Why smart city projects in India will hit roadblock

smart city technology investment
India’s smart city projects will face a huge roadblock due to the country’s poor broadband connectivity across urban locations.

This is primarily because Information Technology and communication are the foundation for smart city projects. Without making investment in broadband projects, the Indian government has recently raised the number cities which are listed to be developed as Smart Cities to 109 from 100.

The main challenge for India’s smart city projects will be the lack of adequate broadband network in cities and urban locations.

A recent report from Maravedis Rethink Research says 68 percent of people in the Asia Pacific region do not have broadband connection, while 55 percent of people in Latin America are without broadband access.

London is the most broadband connected major global city (only 8 percent unconnected), while Lagos is the least connected city (88.3 percent). In Los Angeles, 24.9 percent of citizens lack a broadband connection.

“Affordable and sustainable broadband connectivity within cities is an absolute must. Not only is it helping citizens today, but connectivity will be the key to transforming and improving the development of cities around the world in years to come,” said Reza Jafari, chairman and CEO of the CCAB.

IT assists smart city projects

Over the years, India has grown to an IT destination, moving ahead from the title of a business process outsourcing hub.

Enterprise IT vendors in and out of the nation are all set to tap opportunities arising from the ongoing smart city projects.

KPIT Technologies says Smart Cities initiative by the Indian government is vital to the development of the country. Under its Sparkle 2017 program, the company invites students to create solutions for Smart Transportation and Smart Infrastructure within the scope of Smart Cities.

KPIT’s innovation which allows the conversion of new or existing diesel buses into full electric buses is a promising offer for smart cities.  The enterprise IT vendor says its smart electric bus technology will enable green, intelligent and affordable public transportation.

Gaia Smart Cities is another Indian start-up, which functions in the field of City Scale IoT technology solutions. It offers solutions for network sensoring, city monitoring and for smart water metering.

Meanwhile, Indian IT major Infosys has promised to lend its expertise in the areas of smart infrastructure planning and sustainable building technology to the Ministry of Urban Development.

Wipro is already in the field since last year with a strategic partnership with Schneider Electric, a specialist in energy management and automated systems to develop solutions in the smart city space for India and global markets.

Chip major Qualcomm recently offered Snapdragon X5 LTE (9×07) modem and MDM9207-1 modem for the Internet of Things (IoT).

The US-based technology company said these modems are designed to address customer connectivity and power challenges in a wide range of use cases including in smart cities, commercial applications and industrial designs.

These uses include smart energy & metering, building security, infrastructure, industrial control and automation, retail point of sale, asset tracking, medical, lighting and aftermarket telematics.

D-Link India and Moxa will jointly provide technology solutions for India’s Smart City projects.  It is expected that Moxa’s strength and existing success in various vertical markets in India, including solar power, smart grid, railway, metro, and CCTV surveillance systems, will enhance the company’s value proposition for smart cities mission proposals.

“Smart City Mission will be incomplete without people who actively contribute in governance and reforms, and are also aware of do’s and don’ts for themselves,” said Anshuman Singh, director of Product Management of Application Security at Barracuda Networks.

While those mentioned here are a few steps in the way to become smart, more strategic partnerships and innovative technologies are expected to reveal in the days to come.

How cities are equipping themselves to become smart

India’s Smart City project focuses on core infrastructure services like adequate  water supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transportation, affordable housing for the poor, assured power supply, robust IT connectivity, governance, especially e-governance and citizen participation.

If media reports are to be believed, the holy city of Varanasi is competing to get entry into the next list of smart cities.

As part of the move, the city, which is also the constituency of Prime Minister, has assured partnerships with companies like Uber, Philips, IBM, Schneider Electric and Ericsson to deliver feasible plan.

Elsewhere, Odisha secured assurance from Germany to develop Bhubaneswar as a model smart city.

German Ambassador to India Martin Ney met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Government of Odisha, Pushpendra Singh Deo.

According to Orissadiary.com, German bank KfW has financed EUR 50 million towards Odisha Urban Infrastructure Development fund (OUIDF) as loan and EUR 2.5 million towards technical assistance as grant fund.

These funds are used for the housing for the economically weaker sections, urban water supply, sewerage systems, solid waste management and water bodies reclamation.

Some findings

Juniper Research says traffic easing measures are at the forefront of many smart cities’ efforts. According to the firm, smart traffic management and smart parking initiatives will save some 4.2 billion man-hours annually by 2021.

Additionally, the research found that the smart street lighting market, consisting of micro-controlled LED units and sensors is expected to surge over the next 5 years, with over half of installed LED fixtures being networked globally by 2021.

Meanwhile, Ericsson has named Stockholm as the top-ranking city in the Networked Society City Index 2016, followed by London, Copenhagen, Singapore and Paris.

Ericsson study found that smart city planning will be critical to achieving several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The study suggests that authorities must make ICT as a basic infrastructure in the investment plans to develop cities beyond smart cities. Furthermore, creation of enabling regulatory environments that encourage the adoption of ICT is necessary.


While the government, cities and IT vendors have all geared up to establish smart cities, the question is whether the public is smart enough to fit into a fully connected ecosystem. Moreover, how the charge for availing advanced facilities in a smart city will impact households’ budget also needs clarification.

The fulfilment of any project lays on the successful use it in the real world. Let’s hope these urban innovation deliver positive results.

Arya MM
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