February 8, 2018 Yes Institute

Indian Smart Cities in a Cyber-physical World

Author: Priyanku Sharma, Fellow – YES Global Institute

Urbanization is a worldwide phenomenon. Statistics suggest that 60 % of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030[1]. In the coming years, development of smart cities is going to become inevitable as urbanization puts enormous pressure on the infrastructure, resources and service delivery in cities around the world. The emergence of Smart Cities is already happening and cities around the globe are increasingly getting smarter. For instance, the city of Los Angeles is replacing its streetlights with new LEDs in an interconnected system that can inform the city administration about the status of each light bulb. Singapore, which has been topping the list of world’s smartest cities, is fast moving towards becoming the first ‘smart country’ in the world.

With India’s urbanization still at a nascent stage, smart cities will be at the heart of urban transformation. The Indian Finance Minister during his recent Budget Speech 2018-19, informed the Parliament that out of stipulated 100 cities, 99 have been selected with an outlay of INR 2.04 lakh crore under its ambitious ‘Smart Cities Mission’.[2] As smart cities in India gradually become a reality, it will be crucial to have the necessary technology backbone powered by cyber physical systems in place with Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms at its core to support the evolving needs. A city powered by its ability to capture data through sensors and use it to gain actionable insights would result in outcomes ranging from intelligent traffic signals that auto-adjust to smoothen the traffic flow, to intelligent street lights that turn on/off based on the light conditions, making life much easier for the citizens as well as the city administration.

While this inevitable integration of technology into city planning and management offers fresh opportunities, we still face enormous challenges in adapting these pioneering technologies in the Indian context. This entails the need for a standardized framework and a greater alignment between technology players, policy makers and city administrators. For successful operation of cyber-physical systems in smart cities, we would also need to get past many technical challenges that include reliability, management and real-time monitoring of enormous data and Interoperability of networks and systems. Further, prevention of data leakage and cyber-attacks is of paramount importance, sans which most of the city infrastructure and services can be crippled or brought to a standstill. This calls for greater facilitation and investment in research and skilling in areas such as artificial intelligence & robotics, big data analysis, quantum communication and internet of things, to facilitate this transformation.

Combining cyber physical systems to the full potential will not only lead us to a world-class smart city ecosystem, but also a stronger economy. With India’s smart cities mission already set in motion, India stands at the cusp of tremendous opportunities to leverage data and the power of connected ‘things’ to become ‘smart’ and future ready. As a technology nation augmented by its emergent entrepreneurial ecosystem, India undoubtedly has the necessary expertise and zeal to leapfrog into a much smarter nation

[1] www.un.org/en/…/desa/population/…/the_worlds_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf
[2] Union Budget Speech 2018-19