IoT Adds Fuel To Smart Cities’ Engine

by Sohini Bagchi    Feb 24, 2017


In the last one year or so, India took a major step towards building safer, greener and intelligent cities as the government announced its plans to develop 100 smart cities along with a host of urban renewal schemes. While a number of cities across the world have transformed to a smart city through the implementation of advanced technology solutions, the blueprint cannot be implemented as is-in the Indian context. From size of the population to the infrastructural challenges, India’s smart city innovations require an unique approach and would need partners who with in-depth knowledge of Indian issues and can provide the finest localized solutions.

One such company KPIT has tested and proven solutions such as the indigenously developed  Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), hybrid/electric vehicle retro-fitment technologies, city surveillance and traffic management, Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), smart governance, that address the key areas described in the smart city framework by the Ministry of Urban Development.

In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Sangram Kadam, AVP and Head - Oracle and Manufacturing IBU (India and South Asia)KPIT Technologies, discusses the huge technological and business opportunity in building India’s smart cities and smart infrastructure.

CXOToday: What are the top smart city trends you observe in India?

The smart cities mission has gained momentum in India over the last one year with several projects in the area of infrastructure development having started to get implemented across municipal and state levels. The initiative has got past the initial phase with blueprints for the cities either underway or are under execution.

We believe ICT (information and communications technology) to be an important component of these cities. As urban settlements expand and also grow economically, we will witness large scale migration from rural areas and smaller towns. To make these cities livable and sustainable, technology will play an important enabler in ensuring the delivery and scalability of the modernization programs.  Transportation, utilities, education and sanitation are some of the areas where we will see some ground-breaking work from technology perspective through the nexus of internet, cloud and big data analytics.

CXOToday: What role can intelligent transportation systems (ITS) play in developing Indian smart cities?

When you look at the urban public transportation sector, there are two areas where state transport undertakings (STUs) fundamentally face challenges, first, low level of operational efficiency and second, inadequate passenger occupancy.

As a technology company with profound knowledge of the automotive business, we are working with bus manufacturers and STUs in India to solve these problems with our on-board ITS bus technology. The solution is the first in the country to be certified by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and has been deployed by over 5000 buses across states in India.

ITS is an integrated hardware and software wireless system designed to track and monitor buses.  It comprises of a holistic on-board intelligent transport system fitted on buses, and set on a cloud-based ITS command center applications. Among other information, the system collects data related to vehicle health and driver behavior, and transmits it to a central cloud-based server. The command center application uses analytics to crunch the data and monitor the bus real-time to perform diagnostic and predictive actions on the machine parts, resulting in minimal wear and tear as well as maintenance costs.

It’s been reported that only about 8 percent of the urban population in India uses public transport for their daily commute. The low numbers can be attributed to safety issues, lack of multi-modal transport systems for last mile connectivity and unavailability of accurate information about bus schedules.  This is where KPIT’s ITS technology comes into play. Enabled with feature-rich technologies such as in-vehicle surveillance cameras, GPS etc., it can improve passenger safety by providing bus depots with real-time images of their fleet along with their location. All this could be critical information in improving response time of critical service providers such as hospitals, ambulance service and police staff during accidents.

Further, such smart buses, when integrated with cloud and IOT-based smartphone apps are helpful in providing commuters with live information on, say for instance, the expected time of arrival of bus at a certain stop — resulting in enhanced commuter experience, and in turn, increased ridership.

CXOToday: How is Internet of Things (IoT) helping the advancement of smart cities?

Smart cities would be almost unimaginable without the application of Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics. In other words, IoT canadd fuel to the smart cities’ engine. What IoT does is that it makes every possible device Internet-ready and enables flow of data to create inter-connected systems which can be retrofitted over the existing infrastructure. The exchange of data between the connected devices can be used for better management of city services and form a stronger connect with the citizens, leading to sustainable economic development and a better quality of life.

Let’s look at an example of how the technology can be used from the standpoint of improving the way energy is consumed.  By using IoT-based Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), a variety of data is made available from the meter to the central database of billing. The same could be used for historic comparison, irregular use reports and prognostics and diagnostics. Further, the data could be provided to consumers for them to study and achieve energy efficiency.

CXOToday: How, according to you is the future adoption of telematics in India?

Telematics saw good adoption in the last few years. This has been largely driven by greater adoption of mobile technology, smart phones, the internet and GPS in vehicles along with increased number of embedded software in vehicles.

Data released by the market research and analysis firm Technavio, indicates that the commercial vehicle telematics market in India will grow at steadily over the next four years to post a CAGR of around 16% by 2020. We are seeing a good traction in this space, where customers are using the technology to vehicle tracking, geo-fencing and a very comprehensive reporting dashboard. The next phase of growth will come from the public transportation segment as STUs look at investing in technologies to modernize their fleet for cost benefits and increasing consumer stickiness.  

CXOToday: How do you see the future of smart cities in India in the next one year?

Smart infrastructure will continue to be a dominant factor in modernizing our cities. There will also be a surge in the adoption of ICT in governance projects for bringing efficiency to backend processes including ERP (enterprise resource planning), inventory management, procurement etc. At the same time, technology will become pervasive in front-ending citizen services via mobile apps and portals. There would also be an increase in public-private partnerships models and closer collaboration between different stakeholders.