‘No one has a silver bullet, each city will have its fair share of challenges’
—Sumit D Chowdhury, Founder CEO, Gaia Smart Cities
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.