Leveraging Smart Cities with Data Aggregations

“At Cisco, we believe that in order to create the next generation of smart and connected cities we need to focus on five key areas: visionary leadership, global open standards, smart regulation, public-private partnerships and a new ecosystem. We have deployed our smart city solutions and programs taking all these facets into account”, asserted Daisy Chittilapilly, Managing Director, Digital Transformation Office, Cisco India & SAARC in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW SmartCities World. Excerpts below:

How is Cisco leveraging the opportunities of the Government of India’s mandate Digital Transformation in the Indian market? Please elucidate the various solutions that Cisco rolls out for the Indian market?

The Digital India vision has been an exciting one that has helped catapult us into the 21st century. Through this program, infrastructure is being offered as a utility to everyone, citizen services and entitlements are being delivered on-demand, and citizens are being digitally empowered. This, coupled with the fact that there will be 28.5 billion networked devices by 2022 (Cisco VNI Report), has been a driving force for our increased focus and investments in the Indian market.

In 2015, the same year that the Digital India program was launched, we announced Cisco’s Country Digitization Acceleration (CDA) strategy. The initiative focuses on long-term partnerships with national leadership, industry, and academia to grow GDP, create jobs, accelerate local innovation and improve the everyday lives of citizens across the country. We are leveraging the Digital India program here, wherein our current CDA plan spans 45 projects across six key states of India and targets areas of the greatest opportunity – namely national broadband, smart cities, IT skilling, defense projects, digital banking (for greater financial inclusion), training and services.

One of the most exciting ways in which Cisco supports smart cities and communities is our connected digital platform and solutions strategy, now fully aligned with Cisco Kinetic, a new Cisco unified Internet of Things (IoT) platform strategy. The “Smart+Connected Digital Platform” has been renamed “Cisco Kinetic for Cities” and integrated—along with the solutions for lighting, parking, crowd, environment and others—into the overall Cisco Kinetic platform strategy.

Cisco Kinetic for Cities is providing a horizontal, data aggregation platform—one tailored specifically to the needs and challenges of cities and communities.

What are the solutions that Cisco is rolling out for the Smart Cities concept in India?

At Cisco, we believe that in order to create the next generation of smart and connected cities we need to focus on five key areas: visionary leadership, global open standards, smart regulation, public-private partnerships and a new ecosystem. We have deployed our smart city solutions and programs taking all these facets into account.                                                                                                                                                                               

We have partnered with various state governments to develop solutions specific to smart cities. In Nagpur, with our next-gen solutions, we have built secure Wi-Fi hotspots and smart safety and surveillance solutions. In an effort to make Jaipur a smart city, we are setting up a digital infrastructure to offer citizens amenities including connected transport, interactive kiosks, wireless broadband, safety and security services, traffic management and environmental updates. To manage the city with greater efficiency and effectiveness, Jaipur will also have a command and control centre as well as a Response Control Room powered by Cisco technologies. Jaipur will also be the first Smart+Connected™ Community ‘Lighthouse City’ in South Asia, where we are weaving together people, services, community assets, and information into a single pervasive solution. 

In Gujarat, Cisco has signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), which include establishing an Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation hub to develop and customize digital technologies and solutions with the International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate) and a Smart City project in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT). 

Cisco is working with the Department of IT, Government of Kerala for rolling out digital villages in the state. Please share the concept behind this.

We believe that digitization can play a pivotal role by providing an economical way to deliver information services to a large number of people. Over the last couple of years, we have been working with the Kerala government to help harness the power of digital transformation to accelerate economic growth and social progress in the state. In 2018, we worked with the state government to provide connectivity through 1000 free public Wi-Fi hotspots across the state. Enabled by Cisco technology, Kerala has become the first state in India with the largest public Wi-Fi network providing statewide access. 

Most recently, we signed an MOU with the Kerala State IT Mission (KSITM) as part of our CDA programme, to bring the benefits of digital technology and data science to the farming communities in the state. As a part of this, we are building an Agri-Digital Infrastructure (ADI) Platform and setting up Village Knowledge Centers (VKCs) that will support knowledge delivery and provide access to e-learning and advisory services to the farming and fishing communities. 

The Cisco ADI Platform comes with a custom-built Smart Agricultural Platform that employs IoT sensors, non-IoT databases and satellite/UAV images to collect and deliver data on soil content, moisture, weather conditions and other parameters, all in real-time. The VKCs will additionally allow farmers access to important information on government policy updates, crop advisory services, market trends, rates and best practices. 

Kindly share which state governments you are working within India for several innovative Digital Transformation initiatives.

Cisco is in talks with various state governments and is working closely with Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana for engineering solutions based on their requirements. In New Delhi, along with the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, Cisco inaugurated a state-of-the-art India Urban Observatory, where we are providing technological infrastructure such as Cisco WebEx, a collaborative platform that allows remote working and sharing of resources, anytime, anywhere and from any device. 

In Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, Cisco is deploying state-wide broadband infrastructure. As part of the Golden Mile project in Vijayawada, Cisco has deployed key technologies in a 5-km area including smart Wi-Fi, smart safety & security, smart lighting, smart parking, smart transport, smart bus stops, smart kiosks, Remote Expert for Government Services (REGS) and smart education.

As part of the Digital Zone project in Telangana, Cisco is deploying the City Digital Platform (CDP) in the 2.2-km area near Hi-Tech City in Hyderabad, including smart Wi-Fi, smart parking, smart lighting, traffic analytics at key junctions, Remote Expert for Government Services (REGS), smart environmental sensors, smart waste management, and a smart control center to monitor and manage the city with greater efficiency and effectiveness. 

In Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, we have collaborated with the state governments for water management solutions that offer near real-time visibility across the state’s water assets through Internet of Things (IoT) water sensors, which transmit information on water levels and flows.

What are the challenges you faced while operating in the Indian scenario? How do you mitigate them?

In today’s hyper-connected world, we are building an intuitive network and creating a secure and intelligent platform. Everything is going digital today and with our initiatives in India, our major challenge is security. Cybersecurity has become a key priority for any digital business and is an area that we need to be open about if we want to succeed in digital transformation.

Every company needs to have security high on their boardroom agenda. It is imperative to make cybersecurity a critical foundation for the digital growth of the company that will accelerate innovation and time-to-market. As security is the most sensitive and a grave component of digital transformation, industry experts also agree that this challenge with security can only be solved from the network - the only place where people, process and data collide. 

At Cisco, we are deeply committed to security in India. We view security and networks as equally important—they are stronger together and interdependent. Cisco is addressing the need for a new kind of network, built for IoT, cloud, security, and analytics.

Is India 5G ready? Your views. Do you think 5G will change the way telcos will earn revenue in India?

The government has been involving all stakeholders, from service providers to network-gear firms, for the rollout of 5G by 2020. Cisco has also been invited by the government to partner for 5G technology-based trials, and our collaboration with BSNL is laid out on the same lines. Further, the impending rollout of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Act or New Telecom Policy will help India leapfrog to the next generation of wireless technologies.

Telecom service providers are right in the middle of disruptions that will result from the rollout of 5G, and expected to see tremendous business growth from the additional revenue streams that 5G will undoubtedly create. However, assured additional revenue streams are possible only when operations are 5G-ready. Telcos need to consistently offer competitively priced, first-class industry solutions to capture the markets that the internet of the future is creating.  

What is your opinion about the Data Protection Bill?

According to the Cisco 2019 Data Privacy Benchmark Study, India is now the sixth leading country in the GDPR readiness index as it has met most or all of the requirements. With the Supreme Court’s direction, the Data Protection Bill released last year in July, will help boost India’s progression towards a digital economy. It will simultaneously instil trust and confidence in enterprise customers as enterprises will become more transparent with individuals on how they will use and protect their personal data.  

Enterprises need to be compliant and re-evaluate their current security approaches with regards to handling data privacy. Enterprises with a holistic data security framework can ensure that critical data is protected across all environments and networks. Not only will the draft bill make organisations reassess their security infrastructure, it will also mandate them to address the privacy and security concerns of individuals. 

The draft bill is a step forward in the right direction for India, as we lack a dedicated data protection law that addresses data privacy concerns, and will foster trust between customers and organizations operating in a digital ecosystem.

What strategies or plans of expansion do you have pertaining to Digital Transformation and the Smart Cities concept in the Indian market?

When it comes to making a city smarter, it is just not about participating in global innovation but also the need to tackle issues such as providing basic sanitation, public transport, clean water and effective waste management. The traditional approach of managing and maintaining our cities is changing - both in mind-set, and in the way we administer them. 

In line with its commitment to collaborate with the government’s vision of Digital India and smart cities, Cisco, along with its partners, is building solutions that are finely tuned to address the key requirements of each of the identified smart cities. Some states have made progress on city specific initiatives, while others are in the process of creating a blueprint.

Cisco’s Internet of Everything (IoE) enables the company to demonstrate and implement the concept of ‘connecting the unconnected’. Next-generation technology networks from Cisco are transforming the way cities and communities are designed, built and renewed to ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability. A few examples of this solution include connected education, connected healthcare, smart buildings, connected transport, smart lighting and smart parking – all of which are aimed at lowering cost and providing sustainable operations.