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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

Urbanization is changing the world and its trends will impact Smart City Development as needs from emerging de-urbanized cities and corridors will create new challenges and opportunities.

This picture depicts the evolution of Delhi Metro which is a convenient example of urbanization with a control on environmental sustainability  - This is an electric based mass rapid transit system serving the National Capital Region of India. BTW It is also the world’s first rail project to earn carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for reductions in energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

The objective of this blog is to provide a high level overview of buzz word 'Smart Cities’  by touching upon definition, Smart cities in Indian context, Business models, key players and Challenges!

What is Smart City ?

There is no universal definition of smart city as it varies from country to country city to city depending on the level of development and willingness to reform .Due to the breadth of utilities,services and technologies that have been implemented under the smart city label, it is very difficult to figure-out a precise definition of a smart city ,So this my attempt :

Technology geeks love to define Smart cities as Physical getting Digital which is Devices/sensors + communication+software analysis +actuation +engagement.The general definition of Smart city* , uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens .As depicted in the below image its an interconnected network of eight key aspects that define a Smart City are smart governance, smart energy, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart healthcare and smart citizen

So to summarize in design thinking approach ,smart city objective is to enable Economic viability, Environment sustainability and Citizen well-being.

Example Smart City  Flagship cases : Amsterdam(Netherlands),Barcelona(Spain), Stockholm(Sweden) etc.

Smart Cities – Government of India

In the recent past ,Government of India(GOI) had announced its vision to set up 100 smart cities across the country by following the Public-Private Partnership(PPP) funding model  .

GOI is planning to take the strategic approach of Area-based development for developing smart cities .The strategic components of this approach are city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (greenfield development) plus a Pan-city initiative in which Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city.So each of the proposed smart city is expected to encapsulate either one of these 3 models or a mix thereof and a Pan-city feature with Smart Solution(s).

So, Smart Solutions that can expected as part of Smart City in India are  Smart Water, Smart Agriculture, Smart parking, Intelligent transport system, Tele-care, Women safety, Smart grid, Intelligent and efficient urban lighting, Smart city maintenance, Digital signage, Water management ,Waste management, and so on .

Apart from the obvious solutions mentioned under the smart cities banner ,I would see value for the following tailored topics

  • Monitoring structural health - Monitoring of vibrations,material conditions in buildings,roads, bridges and historical monuments.
  • Monitoring environment quality and corrective measure  - measurement of the energy radiated by cell stations and and WiFi routers , measurement of CO2/toxic gas emissions and oxygen levels
  • Monitoring air quality in industrial corridors - Detection of toxic gases , gas levels ,gas leakages from industrial environments,mines and chemical factories
  • Connected Digital signages – apart from using them for promotions/advertisements – they should be evolved as a communication channel between governments and its citizens
  • Government-on–the-Go with e-Education and disaster management solutions
  • and others

Additionally, leveraging the concepts of Crowd sourcing and Gamification helps in building healthier and competent cities as the gamification techniques strive to leverage people's natural desires for Socializing,Competition,Achievement and  Rewards.

Example : Singapore’s National strategy is to engage its citizens & communities to achieve better health outcomes , So fitness/workout information is crowd sourced by its citizens and they compete among themselves (e.g.  individuals and/or vs. other localities/organizations)

According to GOI IoT policy the opportunity is huge,  they aim to create an IoT industry of USD 15 billion by 2020 in India which will increase national device connectivity from the current 200 million to over 2.7 billion by that time.

Smart City Development - Business Models

Frost & Sullivan** research estimated a combined market potential of $1.5 trillion globally for the smart city market in segments of energy, transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, and governance. In-spite potential being huge, there exists a challenge in developing the right business model. With city as the customer , the smart city planner can choose to go with one of these four main models that will be used, through which firms will engage with city authorities and utilities to tap into this market : Build Own Operate (BOO), Build Operate Transfer (BOT), Build Operate Manage (BOM) and Open Business Model (OBM).

Of these, the Open Business Model(OBM) seems to be most innovative choice due to the level of flexibility and scalability it offers. This is where, the city planner allows any qualified company or business organization to build city infrastructure and provide city services off-course with some regulatory obligations being in-place.

Smart City - Participants

Smart City participants can assume one of these four broader roles

  • System Integrators : are the holistic, end-to-end service provider that brings together various sectors of the smart cities through pre-packaged platforms (ex : SAP,IBM,Accenture..)
  • Network operators/service providers : the M2M and connectivity providers ( ex: Cisco,Verizon,AT&T,Ericsson..etc)
  • Pure-Play product vendors : sensor,devices,hard assest providers (ex: Honeywell,ABB,Siemens,Schneider Electric..etc)
  • Managed Service Providers : third-party providers overseeing management/round-the-clock monitoring/operation of smart solutions/services(ex : IBM,Infosys…)

Smart Cities – Enterprise Architecture

City planning and Enterprise architecture should go hand in hand .So along with smart city planning , equivalent amount of care should be taken to come up with scalable IT enterprise architecture to meet the growing needs of urbanization .Smart cities have to provide integrated services to its citizens through a free flow of information across multiple entities/departments and the first step to achieve this is via Enterprise Architecture

Smart cities have to take the advantage of latest technologies like SMAC,Software Defined Networks,stringent Tier-4 Data Center, Biometrics, and so on .Since Government being an Enterprise of Enterprises or Networked Enterprises , Enterprise Architecture has to embrace principles like TOGAF by extending to the following domains and take should take the full advantage of these concepts

  • Business Architecture which defines the governance goals,organization structure and key business process
  • Data Architecture which defines the structure of the logical and physical data storage and data management process
  • Application Architecture which provides a blue print of individual apps to be deployed and interactions among themselves and their relationsship with core government process
  • Technology Architecture which describes the software and hardware capabilities required to realize the overall eGovernance vision like IT infrastructure,middleware,networks, communications and standards

Smart Cities – Challenges

The evolution of smart cities also poses open points,challenges,risks and here are the list of challenges without getting into the details

  • Ecological footprint (Climate and Energy )
  • Privacy (ex : surveillance of  and predictive policing)
  • Security (because of connected world, one glitch or faulty connected device can paves the way to hackers to the connected system)
  • Dealing with multiple vendors involved and interoperability between systems in the overall eco system
  • Reliability of utility services from the connected world
  • Big data from sensors/devices  (Ex– If all sensor data were to be recorded in LHC , the data flow would be nearly 500 Exabytes per day ,to put the number in perspective, this is equivalent to 500 quintillion (5×1020) bytes per day)
  • and so on  ..     

That concludes my first blog on Smart Cities hope you found the overview interesting, I would love to hear back from you, so do feel free send your feedback and comments to me. This is my first installment in a planned series, will touch upon other sub topics in my upcoming blogs, stay tuned!!

Disclaimer : The views expressed in this article are those of mine as an individual

*Smart City :Definition source – Wikipedia

** Source - Frost & Sullivan’s study on strategic opportunity on global smart city markets

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