Top 10 Considerations for Efficient IoT Deployments in Smart Cities

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Sandeep AgarwalIn this special guest feature, Sandeep Agarwal, Senior VP and Head of Engineering at Happiest Minds Technologies, discusses the challenges of applying IoT technology to smart cities. Sandeep Agarwal has over 20 years of experience in engineering R&D services. He has deep experience in working with several MNCs as his customer; providing them with unique value add and technology solutions. Sandeep currently heads the Engineering R&D Services division of Happiest Minds and is focused on 2 major disruptive technologies M2M and SDDC for leveraging the SMAC wave.

Smart cities have been gaining momentum around the world. They are focussed on providing three important aspects- improved quality of life for the citizens, urban development (providing right infrastructure, for transportation, energy, utilities, waste and water management) and focus on climate change with huge emphasis on green systems (use of non-conventional modes like wind, water, waste to produce and utilize green energy).

Smart cities thus have some major goals to achieve – SMART Economy, SMART People, SMART Governance, SMART Transportation, SMART Environment and SMART Living. Gartner Inc. predicts that 1.6 billion connected things will be used by smart cities in 2016, up 39 % from 2015.

Though IoT brings a wealth of opportunities, there are many challenges to be considered to make the system usable, have a high value of applying context to data, and finally triggering a very high quality of living. Here are 10 considerations for efficient IoT deployments in smart cities:

1 — Tightly integrated IoT Solution and Architecture

At many places, the specific IoT solutions work great in isolation, but if it is not tied in with the entire city planning, there are chances you may start addressing a wrong problem and landing in more troubles. For example, you may have the best IoT implementation to track and route the ambulance, but if your city planning not aligned properly, then it will be a challenge to route these ambulance under proper regulations around the city. Here the IoT implementation may not be of real help.

2 — Open Architecture and Platform with an Interconnected Infrastructure

There are enumerable IoT solutions that provide unique ways that can be applied to a vertical solution like traffic, lighting, parking, security etc. However, the real value of IoT is not when it is an independent solution, but when it is an interconnected system that allows data to pass through each application, thus enhancing the value of the overall systems. We should think of building an Open platform taking a cloud city approach, and then add applications on top of it (with associated Devices and Sensors), instead of building separate solution for separate platforms.

3 — Involve Citizens as part of Solutions

Citizens are core to the success of any technology implementation done in the context of a city. As they are the main consumer and the biggest beneficiary of this solution, their involvement in the solution is highly critical. Many countries have adopted the concept of “Create or Join a Project”, which aims at involving citizens at the very early stages of conceptualization and then implementation.

Citizens are not just any other involvement, they are actually a major source of data that is fed back to the system during the implementation process. For example, a broken Water pipe, can be bought to the quick attention of the system if the solution provides a provision to allow the citizen to upload an image and the location of the broken water pipe. The same can be applied for a broken street light or a possible security breach.

4 — Define Specific Goals

IoT solutions have the tendency to be led by technology, thus in the very first instance one needs to define the problems clearly, else we would end up wasting time in solving the wrong problem. Building an IoT led smart city, depends on the context of country and cities and the behavioural habits of the citizen residing in the place. For e.g., a smart bin might work in a certain place with scarce population and disciplined people, however the same might possibly fail if the city is densely populated and where the citizens are not habituated to put waste in the waste bin.

It also depends on how much wastage the city generates in different parts of the city. Thus leaving a question if the Smart Bin is a viable solution for this particular city or country?

5 — Focus on solutions of sustainable growth

All the new cities in the process of becoming a smart cities should learn from the IoT solutions already implemented in the existing ones. A best practice which most of the smart cities follows is to first focus on street lighting, this provides a good kick start to the project. Street lights acts as a major catalyst of carrying the Optical Fibre backbone, which can be used in several other solutions like Infrastructure, Intelligent Transport, Wi-Fi, Intelligent Lighting, Kiosks, Advertisements, City Security and Surveillance and Location Based Services, etc.

6 — Standards for Privacy and Safety

As most of the IoT Solutions in a city context is keeping an Individual/citizen in mind, IoT Solutions should allow free communication and allow citizens to share data, and this would only happen if they have clear standards of privacy and citizens know that their data will not be misused, and it’s safe for them to share correct data.

7 — Big Data Architecture and Analytics

Big Data modelling and architecture should be well thought out right in the very beginning of the entire IoT led smart city project, allowing for near real time and fast processing of data and quick correlations with the historical data or trends. There should be lot of focus on self-learning algorithms, which help systems to become more robust and predictable in the long run. Efforts should be made to make this architecture designed and scalable, and attached to probably a single Platform approach.

8 — Using Test Labs

The labs provides a controlled environment which can be used by citizens to experiment with any new IoT solution and learn about the problems that the solution is trying to solve and how citizens themselves can participate in the overall solution. The labs also provide open APIs and Open Data to city infrastructure, which can be used by strong developers to come up with new ideas and applications, which also possibly get voted and tested in lab, in similar city environment.

9 — Citizen Awareness, Education and Training

It’s extremely important to educate the citizens on a new IoT application before or right after the deployment. Keep in mind that not all citizens are aware of this technology and thus cannot reap any benefits out of the system if they’re not trained to. Therefore a good awareness camps conducted by the local municipal organization on the new IoT based roll-outs is a must in a city context.

10 — Connectivity and Quality of service (QoS)

On any IoT deployments connectivity becomes a key aspects, as most of the real benefits of an IoT comes from automated decisions and there is very minimal manual interventions. A backup of connectivity and looking at all possible ways to make the device self-sufficient, self-reliable, and self-decision maker would be the key. All decisions cannot be left to Cloud or command center, and this IoT solutions may work in Enterprise context but not really in a city context. Clear SLAs with a defined QoS should be provided so that Citizens build a faith on such deployments and use it in there day to day life.


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