IoT to revolutionise city management

Internet of Things supported technological solutions are leveraging ubiquitous connectivity among complex sets of distinct sensors, machines, citizens, mobile applications and software to smoothen functioning of city systems and provide innovative solutions to emerging urban problems

Internet of Things and Big Data are rapidly revolutionizing the domain of city management systems around the world. City corporations in India too have begun bracing themselves up to imbibe these technological advancements to better manage their cities. Since most of the corporations lack capacity and resources to fully tap the potential of the advanced technology, several startups and established tech majors in collaboration with government are coming forward to help local bodies in their endeavor to improve civic amenities in cities.

Many technology providers including Google, Microsoft, AT&T, Cisco, IBM and Intel are working to develop solutions for improving the functioning of complex city systems. Sensor equipment is getting smaller and more intelligent. The numbers of connected objects which can talk to each other and with people are increasing exponentially. These objects embedded with sensors are providing detailed and hyper local data for analytics which is in turn helping in making right decisions for cities.

Smart city technologies (based on wireless communications, sensor networks, data analytics, platforms and applications, cloud computing, technical standards) are being developed to address a range of issues, including energy management, water management, urban mobility, street lighting, and public safety, for example.
IoT enabled devices have the ability to gauge conditions from the sky to the sewer. The resulting information networks have the ability to create new city management models, improve processes, and reduce costs and risks.

Opportunities Abound

Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY) recently launched its draft policy on Internet of Things. According to the DeitY, the number of Internet-connected devices (12.5 billion) surpassed the number of human beings (7 billion) on the planet in 2011, and by 2020, Internet-connected devices are expected to number between 26 billion and 50 billion globally. It further says that the launch of the Digital India and Smart City Mission of the Government, which aims at transforming India into a digital empowered society and knowledge economy, will provide the required impetus for development of the IoT industry in the country.

It’s a mammoth opportunity for the world, as much as it is for India. In five years, the global opportunity is likely to touch 300 billion USD and in comparison, India too would boast of a 15 billion USD market in IoT. However, it would require nurturing with
utmost care.

In an event organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on IoT recently, Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Urban Development said, “IoT is the most happening technological trend surrounding us today, which has the potential to usher in significant transformation in all industries in the coming years.”

The various initiatives proposed to be taken under the Smart City concept and the Digital India Program to setup digital infrastructure in the country would help boost the IoT industry. And, it will be critical in making the cities smarter. According to the draft policy, some of the key aspects of a smart city will be: Smart parking, Intelligent Transport System, Smart urban lighting, Waste management, Smart city maintenance, Tele-care, Citizen safety, Smart Grid, Smart Energy and Water Management.

Among other things, IoT can help automate solutions to problems faced by various industries like agriculture, health services, energy, security and disaster management through remotely connected devices. As per BSI, a smart city is the one that effectively integrates physical, spatial, digital, and human worlds to deliver a sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive future to its citizens. The innovation solutions provided by the IoT and Big Data enabled solutions can help in realizing the dream as envisioned by different agencies for our cities. Several countries like the USA, South Korea, Japan, and China have taken the lead to ensure their preparedness for taking advantage of the IoT.

Constraints

Abhik Chaudhuri, a Domain Consultant for cyber security and policy at Tata Consultancy Services, says in a White Paper published on ‘Internet of Things: Address Security and Privacy Concerns’, “The breakthrough potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) conjures up immense possibilities for delivering value through new business models across industries, products, and service offerings. However, making IoT technologies reliable and secure is key to realizing the potential of this breakthrough concept. Ensuring security and privacy of IoT offerings is therefore a major concern for users and businesses, and is also of critical importance in the conceptualization of smart cities – the ultimate goal with regard to IoT application.”

The deployment of IoT technology solutions has all the potential to improve life in future cities. ‘Smart objects’ can now freely interact with each other and generate enormous volumes of data, spread across different communication networks. Given the volume, velocity and variety of this data, the analytics engine can be powered to cull out critical information about consumer behavioural patterns. Many researchers suggest that cities are generating enormous amount of usable data that can be analysed to uncover opportunities for optimization, which then results in additional cost savings or revenue generation.

But how can we utilize data in better planning is a serious concern because none of Indian cities’ corporations are in the position to utilize the data for analytical study and decision making. City corporations do not have skilled data scientists who can make use of enormous amounts of data collected through sensors.

Local bodies need to link the whole system by a mechanism through which data is collected, sorted, optimized, analyzed and used for planning urban development in a particular sector in the city system. These initiatives also pose a severe threat to privacy of citizens’ data and call for immediate steps for safeguarding the private information of users. The security and privacy of citizens’ data is critical for any urban initiative involving Big Data. It is necessary that the government also invest in securing data by developing strong security processes, and stringent monitoring. It is essential to review and strengthen current IT security, identity, privacy, and management practices to prepare for potential additional risk exposure.

Puneet Bhatia, Practice Leader, IoT and Emerging Technologies, KPMG added that we need to put together an ecosystem which involves stakeholders such as Government, IT hardware & software providers, technology providers, and start-ups to deliver results faster to enable India to lead in this area.

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