Gateway of India monument in Mumbai, India

What Smart Cities Mean to India

Juergen Hase, CEO of IoT at Reliance Group, discusses the impact of 'smart cities' on the national level and why India needs them most.

Reliance Group is one of India's leading businesses, with more than 250 million customers across a wide variety of sectors including telecom, power, financial services, infrastructure, media, entertainment and healthcare.

With telecoms and technology as key focuses, the group's leadership naturally decided to venture into the IoT space in India, due to what they see as an enormous amount of potential in the Indian market.

Juergen Hase is the man who now oversees the IoT arm of Reliance Group. He'll soon be participating as a speaker at IoT World, sharing key details on India's smart city program and assessing the technological development of key European cities:

"I am currently heading the new business entity as the CEO which means setting up the new business from scratch," he says.

"This is the first dedicated unit in India which is solely focused on providing end-to-end IoT solutions. Since we are the first movers, the challenges are enormous on different fronts. Right from getting the right mix of national and international people on board, to generating noise in the market, educating the audience about IoT and its infinite possibilities, fixing potential issues with regulation, and finding the right partnerships to set up the complete ecosystem for IoT in India.

"I believe setting up a business for the first time in a geography like India is difficult, but at the same time it is the most exciting part of the journey."

Defining the 'smart city'

Like many others in the industry, Hase sees the term "smart city" as extremely ambiguous. For some it means a technological utopia, while others believe the simplest solutions (tech-based or not) solving a society's severest issues are the essence of what any smart city stands for.

"For me it's about finding the right solutions through information and communication technologies which can curb all sorts of problems, whether they are economic, social, demographic or environmental. These are solutions that depend on lot of parameters like the geography, demography, weather conditions, governmental policies and more."

Improving public standards and transforming lives are what Hase sees as the most important functions for a smart city to fulfill. For Hase, New York, San Francisco, London and Berlin do this best, but the crown has to go to Barcelona, "since it encompasses so many different layers."

How the smart city is transforming India

"The Indian government is really serious about its smart city campaign," Hase tells IoT World News. "There is a list of 100 cities which will be transformed and they have been divided into three phases. For the next three years the government has committed itself fully to this program. Since India is the second most populated nation in the world, the need for smart cities is big.

"Issues like water scarcity, energy crisis, health and hygiene, employment challenges, traffic congestion, safety, security and environmental pollution have to be resolved in an intelligent manner to convert urban agglomerations into smart cities.

"The influx of rural population into urban areas is causing stress on resources like water and energy. So a system for smart resource management needs to be put in place in order for the whole economy to thrive. The government of India has announced the top 60 smart cities so far, and there is a bunch of 'tier one' and 'tier two' cities that are making great progress which you will hear about soon."

Many cities are already seeing the positive impact. Mumbai, where a few years ago more than 50% of homes had no toilet, now has a Slum Sanitation Programme providing public toilet blocks to service roughly 400,000 citizens. Hubli uses mobile technology to keep residents up to date on water availability, while Nagpur has IoT technology automating energy management, providing vital efficiencies that no doubt save lives.

The list of smart city applications across India already seems endless and yet is steadily growing. If smart cities to do exist to first and foremost transform lives and improve public standards, then it's hard to think of a country where they're better suited.

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