The success of a smart city depends largely on its level of technological advancement. Cities in India have started warming up to new technologies like the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), but they still have a long way to go when it comes to the commercial deployment of these technologies. A look at the emerging technologies and their application in smart cities…
Internet of things
IoT is emerging as a promising technology to address a range of challenges faced by city dwellers. It creates a massive network of things communicating with one another, and thus provides access to huge volumes of data. It also helps introduce new applications and services for creating a cleaner environment, reducing power consumption and improving efficiency.
IoT acts as the building block and technical foundation of a smart city. A sensor node installed at one location provides data to different departments of the city, helping understand the problem and provide an effective solution to resolve it. IoT keeps track of activities in real time and then processes and stores them on the cloud.
IoT makes internet omnipresent by ensuring easy access through various devices such as home appliances, cameras, monitoring sensors, actuators, display boards and vehicles. The use of IoT in lighting solutions helps detect lighting failures automatically and create a maintenance plan for the same. Adaptive lighting adjusts the brightness of lights depending on the time of the day and responds automatically to human presence. IoT can also be leveraged to deploy sensors in parking lots to identify empty slots. The various applications of IoT, such as smart traffic management, smart waste management, smart environment monitoring, connected streets, public security, smart heating and ventilation, forest fire detection and smart kiosks, form an integral part of a smart city. However, one of the major challenges pertains to information security. Even a small bug in a single node can corrupt the entire database. Therefore, the overall security of the IoT network needs to be ensured.
IoT alone cannot meet the needs of the fast growing urban population, which entails reducing traffic congestion, promoting wastewater management, deploying an efficient energy grid, maintaining security, etc. Thus, a combination of cloud and IoT is required to manage huge amounts of unstructured data efficiently. IoT is being used for smart energy and smart grid services but it can process data only on a small scale. The use of cloud ensures that a huge amount of data from various sources is handled efficiently.
Cloud can also be used in monitoring a smart environment such as the gas concentration in air inside mines, laboratories, vehicles, etc. Cloud technology, in combination with IoT, can enable automatic monitoring of waste to track garbage and formulate plans to process it. This will result in both cost and time savings. Logistics is another vertical that can benefit immensely from the use of cloud. To meet the increasing food demand of the growing population, prevention of food losses and spoilage is essential. Smart logistics such as pack houses and refrigerated vehicles can help prevent losses and ensure optimum utilisation of food.
Cloud provides a platform where all data is collected via various interconnected devices and sensors, and is readily available for use by both the government and private stakeholders. The technical support required to build a smart city is provided by cloud computing. It offers the facility of automatic backup. Also, if a single computer connected to the cloud crashes, it does not affect the data that is stored on cloud, hence making it a reliable and safe data storage centre. The use of cloud-based services is expected to rise given the increased focus on smart city development.
Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication enables the automatic exchange of information between machines and devices. Making smart cities a reality would require significant changes in applications and services, which are possible via M2M communications. By providing connectivity between devices and network infrastructure, M2M ensures efficient traffic management, availability of parking spaces, management of noise, temperature, light levels and carbon monoxide concentration, etc. M2M deployment also helps in the monitoring of resources such as water, energy and waste production, data analysis and faster decision-making. Further, the interconnectivity among automotive vehicles, the traffic system and the parking system will help save fuel and travel.
Interconnectivity of devices also brings to light the need to secure the huge amount of information that is being shared on different devices and e-platforms. Securing connections and communication between connected devices is necessary for the smooth functioning of all smart city solutions.
The government’s smart cities initiative can be implemented in a more efficient way by using AI in the deployment of various smart solutions. AI technologies can be put to use across various verticals such as healthcare, agriculture, education, traffic management and surveillance.
AI can be used to read licence plates and recognise faces to track stolen cars, identify expired registrations and issue tickets in case of any driving-related offences. It can also be used to track the speed and movement of vehicles to establish patterns. Adaptive signal control technology allows traffic lights to change their timing based on real-time data. It can also be used to monitor and control street lighting, park maintenance, pavement maintenance, etc. to reduce operational costs. Smart grids can be employed in cities for efficient power management.
In a country with the second largest population in the world, efficient crowd management is a challenge that has troubled the authorities for a long time. AI can provide efficient crowd management solutions to manage events with a huge footfall, such as the Kumbh Mela or election campaigns, by predicting the crowd responses to incidents and possibility of a stampede. Intelligent security solutions can be deployed to check the movement of suspects, identify potential crimes, detect potential cyberattacks and take necessary steps to reduce susceptibility to any unwanted instance.
Faster speeds and universal connectivity offered by 5G services are expected to generate significant gains for smart cities. Wireless connectivity offered by 5G will act as a building block for all smart cities. 5G offers better coverage, both indoors and outdoors. It will ensure greater reliability and improve the overall user experience of customers. Further, smart cities can leverage the potential benefits of 5G such as faster speed and lower latency. 5G networks can also aid the deployment of M2M communications and IoT applications in smart cities. 5G networks will enable street lights to monitor traffic flow efficiently. Smart grids connected with 5G can reduce electricity peaks and blackouts. 5G roll-out is also expected to increase the number of smart homes and open up new opportunities in the field of healthcare by providing superfast connectivity, hence, reducing response time and ensuring provision of emergency services at the earliest.
Given the goal to establish 100 smart cities across India and make them citizen-friendly and sustainable in the long run, various new technologies need to be used in combination as they complement each other. Once commercially deployed, these technologies will help realise the smart cities vision.