Future Cities Will Be Built On Next Generation Infrastructure

The scenario for smart cities in India is completely different from any other country. Urban areas deliver up to seventy per cent of India’s GDP, and the population that is moving to urban areas is also growing significantly.

“Cities in the past were built on river banks. They are now built along highways, But in the future they will be built based on availability optical fiber networks and next generation infrastructure”, Primer Minister, Narendra Modi. This is a truly visionary statement considering that it was made before India’s 100 smart cities program was announced in June 2015. Increasingly, the world is seeking smarter, secure, more intelligent solutions and optimized utilization of resources to enhance quality of life which has led to the rise of smart cities and advanced security solutions and communication infrastructure in several advanced economies. Larsen & Toubro is a leading engineering services company. We are nearly 80 years old and our slogan is, “It is all about imagineering”.

L&T are currently working on four smart cities. L&T delivered Jaipur, which is the first smart city in the country that was completed almost 18 months ago.  Pune, Nagpur and Vishakapatnam are Smart Cities where work is ongoing. There are two more where we are waiting for the work to start. We shall hopefully be adding to this as we go along. The scenario for smart cities in India is completely different from any other country. Urban areas deliver up to seventy per cent of India’s GDP, and the population that is moving to urban areas is also growing significantly. The rate of migration to cities is steadily increasing putting city infrastructure under stress. This is one of the concerns we are trying to address through the smart city movement in India. My view of the smart city program is that it is primarily designed to better utilize existing city infrastructure, and scale it to handle this kind of growth. At a macro level, there are several programs launched to develop towns, create smart villages and so on. Hopefully, at some point, the growth of the smartness or the livability index in smaller towns and villages will start reducing the pressure created by the population migrating to cities.

I think the first and most important thing from a smart city or from a city administration perspective is to identify the problems of that particular city and prioritize those problems that directly impact the life of their citizens. The next important point for cities is to understand how to apply technology and systems. We need systems that are ‘integrable’, that can interoperate with newer technologies. We must have that vision, to build in those capabilities now and not build standalone silos or systems. The need of the hour is the vision to create systems that can scale as cities grow. The third point is that we need to start using data. Smart cities throw up tons of data. We have not even started addressing the use of the data. So, we will first need to start using the data and then need to start thinking about using it wisely. These are the three premises.

Now for some examples to illustrate the three concepts. Mumbai, is the financial capital of the country. Mumbai is also the city where L&T implemented the biggest city surveillance project which is now running successfully. When Mumbai launched this project it was purely for surveillance, but the designers actually had foresight to build a system that would` then deliver Wi-Fi. When city wanted delivery of citywide Wi-Fi, L&T could bring that up within the shortest possible time using the infrastructure that was already created. To sum up you can actually have a system that can scale up and add new services if you plan it right, from the concept stage itself. Another example is of the Smart City Jaipur, one of the hottest tourist destinations. So there we worked on two pillars-one to improve the lives of citizens and another to benefit the tourism industry in the city. We actually created tourism kiosks in six of the key tourist spots including Albert Hall, Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal and Jal Mahal in Jaipur. We actually could create infrastructure that would improve the experience of tourists. We also created REGS, remote e-government services which is citizen facing. REGS delivers services that make the life of citizens easier, allow citizens to access government services seamlessly using the government system.

Another example is Nagpur Smart City. Nagpur required its own fiber network, so we are building a 1200 km communication network for Nagpur and a 6 km smart strip which includes all the smart elements. So later on, when the city wants to evaluate whether a particular component, say solid waste management will work for Nagpur, they can just check how it is working on the smart strip and then scale it up. With the mandate to build smart cities at the top of the Government's priority list, L&T is equipped to address opportunities and provide smart solutions in the areas of city surveillance, intelligent traffic management systems, transport & logistics, OFC cabling, communication network including backbone (GOFNMS, DWDMS, IPMPLS etc.), telecom infrastructure, BMS, smart grids, smart governance & education and smart city development. Through this offering, we aim to effectively tap the specific requirements of a wide range of customers including Central and State governments, railways, airports, seaports, expressways, defense, transport & logistics providers, telecommunication service providers, IT companies and residential building/city developers in a focused manner.

Excerpted from a presentation made at the Smart Cities Conclave, Varanasi.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house