‘No one has a sil­ver bul­let, each city will have its fair share of chal­lenges’

—Su­mit D Chowd­hury, Founder CEO, Gaia Smart Cities

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Voice&Data: How is Gaia Smart Cities sup­port­ing govern­ment’s vi­sion of 100 smart cities in In­dia?

Su­mit D Chowd­hury: Gaia is help­ing 14 cities with their pan-city plans us­ing in­no­va­tive ICT as the foun­da­tion. We be­lieve in cre­at­ing a net­work of cloud based so­lu­tions for var­i­ous cities to ben­e­fit from. It was un­for­tu­nate that qual­i­fied Start-up com­pa­nies like us were not al­lowed to join con­sor­tiums that were formed to help the cities with their Smart City plans.

We were re­quested by var­i­ous cities to lend our sup­port to them via other means. I am sure th­ese ideas will stim­u­late de­mand for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions based In­ter­net of Ev­ery­thing, smart devices, and smart ap­pli­ca­tions that will our qual­ity of life. Even if we are half way suc­cess­ful, it will go a long way in im­prov­ing the in­fra­struc­ture in In­dia and con­nect­ing with its cit­i­zens and ser­vices.

At Gaia, we are work­ing with sev­eral Mu­nic­i­pal ad­min­is­tra­tions with th­ese con­cepts. We are also lay­ing the foun­da­tion for the Gaia Grid - IOT Net­work and Ap­pli­ca­tions Cloud al­low­ing seam­less con­nec­tiv­ity for smart so­lu­tions. We have al­ready demon­strated our con­cept of in­te­grated Wa­ter, Power Gas me­ters so­lu­tions along with other devices. We are work­ing on the de­sign of com­pletely “in­te­grated smart city” in two lo­ca­tions in In­dia. Th­ese green­field cities will demon­strate the art of what is pos­si­ble at a city level.

Voice&Data: What would you clas­sify as its achieve­ments so far with re­spect to smart cities in In­dia?

Su­mit D Chowd­hury: The de­mand for cities to be­come “smart” (where Smart­ness is de­fined as mea­sure­ment and con­stant im­prove­ment its ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices) comes from rais­ing ur­ban­iza­tion and mi­gra­tion into cities and lack of re­sources to ser­vice the de­mands to th­ese grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. The Smart Cities ini­tia tive of the Govern­ment puts fo­cus on in­te­grated plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of such projects - across Govern­ment de­part­ments, us­ing qual­i­fied ar­chi­tects, plan­ners, tech­nol­ogy ex­perts like Gaia, in­fra­struc­ture com­pa­nies, and ex­e­cut­ing this projects to achieve some com­mon goals.

This con­cept “In­te­grated Think­ing” was miss­ing in the past. I think the Govern­ment has achieved this in the first leg of the com­pe­ti­tion. They got the cities to think. They got peo­ple and cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate. All this had changed the con­scious­ness of the cities. It has brought ideas from lacs of peo­ple from across the coun­try.

We are on the right path. No one has a sil­ver bul­let. Ea ch city will be dif­fer­ent and each im­ple­men­ta­tion will have its fair share of chal­lenges (in­clud­ing for­ma­tion of the SPV). Lets bear it for some­time.

Any ma­jor and mass trans­for­ma­tion like this re­quires sac­ri­fices and coop- re­search and for­ma­tion. A smart city ecosys­tem be­came the need of the hour.

A smart city ecosys­tem of­fers a plethora of op­por­tu­ni­ties, to start with in­stal­la­tion of sen­sors and dash­board that will help re­duce en­ergy while man­ag­ing waste col­lec­tion, an­a­lyt­ics to mea­sure car­bon foot­print, and charg­ing for elec­tric ve­hi­cles. The ser­vice providers could sense the op­por­tu­nity and are cu­rat­ing prod­ucts around the pro­ject. The likes of Cisco, Or­a­cle and IBM… are in­vest­ing time to de­sign In­di­an­ized prod­ucts for In­dian smart cities. Cisco is work­ing with global and lo­cal part­ners on so­lu­tions to ad­dress pub­lic safety, traf­fic man­age­ment, city­wired and wire­less net­worked In­ter­net ac­cess, smart park­ing, re­mote ac­cess to govern­ment agency ser­vices, and a host of other ur­ban ser­vices.

Tata Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is work­ing with the Gu­jarat In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Tec-City (GIFT), In­dia’s first glob­ally-bench­marked In­ter­na­tional Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Cen­tre (IFSC) for a while now. Be­sides, it has suc­cess­fully con­ducted tri­als of a Low Power Wide Area Net­work (LPWAN), based on LoRa tech­nol­ogy for con­nected devices and cut­ting edge In­ter­net of Things (IoT) ap­pli­ca­tions across Mum­bai and Delhi, which can bol­ster the suc­cess­ful de­ploy­ment of IoT ap­pli­ca­tions in In­dia.

“We aim to roll out In­dia’s first LoRa net­work across the coun­try, with full cov­er­age start­ing in Mum­bai, Delhi and Ban­ga­lore. LoRa is a wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy ded­i­cated to the In­ter­net of Things (IoT) / Ma­chine to Ma­chine (M2M) com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work. The new net­work is a su­per low-power, se­cure, bi-di­rec­tional, com­mu­ni­ca­tion so­lu­tion, which any or­ga­ni­za­tion can use to con­nect ob­jects and in­no­va­tive ap­pli­ca­tions sim­ply and en­ergy ef­fi­ciently, overcoming high power con­sump­tion chal­lenges with ex­ist­ing wire­less so­lu­tions. The first phase tar­gets to cover 400 mil­lion peo­ple across Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 cities, says Anurag Walia, Vice Pres­i­dent, Global En­ter­prise So­lu­tions-In­dia, Tata Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing lo­ca­tion aware tech­nol­ogy (GPS/GIS-based) is be­ing used along with mo­bil­ity, an­a­lyt­ics and cloud. In the near fu­ture, we are also likely to

see in­creased adop­tion of ad­vanced me­ter­ing, NFC, big data, in­ter­net of things, for smart im­ple­men­ta­tion and in fu­ture we would have ma­chine-to-ma­chine com­mu­ni­ca­tion, mi­cro grids, aug­mented re­al­ity, real-time park­ing com­ing in play even in In­dia. Tech­nol­ogy ven­dors are also pro­vid­ing so­lu­tions to sup­port se­cu­rity of con­nected sys­tems. For ex­am­ple, Avaya has in­tro­duced SDN Fx so­lu­tion for en­sur­ing se­cu­rity in smart cities. Us­ing this tech­nol­ogy, the com­pany has demon­strated nearly 15,000 cam­eras run­ning over a sin­gle con­verged in­fra­struc­ture with one pro­to­col.

Hitches & Gliches

In­dia though has stepped in with some brownie points in its kitty at the ini­tial stage of the pro­ject it­self, but at the same time there are chal­lenges ga­lore way ahead. At the out­set, con­cerns over the vi­a­bil­ity of a busi­ness model still re­mains high.

“Smart city is a great idea but get­ting the im­ple­men­ta­tion done will take some time, it is not that sim­ple. A num­ber of com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing money in tri­als, etc., but there’s not too much of progress here. A smart city has to be busi­ness vi­able on its own, it needs to have an eco­nomic model in place. To­day, the cre­ation of the right busi­ness model it­self is tak­ing time,” says Ro­mal Shetty, Head Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, KPMG. Se­condly, a lot of dis­agree­ment could be sensed be­tween the dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers of var­i­ous cities. Ur­ban lo­cal bod­ies of some cities are wary of a pri­vate player-led SPV (spe­cial pur­pose ve­hi­cle) for ex­e­cut­ing the pro­ject as they be­lieve that a pri­vate sec­tor-led sys­tem will wane the power of lo­cal gov­er­nance, re­duc­ing their say in the ini­tia­tive. The prob­lem of cen­tral­iz­ing and bring­ing all the stake­hold­ers on the same page is a key hur­dle as Pil­lai men­tions that In­dian cities do not have a sin­gle owner. The city Com­mis­sion­ers and May­ors have mea­gre re­sources at their dis­posal and have no con­trol on most of the es­sen­tial city ser­vices like elec­tric­ity dis­tri­bu­tion, gas dis­tri­bu­tion, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion and trans­port – air, rail, met­ros and buses, taxis and au­tos.

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