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The Smart Webs

The Smart Webs

With cities becoming overflowing with population and need for advanced infrastructure, the new-gen technologies emerge as a saviour and a vital tool in shaping Smart Cities. Tejasvi Sharma, Chief Editor, EPC World writes…


The trend towards urbanization is undeniable. According to the research experts, by 2050 the global city population is expected to reach 6.3 billion, which is more than 60 per cent. And a major influencing factor pushing this trend is the penetration of technology. From automated machineries to accessing technologies at the finger-tip, we have moved from the real world to the webbed world today. ‘Real-time’ as is popularly being called, could be rightfully called as the pulse of urban transformation.

Internet based and Satellite communication technologies have today remodelled the very epicentre of cities. Wireless connectivity and communication technologies have transformed the traditional elements of city life – i.e. from streetlights to intelligent lighting platforms, power and energy systems and much more. Powered with the tech-wand today cities have got an entire new framework in its ecosystem and has led to the sprout of ‘Smart Cities’.

Need for the Smart-Tech

Today technology is a crucial influencing factor in our daily lifestyle. From dawn to dusk the tech-wands are often like a handy companion guiding and walking along with us – bringing an ease into our lives. The integration of technologies, especially the Internet based ones; hold a much larger goal in shaping or rather reforming societal infrastructure. With economies competing to be in the league of developed nations, equipping smart infrastructure – ensuring utmost efficiency in transportation, trade, governance and management, safe, secure and sustainable environments – have become a need of the hour. To really understand the rise of smart cities, we hence need to first look onto the drivers pushing the adoption of such technologies.

In a recent report released by the IEEE Standards Association, it states, “As world urbanization continues to grow and the total population expected to double by 2050, there exists an increased demand for intelligent, sustainable environments that reduce environmental impact and over citizens a high quality life. A smart city brings together technology, government and society to enable a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart people, smart living and smart governance.”

“Smart Cities mean different things to different people, situations and geographies. Smart cities reflect a nation-state’s economic conditions, geographic realities, the city’s economy, current standard of living and such other factors. In India, where urbanization has been a consistent trend and provisioning of basic amenities has been critical, the definition of sustainable Smart Cities becomes even more complex. On one hand, the attempt will be to provide basic amenities and infrastructure that are necessary for a citizen to live a fulfilling life while on the other hand; high end technological breakthroughs also need to be incorporated for aspects ranging from communication, safety, transport and others. Machine Learning and AI are two areas which are expected to see a boom in the future. These two sectors are going to aid the government to provide frictionless citizen services,” says Debapriya Nandan, Sr. Director and Head Public Sector Business Development, Oracle India Pvt. Ltd.

Pointing out the need for technologies in shaping futuristic cities, Paul Wallett, Regional Director, Trimble Solutions Middle East opines, “Many cities around the world are overcrowded, which leads to transport and traffic congestion and a resultant strain on resources such as water, energy, and safe housing. This is a key challenge for governments worldwide, so much so that the goal 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The evolution of advanced technologies like Mixed Reality, Augmented Reality and especially Internet of Things (IoT), has proven to be a critical enabler of futuristic city development and of meeting the sustainability requirements of energy efficiency, greater security and convenience. Sustainable and futuristic cities can be shaped by new-age technologies wherein the entire construction continuum is characterized by pervasive use of connected systems comprising of sensors, machines, mobile devices, and new software applications—all bound with the common thread of building information modeling (BIM).”

“Cities today are facing many operational challenges stemming from rising urbanization and population growth. By 2050 it is expected that 68 percent of the world’s population1 will be living in urban areas compared to 55 percent today, and this is contributing directly to the growth of megacities. We are seeing that overcrowding, traffic congestion, security concerns as well as rising water and electricity demands are driving investments in smart technology. A big focus of these investments is in sensors, Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud-based platforms that can capture data analyze it and provide real-time information and insights that can boost safety, security and energy efficiency. These technologies help create actionable insights that city authorities and municipalities can use to improve their situational awareness and create productive environments that people and businesses want to call home,” echoes Aseem Joshi, Country General Manager, Honeywell Building Solutions, India.

The India Scenario

‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Smart Infrastructure’ has been a vital focus area in India’s developmental agenda. With the Government putting forth the ambitious programme of developing ‘100 Smart Cities Mission’ the importance attached towards tech-driven cities is highlighted. Thanks to the evolving opportunities, proactive government support and acceptance in the Indian mainland, a healthy flow of global tech majors is being seen in India. The stakeholders uniformly believe and put forth a positive sentiment on the ability of IoT and such technologies in not just developing Smart Cities but also in creating a healthy and sustainable environment in a cost-effective mode.

“As Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots technologies evolve, the citizens will expect Governments to move away from single function mobile applications and create a more intuitive communication approach. Public sector organizations are uniquely positioned to seize the opportunity and deliver on the promise for self-service. Chatbots take advantage of Artificial Intelligence and carry out intelligent and seamless conversations by creating a positive and responsive communication model wherever necessary.” comments Nandan.

Projecting a visible shift in the Indian approach Joshi mentions, “The Indian market is fast changing with new technologies being introduced, coupled with technological advancements towards integrated, software-based solutions. Government initiatives such as smart cities, investments in public infrastructure, data thefts, and increasing security awareness are boosting the market for advanced technologies such as IoT not just for maintaining law and order in cities but also providing better standards of living to its citizens. IoT and increasing dependence on connected solutions is shifting the market focus towards convergence of platforms with IP technology backed by open and scalable platform and video analytics integration. IoT is driving the need for edge based devices interconnectedness to central intelligence/ analytics hub. We see increasing adoption of edge based analytics in applications like city surveillance and traffic management for Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and Red Light Violation Detection System (RLVDS) etc.”

He further adds, “Emerging threats to safety and security require a new way of thinking to effectively protect critical assets and ensure life safety. The most effective smart city systems provide actionable intelligence — bringing together the right combination of existing and new technologies into an integrated solution that connects all critical systems and processes, and delivers the right information.”

Picturing a broader perspective Wallett shares, “The idea of building a smart city is not just limited to building smarter structures but also to provide water and sewage infrastructure, upgradation of slums, building health care centers and libraries, as well as post-construction maintenance of all the infrastructure. The smart cities mission has the third highest allocation amongst the urban ministry schemes, but the lowest fund utilization rate among them.  Modern day technologies can contribute vastly to all aspects of building a smart city and investing in such solutions will benefit this mission of the government in a significant way. Technology processes like Constructible BIM, with constructability at the core, are the single go-to resource for all construction-related documents, processes and communication. All stakeholders are connected and content-enabled, which ensures that the original design concept is faithfully maintained while adjusting to real-world constraints, such as unforeseen problems at the architectural stage, or in-the-moment adaptations based on the kinds of scheduling or supply complications that plague construction projects of this scale. Even optimization of energy, space usage, and other factors can be studied and experimented with via the models first to avoid costly trial and error, thus saving time and money. Another technology trend expected to transform the construction industry by 2025 through automation, software, prefabrication and 3D printing is the Internet of Things or IoT, as it is popularly referred to.”

Trending Techies

The evolving opportunities have not just encouraged the stakeholders’ investment interests but also have triggered the urge to develop and bring in advanced technologies to support the ecosystem of urban societies. From day-to-day activities to transportation and hardcore sectors like power and energy, today we have real-time based automation easing each process.

According to the McKinsey report, the three major areas where technology has started to be used are: onsite execution, back office integration and digital collaboration. This is crucial for building sustainable structures as it helps in increasing productivity and efficiency. Leading companies are taking full advantage of Constructible BIM and IoT in order to stay ahead of the constructability curve and leverage technology for nation-building and business growth. According to a study by RICS, nearly 46 per cent of the respondents are using BIM at an advanced or expert level now.

“Cloud-based collaborative tools like Trimble Connect and Tekla Model Sharing allow project teams to work together efficiently, regardless of their location or time zone. As a global leader in construction technology, Trimble also provides mixed reality solutions like Trimble’s HoloLens and Trimble Connect for HoloLens. This solution is a great example of how technology can aid smart cities development by making the entire construction process smarter and more efficient. It uses “mixed reality” for project collaboration and allows construction professionals to visualize their 3D models as holograms placed in the real world. They can be highly useful during design and engineering stages of smart cities as it can add computer-generated surfaces, graphics, and objects into the real environment. This technology results in improved safety of the construction site by allowing for a more elaborate safety plan to be designed as well as providing training on heavy equipment on real sites with augmented hazards. The outcomes are improved productivity, enhanced production control and a better output,” puts forth Wallett.

He further highlights, “Trimble has globally enabled the construction industry to harness technology and innovation to build better and smarter structures. For instance, in Castle Towers, London, Tekla Structures was integral to the creation of a green structure that generates its own power using wind energy. Using the accurate 3D modelling, 20- feet tall wind turbines were installed on top of a building to harness wind energy. It has been designed to complement the shape of the top of the building and to form a complete frame to support the cladding in line with the main building. Such examples prove that tech could contribute towards energy security prospects of Indian cities too, and assist in realizing the ambitious target of installing 175GW non-renewable energy capacity by 2022.”

 Nandan on the other hand points out, “The use of social media coupled with mobility is other areas which are going to witness growth. Big data and analytics are other technologies which will enable governments to understand the citizens and to provide them with more services. Cloud Computing along with the IoT is other technologies which will provide the backbone for technology for governments. Oracle’s solutions for smart cities have helped governments and government agencies improve their operational efficiency and productivity. They provide a complete solution, by bringing together best practices and processes from around the world into a solution architecture incorporating the breadth and depth of the Oracle portfolio on-premise and on cloud.”

While the ability to bring in an ease in operation is the mostly highlighted benefit associated with IoT based technologies, Honeywell also brings in a sustainable approach. Joshi states, “Cities consume very large amount of all global energy. IoT-fueled technology helps deliver some of the sustainability and energy efficiency goals of local municipalities. IoT-enabled intelligent street lighting systems can automatically dim lighting in parking lots, pathways and public venues when they are unoccupied. This data-driven functionality is linked to several inputs including response to traffic volume, time of day, special events and pedestrian crossings. Data from smart metering and smart grid projects also help users to better understand and control their energy consumption. City wide deployment of IoT technologies and platforms for Solid Waste Management, Water Management, Energy management, Lighting management and Environment monitoring can directly and indirectly help in creating healthy and sustainable cities. Additionally, any smart city is comprised of multiple buildings and Honeywell Building Technologies through its various building automation offerings help create buildings that are intelligent, secure and sustainable and thereby make cities more sustainable.”

Though the opportunities seem immense for these emerging and ever evolving technologies, like any economic sector, it also has to surf through a slew of market and societal hiccups. From acceptance and understanding to maintaining the cost effectiveness and adaptability in India’s diverse terrain, the challenges before the stakeholders are also immense like their prospects. However, a fresh wave of positive market sentiment is being seen in India, which is fuelled by various development missions like ‘Smart Cities’ and moves toward adding urban spaces.

IoT and ITeS hence could be rightly called as a magic wand that can not only shape  ‘Future Cities’ but also add the element of ‘sustenance and longevity’.

@EPC World Media

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