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Smart Cities & IoT – The Maiden Ground Work

Smart Cities & IoT

‘Obsession, Derivation and Observation’, the IoT lagoon has taken over the biggest democracy of the world. Having said that, billion-dollar figures, procurements and investments are already been gushed to start the “Groundwork of IoT”.  The quest to achieve everything ‘Smart’ is what the industry is thriving for, especially on the Smart Cities sphere. In India, smart city coupled with IoT is enabling cities with core infrastructure, quality life to its citizens, clean sustainable city environment, and the buzzed smart city technology. While researching on this subject, we found many notions and arguable outlooks on the commendable growing urbanization of India. Earlier this year, while settling with an affluent tech-honcho from the semiconductor industry over lunch, I had this eagerness to ask how a country which is set to be the most populous country by 2024 will churn into an Industrious, Infrastructural, technological and scalable city. I quite remember a profound answer at haste citing, “India will build smart cities with its own approach and not replicating other counties like Singapore, Barcelona or maybe Abu Dhabi.” Getting further rhapsodized, I planned to jog myself and do a groundwork with the tech-enablers and hotshots who believes ‘IoT for Smart Cities in India is no more a Future Concept but a Present Reality’.

Onboarding Ramani Sundaresan | Managing Director | Avnet India, Rahman Jamal | Business and Technology Fellow, Marketing |National Instruments, Sanjay Gupta | Vice President & India Country Manager | NXP INDIA and Chetan Khona | Strategic Marketing Manager | Xilinx – the story of Building Smart Cities with IoT Groundwork went hereafter.

Is Smart Cities Just a Future Concept currently? 

Sanjay Gupta: With everyday advancements in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), knowing and understanding its virtue and detriments brings us closer to the future of Smart cities. For us, the heart of the smart city ecosystem is citizen safety, security and providing a holistic citizen satisfaction.

Additionally, the United Nations has predicted that by 2050 almost 70% of the world’s population will live in city environments, all requiring stable, sustainable public services and safety. To help cities meet this reality, NXP’s technology is paving the way for secure, connected solutions that can make urban life easier, better and safer in key areas of Smart City architecture. Our robust smart city product portfolio includes Smart Mobile Payment Solutions, such as bank cards and parking meters; Smart Home Solutions, such as smart gateways, smart lighting and smart access that make buildings and homes more secure, connected and convenient; Smart Life Solutions, such as gaming devices and wearables to cutting-edge medical technology; Smart Building Solutions that help integrate the environmental, longevity and energy-efficiency requirements for smart building designs; and finally Smart Energy Solutions that support sustainable energy management for green cities and homes worldwide, from appliances to the grid. We are also a trusted leader in eGovernment services and provide tested, secure identification and authentication solutions, including electronic identity cards, electronic passports, electronic health and social security cards and electronic driving licenses.

Rahman Jamal: Once seen as a future vision, the smart city is more and more becoming a reality. The foundation of a smart city are smart technologies that provide innovative solutions to current and future needs. From a technological perspective, a smart city is connected, integrated, and intelligent. As we know technology is moving at an unprecedented pace. Our customers across every industry contributing to the smart city are seeing technologies converge, resulting in increased complexity of their systems. This is true in connected cars, in smartphones, on semiconductor chips, smart factories, smart grid, smart health to name a few.

NI has been addressing these challenges by creating highly productive systems for engineers and scientists. We fundamentally believe that by making engineers and scientists more productive, we can have the greatest impact on their businesses and on society overall. And for 40 years, NI has been a catalyst in accelerating engineering innovation to meet these kinds of challenges. NI’s open platform combines three critical and interrelated elements: productive software, modular hardware, and an expansive ecosystem.
Ramani Sundaresan: The Smart Cities revolution is certainly not a concept of the future. Many cities in India under the present government’s ‘Smart Cities’ initiative are taking strides to make this dream a reality. The smart cities concept is all about transformation and sustainability and is being perceived as a popular view into what the future will look like. With urbanization evolving at a much faster pace than ever before, more and more people are migrating to the cities. This has led to an increase in introduction of different technologies that are playing a vital role in improving and transforming the life of the citizens, largely in the form of delivery of citizen services. Most of the smart city projects are primed by local municipalities or local admin body. Avnet works with various partners, design houses and system integrators to fulfil the requirements of these local city admin bodies. The end uses are varied- including smart garbage management, smart parking solutions, panic buttons in city buses, GPRS based fare meters for autorickshaws etc. For example, we worked with a local company in Bangalore and helped them during their design phase.

Chetan Khona: Saving time and money is a universal concept in both the use of technology and in the development of it.  Smart City deployments around the world aim to streamline life in urban centers as well as improve safety of its citizens with the added promise of cost reductions for governments.  Xilinx-based solutions are increasingly becoming the choice of system integrators contracted by local governments for the same reasons they have been the choice of large industrial firms.  Xilinx offers industrials the ability to create common embedded hardware and software platforms across a variety of products—so the investment in things like software, cybersecurity, cloud connectivity frameworks, safety certifications, and many other technology infrastructure pieces can be extended more broadly than with any other embedded solution available.  This is a foundational concept for the Industrial IoT and also, as you might expect, applies to Smart Cities.

Connectivity, Security and Scalability – Major Challenges for Integrated Technologies


Ramani Sundaresan: From the minute we step out from our homes, technology is around us, everywhere we go. Certainly, when you imagine something as innovative as a smart city there will be challenges. However, with commitment to innovation, challenges can be addressed easily. There are challenges like the need to ensure that the wireless networks, hardware, software and sensors that run smart cities remains functional 24*7, especially in hard to access areas. However, I think industry is trying to overcome this already. For example, we are witnessing a recent trend of research funding for Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning that I believe, will play a potent role in fluffing the dream of smart cities swiftly.

Chetan Khona: One of the biggest challenges to the long-term efficacy of smart cities are the cumulative effect of all the moving pieces.  The most common approach of a phased planning and deployment can extend indefinitely and the decisions made initially can often be regrettable in future phases.  Furthermore, technology evolves over even just a decade in ways that cannot be imagined let alone planned for—for example, EV adoption in 2018 and the near future is outpacing even bullish projections from 2015, just ask OPEC (or even your local electrician). In https://www.xilinx.com/support/documentation/white_papers/wp493-iiot-edge-platforms.pdf the case is made for having two degrees of freedom, software andhardware, rather than the typical software only approaches to add unmatched flexibility and performance for evolving cybersecurity standards, new artificial intelligence algorithms for facial recognition, and many other updates.  Even if software can achieve the desired results, it often comes with a performance penalty as computational demands increase from generation to generation and flexible hardware to offload the computational burden of these updates is required to prevent systems from being outdated in under a decade—something most taxpayers will appreciate.

Sanjay Gupta: For any city to transform into a smart city, it is essential for its residents to change and reform their aspirations and resources as they focus on the problem in hand. We firmly believe that efforts need to be put in areas of legislation and cyber security to make our smart, inter-connected cities less vulnerable to over the air (OTA) attacks in time to come. Also, we need a regulatory structure in place and motivate carmakers as well as Internet of Things (IOT) enthusiasts to comply with these secured framework standards.

As for India, I feel it is going to take some time before electronic systems become fully safe and secure. Functional safety is a matter of external controls. Either there should be a new standard altogether, or the current ISO 26262: the generic functional safety standard for electrical and electronic (E/E) systems, should be expanded to include cyber-security into its ambit before being adopted by the country. A strong industry-academia collaboration, as well as support from compliance and certification bodies, will be of high importance as we move toward a connected world. AI, Machine Learning (ML), IOT and Blockchain will play a pivotal role in redefining the future of our smart cities and better India. Additionally, EV too plays an important role, as it will be the savior of the environment in the coming time.

Spur of EV to Adhere ‘Green Sustainability’  

Rahman Jamal: Let’s have a look at the implications of an electric vehicle on smart cities and where NI comes in. Throughout the world, governments are making bold claims about the future of electric vehicles on their roads. China said that it will aim to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2020. Germany’s Federal Council proposed to have only zero-emission cars on Germany’s streets from 2030 on. In India, the government has begun creating charging infrastructure and policy frameworks so that by 2030 more than 30 per cent of vehicles are electric vehicles.

​You can see that there is strong commitment with far-reaching consequences. However, electrification impacts more than just the power plant of the vehicle. ​The modern vehicle contains a growing set of sensors and actuators. The expansion of drive-by-wire technology means sub-systems that were traditionally mechanically coupled are now coupled through a sensor, a control system, and an electric actuator.  Safety systems and driver assist add another set of sensors and actuators to help keep the driver and passengers safe. ​Clearly, the automobile begins to look like a very dense microgrid, driving around in the smart city of tomorrow. ​And nothing else is happening in the electrical utility grid. The electrical utility grid is currently experiencing a similar growth in complexity as the traditional paradigm of large, centralized, spinning power generators gives way to an increasingly complex network of distributed and micro-generation coupled with energy storage elements. ​

​But the government-mandated rapid growth of electric vehicles will compound the complexity by adding many more sources and sinks on the grid. The electric vehicle fleet will impact not only energy distribution but power consumption and peak usage cycles as well. For example, if the whole workforce in Bangalore returns home at say 5:00 p.m. and plug in their electric vehicles around the same time, this shifts the timing of the typical peak demand on the grid and refocuses the regional peak consumption from heating or cooling toward transportation.

The grid of the future and the automobiles of tomorrow will become more and more important for NI as well, particularly in terms of tests. Why is that the case? Well, the electrical grid will require a greater number of more complex control systems, and the distributed control systems will require more and better testing to ensure safety and continuous operation. ​And this is where NI comes into play.

Ramani Sundaresan: With cutting-edge engineering and new kinds of innovations coming up, the age of electric vehicles exemplifies the powerful opportunities that we grasp for green sustainability. The key to climate change control lies in improved technology. There are enough good options available to suggest that the world can accomplish the goal of controlling climate change by introducing new technologies. Businesses and communities worldwide are cooperating to find solutions that can be integrated sustainably, for a greener future for smart cities. From eco-friendly comfortable transportation options to the use of IoT and other technologies for better connectivity, there are ample examples that will ensure green sustainability in future.

Sanjay Gupta: We believe that for a smart city to be truly smart, equal importance has to be laid on green sustainability. Nature is mankind’s most treasured gift and it is important that we explore our technologies keeping in mind what we wish to pass on to our future generations. The energy sector’s innovations, including smart grids, smart renewable and non-renewable management solutions, and IoT solutions, such as smart solid waste management, smart water management and smart energy management, will collectively shape tomorrow’s smart cities and a sustainable way of living.

At NXP, our engineers are designing solutions to enable every aspect of energy management and distribution, overcoming the ever-growing challenges of efficiency and connectivity. From industrial meters to home energy management systems and beyond, our products support the cleaner, more efficient energy infrastructure our world needs. One example is the Switched Mode Power Supply solution that uses NXP’s digital signal controllers to maximize efficiency while reducing system costs through bill-of-materials savings. This product dynamically compensates for system disadvantages such as component aging and operational variability due to changing load conditions.

Chetan Khona: Associated with the aforementioned rise of EV technology, Xilinx is providing solutions into applications often not credited as being under the smart city umbrella, but do more than make things smart, they make them efficient as well.  Electric drives are used in EVs and also used in factories.  Factories, in particular, can have hundreds, even thousands of electric drives in a single installation.  Efficiency gains in each drive unit, when multiplied across each factory or every EV in a city really adds up and makes a tangible difference in operational expenses.  1% worldwide savings in motor energy amounts to approximately $4.25 billion US dollars.  Drives are managed by control loops.  The higher the performance of these control loops (in other words, the faster the control loops), the more precise the starting, stopping, and speed/torque management of these systems.  This precision translates into energy, and therefore cost, savings as high as 40%.  This is a powerful and often under-represented benefit to Xilinx technology in the context of a smart city.

Possibility of Global Smart Cities Replication in India – Collaborations is Pivotal

Sanjay Gupta: Revolution comes when we stand together and find the solutions for complex problems that we face as a society. As we move toward a smarter future, public-private partnerships play a major role in fostering smart cities, especially in developing nations such as India. Such partnerships can help harness some of the best technical and scientific brains in the country and pave the path towards building an infrastructure that can be useful to all.

Having said that, NXP’s Smart Cities solutions are engineered to accomplish a clear vision: to create a beautiful, healthy, and prosperous community for all citizens. With that vision, NXP partnered with Columbus, Ohio’s winning proposal for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The Challenge was a contest for mid-sized cities to demonstrate how advanced data and intelligent transportation technologies can be used to reduce energy consumption and congestion. Our contribution included Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) technology, Long-range, secure and private RFID tagging for automatic vehicle identification and road safety systems and smart card ICs to enable secure admission to transportation, access control, retail and other municipal services.

Similar partnerships in India can help the country identify and create unique solutions for the automotive, security and IoT industry, which ultimately will pave the path for our cities to become smart cities. It will also enable us to synergize our technical prowess and venture into several new and disruptive business domains that will support the citizens more meaningfully.

Ramani Sundaresan: The recent trend of countries collaborating with each other to develop smart cities has led to share of technology, which is helping in accelerating the smart city project. Ever since the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has announced its plans to develop 100 smart cities, countries like Singapore, Canada, Japan, Germany, France among others have pledged to support India in fulling its dream of smart cities. Such collaborations have led to share of security solutions, design and technology for building infrastructure that are helpful in developing smart cities.

In India, there has been a huge growth in interest among designers, OEM to cater to this emerging market of smart cities. Indian cities are working and getting into partnership with cities outside India to emulate best practise. For example, the Kyoto-Varanasi Partner City Agreement. Avnet India has been proactively supporting design engineers, startups, various makers in areas such as the design of smart street lights, LoRa based garbage monitoring systems, and security solutions involving the network.

Will Government’s 100 Smart Cities Just Boon buzzing ‘Digital Transformation’ 

Chetan Khona – We all expect more accountability in government deployment projects, whether with roads and bridges, or smart technology.  Many cities in India have done well in this regard to date with modest goals to achieve “smart city” status.  Xilinx is interested in engaging with even more public-private partnerships with Indian municipalities and system integrators for higher quality and rapid deployments of the best technology to build an adaptable and intelligent world.

Ramani Sundaresan: The marquee initiative of the present government to develop 100 smart cities is moving in the right direction. With regular surveys, collaborations with industries and foreign countries, India will soon be able to fulfill its dream of developing smart cities. Programmes like ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’ are helping in developing new technologies and collaborating with foreign industries that will play a vital role in developing smart cities.

Sanjay Gupta: India with its initiative of 100 smart cities, shows its zeal and belief in improving of quality of living. When the program was announced, the Indian Cabinet approved a total of₹48,000 crore (£4.3BN) for the smart cities mission over the five years, with a host of extra funding for other urban transformation projects, this shows the government’s enthusiasm toward the initiative. Also, the idea of a Special Purpose Vehicles (SPV) in every chosen city, which holds the responsibility of the implementation of the Mission at the city level is groundbreaking. SPVs will plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart city development projects. It makes the SPV credible for all the actions, which makes it less likely to be corrupted. We think that the way India is going, we can see a future of an eco-friendly, environment friendly place to live. 

Gatekeeping on Smart Cities Projects 

Rahman Jamal:

  • Keeping the Lights on with Duke Energy

At the heart of every power plant is the rotating equipment, like steam turbines, that turn kinetic energy into electricity. Unexpected machine failures and downtime can be extremely costly for power plant operators such as Duke Energy. How does Duke Energy keep their machines spinning and the electricity flowing? A recent case study from I_H_S Markit documents how Duke Energy is leveraging IIoT technologies for predictive maintenance across their fleet of fossil fueled plants.

  • London Underground Improves Reliability

Predicting London Underground track circuit failures that cause disruption to the travelling public, to increase signaling asset uptime and schedule appropriate maintenance, and completing the project within a compressed timeline of one year.

Ramani Sundaresan: Avnet worked with a local module manufacturer and provided them logistics and design support to secure a major design in smart street light project. The project calls for installation of 1lac plus smart street lights. Avnet also worked with various design houses to create smart horticulture solutions. Whether it is BLE or wifi based solutions – Avnet has deep expertise in providing support to customer. Avnet’s IoT ecosystem connects a broad range of players ranging from system integrators, service providers, and device manufacturers to cloud platform providers and components suppliers. With our ecosystem support, IoT applications such as LPWAN (e.g. LoRA, NB-IoT, Sigfox)- based devices can be designed in a very time critical manner.

Sanjay Gupta: NXP has several major projects under its hood. Apart from the Smart City collaboration with Columbus, Ohio, where NXP will contribute key technologies for smart and safe mobility to the state, the company also delivered Security and Connectivity solutions to 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Finals with Smart Stadium Experience. While, the NXP contactless ticketing chip solution inside the match tickets provided fans with fast, hassle-free and safe access to Russia’s spectacular World Cup stadiums; the company’s NTAG NFC technology enabled all new connected experiences with the Official Match Ball, the adidas Telstar 18. As the most innovative FIFA World Cup™ ball to date, the NFC technology allowed the ball to interact with smartphones to display specific details of each ball and provided access to challenges, which users could enter in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup™.

Additionally, NXP Semiconductors in collaboration with Mastercard and Visa launched mWallet 2GO, a white label wallet service developed on the NXP Secure Service 2GO Platform. With this service, NXP is first in the industry to offer the full scope of mobile wallet development in one solution including leading hardware technology, surrounding software and ecosystem integration. Montblanc, the German manufacturer of luxury writing instruments, watches, jewelry and leather goods, was the first company to launch its own mobile wallet solution based on mWallet 2GO for its new TWIN smart strap.

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