How Smart Cities Can Get Smarter In 2016

Sohini Bagchi, Dec 14, 2015

 The concept of smart city as a means to enhance the life quality of citizens has been increasingly recognized by government leaders and policy makers in the last one year. Many of them have begun to focus on cutting edge technologies and standards to make cities smarter and more efficient. 2016 promises to be a year in which many more cities will see the delivery of these new technologies and the foundation of the next generation of services. Research firm IDC predicts that by 2017, at least 20 of the world’s largest countries will create national smart city policies to prioritize funding and document technical and business guidelines.

 Let us look at some of the mega trends and drivers that can make smart cities smarter.

Big data analytics - an enabler

Experts believe platforms such as big data, analytics and mobility are expected to become the pillars of smart building evolution in terms of technology, business value and customer satisfaction. An analysis from Frost & Sullivan shows that the ongoing convergence of operating technology and IT indicates that key technology advancements will gather pace in the fields of data analytics, cloud services and IoT. Environmental Research Analyst Anirudh Bhaskaran notes, “Big data, especially, will emerge as a more valuable delivery model owing to affordable upfront costs and lower resource usage. In addition, big data provides an open platform that enables the integration of data from different systems.”

Local government focus on technology, policy, economy and infrastructure will lend further momentum, leading to their evolution into smart cities in the coming years, he says.

Ravinder Pal Singh, APJC Head, Software Enabled Services, Cisco Systems gives an example where use data and information can make traffic management much smoother, easier and safer. “Connecting traffic management systems with a GIS enabled digital road map of any city and using the power of analytics can help to implement a hiccup-free traffic management. Using real time analysis of data from these sources and linking the analytics to available live feeds, it is possible to manage traffic flow in a much simpler manner,” he says.

IoT to drive smart cities

The accelerated penetration of smart city technologies will drive up demand for Internet of Things (IoT) devices to 1.6 billion units next year, up 39 percent from this year, according to research firm Gartner, which predicts that smart homes as a part of smart city projects will take 21 percent of total demand for IoT devices in 2016 and will record rapid growth in the next five years.

The use of Satellite sensors, such as image cameras, for granular management activities at the City level has increased this year and looks to grow, especially in the remote area management.

According to Gartner Research Vice President Bettina Tratz-Ryan, commercial and industrial buildings will heavily benefit from the introduction of IoT technologies as they provide an integrated management based on big data collected from sensors in the facilities. “Especially in large sites, such as industrial zones, office parks, shopping malls, airports or seaports, IoT can help reduce the cost of energy, spatial management and building maintenance by up to 30 percent,” she says.

Smart home and connected car

Gartner that also expects that smart homes will exceed smart commercial buildings in terms of IoT device demand by 2018. “Smart commercial buildings will be the highest user of (IoT) until 2017, after which smart homes will take the lead with just over 1 billion connected things in 2018,” says Tratz-Ryan, who sees that despite such efforts, most of these projects are still pilots. “There is a lack of citywide strategy at the level of guidelines for implementations,” she says.

As such, we predict that in 2016, 90 percent of cities worldwide will lack a comprehensive set of policies on the public and private use of drones, sensors and devices. This will result in increased privacy and security risks. Similarly, we see a more acute and faster adoption of public safety and transportation IoT investment, often without a strategic framework, which IDC believes will lead to more project risk and wasted spending, such as spending on duplicative systems or devices.

“The growing maturity of smart home platforms through an ecosystem of home appliances, infotainment and home sensors will mean that smart home investments overtake those of commercial buildings in 2018,” Tratz-Ryan said.

Open Source and Crowd sourcing

The growing importance of open source technologies has come to the Smart City this year and looks to expand in the next. Cities looking to leverage local skills or develop local tech hubs to provide services, while reducing costs, are looking to Open Source enablers to jump start many areas of technology. From IOT management to data repositories to analytics software and open data portals, cities now have Open Source options. As cities can invest in local businesses to leverage Open Source technology.

Rakesh Kaul, Partner-Government and Public services, PwC, India said, “Smart Cities concept is built on 4 pillars that includes Physical (Infrastructure), Social (Health, Education, and Entertainment), Institutional (Municipalities & City Managers), Economic (Ease of doing business in India). The initiatives should be commercially viable, socially inclusive and maintain ecological balance.

RoI on smart cities

Dr. Prashant Pradhan, Director, Smarter Planet Business, IBM India and South Asia explains that smart cities projects in India are not generic IT projects. With time it will be important to measure the RoI in smart city investment.  Where are start cities heading? Is it going to solve the challenges that can inhibit business growth, such as unsafe neighborhoods, traffic congestion and a lack of workers with certain skill sets? Will the city continue to invest in areas of success like cultural events, car or bike sharing initiatives, clean parks, and resiliency plans for severe weather events? These questions first need to be addressed.

The first step is to take a deeper look at the specific smart city initiatives, and connecting these initiatives with specific measures and outcomes. For example, cyber crime is on the increase and has become a central topic for the resilience of any organisation, as evidenced by many recent high profile events. As cities bring new services online which feature multiple systems they are setting up larger and larger targets for the criminal online element and the cyber crusader. Cities will have to increase their investment in ensuring the digital safety of their cities and data of their citizens. 

More jobs creation

Initiatives like ‘Make in India’ can entail significant job creation in the manufacturing, automation sectors in the coming year. The plan to create 100 smart cities is expected to fuel the job growth further, believe experts.

“Year 2016 will bring large number of jobs in Tier II cities with Digital India and Smart city initiatives and industries like manufacturing which has been struggling and competing with import pricing competitiveness will now have major boost and will be the largest job creator in India,” states GlobalHunt MD Sunil Goel.

He sees sectors like IT, ITeS, e-commerce, BFSI, logistics and transport will become support system for the manufacturing sector and will create more jobs avenues.

There will be greater opportunities for solution providers, open source community and self-help associations to recruit more qualified staff to provide smart services. “ The success of smart cities purely depend upon four essential Cs – co-operations, convergence, capabilities and convenience.” According to him smart cities require co-operation between various city departments to create common infrastructure so as to catapult from basic facilities to adoption of new technology, enabling the citizens to participate in the growth story,” says Sumit D. Chowdhury, Founder & CEO, Gaia Smart Cities.

Experts believe that emerging technologies are already transforming the citizen experience and government services, but this is just the beginning. While smart city technologies have always been tied to goals of increased economic development and sustainability, the discussion is being framed more around future investments, and not just related to technology, but also around physical infrastructure, the livability of a city and urban planning, such as traffic challenges, network availability, cost of office space and availability of talent.

Cities must balance moving forward while managing risk with keeping pace with their residents and local businesses. These predictions, and what we can learn from them in aggregate, are a starting point for 2016.