India is on the cusp of a smart era and cities are at the heart of ushering in this change. Smart cities are taking a number of different forms as urban managers scale pilot projects into larger, citywide deployments that facilitate everything from more manageable traffic to increase efficiency in utility consumptions. By leveraging global best practices in smart city development and Information and communication technology (ICT), India is in a unique position to leap a few stages of growth to become a global superpower.
Smart city implementation demands an excellent coherence and coordination among different entities like IT, telecom, security, civil utilities, municipal, surveillance, and logistics, among others. The convergence of various technologies and services will enable the existing cities to turn smart. The list of 20 smart cities and towns shortlisted by the government recently, though, appears to be a decisive step in this direction.
ICT applications in a smart city are developed with the goal of improving the management of urban mobility and allowing for real-time responses to challenges. Forming the backbone of smart city development, ICT is also being applied to enhance service quality, performance, and inter-connectivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve connect between citizens and government.
One of the key value propositions of ICT in a smart city is the ability to capture and share information in a timely manner. To develop ICT and data infrastructure in a city with the aim of being smart, there are three essential tasks to be implemented. They are - deployment of broadband networks (including mobile broadband), use of smart sensors and devices (Internet of Things), and use of big data for optimization of city operations.
Smart cities will see the ultimate convergence of big data analytics and cloud computing with broadband telecom networks.
Broadband connectivity. Implementing smart city technologies often requires a robust, reliable, affordable broadband network. This underlines the need to continue to focus on bridging the digital divides, in order to harness the benefits of smart applications. Mobile broadband is also playing a major role especially in developing countries, where there is a lack of fixed infrastructure.
Smart cities need an integrated treatment of all smart infrastructures. Smarter ways to develop cities will emerge when city governments and citizens start thinking and planning for infrastructure components in a holistic manner. ICT can facilitate this process. One commonly used approach is to aggregate the different data streams in the city under a single roof. This enables the collection and integration of data from different individual domain systems across functions - creating system-wide efficiencies and allowing for new insights. These operation centers act as the nerve centers for different smart initiatives by providing the technology foundation needed for an integrated view.
Data is an important component of smart cities. The sensor networks, intelligent meters, mobile phones, and IoT devices all generate huge volumes of data. This generated data could be transformed by city government to generate new insights that could be monetized and sold to different stakeholders. The key would be to generate a suitable value chain for the data and an appropriate business model for the same at different layers.
M2M applications have a great potential to transform businesses. M2M is the basis for automated information interchange between machines and a control center for various industry verticals like smart city, smart grid, smart water, smart transportation, and smart health.
Telecom operators are required to follow stringent norms for subscriber identification. The existing know your customer (KYC) guidelines are based on the principle of traceability of the end-user (human being). However, mostly for M2M services, the M2M device may not be directly related to a particular user (human being). For example, in fleet-management services, although the device is provided by the logistics service provider (procured from telecommunications operator), the vehicle may also be owned by the driver. Furthermore, the following cases can make KYC even more complex:
As per current license conditions, operators are not allowed to send SIM cards out of India without activation. However, in cases where the SIM card is required to be embedded in the product (consumer goods, vehicles, etc.) during manufacture, such KYC guidelines may be affected.
At present, norms bar transfer of SIMs, mandate strict subscriber verification, and do not allow a person to own more than nine SIMs. The new guidelines are required to facilitate development of smart cities, which will have devices with sensors that will communicate using SIMs or Internet connection. The DoT is in discussion with ministry of home affairs to finalize these guidelines.
To facilitate machine-to-machine (M2M) communication in devices like CCTV cameras and ACs to be deployed mainly in smart cities, the department of telecom will soon issue KYC guidelines to ensure easy availability of mobile SIM cards for such equipment. The guidelines would allow transfer of SIMs, among others.
High-Speed Fiber Network
Millions of gadgets need to be connected by high-speed, low-latency fiber networks capable of transporting the tremendous potential data volume to the cloud-based systems that will turn numbers into actions. All the buildings will be connected with fiber and high-speed broadband access. FTTH will be the backbone; this mandates miles and miles of fiber across the cities.
High-speed fiber has become an integral piece of infrastructure, no different than water, sewer, or electricity. Providing access to broadband Internet is how smart cities will be able to realize their potential. No matter how a city chooses to add a fiber network, doing so enables the community to become a smart city and harness all that comes with that title. These fiber networks make cities ideal locations for forward-thinking entrepreneurs to set up shop and for expanding companies that are looking for the connectivity that will help them grow. The potential and possibilities of a smart city are endless, and it is time to seriously start thinking about how to implement a fiber network to take a city into the future.
“These guidelines will be different from P2P communications. There will be provision to allow SIM transfers because devices will change hands. There will be provision of no tele-verification; most important is there will be some communication allowed – some SMS, data, and voice but on a pre-defined number.”
Deputy Director General (NT),
Network Security - An Integral Component
There are two key security concerns with respect to smart cities. The first is the security of smart city technologies and infrastructure and the extent to which they are vulnerable to being hacked via a cyber attack. The second is the security of the data generated, stored, and shared across such technologies and infrastructures.
Digital network and systems are highly prone to malicious attacks from hackers which can lead to misutilization of consumers' data, making cyber security the key issue to be addressed. Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have become a significant issue in recent years. As cyber security is critical for a smart city, a National Cyber Coordination Center is being established by the government. Also, National Cyber Safety and Security Standards have been started with a vision to safeguard the nation from the current threats in the cyberspace, undertaking research to understand the nature of cyber threats and cyber crimes by facilitating a common platform where experts shall provide an effective solution for the complex and alarming problems in the society toward cyber security domain. Innovative strategies and compliance procedures are being developed to curb the increasing complexity of the global cyber threats faced by countries at large.
There is a need for consensus among city administration, consulting companies, service companies, and technology companies on what ICT components are necessary and how cities should approach this agenda. The smart technologies (ICT) market also suffers from a number of barriers (interoperability, technical, and institutional) that need to be overcome if the market is to grow and mature.