Any new concept takes working around. Smart Indian cities will take their fair share of effort, but Dr. Rishi Bhatnagar, President-Aeris Communications, Chairman IET IoT Panel India says, with technology on our side, these challenges will become opportunities.  Time bound completion of smart city projects will require investments, technology modifications and collaboration across geographies. The backbone will be Data, and we nee dto have structures and infrastructure in place to support the data. Also, it is all part of an inter-connected effort by the government of India to promote and facilitate the adoption of technologies that serve as force multipliers as far as development is concerned. We need to ensure the drive is successful.

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  1. The subject of smart cities is no longer anything new. However, it will have its challenges. Could you share some of the biggest challenges India will face in implementing the Smart Cities initiative?

Capacity is indeed a challenge.  Building capacity to ensure availability of trained manpower, knowledge and IP for building solutions should be a matter of priority for all stakeholders. Aligning supply chains will present another challenge. Working effectively in a multi-vendor-multi-technology environment will present its own set of hurdles to overcome. How can vendors look beyond supply chain limitations or ensure that the footprint of these smart cities is limited to the immediate vicinity of a smart city? This is an important question that will arise as we start working on smart city projects. By limiting the supply chains, smart cities can become self-sustaining entities. 

Time bound completion of smart city projects will require investments, technology modifications and collaboration across geographies. 

  1. What kind of changes will be needed in making the existing infrastructure Smart city ready?

Today, our cities are today run entirely offline. Our records are offline, and city officials often conduct transactions that are completely or at least partially offline. This cannot happen in a smart city. A smart city is a paradigm and an enabler at a scale unseen. Imagine smart cities as hubs for innovation and as showcases for diverse technologies. This means that our investments should match the output that we are expecting. By investments, I am referring to the capital and non-capital ones.

All aspects of a smart city need to be connected, engaged and monitored on a 24X7 basis. So there will be a need to manage huge amounts of data generated across solutions, citizen engagement hubs, and platforms. We will need to have structures ready to engage, channel and analyse those huge volumes of data generated.     

  1. IOT plays a very significant role in automation and smart cities. What kind of adoption have you seen in Indian industry, to ensure that India can join the top adopters globally?

Challenges still remain. We need to see IoT and smart city projects as means to help our industrial and entrepreneurial landscape evolve and mature along with the individual participants. The eco-system needs to move faster towards the next level of maturity alongside higher levels of technology adoption.  

  1. The industry needs a digital transformation to meet the demands of a smart infrastructure and environment.  Is the government helping to do that?  If yes, how?

The government is doing its bit in being an enabler. It is ensuring that the right environment prevails as far as investments, regulatory framework and technology adoption is concerned. You see, programs such as Make in India and Digital India, etc. are not islands in themselves. They are all part of an inter-connected multi-pronged effort by the government of India to promote and facilitate the adoption of technologies that serve as force multipliers as far as development is concerned. This is the right approach to have.

  1. Communication and networking are a big part of smart cities. Being one of the highest adopters of mobility in the word, does India meet the global standards of smart connectivity?  What needs to be done?

Per capita bandwidth availability needs to increase. Smart city projects will place a significant ask regarding connectivity.

  1. IET is pioneering discussions for IOT and its smart usage across industries. What do you see changing by this initiative?

Beyond spreading awareness, we are also ensuring focus on the right set of issues that needs to be discussed. Our efforts towards engaging a range of stakeholders to ensure more collaboration is already bearing fruit. The IoT Congress organized last year gave impetus to IoT projects across the country while bringing on-board a range of industry participants and citizens. We are also providing stakeholders a platform to be more visible, engaged and connected.  

  1. Pragmatically, what hurdles do you see in service industries like BFSI, a s far as adopting technology for better service is concerned? How far does IoT help?

I would not call them hurdles. These are more of opportunities that could be addressed. Suppose you have an IoT-based fitness tracker that is connected to your bank account. If you have not spent enough time at the gym, your banking app might ask you twice when you are in the middle of ordering a cola and burger. The connected way of things will help your bank improve your lifestyle through incentives facilitated by IoT. This will also enable banks to move to the next level of customer experience.     

  1. Once the cities reach the objective outlined by the governance, what impact do you see on the industry? What will change? If for the better?

Governance is a fluid concept, and it remains so till we put structures and processes around it to measure and extend it. In smart cities, IoT can be relied on to deliver data and insights to enable the establishment of enabling structures and processes that deliver smart governance. With increasing population in Indian cities, it becomes an imperative to focus on upgrading infrastructure. No such initiative will succeed till you have smart governance mechanisms in place.

Smart governance is also a function of better citizen services such as tax payments, grievance management, and billing. An integrated command and control centre that leads to better management of services and infrastructure will also enable smart governance in a major way.

As for the impact, the industry will align itself better to such needs which will bring about a positive change.