Ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for 100 ‘smart cities’ was announced, the hype surrounding the initiative has been rising to a fever pitch. In a continuation of the extensive dialogue, the Smart-Sustainable Cities Technology and Innovation Summit was hosted at the Le Meridian on the 18th of March. However, the summit is being held in the backdrop of conflicting circumstances.
In a separate seminar hosted on the 16th of March, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu announced that action on the ground will begin next month onwards. In an affirmation of the UD Minister’s statements, the Confederation of Indian Industry announced pacts with global technology firms Siemens and Hitachi regarding the conceptualisation and implementation of pilot projects in smart cities. In stark contrast, however, a last minute cancellation of the first major tender was announced today morning amid allegations of conflict of interest within the government.
Amidst all the background noise, the summit proceeded with senior executives from public and private sectors sharing their views on how to turn the Prime Minister’s vision into reality. The seminar was divided into two segments, the first focusing on groundwork for the project and challenges faced across the board. Sumit D Chowdhury, Founder and CEO of GAIA Smart Cities hosted the session.
‘Smartness is not a destination; it is a journey,’ said Mr Chowdhury in his opening remarks. He also emphasized the need to look at intelligence, not just in communication nodes, but also in the networks that connect them. ‘We must treat cities as living things,’ he said.
The keynote speaker for the session was Anya Margaret Ogorkiewicz, Managing Director of the Keryx Group, and Polish Permanent Representative to the Smart City Standardisation Coordination Group. In her keynote address, she discussed the need for standardization and common policies for the smart city initiative. ‘The European Union had developed standards for city services as part of the common European standardization strategy’, she said in an agenda promoting enabling frameworks, stakeholder involvement and process standardization as key objectives to drive the project forwards.
The following panel discussion brought to the floor several key stakeholders. Reinforcing Mr Chowdhury’s message that the nervous system of smartness is data, Mr Vipin Tyagi, Director of Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT) said ‘every processor deserves to be connected.’ However, arguably the most insightful comments came from Muktesh Chander, Special Commissioner of Delhi Police. In his extended speech, he detailed traffic alleviation mechanisms that smart cities could induce. Congestion mapping, automatic ticketing and parking, Intelligent CCTV cameras with video analytics, all figured in his vision for a better India with greater standards of living. Cybercrime was also a prominent theme in his address. “Criminals will also be smart in such cities. Over 25,000 cyber incidents happen in India in a year, but only 4,000 are registered. Police would also have to be trained to be smart in such cities.”
The second session shifted focus from policy to implementation. The keynote address was delivered by Tarun Kapoor, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. He announced that the government would use tax incentives and subsidies to push the renewable energy agenda for smart cities, which heavily features solar power and waste-to-energy schemes. Private sector inputs were delivered from UTStarcom and Codenomicon Software with regards to infrastructure connectivity and cyber security respectively.
The summit ended on an upbeat note with OP Mishra, Director of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) announcing that Indus Towers, the largest tower company in India had signed an agreement with the NDMC. Indus Towers will exchange existing light poles with smart poles enabled with CCTV and WiFi.