Incorporating technology to sew together infrastructure, governance and citizens to make it smart and connected is the philosophy behind ‘Smart Cities’. However the concept is an evolving one. Making the lives of citizens easy and governance transparent is what our smart city projects are aimed at. There are several established smart cities across the globe with Internet of Things (IoT) applications engineered to fit lifestyles and civic operations. Forbes has named Barcelona as the ‘smartest city’ in the world followed by biggies New York and London. These cities had adopted the concept of connected intelligence well ahead of time and have evolved over the years.
Sky’s the limit
India being one of the fastest-growing economies and IoT being a relatively green field, there exists an opportunity for a fine blend of socio-economic progress intertwined with futuristic technology. Building a smart city is a collective responsibility of policy makers, builders, hardware companies, software vendors and application developers. Smart cities are about more than just a plethora of connected devices, with exchange of data and big data analytics over the internet.
It is unlikely that any player will be able to invest time and money in all the layers of the IoT anatomy (sensors, software platform and applications), unless this ends up being more of a ‘Jack of all trades’ scenario. Consider the Android platform. It acts as a ‘gelling’ factor for device manufacturers and application developers. Similarly, the IoT platform serves as the binding agent between hardware components like sensors, gateways and software applications. The IoT market is currently vague, with different players battling for their share of the smart city pie without clarity of their role in its development.
Instead of trying to fit too many hands into a single glove, companies should start concentrating on what best fits their areas of expertise. Sensor and gateways vendors should focus on enhancing their device capabilities while application developers should work on delivering solutions within optimum costs and time. The IoT platform being the foundation that holds various other layers in place, platform vendors should particularly strive to make a solid framework that seamlessly ties all the other layers to give the end user a hassle-free experience. The platform should be vendor neutral and customisable. Besides enabling communication between devices and humans, it should enable large data collection and analysis for informed decision making. It should serve as a sturdy foundation that can scale to future devices and capabilities.
Toward smarter cities
According to a World Bank survey, around 32 percent of India’s total 1.2 billion population lives in cities. It is estimated that by 2020 this number will rise to 50 percent. Ours is the second-most populous country in the world, necessitating an automated, simplified and effective form of governance and improvedstandards of living. The 100 Smart Cities Mission calls for superior transportation, healthcare, infrastructure build, roads and safety, water, electricity, waste and traffic management and other vital utilities of a city. All of them have to eventually work well together.
Businesses are looking at smart cities as the next big thing. To raise the monument, vital pillars need to be in place. Smart sensors, gateways, software platforms and a host of applications form the IoT value chain in a smart city ecosystem.
Consider smart power utility poles that can help detect live wires submerged in water puddles during a downpour to avoid fatal accidents. Or smart ambulances that can communicate with traffic signals along an entire route to help stay clear of traffic well in advance. Smart grids that can proactively detect faults and send alerts to reduce downtime. Some of the other areas are smart governance apps that help citizens access government documents and other information with ease.
The future is now
The IoT platform needs to be highly scalable, it should be able to process large volumes of data and seamlessly integrate hardware and apps. Smart cities imply a smarter economy, smarter lifestyles and smarter governance. With Indian engineers leading the software community across the globe, India sure is the next hottest destination for ‘cities with intelligence’.
Technology has evolved over the years, so has the connotation of a smart city. Advances in internet technology and its corresponding tools (such as cloud, big data, mobile, IoT) have enhanced the intelligence of devices and processes, thereby taking smartness beyond hardware to a whole new level. The Utopian dream of a perfect society with improved systems is not too far into the future, if the level of understanding and adoption of IoT improves. India, being a software superpower with scores of technology startups, there is an unprecedented scope for Indian cities to march towards becoming the next set of futuristic cities.