 20 cities.
Tata Communications is the first company in India to successfully conduct trials of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN), based on LoRa™ technology for connected devices and cutting edge Internet of Things (IoT) applications across Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. Following these successful trials, Tata Communications and Semtech Corporation worked together to deploy 35 IoT proofs-of-concept (PoCs) based on LoRa™ Technology across these three cities. The PoCs cover a wide array of applications, including sensors for remotely monitoring air conditioners and safety deposit boxes, energy management systems used to optimise the use of electricity, gas and water, and multiple smart buildings and smart city applications.
VS Shridhar, Senior Vice President & Head – Internet of Things, Tata Communications says, "India is actively working towards turning smart cities into reality. Tata Communications has successfully tested India's first IoT network in some of the largest cities in India. The current LoRaWAN-based network allows millions of devices to be connected, and our goal is to have 200 million end devices connected by 2019. We believe application centres like the one established by Tata Communications and Semtech in Mumbai will play a significant part in helping us co-create this growth"
Recently Hewlett Packard Enterprise also announced that it is working with Tata Communications to support the roll-out of India's first LoRaWAN™ (LoRa) based network.
Smart ideas for a better tomorrow
Smart street lighting system, which covers the entire topography of the city, can be the first step in the development of a smart city. The LED lights in the city can be linked together to create a network, helping reduce power consumption and energy costs. For example, in Barcelona smart LED lamps are activated only when they can detect movement.
LED street lighting is one of the components that will be used in Coimbatore, Chennai, Bhopal, and Guwahati as part of the Smart Cities Mission of India. Other features include a smart parking system, smart metering of water, a public information system, a centralised command centre, and area-based traffic control.
The future looks promising for organisations that offer smarter networks to enable intelligent solutions, meeting the connectivity demands of smart cities. Given the flexible definition of the smart city, it's imperative to point out that its purpose isn't merely to incorporate the savviest technology — it goes beyond that. Technology must be a catalyst that empowers all stakeholders – from city government to connected streetlights, utilities and city dwellers – to meaningfully connect with each other.