What are the emerging trends in technology deployment in the smart cities segment?
The Government of India (GoI) and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) have outlined objectives for Smart City Mission under three core ideas: liveability, economic ability, and sustainability. In this context, 5G & WiFi6, Advanced Predictive Data Analytics, Connected Vehicles & Autonomous Drones, amongst others, are some significant trends we will witness in the next couple of years.
Another aspect is the massive amount of heterogeneous data available with smart cities that can be unleashed for the public good. However, it is not possible without robust and scalable standard Open Source Data Exchange Platforms. India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) is a flagship initiative of Smart City Mission, MoHUA, and GoI, which seeks to facilitate data usage to achieve the full potential of technology and innovation within Indian cities. Already under IUDX, some exciting use cases for public good have been implemented in few cities, and this is going to gain tremendous traction in the coming months.
Apart from these, two other trends include:
- Internet of Things (IoT): IoT-based smart water management systems and transportation congestion sensors will be a significant breakthrough. It will help monitor and control the wastage of precious resources like water and tackle the burgeoning problem of traffic congestion on roads. IoT-based public parking sensors apps will be a boon to address the public parking issue, especially in urban areas.
- Electric Mobility: Creating vast and widespread public Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to support the increasing demand for EVs will be a huge opportunity to redefine smart cities.
What is the role of intelligent transportation management in realising the dream of a smart city? What are the specific solutions being offered by NEC?
A smart, connected, safe, secure, seamless, convenient, reliable, and integrated public transportation/mobility are the fundamental backbones of a smart city. Therefore, NEC’s Intelligent Transportation Management Systems ( ITMS) plays a vital and crucial role in realizing the dream and true potential of a smart city.
NEC’s end-to-end ICT-based automation solutions for the entire life cycle of various modes of public transport (bus, metro, taxi, etc.) help achieve the desired objectives envisaged by MoHUA and GOI (mentioned above).
Automated Vehicle Location System (AVLS), Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS), Passenger Information System (PIS), Vehicle Planning, Scheduling & Dispatch System ( VPSD), Depot Management System (DMS), Incident Management System (IMS), Mobile App & Web Portal for both operators and commuters, Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboards, Mobility As A Service (MaaS) platform on Mobile, etc. are some of the critical solutions offered by NEC.
The biggest unique selling proposition of NEC is that we work as Master System Integrator to provide end-to-end solutions to public transport operators. We own the Internet Protocol (IP) of a majority of these core components, resulting in much better control on implementation, integration, and execution of the projects. With substantial hands-on experience of successfully implementing many large and complex bus projects (in India and abroad) with large bus operators, NEC brings excellent value to ensure that both public transport operators and commuters can take advantage of all these systems. Additionally, NEC brings in the vast pool of verified, proven, and certified hardware vendor ecosystems to ensure seamless and quick integration of all these devices with various Intelligent Transport Management System (ITMS) components to provide an integrated solution to our customers.
What has been the experience with regard to the smart city and smart transportation projects being undertaken by your company?
In the last five years, we at NEC India have successfully implemented four large BRT/city bus Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) projects and three smart cities Integrated Command & Control centre (ICCC) projects in India. We are also implementing a couple of large bus ITS projects in the Middle East for particular public transportation requirements in a specific city. Overall our experience of working with local city government and consultants has been very encouraging and satisfying. With a great sense of pride, we boast of having a maximum market share in the implementation of Intelligent Transport Management System (ITMS) in the BRT segment in India with many firsts like integration of NCMC open-loop payment card with our fare collection system in Ahmedabad and Surat, the launch of wholly cashless and contactless digital ticketing system in Ahmedabad, etc. Our VPSD (Vehicle Planning Scheduling and Dispatch) system in Ahmedabad resulted in vast savings of around 50-60 lac per month for BRTS company due to much better, efficient, and data-driven planning and allocation of the fleet on available routes. We have also implemented three large smart city ICCC projects with multiple innovative elements like Intelligent Traffic Management, Solid Waste Management, Environment/Flood sensors, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), Red Light Violation Detection (RLVD), Variable Messaging Displays (VMDs), Public Address (PA) systems, Emergency Call Boxes (ECB) and Citizen-Centric Mobile Apps, etc.
The most significant learning from all these implementations is that coordination among multiple stakeholders with different city government levels is the key to successful and timely execution. Another critical success factor is project management consultants (PMC) and advisors to the city government. They play a crucial role in giving the city government proper guidance and seamless coordination for the multi-vendor integration ecosystem. Getting formal approvals and sign-off from various stakeholders on time is another key to a successful implementation.
What are the issues associated with the deployment of smart solutions in the Indian context?
The biggest issue is coordination with multiple government departments and stakeholders with different expectations and agendas. Though the Government of India (GoI) has created independent Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) to implement smart city projects in selected cities, the end-user departments that consume these innovative elements still come under the purview of local Municipal Corporation and police. . Coordination among all these departments and stakeholders is the most tedious task and takes the most time and energy in all such projects. In my view, smart city SPVs should be given more authority and powers to provide approvals and implementation of technology as per the city’s specific needs. It makes sense in every way as the Government of India (GoI) is spending huge funds on creating these smart cities, and the local citizens will be able to take full advantage of all these intelligent elements to improve their day-to-day living standards only if customized to suit their requirements.
Additionally, local authorities need to raise awareness amongst the citizens on the usage of new innovative projects as adaptability of new technology by commoners is another issue that persists in many Indian cities. The transition from old legacy systems to fully transparent technology and data-driven systems take time, and many citizens still find it difficult to adjust their habits accordingly.
What are the future plans and strategies?
We at NEC have a focused and aggressive growth plan for the next five years in smart city and smart transport domains. We plan to increase our footprints in both fields with more and more in-house IPs and services. A talented and experienced pool of subject matter experts or domain experts is one of the most significant advantages, and we plan to enhance this critical aspect further. Also, we plan to go global with our rich and dynamic experience in both domains with selective strategy in geographies like the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Our most prominent achievements have been in the bus segment in the smart transport domain, but now we would like to expand into other segments like Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), RRT (Rapid Rail Transit), and public taxis/shared services. Moreover, in the smart city ICCC domain, we plan to aggressively consolidate our portfolio by bringing our own ICCC platform with global implementation experience and success stories. Implementation of our own ICCC platform is already in progress in a couple of smart city projects. Furthermore, we plan to work closely with agencies like IUDX and others to promote the open data exchange platform and help create social value with more public-friendly use cases.