ICT solutions are the building blocks of smart cities, which rely on a robust ICT infrastructure for efficient functioning. As such, the deployment of various new-age technologies such as internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics and machine-to-machine (M2M) is taking centre stage. Heads of leading smart city projects in India talk about the communication requirements of smart cities, key smart applications and connectivity services, the role of emerging technologies and opportunities for various stakeholders…
What are the key communication requirements of smart cities?
CEO, Chennai Smart City Limited
Smart cities are building infrastructure to support the development and expansion of the already expanding cities. There is an urgent need to examine how much bandwidth will be required for a city like Chennai, let’s say, in 2050. The communication solutions must take into account factors such as growing population, increasing technology usage and increasing demands across various sectors.
Director, Patna Smart City Limited, and Mayor, Patna
Communication technologies in smart cities are no longer limited to fixed-line telephony, mobile communications and internet, but go much beyond. Communication, data exchange and interconnectedness are the key features of a smart city. Meanwhile, power supply, mobility and public safety are equally important.
CEO, Gwalior Smart City Development Corporation Limited
Smart cities require a communication infrastructure that can provide direct data access from most of the government and private entities catering to citizens. Unless data and information flow directly from these entities to smart cities, analytics cannot be effectively put to work. Smart cities also require a mix of dedicated long and short range communication methodologies such as LPWAN (comprising LoRA3, Sigfox2, Weightless4, etc.) and wireless sensor networks such as Zigbee.
Apart from data communication, dedicated voice channels are required for the close monitoring of applications that provide direct services to citizens. One example of this is dedicated radio frequency or other suitable communication medium for solid waste management and monitoring.
What applications and connectivity services are you planning to deploy for your smart city?
Currently, Greater Chennai Corporation and Chennai Smart City Limited are planning to set up a pan-city optical fibre cable network. It should be in place by 2021. It will cater to pan-city and suburban requirements until 2050. Apart from this, an integrated command and control centre (ICCC) has been envisaged. Under this, Wi-Fi services will be provided to the under-serviced areas by setting up smart poles.
ICT services include smart mobility (intelligent transportation system, vehicle telematics, insurance, fleet management, connected cars), smart healthcare, smart living and home automation, smart utilities, smart governance (software and solutions that can be used by various departments) and smart manufacturing (predictive maintenance, etc.).
Communication networks will include wired, wireless, satellite, as well as MAN, WAN, PAN and HAN networks. These networks will include transmission protocols such as MQTT, M2M connectivity as well as dedicated resources to be allocated for critical communication during emergencies and disasters.
We have already deployed applications such as smart classrooms (for use by teachers and students of government schools), variable message signboards (providing road users information about traffic, weather updates, messages from administration, etc.), smart parking and public bike sharing. We are ready to deploy applications pertaining to digital library, digital museum and intelligent traffic management systems (ITMS). The ones that are proposed include smart poles, smart health centres, GIS-based property and utility mapping. Most of these applications have internet connectivity, which is provided by local internet service providers, except for some like smart poles, where dedicated OFC networks will be laid.
What are your key ICT partnerships and collaborations? What are your future plans?
Almost all smart city projects have ICT components, including apps for grievance redressal, public bicycle sharing and parking management. The Greater Chennai Corporation is also implementing a project for women safety in the city. To this end, it is looking to implement security enablers in public transport, provide helpline app services and GIS-based crime mapping. Ultimately, the aim is to integrate all the services into a single user app.
Apart from this, from the administrative side, we are looking to implement ITMS, which will comprise core solutions for bus fleet management, passenger services management and traffic management.
Traditional strategic planning models relied on the outside-in approach to determine strategy and vision. Patna, however, is unique, not just in terms of geographical assets, commercial and economic strengths, culture and heritage, but also in terms of the mindset of its people and the kind of life they value. Therefore, it is critical to layer the outside-in approach with an inside-out approach to create a unique vision for Patna and then translate this into ICT, infrastructure and urban designs, which are included in our future plan. Currently, we are working on ICT partnerships and collaborations similar to arrangements made under other retrofitting smart cities.
What role will emerging technologies like IoT, M2M, automation and big data analytics play in the functioning of smart cities? Are you planning to deploy any 5G-specific solutions for your smart city?
For a city like Chennai, the issue is not deploying new technologies, but preparing citizens to adapt to these technologies. In developed countries, a systematic evolution of technologies was witnessed, whereas in a developing country like India, we do not have the same luxury. We have to jump on board the latest innovations and advancements. Thus, the ICT solutions should be dynamic enough to cater to multiple needs and demands. For example, if there is a transport management system, it should not be used only for predicting routes and bus timings. It should also be capable of suggesting increased usage during festivals or cricket matches. So there must be constant feedback from the user to the government to bridge the gaps in decision-making.
The way forward is to leverage existing data while also collecting and analysing real-time data. It is also about making the technology and its solutions accessible to the last person in the chain. We need such solutions for all smart cities where the end goal is to improve the quality of living for all, especially the marginalised.
Smart Cities are a key application area of IoT solutions. A standard M2M middleware is a key enabler of our e-health platform and crowd sensing platform. Services based on IoT and M2M communications are being proposed for several industries including smart cities, smart homes and smart energy systems. But even with advances in new technology and a substantial amount of research funding, most of these services are not being deployed on a large scale. Innovation is needed not only in terms of technical solutions but also in business models. Currently, we are in the process of studying a number of projects on smart cities, smart homes and energy systems in order to compare with some successful cases of new IoT and M2M concepts. Also, we are analysing the benefits of different IoT services, including cost savings in service provisioning and ease of use for end-users. We are also studying how resource utilisation is often hampered by the unwillingness of traditional actors to share a service platform, who are afraid of losing control over their customers.
Surely, we are looking at 5G-specific solutions too in order to make Patna a true smart city.
Emerging technologies like IoT will play a very specific and crucial role in managing the output of smart cities. Some of the emerging technologies including IoT and big data can also be used in the ICCC, which will also take up the role of a disaster management centre (as and when the need arises). IoT can be leveraged to prevent, prepare for and respond to a disaster. We propose big data to be utilised for crisis analytics, which can monitor social media and accordingly predict false propaganda, or mischief.