100 Smart Cities in India – Smart Utilities

In my previous post, we had discussed about a conceptual understanding of Smart City and its relevance from India context. Coincidentally, there was a a meet up organized by DevThon on the same subject this weekend. Though the participation was limited, I was excited to see that people are thinking beyond the hype of “technology” adoption to make cities smart and are actually talking about on the ground challenges and their solutions.

Given the fact that there is a serious gap between the basic necessities on electricity, hygiene and clean water in most of our cities, straight away going for a high technology solution for solving problems will not work. For example, it will not help to put thousands of sensors on the roads for capturing city information, if we are not sure how long those sensors will work and till the time, we have a robust ecosystem to maintain them and use the information from these sensors.

Its heartening to see that there is a group working on creating awareness on the different sources of information and city level grievance redressal agencies. Their approach to disseminate the information gathered through printed pamphlets is also taking into account that a large portion of the residents don’t have smart phones or access to internet.

Another interesting aspect that came out was that with such a high population density in a city like Hyderabad, a traditional approach of “smart city” will not work. Citizen participation and involvement in this exercise will be a key parameter. Building greater civic sense and a paradigm shift in how residents see their role in overall livability of the city and management will be the critical success factor for any initiative to be successful.

Though, this is not the theme of this blog, so lets get back to the next dimension of Smart Cities – Smart Utilities :)

There are two key areas of within utilities where there are significant challenges and scope to be made smarter for better results

Smart Grids

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 8.27.21 PM

India has one of the weakest electricity grids in the world. Being the 5th largest grid systems and having the dubious distinction of one of the highest distribution losses [24% average and in some states going up to 62%] the state utilities losses itself are 1.5% of the GDP.

Therefore there is a a huge opportunity of modernizing our grids and in the process making them smarter. There have been multiple initiatives in this direction for more than a decade and some states have made very good progress in that direction. What is needed is a multi year and multi pronged strategy that would involve not just modernization and using latest technologies but also improving the execution capabilities to drive such huge initiatives. This might also involve privatization of the utilities that are still under the control of states and driven more on political angle than efficiency and effectiveness.

Some of the key aspects of smart grids deployment and its relevance and initiatives in India are:

Priorities

Impact

Smart Grid Initiatives and Application

Meeting Demand Shortage
  • Augmentation of generation capacity; efficiency improvement
  • Power evacuation and grid access
  • Demand side management
  • Demand response
  • Peak load management
  • Crew management
Clean Energy Deployment
  • Require smarter systems for power balancing to deal with variability & unpredictability
  • Renewable energy integration
  • Demand response
Operational Efficiency Improvement
  • Need for ability to control and monitor power flow till customer level
  • Theft management
  • Asset monitoring
  • Meter data management
  • Substation automation
  • AMI
Enhancing Consumer Service Standards
  • Real time system to enable better system visibility and consumer participation
  • Power quality
  • Work force management
  • Outage management
  • Automatic Billing

Smart Water Management

 

Having access to clean and sufficient water is one of the major problems in a number of Indian cities. Lack of long term planning, distribution losses to the tune of 40% and above and red tape in state managed water utilities have lead to rapid depletion of ground water, which remains as a major mainstay of water supply in the cities. Lack of proper rain water harvesting and concretization of cities are further contributing to loss of this invaluable natural resource.

Smart Metering is an obvious and a proven solution that can bring in a significant discipline and accountability on water usage and management. Polluting and exploitation of existing water resources and water bodies is the other big challenge that the cities currently face and is having a large impact on the health of the residents. Innovative usage and deployment of Internet of Things for better monitoring and control for water and waste water management can provide significant help in meeting these objectives. Organizations like Aquamatix have done some very good research in this area and come up with end to end solutions that provide a holistic solution for smart water management.

There are many such application of Internet of Things in the utilities space that can be explored make Utilities and cities smarter. Signing off now, more about other Smart City dimensions like the following in my next blogs in the series.

  • Smart Buildings and Homes
  • Smart Transport
  • Smart Traffic Management
  • Smart Health
  • Smart Waste and Ecology Management

Axelta as an organization has been focusing on evangelizing adoption of Internet of Things in India and is working on a number of projects, community initiatives and competence development in collaboration with private and government educational institutions to help make the vision of 100 smart cities in India possible. Our IoT Academy that does a 2 days boot camp to equip social and technology entrepreneurs to understand and incubate ideas is also a step in the same direction.

 

100 Smart Cities in India

Smart City

We’ve recently heard our new PM, Mr Modi talk about 100 smart cities to be created in India and just recently CM for AP, Mr Naidu declaring that he would like to make 10 cities in AP as smart cities. We also heard that IT minister of Telangana would like to have free Wifi across Hyderabad.

Sharing my understanding of a smart city its impact to the denizens of any Indian city:

A smart city, at a philosophical level would mean an urban center that has been optimized and is self sustaining on these fronts

  • Human resources

  • Socio economic implications, welfare and inclusive development

  • Cultural

  • Financial capital and infrastructure

  • Natural resources and environment

 

To summarize, “Livability” of an urban center that is sustainable over a long period is what defines a true “Smart City”

There are many “policy” level implications to make it all possible though eGovernance and Internet of Things plays a very important role in making a city smart. World wide there have been a number of initiatives and organizations like IBM and CISCO are doing good research and a number of pilots in this area. Intel had recently started an initiative to make Dublin as first Internet of Things city.

Here, I have evaluated some of the critical applications of IoT from Indian city context.

Public Safety

This is one area where IoT and application of ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] can have maximum positive impact.

  • CCTVs at vulnerable and high density areas is something that a lot of Indian cities have now started implementing. Though, their effectiveness and upkeep is something that has a huge scope of improvement. Also, ability to monitor and analyze all the video data generated from these devices is a big question. This is where the latest development on big data analytics, motion analysis, facial recognition, etc can come have a positive impact.
  • There is a large amount of ground information that gets generated at individual police stations. This information if captured in a systematic manner, mined and processed along with police database on “bad” elements in a city, in a holistic manner can help in generating “predictive” analytics that can help predict and prevent a number of crimes. In the US, cities like Chicago and New York have been able to reduce crime rates by more than 30% through this. I understand that there a number of other things that need to be in place within the ecosystem to enable it. Though, if we have such a vision, this can also be an opportunity. As the information systems in these areas would and are going to get build from ground up.
  • Citizens of a city play a critical role on the safety standards that prevail in that city. We already see a vast contrast in different cities and states. Besides the governments in these cities and states, the residents awareness and willingness to participate in the governance and their own safety also plays an important part. Smart Buildings, GPS enabled Vehicles, Personal GPS trackers and many such IoT applications working in and integrated manner with a Smart City systems will help complete the circle. There is a good traction happening in this space in some Indian cities and shall pick up pace.

More about other aspects of Smart Cities in Indian context in my next blog posts:

  • Utilities like Energy and Water
  • Waste management
  • Traffic management and
  • Transportation
  • Health

Axelta as an organization has been focusing on evangelizing adoption of Internet of Things in India and is working on a number of projects, community initiatives and competence development in collaboration with private and government educational institutions to help make the vision of 100 smart cities in India possible. Our IoT Academy that does a 2 days boot camp to equip social and technology entrepreneurs to understand and incubate ideas is also a step in the same direction.

Why Internet of Things will be a huge “Thing” in India

Like a lot of many technologies, India has been slow in adapting to the latest buzz word – Internet of Things. While we see very good traction in this space in the US and Europe and China, India is jus waking up to the possibilities in IoT. Although, we are late in the game, I can see a good momentum building with IoT labs being setup, meet ups being organized and each day a new start up coming up.

There are some factors which makes it a “perfect storm” and I see a huge acceleration in IoT adoption for India specific applications as well as new innovative products coming up for international market.

  1. Change of guard – With the new right wing government in place that in its first fortnight announced that it wants to create 100 “smart cities” the timing could not have been better. We will see a similar technology push being driven by the government in next few years. Which will not only provide impetus to the fledging IoT industry in India, it will also help create an ecosystem that will promote innovative solutions to solve India specific problems with IoT at its heart
  2. Technology Powerhouse – India has well established itself as one of the best in the world when it comes to technology prowess with a number of India origin technocrats now at the helm of large technology companies. The technology talent and pipeline available in India is second to none in the world and its now waking to the IoT potential.
  3. Entrepreneurial mindset – the next gen in India has seen a different world have full confidence in themselves. We see that already in “cricket” where the young have complete faith in themselves and back themselves up to the hilt. They are aiming to be the best in the world and have the potential and talent to do so.
  4. Startup Ecosystem – It has been coming over last couple of years. There is a good appetite and pretty good incubation and support system now in place [especially in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Delhi] that is ready to back this generation teeming with idea
  5. Growing appetite for technology in life – With one of the largest urban middle class and more coming into it each day having a cash surplus the market for new innovation that makes life easier and safer is ripe to be tapped into

The well established entrepreneurship ecosystem coupled with a supportive government, a confident next gen and a growing market need is what helps create this “perfect storm” that will have a trans-formative impact and will create unprecedented market opportunities. The only caveat being that lift and shift solutions from the western market will not work in India. Those who are willing to invest in and build India specific Internet of Things solutions for India specific needs and environment are the ones who will gain the most.

Looking at this, Axelta has recently launched a training program targeted at equipping existing and budding entrepreneurs with the insights and understanding of the domain and technology to create their own innovative solutions to meet the market need. This 2 full day workshop [one of the first ones in India] will help participants get hands on understanding of the technologies and their deployment to create their own solutions. Participants will also get free access and support for leveraging Axelta’s IoT platform – Osmosis and Osmosis gateway to rapidly go to market with their solutions.

We are willing to work with entrepreneurs to help them build their solutions and customize the platform for their specific needs.