Smart Cities: Connecting the Dots

By storing and analyzing data at the edge or in cloud, Indian and global cities are taking steps to become ‘smart’.

'Smart Cities’ is a hot topic in India, with the Government launching the Smart Cities Mission in 2015 to develop 100 Indian cities into being citizen-friendly, sustainable, and technology driven.  So far, there have been 90 winning proposals. On a global perspective, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Singapore are amongst the top cities that show up online as the world’s leading Smart Cities. 

What is ‘smart’ in ‘smart city’? What powers the smart initiatives by these cities, which ultimately aim to bring about a more connected life?

The answer lies in data –large streams of data from sensors, security cameras, digital kiosks, and more. As more IoT devices connect to the network each day, ubiquitous connectivity, big data and analytics have ushered in an era of Smart City initiatives. Data coming in from all these devices allows cities to virtually monitor, manage and control systems, and gain insights for further improvement. It is what one can do with data, through analytics, that provides great value for smart cities. Data analytics can be performed close to the source, at the edge, or centrally, i.e. in a data center or the cloud. 

In IoT, the ability to compute on the devices themselves, close to the edge, allows for almost instantaneous response to environmental triggers. For instance, the smart Jaipur app can help citizens in Jaipur track if parking slots are available in popular areas, if street lights are working, or what the pollution levels are. Another example relevant to Indian cities is traffic lights. With over 50,000 new vehicles being registered each day in the country, traffic is a predicament that Indians living in cities have to deal with. With the benefit of edge computing, traffic lights can adjust themselves, as required, to reduce congestion, or turn on only if a vehicle is approaching, in order to save energy.

When IoT data is sent to the cloud, Smart Cities can aggregate potentially billions of data points to make more informed decisions. With artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), deep insights and actionable information can be retrieved from incoming data, and put to use. Barcelona’s data analysis of rainfall patterns over time enables the city to optimize its water resources, saving money and water.

By storing and analyzing data at the edge or in cloud, Indian and global cities are taking steps to become ‘smart’. A connected life is enabled by centralizing and computerizing energy management, waste management, and transportation systems. By giving its citizens more convenience, efficiency, safety and security, cities can improve their infrastructure on a large scale.

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