India is striving to make its cities smart by deploying various cutting-edge technology solutions across different functions and verticals. New-age technologies such as AI, IoT and cloud are seeing rapid uptake across Indian smart cities. They are the basic building blocks of the smart city infrastructure.
A look at the various use cases of the key technologies deployed in smart cities, their adoption across cities, the major deals and contracts signed in this space, and the way forward…
The applications of IoT in a smart city are manifold, including smart street lighting, smart waste management, smart parking, smart traffic management system and smart environment monitoring. An IoT-based lighting system provides an energy efficient solution. Unlike a traditional lighting system, which has fixed and undifferentiated lighting levels, smart lighting adapts to the weather conditions and can automatically dim or brighten the lights depending on the time of day. It also uses the human presence detection technique. Further, in an IoT-based lighting system, lighting failures are automatically reported and fixed in real time, which is not possible in a traditional lighting system as failure inspection is a manual process. Moreover, the digital system smartly plans the maintenance work for the entire city and creates maintenance routes.
In March 2021, Bengaluru-based iRAM Technologies, which focuses on IoT deployment, secured four projects for smart cities, including Dahod, Kohima, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Rajkot. These projects have been awarded for the deployment of smart poles, smart street lighting, and smart parking city assets. Under the contract, iRAM Technologies will be installing IoT architecture-based innovative parking technologies comprising a smart sensor wireless network, a citizen mobile application, parking management and guidance software in the Pimpri-Chinchwad and Rajkot smart cities.
AI is finding increased uptake among
smart cities. The technology can enable waste management, mobility, traffic systems, policing and healthcare services using data sensors. 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.
Moreover, intelligent security solutions can be deployed to check the movement of suspects, identify potential crimes, and detect cyberattacks and take the necessary steps to prevent unwanted activities. Further, social media intelligence platforms can aid public safety by gathering information from networking sites and predicting potential activities that may be a threat to the public. As per an industry report, the crime rate in Surat has dropped by 27 per cent after the implementation of AI-powered safety systems. AI-based surveillance systems can be deployed to keep a check on potential crime incidents and the general security of residents. In addition, AI-based solutions can be explored for effective crowd management during emergencies and disasters.
A smart city is made up of smart infrastructure consisting of sensors, software and systems that keep generating data. A city can truly be called smart only if it is able to capitalise on this data generated to gather insights, and then use these insights to make systems and processes better and more efficient. This is where cloud comes in. In order to handle such high volumes of heterogeneous data, there is a need for larger silos and high computing power, which can only be met by cloud computing. The cloud provides big data storage, integration, processing and analysis of data on a real-time basis. Industry analysts have highlighted that cloud computing enhances sharpness, speed and cost savings by providing on-demand access and the ability to scale up.
While technologies such as IoT, AI, M2M and cloud make a city smart and enable the provision of services in a much more efficient and effective manner, all such services will cease to exist if the network that these solutions run on is not robust. The launch of 5G is expected to significantly improve network connectivity. 5G offers better coverage, faster speeds, lower latencies and higher bandwidth than 3G and 4G. With these features, it is able to provide greater reliability and improve overall user experience. Going forward, 5G will support the deployment of M2M communication and IoT applications in smart cities by providing a robust network.
Adoption across cities
A number of innovative technologies have been launched to develop communication infrastructure for greater efficiency across smart cities. For instance, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority has set up an ICCC in the city to efficiently monitor incoming and outgoing traffic as well as traffic congestion. The ICCC provides storage for all online data related to smart city applications such as CCTV-based public safety system and adaptive traffic management system. Through the ICCC, the authority aims to enhance smart parking, water supply management, pollution monitoring, property tax management and asset management. Further, under this project, the authority is planning to set up a citywide optic fibre cable network to e-connect all the areas of Gurugram to the ICCC. The network will serve as the backbone for various smart city initiatives and will stretch over 600 km, covering 115 sectors in Gurugram and Manesar.
Another innovative project being operationalised in the Pune Smart City is the launch of a road asset management system (RAMS) for providing GIS-based decision support to the city corporation to make crucial decisions about road repair and maintenance work. The RAMS project involves data collection for the entire road network of the Pune Municipal Corporation, and development and deployment of a web-based RAMS software. In yet another example of technology deployment across smart cities, in October 2020, Chennai adopted a new solid waste management system. Under the new waste management project, a smart control room will be set up at Alandur. Separate teams will be formed to address complaints for each zone. The control room will also monitor the route maps of trucks and compactor bins. The entire system will be geotagged and vigilantly monitored through GPS. Chennai is also switching to smart bins, enabling garbage bins at public places with sensors to track the quantity of garbage being dumped in the bins. The installed sensors transmit the status of bins in real time through wireless networks.
Technology deployment across cities during Covid-19
The communication infrastructure has been successfully used in many smart cities to address the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, Agra Smart City, in association with Scanpoint Geometrics Limited, created a GIS dashboard, which showed various hotspots, a heat map, number of positive cases and recovered cases, etc. It was developed on the IGiS platform, an indigenous technology that brings GIS, image processing, photogrammetry and CAD together on a single platform. The dashboard can help solve problems in the areas of agriculture, defence, forestry, disaster management, land information, mining, power, smart cities, urban planning, utilities and location-based services.
In another instance, the ICCC at the Gwalior Smart City functioned as a control room for monitoring the spread of Covid-19 and providing essential support to the city’s healthcare system as well as to citizens in distress. A 24×7 helpdesk was set up at the ICCC. Trained professionals resolved queries raised by citizens at the initial stage, after which these calls were connected to designated doctors. This process helped bring down the panic level in the city by providing counselling service to callers. Moreover, the ICCCs were fully equipped to monitor isolation centres and quarantine zones through CCTVs and videoconferencing.
The way forward
Technology adoption across smart cities is only expected to grow in the near future. The government has started adding more cities under the Smart Cities Mission. This will expand the opportunities for tech service providers. The effective capitalisation of these opportunities will require the government to take up a more active role in creating a favourable ecosystem for the deployment of these new-age technologies. s