Is India the next major player in smart cities?

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Alice Cruickshank

According to a report by JLL released in 2017, India is one of the most dynamic markets for proptech within the Asia Pacific region. From 2013- 2017, 77 proptech deals were made in the country, with a value of $928m.

Now the Indian government is keen to build on its proptech reputation, with its ambitious Smart Cities Mission. This countrywide plan to bring India’s cities thoroughly into the 21st century  is attracting attention from some of the biggest global technology players.

Whilst for cities in Europe and America embracing smart city technology means creating an integrated network of IoT and Big Data projects, designed to make urban living operate seamlessly, in India the term smart city means improving the basic standards of living, from taming the country’s treacherous roads to tackling sanitation and energy issues.

Mission Possible

India’s Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal programme to develop 100 cities that are innovative, sustainable, and citizen-friendly. Announced by the government in 2015, the technology strategy is being implemented to combat India’s urban residential problems, from pollution to hazardous traffic conditions. Funding is available for the selected cities until 2022, with a total bill of $7.3bn expected for the works.

So far progress has been slow. Of the 2,864 projects that were identified by the 100 cities, only 148 had been completed by January 2018.

Cisco Jaipur

Image: Cisco

A global proptech solution for India’s cities

The Indian Smart Cities Mission is gaining the attention of technology giants from around the world, including Cisco, IBM and Siemens.

Hungarian company Graphisoft, which specialises in visualisation of projects beyond 3D, is working with the city of Varanasi to provide a ‘7D’ visualisation of smart city developments. As well as width, height and depth, time, cost, environmental impact and facility management will make up the seven dimensions.

Cisco has announced that 10 cities in India, including Jaipur and Bangalore, will be using its cloud-based Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform for smart traffic management systems.

American company Honeywell is working with the Indian government to provide 10,000 CCTV cameras across cities including Bhubaneswar and Rajkot to be used for traffic and crowd management, and to improve city security.

Marrying old and new

While the Indian government is eager to adopt modern innovation, retaining the country’s rich heritage is of paramount importance. The historic walled city of Jaipur is the capital of the Rajasthan province, and is part of the ‘Golden Triangle Tourism Circuit’ in India. Fifty locations are to have QR codes for tourists to glean more information. What’s more, all hanging electricity wires are to be reinstalled underground to enhance the beauty of the city.

The development of smart roads offering an intelligent management of traffic lights, an environmental monitoring system, the provision of wifi, air and water quality monitoring, assured electricity supply, and a mobile app to enable residents to report street maintenance problems are also in the pipeline for Jaipur.

Jaipur Smart City

Image: Jaipur Smart City

The future of smart cities in India

There is scope for the subcontinent to become a leader in certain proptech innovations. Samsung’s research and development centre in Bangalore is at the forefront of the company’s work to develop 5G connectivity. The site also focuses on virtual reality and artificial intelligence. As we become more reliant on IoT technology, India’s booming digital industry will put the country firmly on the global smart cities map.

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