The government has drawn up an ambitious plan to transform 100 existing cities into smart cities by 2022. While 60 such cities have been chosen, the remaining will be finalised by 2018. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supply, seamless internet connectivity, and e-governance along with quality infrastructure.

The very process of building a smart city would begin with embracing the concept of a digital city and building a solid communication network or backbone. This includes taking an integrated view of all technology-related interventions to address issues such as the city’s aging infrastructure, increasing pollution levels and growing traffic congestion.

The power of technologies like the cloud, internet of things (IoT) and big data would help solve some of these problems, and make cities more manageable and liveable. McKinsey Global Institute estimates the impact of IoT in cities could be worth $930 billion to $1.7 trillion globally by 2025. The estimates are based on the value of improved health and safety, the value of time saved through IoT applications, and more efficient use of resources.

This translates into significant opportunities for stakeholders across the IT and telecom value chain. Operators will play a vital role in deploying the backbone network infrastructure of smart cities by providing connectivity through optic fibre and wireless media. Tower infrastructure companies will provide the foundation to achieve the objectives of a broadband highway covering both rural and urban areas, universal access to mobile connectivity, public internet access, e-governance, eKranti, etc. IT software and hardware providers will play a key role in setting up IT and networking infrastructure. And the market is likely to witness the entry of several niche and innovative solution providers.

While the industry is adequately equipped to meet the technology needs of smart cities, there are several challenges that demand the attention of policymakers. Key among these is the ability of city planners to leverage technologies for municipal services, derive revenues and make smart cities a viable model that can be scaled up in a big way.