Shaping Cities of Tomorrow

by Paolo Collela
City view of Mexico by night

The migration into cities is expected to continue and gain momentum if we look at the data available on hand which suggests that about 25–30 people will migrate every minute to cities from the rural areas in India. Approximately 60% of the Indian population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. To absorb this massive shift, India needs to find smarter ways to manage complexities, increase efficiency and provide a better quality of life, by making cities smart and sustainable.

As we are aware , the Government of India initiated the Smart Cities project earlier this year which aligns with the Prime Minister’s Digital India campaign. The Indian government has even earmarked an investment of Rs.50,802 crore over the next five years into the Top 20 smart cities.

'Smart' in the cities

To realize government’s vision of 20 smart cities by 2020, various players from different industries came together for instilling the ‘Smart’ in the cities. But what makes a city smart?

We believe that for a city to be smart and sustainable, different elements need to come together but ICT is at the heart of it. It enables different industries like utility, security, hospitality, transport, public safety, etc, to collectively provide citizen services more efficiently and in a smarter way. As a global ICT solution provider, Ericsson helps front-runners in these industries to start shifting information and communications technologies from the backroom to the boardroom. When properly planned and managed, smart, sustainable city developments can address cities’ pain points and create multiple efficiencies with compelling ROI on the economic, social and environmental fronts.

Ericsson sees the bigger picture, the Networked Society, where connectivity and technologies such as big data, cloud technology, smart grids, and the Internet of Things can enable the sustainable cities of the future. Our end-to-end solution supports the specific needs of any city. Ericsson offers a unique approach based on open standards, cross licensing, harmonization of regulation and commitment to technology democratization. Ericsson’s telecom heritage makes it uniquely equipped to create ICT-based solutions, solve complex problems, and provide seamless connectivity.

For example, effective transportation is about connecting people and places. Building a connected and integrated system of transportation modes is crucial for smooth journeys, mobility, and livability in growing cities. Having the right data and insights into mobility needs across an entire city can help make public transport systems the natural choice for people. One good example to start with would be to not have a warm bus departing without passengers, while those who have just missed it shiver as they wait for the next one on a cold winter morning. Transportation history was made at Kista Mobility Week, Sweden in April, this year, with the world’s first 5G-enabled driverless buses. Each bus was automated and used 5G technology components to deliver a live camera feed and positional data to a remote control center through Ericsson’s 5G test network. The demonstrations showed how ICT can transform the efficiency, responsiveness, and sustainability of transport systems in cities around the world. The 5G-enabled driverless buses were part of a demonstration on the future of transport, and the general public was invited to climb aboard for a test ride and a glimpse of how the Networked Society is transforming commuting.

Another interesting example is smart metering as voltage fluctuations and power outage are quite common. It can help achieve greater engagement levels, savings from adapting consumption to different tariff schemes, flexible billing, reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint, improved outage management and better information to regulatory bodies. We are running a pilot in the utilities space by installing smart meters in Assam over the next three years. The solution offers outage management, reduction in aggregate technical and commercial losses, power quality management and net metering. The overall aim is to reduce network losses and improve system efficiency. Also, Ericsson and Elektrilevi, the major Estonian electricity distribution network operator, deployed a smart metering network in Estonia and consumers are reaping the benefits of lower costs and greater efficiencies. As the prime integrator, Ericsson supplied and deployed 630,000 smart meters, as well as the operation support systems (OSS) to manage the resulting data.

Way Forward

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech rightly quoted, “Cities in the past were built on riverbanks. They are now built along highways. But in the future, they will be built based on availability of optical fiber networks and next-generation infrastructure.”
Smart, sustainable cities hold many of the keys to ensuring better economic, social and environmental conditions. If deployed effectively and with sustainability at the core, ICT can accelerate progress towards the desired goals.

ICT is transforming cities everywhere, and it is a key enabler of smart, sustainable solutions. As connectivity and innovative technologies become widespread, the potential for ICT to solve cities’ problems will only grow. However, creating a smart, sustainable city is a continuous process, requiring vision, ongoing measurements and constant rebalancing of complex, often competing needs. To ensure the best chance of success, those shaping the future of cities must lay a solid foundation for transformation.
Only by recognizing the fundamental social transformations, now taking place, and by involving our communities in defining the way forward, will we be able to steer these unique technological resources toward the greater benefit of people, business and society.

- Paolo Colella, is the former head of India Region, Ericsson