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Transforming Lives: Designing, building and managing smart cities

December 21, 2017
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By K.S. Rao, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, Sterlite Tech

The urban way of life is seeing a monumental transformation. While on the one hand, technology advancements are transforming urban living experiences positively, on the other, there are concerns about sustainable development, given the issues around the environment, essential infrastructure, basic healthcare and education for all.

For India, this dichotomy is expected to only increase. India’s internet users are growing at a rate of 40 per cent, at a time when growth in the rest of the world is mostly flat. Concurrently, India is expected to become the most populous country in less than a decade, with large numbers living in urban areas, requiring the development of more urban spaces and enhancing the liveability of the existing ones.

Smart cities aim to bring in a significantly better quality of life, with benefits of crime reduction, energy saving, potable water, housing, decongestion, good governance, etc. For instance, Gandhinagar, India’s first smart city, designed and built by Sterlite Tech, has seen a 40 per cent reduction in energy expenditure and a 39 per cent reduced crime rate.

Smart infrastructure and services

While the area-based development aspect of smart cities focuses on city redevelopment and retrofitting, information and communications technology (ICT) is the essential backbone that enables smart infrastructure and services. Smart technology across the layers of optical fibre, networks, applications, services and analytics is an integral part of any smart city.

The network infrastructure of a smart city has to be smart enough to communicate with all the elements in the system and provide digital information to the common command centre – the brain of the smart city. For instance, while many cities today are simply “collecting” data for retrospective analysis, the way forward is ongoing proactive analysis so that preventive action can be taken. Automatic number plate recognition is a good example here, which enables real-time action to be taken against miscreants.

Smart city components

A smart city design revolves around five key aspects:

Users: Users of smart city infrastructure can be sensors, people, machines, buildings, homes, cameras, industry, etc.

Network: Users need connectivity to the network and it is imperative to establish and maintain a secure, robust, fault-tolerant connection between the cloud and the edge devices to collect and aggregate device data, manage the device, provide sufficient bandwidth and quality of service control to cater to critical applications. A key technology here is gigabit passive optical networks (GPON). It supports triple-play services, high bandwidth and long reach (up to 20 km).

Cloud: The smart city design is based on scalable IT platforms that operate on cloud computing. Cloud is a scalable and elastic ICT-enabler for distributed computing or delivery of computing services over a network. The key building blocks for a cloud are compute, network and storage, while service-based cloud models can be categorised as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS).

Centralised command and control centre: A holistic and integrated command control centre is at the top of the smart city architecture and includes video management software, analytics and an operational command control centre, where the entire city’s information is collected, viewed and analysed through an integrated video wall. The solution includes sensors, smart signalling and parking systems, smart metering, solar-powered lights, air and water quality monitoring sensors and city surveillance systems.


Several applications ride on this smart city architecture. Key among these are:

• Smart traffic management system ensures that errant vehicles are not allowed into monitored areas. A smart traffic solution includes traffic violation detection, an automatic number plate recognition system, accident reporting system, and traffic signalling and transport management systems.

• Smart security and surveillance systems monitor activities throughout the city to ensure public safety. This also allows citizens to have easy access to the concerned public officials in case of emergencies. Smart security solutions include a public address system and dynamic message signs. Smart surveillance includes a surveillance system, an emergency contact centre solution, a building management system and a GIS platform.

• Smart transportation solution helps manage fleets, schedule crew and buses of public transport systems and monitor the location of each vehicle. A smart transportation solution includes a public transit computer-aided drafting/automatic vehicle locator solution, fare collection system, bus and crew scheduling, and fleet and workforce management.

• Smart parking solution enables commuters to log in and find an available parking spot in their surrounding areas, empowering citizens to be efficient and decide alternative modes of commuting. Smart parking solutions include “on and off” street parking and parking management applications.

• Smart governance solutions help provide government services anywhere, anytime. Smart governance offerings include an e-governance system, enterprise resource planning system, common payment card, e-challans and multi-services digital kiosks.

• Smart waste management helps create a clean and sustainable environment. It includes a solid waste management system and resource tracking.

• Smart education and e-healthcare solutions ensure that individuals are able to reach their teacher or doctor in real time from anywhere.

• Smart communication helps in connecting the unconnected. Wi-Fi hotspots all over the city provide individuals with free Wi-Fi for a pre-determined duration and data usage.

• Smart environment and energy offerings include environmental monitoring systems, smart street lighting, and electricity and water SCADA systems. Smart sensors aid in monitoring air pollution, water and electricity usage.

As more and more of the country’s population moves into urban areas, cities will become the central units of habitation. It is thus imperative that we smartly design, build and manage our cities now to provide urban residents with efficiently managed and liveable metropolises, bringing a positive impact on their everyday living experience.

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