The idea of smart cities have been fed into our minds for quite a long time now. So, today we at IndianWeb2 take a moment to analyse what exactly are the IoT centred initiatives that the Indian government has planned to improve the quality of life of its citizens and how far along are the Indian cities on their Smart cities trajectory.

The following data has been extracted from a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HP) sponsored podcast carried out by Dana Gardner Principal analyst, Interarbor Solutions, where he interviewed VS Shridhar, senior vice president and head of the Internet of Things (IoT) business unit at Tata Communications in Chennai area, India and Nigel Upton, general manager of the Universal IoT Platform and global connectivity platform and communications solutions business at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE).

American multinational IT firm HPE's major interest in the Indian IoT economy was recently uncovered when it announced joining hands with Indian telecommunications giant Tata Telecommunications to build the world’s largest IoT network in India. The project involves connecting devices, applications and other IoT solutions over the LoRa network in smart buildings, campus, utilities, fleet management, security and healthcare services in nearly 2,000 communities (Read Here).

The Smart Cities Project

According to Shridhar, the Indian government for now has decided to focus largely on the Smart Cities initiative to improve the quality of life of its citizens. Considering the famous saying that "sailing in two boats" never gets anyone anywhere, we're glad that the government has managed to keep itself focused on just one aim when it comes to its urbanisation plans. The government considers that the Smart Cities initiative will not only help them in improving the quality of living for its citizens, but it will also help in generating employment and take the country as a whole a step forward towards accepting technology and incorporating it in various dimensions of their lives.

While Shridhar accepted that currently there is a whole lot of curiosity, excitement and action happening in the 100 Smart Cities project, but it is still a slow process for which we will have to wait a couple of more years to witness progress from our own eyes.

Offering his point of view on the Digitisation of Indian citizens, HPE's Nigel Upton pointed that adoption of the digitization of city infrastructure and services is to some extent driven by economics and considering India is a price sensitivity country, therefore the government has to ensure that IoT in smart cities is available at the right price.

He also noted that innovation is the only way to continue to bring down the price points and encourage mass adoption. According to him, HPE's partnership with Tata Communications is a live example of this as the Indian IT major has really helped HPE in evolving its technology keeping in mind the Indian ecosystem and its needs and spending limitations.

Balanced Bandwidth

When it comes to human interaction to the Internet in India, the country's performance in the last couple of years has been quite phenomenal. From 2G, we have has moved on to 3G and to 4G. Of course, in a world where 5G is now a reality, India is still behind but considering its earlier performance and trajectory, it's not that far behind.

According to Shridhar, while human interaction and experience is improving vastly because of the rapid pace at which the networks in the country are growing, but when it comes to machine-to-machine (M2M) side, it’s a slightly different story as they don’t require oodles of bandwidth to function. He believes that about 80-90% of all machine interactions are going to be very, very low bandwidth and low power as switching off a streetlight, Or sensing temperature or air quality or water and water quality won't require much bandwidth.

He notes that machines are different from humans when it comes to interactions. When machines that require low bandwidth and low power consumption are deployed, a battery can enable such a machine to communicate for years for to come.

When the battery communicates, the network has to be available. According to studies, a network of less than 50 Kbps connectivity should be sufficient for the majority of these machines.

Nowadays, machine interaction not only means sensing it; it's measuring it, analyzing it, and acting on it, but collecting all of them into a platform and acting on them.

According to Upton, low-power specification Internet and network gateways and low-power WANs (LPWAN) technology is now becoming a de facto standard as more and more countries are embracing it. He further added that at Tata Communications, they have successfully embraced the LPWAN technology from the LoRa Alliance, which is a consortium of more than 400 partners that have come together to take standards forward. According to him, they are creating this network over the next 18 to 24 months across the Indian subcontinent and have already made these networks available right now in four cities. By the end of the year, it will be many more cities—almost 60 cities across India by March next year.

Different Countries, Different Problems

According to Upton, one of the best things about the smart cities project is that the people in-charge are elected officials rather than hard-nosed businessman who are solely focused on financial returns. Considering each country's needs differs from another's in fact even the needs of two different states can vastly differ in a country, this is a good thing as the elected officials know exactly what are the requirements of their cities and its citizens and which particular area requires more attention. Upton gives Tokyo's example and explains how there is much more concern around quality of life and mobility with a rapidly aging population and the country's challenges are different than India's.

He further added, in India, the set of opportunities and challenges that are set out, they are in that combination of economic as well as social. He believes that if the country's government is able to solve them and is able to give its citizens more peace of mind, more ability to be able to move freely, to be able to take part in the economic interaction within that area, then undoubtedly that would lead to greater growth in the South Asian country.

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