An extensive, robust and scalable communications infrastructure lies at the core of smart city development. This includes a combination of communication and networking solutions including integrated command and control centres (ICCCs), smart poles, fibre-based backhaul networks and wireless technologies. These technologies facilitate the collection, management and interpretation of the large amounts of data generated in a smart city to enable smooth functioning of the infrastructure including smart grids, smart homes, smart street lights and intelligent transport mechanisms.

A look at the key elements of smart city infrastructure and its deployment in India…

Smart poles

Smart poles are emerging as one of the core components of smart city infrastructure. These poles leverage sensor and communication technologies to create an intelligent environment. Smart poles are connected to centralised CCCs, which help monitor other smart solutions installed in cities. These poles comprise inbuilt surveillance systems that are connected with the city’s security department. By hosting mobile broadband small cells, public Wi-Fi access points, smart lighting systems and multipurpose sensor arrays for monitoring air quality and traffic congestion, these smart poles help build smarter cities.

Recently, in February 2020, Dehradun Smart City Limited, India collaborated with Indus Towers to install 60 smart poles and 70 smart towers and lay an underground fibre network spanning 100 km in the PPP mode. The smart poles will be equipped with Wi-Fi access points, LED lighting solutions and CCTV cameras. In Karnataka, Indus Towers is deploying smart poles powered by Wi-Fi, which can offer Wi-Fi services across an area of around 300 metres. In addition, the company collaborated with the New Delhi Municipal Council to commission a total of 72 smart poles, of which 55 have already been installed.

Fibre-based backhaul networks

Optical fibre cable (OFC), with its virtually unlimited capacity, is the perfect backbone for the delivery of high speed internet. OFC facilitates the installation of sensors, which are a critical component of intelligent solutions deployed in smart cities. The cities selected under the Smart Cities Mission have already submitted budget proposals for city-wide OFC deployments, ducting for OFC networks, OFC deployment for CCCs and other OFC-related civil works. In July 2020, Sterlite Power announced the creation of an intra-city fibre network for the Gurugram smart city project. As a part of the project, the company has installed four underground ducts that carry fibre connecting all bus stops, schools, police stations and government buildings along with various private buildings. The entire route is updated through the geographic information system (GIS) along with an integrated fibre monitoring system for proactive monitoring as well as preventive and corrective maintenance.

Earlier, in December 2019, Aksh Optifibre secured a contract for the development of the Jaipur smart city. As per the contract, it will deploy an OFC network, mobile hotspots, smart lighting systems, a surveillance system, smart parking solutions and environmental sensors.

ICCC

An ICCC provides a platform with the ability to receive, intelligently correlate and share information with stakeholders and serve as an emergency and disaster management platform. It connects various departments by using information and communication technology (ICT). These centres are designed to aggregate the information across multiple applications with the help of sensors deployed across the city to provide actionable information with appropriate visualisation for decision-makers. As of June 2020, around 96 cities have initiated projects for building ICCCs under the Smart Cities Mission.

In August 2020, Karnal Smart City Limited (KSCL) announced the setting up of an ICCC on a war footing to make it operational by November 2020. In December 2019, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority partnered with Cisco to launch an ICCC that will use digital technology to enhance citizens’ safety, optimise public infrastructure and better manage traffic.

To tackle the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, over 45 smart cities have converted their ICCCs into war rooms for real-time data monitoring, using the government’s data dashboard to provide up-to-date information about the status of Covid cases in different administrative zones of cities.

Integrated surveillance

Smart cities are incorporating technologies such as integrated surveillance systems for safety and security through CCCs and immediate emergency response for disaster/crisis management. That apart, ICT solutions such as CCTV cameras, smart street lighting and intelligent traffic management systems (ITMSs) are being deployed in their day-to-day operations.

In August 2020, KSCL announced the implementation of an adaptive traffic control system to automatically adjust traffic signal timings based on the traffic demand at city intersections and anticipated arrivals from adjacent intersections, in more than 50 locations across Karnal. Further, KSCL is installing 472 CCTV cameras and traffic lights at 29 locations. In December 2019, Tech Mahindra Limited secured its largest smart city project worth Rs 5 billion from the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation. The project will be implemented in one year and operations and maintenance will be carried out for five years.

Meanwhile, Kanpur deployed an ITMS, which is a centralised traffic control and surveillance system to ensure hassle-free movement of people and vehicles. In Lucknow, the ITMS solution is connected to the CCC and consists of CCTV cameras, traffic controllers, surveillance polls and hardware.

Wireless technologies

Among wireless technologies, low-power wide area networks (LPWANs) have proved ideal for smart cities. LPWAN technologies such as Sigfox, long range (LoRa), LTE for machines and narrowband internet of things (NB-IoT) provide low-power and low-data-rate communication over long distances. Tata Communications has rolled out the country’s first LPWAN based on LoRa technology. Further, SenRA, a pan-India LoRa WAN network service provider, has announced a strategic partnership with McWane India to deploy 200,000 smart water meters across the country over the next two years. Under this partnership, 25,000 meters will be deployed initially in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. In December 2019, SenRa announced the completion of deployments across 60 cities in the country. It plans to expand its network coverage to 100 cities by end 2020. That apart, the launch of 5G is expected to play a key role in transforming cities. Ultra-high network speeds, low latency, the ability to support a large number of connections and quick and adaptive response time to support time-sensitive applications make 5G an enabling technology for the smart city ecosystem.

Smart mobility

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has stressed the need to expedite the adoption of a National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) to reduce human interaction in the operations of public transit systems. With the tag line of One Nation One Card, the central government launched the NCMC in March 2019, to enable seamless travel on different transportation systems across the country, besides retail shopping.

Recently, in April 2020, the MoHUA embarked on the Integrated Sustainable Urban Transport Systems for the Smart Cities project, in collaboration with GIZ, in three cities – Bhubaneswar, Kochi and Coimbatore. Under the project, a technical document on standard operating procedures has been prepared for resuming bus transport services after the lifting of the lockdown. In May 2020, the Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation invited tenders to introduce the NCMC to encourage cashless travel.

By Shikha Swaroop