Enhancing Networks: Trends and outlook for smart communication infrastructure

Trends and outlook for smart communication infrastructure

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is based on the idea of using information and communication technology (ICT) tools as the bedrock to modernise cities in order to make them more sustainable, liveable, resilient and inclusive. City administrations are deploying various solutions such as city-level GIS mapping, which facilitates better monitoring among, other things. Increasingly, city authorities are also taking initiatives to fast-track their grievance redressal process. To this end, they are setting up portals where citizens can log their complaints and seek expeditious redressal. Other technology solutions being adopted by the upcoming smart cities to enhance public convenience are integrated command and control centres (ICCCs), mobile apps, mobile wallet integration, high speed internet with optical fibre network, Wi-Fi, and online bill payment.

Robust networks

In order to provide efficient and robust Wi-Fi connectivity, smart cities are setting up Wi-Fi hotspots, free Wi-Fi zones, Wi-Fi lounges, Wi-Fi hubs, etc. at various locations. Kohima Smart City Development Limited launched Kohima Wi-Fi City, Phase I, in December 2019. The city corporation has provided free Wi-Fi hotspots at the Kohima Science College, Jotsoma, and at the Regional Centre of Excellence for Music and Performing Arts. One of the distinguishing features of the project is that tourists who arrive without SIM cards will also be able to access internet services. Meanwhile, the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority is planning to offer free Wi-Fi and set up high speed internet spots. To begin with, the Wi-Fi project is likely to be implemented across four sectors and 11 model villages. The authority has decided to cap free data usage at 1.5 GB per day.

Smart cities are also setting up exclusive cells for grievance redressal and are increasingly adopting electronic portals, mobile apps, social media, etc. for registering complaints. In October 2019, Kanpur Smart City Limited launched an app – Kanpur Smart City – to enable residents to register complaints related to poor sanitation, dilapidated roads, strewn garbage, water pipeline leakages, encroachment, choked drains, etc., and get them resolved.

Smart governance and monitoring

Smart cities are incorporating technologies such as integrated surveillance systems for safety and security through command and control centres and immediate emergency response for disaster/crisis management as well as ICT solutions such as CCTV cameras, smart street lighting and intelligent traffic management system into their day-to-day operations. ICCCs, which comprise city portals, citizen apps, variable message display boards, public address systems and push notifications on mobiles from the citizen database, have been envisaged as an integral part of a smart city, especially amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. At present, 45 smart cities have operational ICCCs that are being used to disseminate information and create awareness regarding the pandemic among citizens. Rajkot smart city has enhanced its ICCC with video analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor the situation. The city made use of GIS mapping for the detection of covid cases and for studying the spread. Bengaluru and Kakinada smart cities have launched data dashboards that will act as a single source for all pandemic-related action and measures, as well as data collection. Agra has also been working with Gaia Smart Cities, an internet of things (IoT) start-up, to leverage its technology platform, including a Covid-19 self-assessment app, built on Microsoft’s Azure to track virus cases.

India will have an online database of all cities by 2024. The database, which will include data on infrastructure, traffic, education, health, sanitation, safety and population, will be created on a single platform in a phased manner. In the first phase, a database for 100 cities under the SCM will be created by 2020, in the second phase, 500 cities will be brought under the project by 2022 and 4,000 cities by 2024.

Future outlook

Urbanisation is inevitable in a growing economy. India too is in the middle of a massive transition, from being primarily rural to becoming primarily urban. Greater reliance on ICT will complement urban transformation and improve the quality of governance and public services.

Going forward, digital disruptions such as mobility, IoT, cloud and big data will be the key enablers for the creation of smart cities. However, increased application of technology in resolving daily city life issues is new to citizens and officials. Hence, the only way to increase the penetration of technology is through increasing awareness. Public awareness efforts by the government will help in increasing the use of technologically advanced communication infrastructure in daily life. Apart from this, effective coordination between various institutions as well as the central government, state government and local government agencies is the need of the hour.