How IoT Can Drive Smart Cities In India

by Sohini Bagchi    Dec 05, 2014

Smart city


The BJP-led Narendra Modi government announced that the government would be investing in building 100 smart cities over the course of the coming years. The department of electronics and IT (DeitY) also recently released the draft policy on Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT movement - a confluence of technologies and thousands of tiny sensors that will measure everything from traffic management to temperature and humidity, is also driving something as big as smart cities of the future, believe experts at a recent panel discussion on ‘Enterprise 2.0 Internet of Things’ at Infocom Kolkata 2014. The panelists throw light on IoT’s role in connected smart cities and threats associated with connected devices that are set to splurge in the coming years.

Read on: India’s Smart Cities: Lesson From Singapore

Making cities smarter

Angshik Chaudhuri, Executive Director, Globalization, Cisco Systems India says, “Cities are growing at the rate of 10,000 people per hour even as we accelerate toward a world with more connected devices.” He believes for every device connected to the Internet, 10 more will join it in the near future. “In such a scenario, the IoT has a large role to play in future smart cities,” says he.

Cities and municipalities in India and across the globe are increasingly looking at digital innovation to tackle the dual challenge of economic growth and sustainable development, states Dr. Prabir Kumar Aditya, VP, Interra Information Technologies India, who agrees that in the future, it is entirely possible that all vehicles on the roads (of Kolkata) will have network connectivity. “This will allow them to receive software updates and automatically synchronized data.” According to him, it is only a small step for much of the telemetry data associated with that vehicle that will allow the city to optimize traffic management.

According to Rajarshi Sengupta, Senior Director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India, “Smart city concept - clearly a confluence of the IoT and big data, holds promises for more efficient management of city services, innovative energy, water and transport services, and a deeper engagement with citizens – all leading to a rejuvenation of cities with sustainable economic development and a better quality of life.

He states that smart cities are not just about smart systems and technologies; they are a combination of digital, business and civic innovation. “It is the new data platforms, business models and engagement models that are creating city-wide digital ecosystems.

The privacy issue

However, the panelists also agree that such a level of connectivity and data sharing will also have all the potential for privacy abuses.

“Invasion of privacy is one real concern as the widespread adoption of smart devices means that more data is being collected on people than before, and any breaches in security will hit privacy - both at home and work,” says Aditya, adding that much of the data about individuals could also be re-purposed, given that it is tackled by the third party.  

While there is evidence that many IoT rollouts have neglected the end-to-end security aspect until now, Chaudhuri states that’s because many of the embedded devices do not simply have enough computing power to implement all the relevant security layers and functionality that is required, which solution providers are already coming up with.

He notes that one of the successes of the IoT until now has been the introduction of ‘smart meters’ - network connected meters which ‘broadcast’ our power usage to the vendor. 

“Providers contributing to the IoT need will have to consider the correct forms of cryptographic algorithms and techniques needed for IoT devices in the coming days,” he says.

India’s huge potential

According to the panelists, while dialogues pertaining to IoT and smart cities are still evolving  in India, the country can play an important role in innovating in this space – and some of the initiatives are already showing results. As Sengupta notes, the need of the hour is to create the ‘smart’ policy framework to govern this sector, public private partnership and business models to sustainably deploy technology innovations so as to generate revenues.

In fact, these solutions have been deployed successfully in cities such as Barcelona, Singapore and Canberra, among others, where the political will and the authority to make such decisions is more centralized. While the challenge is to make it work in India, panelists believe that in the next 5 years, we will see an emergence of smarter cities and citizen. This will be an interesting space to watch in the days ahead.