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EMBARKING ON THE SMART CITY JOURNEY IN DEVELOPING ECONOMIES


Prasenjit Bhadra is a seasoned entrepreneur and technology evangelist in M2M/ IoT, Business IT transformation and Enterprise Architecture. He is leading start-up initiatives in unique cloud enabled platforms(SaaS) for intelligent enterprise systems levering human-machine collaborations. With his current initiatives with Ranial Systems and Cygnus Pro, Prasenjit is converging the power of cognitive WSN, Advance Analytics, High Performance Computing (HPC) and Machine to Machine (M2M) foundations to create a unified platforms for intelligent process automation in smart grid, real-time plant management and quality control, connected health, remote patient monitoring and, integrating wearable technologies with operational intelligence.

His research interest lies in Distributed Intelligence, CEP, & sensor middleware. Contributed quite a few articles and white papers in International journals, conferences and workshops.

Specialties: Enterprise Architecture, Business IT Transformation, IT portfolio rationalization, IT product and solution roadmap, COE development and branding, SOA, Mobile strategy, Mobile Health, High Performance Computing, Mobile Commerce, M2M, Enterprise Mobility, Smart Energy Integration, Augmented Reality (AR), Near Field Communications (NFC), Sensor/RFID and wireless solution, J2EE , J2ME, CEP and EDA, SAAS and Cloud Computing, Pre-sales Solutioning.


The expanding horizon of digital innovation has set a new era in socioeconomic transformation across the world.Advancement in Mobile communications, social networks, cheaper and faster computing with wide range of cloud services are at the center of such transformations that are enabling easy access to information on- demand and facilitate better collaboration across the value chains.What really are those technological disruptions and what do they really mean to a developing country or growing economy? – ‘A wind of change’ in the way we experience our day-to-day life, create new opportunities and most importantly,grow the GDP index consistently overtime. The process of urbanization continues to increase the percentage of people living in cities and exert considerable stress on the urban infrastructure and its ability to cope.Enhancing the quality of lives of the citizens in any developing country,becomes one of the important imperatives; and the proliferation of the emerging technologies and services are accelerating the process of attaining the growth imperatives at much accelerated space. According to UNFPA, a leading UN agency, “The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. More than half of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities, and by 2030 this number will swell to about 5billion” [1]. UNFPA also believes that the Asian and African countries will be the frontiers in such social,economic and environmental transformations.

With such a future ahead, Smart City Initiatives are gaining significant attention in developing countries. At the current state of maturity, the greenfield development and sustainability,interlinking operational technologies with contemporary city-wide infrastructure and building self-service ecosystems are most common trends in smart city development programs. However the vision and model of an ideal smart city is not restricted within silos of developments in real-estate,infrastructure and connectivity backbone. As an integral part of digital revolution, the smart city program are not only promising resources and services to meet the burgeoning needs of an expanding urban population, it also creates unique opportunities to boast economic growth for the developing counties. The following sections delve into the compelling strategies to establish the smart city foundation sand, link those to the enabling technologies as well as measurable outcomes. There is none-size-fit-all’ principle to plan and execute any smart city program.Relevance to the social,environmental, cultural and economic growth dimensions are the main pillars to plan and roll out automation and services ecosystem for any particular smart city program.

Scribbling on a White Board – Why Strategy Matters?

The challenges, needs and opportunities vary in any urbanization process. Especially in any developing country, the smart city model should adhere to the latest and greatest technology and infrastructure that meet emerging standards and at the same time, ensure a smooth transition from today and tomorrow. However some of the mutually dependent structural and functional elements,such as a high level of citizen engagement, efficient communication/ connectivity,sustainable city operations and exploiting the huge potential of the economy of data etc. define the foundation of an ideal smart city ecosystem. We have presented a matrix below to depict the building blocks of smart city maturity model.

The architecture, process and governance frameworks built against the foundational facilities should aid the strategic growth of the urban economy, minimize wastage, enhance operational productivity, optimize the resource utilization, promote sustainability and, create resilient infrastructure to adapt the social,economic and cultural disruptions in the long run. Hence the primary design principles of the technology and services landscape would demands strong sense of purpose toward‘retrofit-cum-redevelopment’ that optimize the total cost of ownership and ensure smoother transition to the future state of digital economy. The overall experience from the early stage of smart city transformation journey in developed countries would help the recent players from developed countries to streamline the process of seamless and incremental adaptation of technologies, facilities and service delivery so that citizen and administration stay engaged along the gradual development.Hence building a set off contemporary automation silos and city-wide connectivity wouldn’t deliver the desired outcome unless the strategicplanning accounts for the long Terencio-political objectives and the underlying governance structure to‘build->maintain->grow’ digital economy, identify and align key stakeholder’s engagements to bring citizen focus in smart city service provisioning. In line with the co revision, mission and objectives to embrace digital transformation along the smart urbanization process, the course of implementing information and communication technologies(ICT) must adhere to an integrated infrastructure and automated operations to maximize the cohesiveness among people-process and technology interactions. Along the process of such digital transformation, an effective use of data and extracting actionable insights would help the society and corporations to maximize the utilization of information at the right time and right place. Such adaptive process of delivering data driven insights would gradually grow the knowledge around urban resources,potentials to enable contextual services on demand and foster innovation over time.

Last but not the least, to deliver a consistent growth with smart city digital initiatives, the leaders should articulate a set of well-defined measurable goals for each dimension of transformation and poetize the program level activities to meet the KPI targets.

Smart City Technology and Innovation Perspective – How do we link?

The rapid pace of innovation in ICT is playing a central role in translating the futuristic visions of smart city into reality. The synergy between the way technologies are deployed today and proposed transformation would becritical contract to ‘what and ‘how’ the technologies are adapted as wells as aligned with the social needs on a daily basis. As oppose to focusing on discrete automation as an enabler of digital transformation or a radical shift, the adherence to fundamental or common technology backbone would help the process of adhering gradual progression through the smart city journey. Lack of collaborative value propositions and contributions from technology infrastructure and automation often deprived early adapters from realizing smart city visions. Therefore, the unique process of elevating social and economic values relies on how the technology architecture and implementation semantics are interlinked or mashed together to create new experience and maximize productivity across the urban value chain. The following sets of technology trends present a common perspective on how to infuse the infrastructure, automation and innovation in any smart urban fabric of a developing country.

Ubiquitous Connectivity is one of the primary foundations for making smart city ‘smart and intelligent’.City wide Wi-Fi and fiber connections connect assets, people,and management systems to virtually monitor, manage and control systems across its disparate communities. The city wide network should homogenize the transport of data across different pockets to ensure reliable coverage,redundancy of transport channels and minimize latency in information interchange. The unique network topology converge all wireless and wired network backbone in to one single virtual channel whiles the routers, controllers manage the transition and translation of protocol specific communications withed-point systems. The network function visualization (NFV) layer is a centralized platform offers necessary network security and access to any asset or system seamlessly in protocol agnostic fashion. The NFV bridge applications with wide range of sensor network interfaces offer necessary tools to remote management and configuration of any connected object and subscriptions. In addition to NFV backbone the software defined network (SDN)platforms offers a salable and extensible network management infrastructure. The combination of NFV and SDN streamlines the explosive capacity demand of mobile traffic and sensor data interchange in a smart city environment, optimize the utilization of network resource sand also, lower the CapEx and OpExburden by shrinking reliance on costly proprietary hardware alternatives.

Internet of Things or IoT is at the focal point of almost all possible combination of digital innovations within smart city landscape. Wide range of sensors, security cameras,digital kiosks, energy assets, vehicles and other physical objects are connected to centrally located management hub to monitor and control the city operations over the digital network. The sensors and physical objects use RF networks (ZigBee, LoRaetc.,), Wi-Fi, Mobile broadband networks to interchange data in real-time and near real-time to automate various business processes, broadcast alarm sand notifications and,perform actuator functions under any critical situation.IoT enabled urban facilities are able to deliver need based information to the city dwellers, government and corporate entities using pervasively connected and data-driven solutions.IoT delivers a broad umbrella for efficient collaboration of people process and infrastructure to elevate the civic values. An ideal smart city IoT platform would allow the hardware and software layers to establish a unified communication and processing backbone which could connect and control the legacy and intelligent automations seamlessly.

Advance Analytics and Open Data at forms offer decision support tools to promote a transparent,data-driven culture of innovation and continuous improvement. While the city wide IoT infrastructure and related applications exchange a massive volume of data over the city network, the advance analytics platform intercepts process and interprets those data to generate meaningful insights. The innovation in big data, complex event processing, AI and high performance computing are enabling real-time and near real-time analytics to facilitate predictive and preventive analysis of machine and operational data. The efficiency of advance analytics would essentially elevate a reactive urban service management function to a proactive process intelligence that accelerates responsive operations across the value chain.

While a strong privacy and information security backbone protects confidential or periphery information hosted within the smart city cloud, the open data initiatives make public data accessible to citizens. A massive amount of data is available to the tech communities to build resourceful apps and utilities to enhance the urban experience. Such initiatives also contribute to the growth of shared economy and nurture innovation.

Edge Computing’s an emerging trend in building distributed intelligence enhances interchangeability autonomic behaviors within smart city fabric. While the traditional IoT systems are collecting data remotely and posting those to the cloud for further processing, the edge computing component host embeddedanalytics, rules and algorithms to process raw events or measurement sand take need-based actions. The localized computing and decision making capabilities help the system to act real-time without any overhead of network latency. The power of edge computing has enhanced the scalability, reliability and extensibility of smart city systems. The Edge controllers could connect and to-discrete automation systems and assets to perform multi modal communication across systems and deliver better collaboration across multiple applications. The following diagram presents a typical edge deployment topology where multiple smart city applications are interacting with each other and managing operational controls locally.

Cloud computing infrastructure acts as a central management hub for data/ event aggregation and, hosts plethora of point solutions. The Saa Sand PaaS environment of an elastic cloud infrastructure enables a centralized command and control center to configure, manage and control the city wide infrastructure and operations. The cloud environment hosts the complex data processing or advance analytics engines to produce alerts,notifications and intuitive dashboard son real-time operational status,actionable information and deeper insights. The Cloud service integration APIs offers an open standard interfaces to integrate various government application and other 3rd party systems to establish an integrated MIS platform for smart city.

The five pillars of digital innovations mentioned above help smart cities to centralize and computerize energy management, waste management,connected health, smart transportation systems, sustainability and more to realize a more connected life.

Translating Vision to Reality- Assuring Outcomes and Sustain Competitive Advantage

A leading management consulting firm McKinsey predicts that the projected growth of smart city industry will be a $400 billion market by 2020 with 600 cities worldwide.Moreover by 2025, 60% of the world’s GDP is expected to regenerated by these cities. Hence, it’s an important era of digitization of urban ecosystem of the developing countries to reap the benefit of progressive economic trends. Unlike cities in developed countries, the most of the Asians and African cities are constrained with resource, technology and investments. Therefore, the leadership of any developing country should emphasize on measurable transformation goals and prioritize the technology and service provisioning initiatives before embarking any smart city program. The impact of any public or consumer digital revolutions such as smart phone and mobile data network, social media,cloud computing etc., are impacting consumer behavior and social awareness uniformly across the globe.Cities in emerging economy  should adopt 2-5 years of incremental development program that accounts for key reforms in an urban economy.The program would incubate innovation, technologies, facilities and services in line with the dynamics of interactions, experience and other social cultural behaviors in a specificity environment. A congenial smart urban ecosystem is ideally built by mapping local imperatives and growth defamation to global standards.

The ideal smart city road map of any developing country should avoid any isolated digital transformation that increase cost center overhead for any city without elevating its brand equity to its citizens and global marketplace.The incremental development program and digital initiatives should prioritize the projects that could keep the citizens engaged and promote government-to-citizen (G2C) and government-to-business (G2B)services. The diagram below depicts a standard framework to identify,design and map the key elements of service delivery behaviors for G2Band G2C segments.

Beyond certain level of maturity of any smart city development, the savings and incremental revenue streams would continue to fund future initiatives and help corporations to keep up with the pace of developments. Any city in a developing country offers ample opportunities to facilitate advanced digital transformation without being over-burdened with its legacy infrastructure or facilities. While the smart energy management,sustainability and real-time operational efficiency helps cities to reduce the operational overheads, and maximize the responsiveness across the value chain, the city wide network and data services could help the city to earn recurring revenue by enabling and rolling our new services for the consumers and corporations. Besides revenue generation opportunities and citizen engagement are very Beyond certain level of maturity of any smart city development, the savings and incremental revenue streams would continue to fund future initiatives and help corporations to keep up with the pace of developments. Any city in a developing country offers ample opportunities to facilitate advanced digital transformation without being over-burdened with its legacy infrastructure or facilities. While the smart energy management,sustainability and real-time operational efficiency helps cities to reduce the operational overheads, and maximize the responsiveness across the value chain, the city wide network and data services could help the city to earn recurring revenue by enabling and rolling our new services for the consumers and corporations. Besides revenue generation opportunities and citizen engagement are very important Such services could create opportunities to deliver better health,self-service operations, shared economy (renting / leasing rather than buying), on demand mobilization of resources and establishing better feedback loop. An improved quality of lifestyle, adequate availability of resources and facilities continue to attract foreign investments, generate employment and contribute toward the national GDP growth.

However developing economies have seen the growth because of rapid industrialization and improvement in agriculture practices fueled by a rise in increase in more disposable income and hence consumption. The unchecked growth in population and urban population in particular has resulted in an unplanned urban infrastructure. This legacy problem is a big one as these countries do not have the option to start planning cities from scratch.The technology and the approach needs to be relevant.Therefore the process of smart urbanization in any developing economy holds immense prospect sand growth potential in the long run,if a right combination of knowledge,experience, strategy and innovation back up the digital initiatives of modelling and running smart city operations.■

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