Smart city

A thought on the Indian Smart City and Adapting Connectivity Solutions

PS: This is not a Research Paper; it is just a blog to bring out some thought process on Connected technology and Smart City.

Why do Indian Cities need to get transformed into ‘Smart Cities’.? or rather “Smart Connected Cities”

1. Ease of managing City Infrastructure
As we all are aware, India is a Large democratic country with a wide Geographical Area, and a high population density. Of late, the country has seen more and more people migrating to Cities from Rural villages and Smaller Towns. This is largely because, most of the jobs are centered around cities and urban spaces. As the population density in cities continues to grow, people become more dependent on city infrastructure in their daily lives. Therefore, managing the basic infrastructure is becoming a critical task and also a challenge for local governance.

2. To Achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – These goals have been defined by the United Nations to increase sustainability and transform the world. One of the main focus points of this is to improve infrastructure for the benefit of the people.

3. Growing Economy – As one of the fastest growing major economies in the world today, India is expected to be moving into the list of “Developed Country” in the next 2 decades.
The above factors define the need for converting a city into a Smart City in India.

With the advancement in technology especially in the field of Electronics, Sensor Technology and communication systems like Smart Phones, 4G/LTE, 5G, Wifi, LPWAN, Private Networks etc and affordable low-cost products, there is a lot of scope to make use of technology to transform City into a Connected Smart City to provide better services for People.

What should be Primary objectives of Connected Smart City Program 

Smart City program shall be defined based on below objectives

1. People Focused – The smart city program shall benefit People directly or indirectly in improving the way of living, affordability, easy access to services, etc.,

2. Improve City Infrastructure – Government as the investor shall get ROI (Return on Investment) back by improving infrastructure development.

3. Support for Indian Origin Companies – Tenders need to be generated keeping a view of benefiting Indian Origin companies and MSME sector to benefit the Indian Economy.

Focus Areas for Smart City Program

1. Water Quality Management – Smart City Program should Focus towards providing Pure Drinking Water Solutions
2. Sewage Management – Dustbin management, Wastewater Management
3. Dynamic Traffic Management – Adapting Smarter Technology and scientific methodology to adapt traffic signaling.
4. Lighting Management – Street Lights Plays a vital role in Public Safety. By adapting Smarter Systems, it is possible to achieve Energy Savings and convert the Street Pole into Smart Pole to get Monitory benefits.
5. Public Transport Management – Smart City Program should focus on adapting Connectivity Solution to provide Real-Time Information about Public transport systems – Buses, Metro, Mono, Suburban Trains, Passenger Trains, etc.,
6. Public Safety Systems – Intelligent Camera with Mob Tracking, Fire Detection Systems, Accident Detection, Crime Detection and Alert, SOS systems, Emergency Alarms
7. Public Communication Systems – Billboards and Public Announcements System for Alerts management.
8. Parking Management System – Creating Public Parking Systems is a major need for the smart city. These Parking Systems shall be multiple and localized to the respective areas.
9. Power Transmission and Quality Systems – This includes transformer monitoring, Load Balance Monitoring to provide Quality Power Supply
10. Environmental Gas Monitoring – Monitoring of Environmental Gases to counter Pollution levels is a very key aspect for a city to be a smart city.

Communication Technology

It is not possible to decide on one particular communication technology that could be adapted commonly.

Major Communication technologies available are as below

1. Wireless Communication – 2G/GPRS, 4G/LTE, 5G, Wifi, Zigbee, LoRAWAN, Sigfox, NBIoT
2. Wired Communication – Ethernet, Optical Fiber Communication, Power Line Carrier Communication

Choosing Right Connectivity Solution

Below parameters to be considered while selecting a communication medium for end devices

1. Bandwidth
a. Some devices like Camera, SOS, Public Announcement Systems, etc., requires higher data rate and data extensive. Ethernet, OFC, 4G/LTE, 5G technologies which supports higher bandwidth could be a better choice.
b. Devices like Sensors, Smart Lights, Smart Meters, Parking Management, Traffic Signal Controls, Water Meters, Water Quality Management, etc., requires less bandwidth and transmits small amount of data. Technologies like 2G, NBIoT, Zigbee, LORAWAN, etc., could be a better choice.

2. Network Availability and Stability
a. While choosing Communication of the devices, it is also important to understand Stable Network Availability at Areas of deployment of the solution. Any issues in connectivity will lead to failure of the systems as connectivity is a key aspect to get data from the devices.

b. It is also advisable to have redundancy in communication for the critical devices so that data won’t get lost. But this adds up the cost of the product.

c. It is also required to setup private network in some deployments using technologies like LoRA, Sigfox, Zigbee, 6LoWPAN, OFC/Ethernet, etc., to make deployment stable.

3. One Time Cost Vs Recurring Cost
a. Communication technologies like 2G, 4G, 5G, LORAWAN would be having recurring charges payable Monthly or Yearly per Devices.
b. Architecture based on Zigbee/PLCC/6LOWPAN/Private OFC Network would not have recurring charges. But, even in this case, Aggregator or Concentrator shall have WAN connectivity mentioned in the above point. The Overall Charges would be minimal as total device count would be less in number.

4. Server/Cloud Load
a. In any IoT (Internet of Things) Architecture, it is very important to have the architecture to minimize load or number of connections to Server or Cloud.
b. Devices with 2G/4G/5G/Ethernet/OFC directly connect to Server which increases total connections at server/cloud.
c. Deployments like Smart Meters, Street Lighting, Smart Parking, Water management, Sewage Management where Devices are More in qty, it is suggested to use technologies like Zigbee/PLCC/6LOWPAN/Private OFC/Private LORAWAN networks where number of direct connections to server/cloud is less. And per Device Operating/Recurring Costs are less.
d. Deployments including Camera, Public Address Systems, Billboards, Gateways, etc where the device count is not as high as above and also requires more bandwidth, 4G/5G/Ethernet/OFC kinds of solutions are right choice.

Server/Cloud Distribution Challenge

1. There is always a big challenge to bring data from every Smart City Connected Device to one single Cloud/Server Platform.
2. Multiple Departments within Smart City floating requirement separately and it is absolutely impossible to bring in data from all devices to a single platform.
3. It is always advisable to have scalable architecture and data aggregation shall happen at different levels.
4. Data flow model shall be defined clearly. Typically suggested data flow could be as follows –

End Devices -> Hardware Data Aggregator -> Application-Specific Server/Cloud -> Department Specific Cloud -> City Middleware Cloud Integrator Platform -> City Major Data Center

5. In each Data flow level specified above, data transfer could happen through REST/SOAP APIs with proper security protocols being implemented.

6. It is very much suggested to the Smart City to have a Private Data Center to manage all its Services.

7. The data centers shall capable to expand its function both horizontal and vertical scaling.

Device and Data Security

1. Data security is key aspect of any IoT Device. It is very critical to adapt available security standards Like SSL/TLS/RSA/AES128/AES256 etc.,
2. For devices require more security, it is suggested to choose processors with Secured Boot, Random Number Generators for Key Generation, Secured Flash, Secured Production Programming, etc.,
3. Concept of Device Management at Server level with Unique Key systems for each device to perform operations such as Register, Authenticate, Data transfer, etc.,
4. Key Exchange – Implementing Secured Key Exchange between Server and Devices increases security level.
5. Implementation of the CA Certificate exchange for every connection as part of SSL/TLS process increases security and reduces unauthorized access.
6. Data Center/Cloud Security shall be robust to counter disruptive cyber-attacks.

Interoperability

1. Achieving Interoperability of Devices manufactured by different companies is difficult as it might affect Intellectual Property Rights.
2. It is possible to achieve an Interoperable between Hardware Aggregator and Application Management System in some cases.
3. Server to Server data exchange using APIs would be a better choice to get access to other systems without disturbing low-level devices.
4. In some cases, Government bodies can define communication protocol to achieve Interoperability.

General Challenges Observed in Tenders 

1. Specifications are biased and favoring only few players to keep minimal competition.
2. Government bodies who are floating tenders are having limited knowledge on solutions.
3. Unwanted Certification Requirements – It is observed that tender mentions certification which is not even valid for India. It is required to assess real need of such certifications.
4. Quality Vs Price and Concept of L1 should be removed – It is price sensitive world. Tender is awarded who becomes L1 by quoting less price in Commercial Bid. The major concern today is the quality of the product. Price is directly proportional to Quality and Service. Sometimes, it is also observed that the products supplied are too bad quality and not functional. This defeats the whole purpose to build a smart city. It is neither benefiting to the Government nor to Companies who are actually quoted right price with the right Quality Product.
5. Specifications shall not be overkill – Specifications shall be such that it meets purpose of putting up that product. It shall not be over spec’d more than what is required. This adds up unnecessary costs.
6. Unrealistic Warranty Terms – Today it is becoming common to impose a warranty of 7 years/ 10 years warranty on products. This again adds up cost as manufacturers add up loading factors. Government bodies should highly focus on implementing more robust quality standards for the products which definitely works great and longer than low-cost product which doesn’t meet the expectation.

Summary –

This blog highlights overall highlights on Indian Smart City Requirements, Adapting Connectivity Solutions, Various factors and challenges to be addressed.

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