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With many benefits of IoT becoming apparent, more countries are implementing smart city reforms. This year, India has been the most ambitious in its IoT plans with an allocated budget of Rs. 7060 crores ($1.6 billion USD).
Prior to his May 2014 election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to transform 100 regions of India into smart cities by 2022. As India’s economy continues to rapidly increase with 60% of India’s GDP coming from urban jobs, Modi hopes that the development of new cities will accommodate for the rapid urbanization. By creating satellite cities and improving existing cities, India hopes to improve urban living and increase urban spaces. The Internet of Things will be the driving force behind these smart cities as parking, transportation, urban lighting, waste management, city maintenance, remote healthcare, safety, energy, water management, and traffic management will transform into connected systems. Companies like Alcatel-Lucent, Accenture, ABB, Cubic, Honeywell, Intel, Siemens, and Oracle will help develop these devices and bring them into the new cities.
Other countries like U.S. and Japan believe in the smart cities idea too, and they’ve officially announced their support for Modi’s Smart City Policy.
India is already in its first stage in implementing this policy, and 20 cities have been selected to undergo initial transformation. Several cities and rural towns, including Delhi, Dholera, and a region in Gujarat, have begun development. Delhi will replace its 18,500 street light poles to smart LED street lights and install solar panels in its schools. Dholera’s initiative is expected to launch this year. A financial centre called Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT) located on the previously barren banks of the Sabarmati River already has two office blocks and modern underground infrastructure, and will serve as a new financial hub of India.
Recently the Yokohama City Council of Japan offered to help convert the Indian port town of Kakinada into a smart city. Japan’s cities will help guide India towards a smooth technological transition, strengthening the two countries’ tight bonds, and encouraging India to support mutually beneficial economic policies toward Japan in the future.
If all IoT was implemented perfectly into the cities, India would have clean water, better traffic, less urban congestion, and a maximum of 45 minutes transit times across smart cities in less than ten years; that’s what India imagines its future decongested, urbanized country to look like. However, VDC is not yet assuming such optimistic conclusions. Despite all the progressive intent, India has not made much improvement in privacy and security issues, nor has it established what factors qualify a city to be considered a “Smart City.” Karuna Gopal, president of the Foundation of Futuristic Cities, stated that India just started working on its standards and protocols earlier this year and these have not yet been released, despite construction of smart cities already underway. Without any framework or guideline in place, India is creating smart cities that may ultimately lack one or more important aspects of IoT.
No other country has made such a large commitment toward reforming so many cities with IoT, and in order to execute this project smoothly, VDC recommends that India set basic guidelines, frameworks and standards to use, so all the city and regional developers and governments can work together toward a common goal: a smart country.
Whether or not India achieves Modi’s intended outcomes won’t be known until at least 2022. Stay tuned as India gradually transforms its cities with infrastructure that informs citizens and improves services for potable water, electricity, public transport, parking, health care, and education. India’s smart city transformation is likely to be a marathon process.