26 May 2020

Special Focus- Smart Technologies

Nextgen Drivers


While ‘Smart’ is the buzz word for development in the 21st Century, technology serves as the nerve for economic growth. VEENA KURUP writes about the changing dynamics in the field of automated products and services which are intended to meet requirements of the future.


Rapid advancements in science and engineering have today linked technology with a nation’s economic performance. This has evidently raised the role of automation as a crucial element in modern society. With the economies across the world competing to surpass each other, ‘Smart Technology’ is now the assured growth driver. While a decade ago, the concept was most commonly related to ‘Smart Phone’, the idea has advanced and now involves multiple dimensions.


In fact, the growing prominence of such innovative and automated technologies has given birth to the idea of creating Smart Cities – the notion which is now spreading like a wildfire across the globe. With the government of India, under the leadership of Narendra Modi envisioning the development of ‘100 Smart Cities’  as one of its core growth agenda – ‘Smart Technologies’ has evolved as the need of the hour in meeting futuristic requirements.


According to analysts, the concept is often restricted or rather is limited to products/services driven by Information Technology or computer enabled operations. However, the domain has multiple dimensions and involves products/services which can ease the desired operations, subtract the cost and time involved by minimising human involvement.




The idea came into formulation owing to the need to accommodate rapid urbanisation and increasing number of migrated population. The global experience as per IFCCI report suggests that a country’s urbanisation up to a 30 per cent level is relatively slow and will speed up after it crosses 60-65 per cent benchmark. India presently has an urban population of about 31 per cent and is now at a point of transition where the pace of urbanisation will speed up. Urban population today contributes over 60 per cent of the total national income. In the next 15 years. EXIM (Export Import Bank of India) predicts that about 25-30 people will migrate every minute to major Indian cities from rural areas in search of better livelihood and better lifestyles.  It is estimated that by the year 2050, the number of people dwelling in Indian cities will touch 843 million. The country thus is in need for smarter ways, systems, products and technologies to manage complexities, reduce expenses, increase efficiency, subtract energy consumption and ultimately improve the total quality of life. A recent report from Navigant Research states that, the global smart city technology market is expected to grow from $8.8 billion annually in 2014 to more than $27.5 billion by 2023.


Placing urbanisation as the epicentre powering the growth for such technologies, Shankar Aggarwal (IAS), Former Secretary, Urban Development, Government of India says, “The exciting times that we are living in are transformational in nature for India. We can all perform wonderfully well under the present government which is focused in its goals to provide meaningful and inclusive growth. However, this can be achieved when the 22 percent of the population that is below the poverty line, the 50 percent below the empowerment line and the disadvantaged are included in such growth. This has brought us to the juncture to relook at the urbanisation process, since growth and in turn employment is generated from the urban sector.”

These rapidly evolving opportunities in the automated area have attracted numerous multinationals to the Indian market. According to Abhishek Lodha, Managing Director, Lodha Group, the scope of automation and growth in the adoption of Smart Technologies can become more progressive with the active participation of private players. “Smart Cities need to become smarter in multiple domains across governance, sustainability while improving overall quality of life of its citizens. However to meeting such requirements are possible with the efficient technologies and qualitative management,” added Lodha.


Owing to these increasing demands for automated technologies, the concept is now gradually evolving as a sector and covers the entire gamut of construction process – involving planning, designing, execution, operation and even maintenance. Another vital component gaining an increasing prominence with the rapid technical advancements is the need for safety and security systems.


Devidas Kulkarni, Country Division Lead, Building Technologies, Siemens Ltd opines, “Infrastructure operators are today looking for intelligent solutions to respond to these challenges. Reliable power resource, multimodal integrated mobility, safe and secure buildings and healthcare for all, are the key constituents for making any city smart and sustainable.” The company today offers entire automation facilities like Smart Grid technologies, Intelligent Traffic Management, Building Automation Systems, Fire Detection and Suppression Systems, Intelligent Security Solutions and Transportation Management Systems that help to optimise the existing infrastructure, increase efficiency, reduce operation costs, improve safety and reduce environmental challenges.


According to Balbir Singh Khera, CEO, Surmount Energy Solutions Pvt Ltd, Smart Cities will at the core involve both Smart Infrastructure (e.g. smart grid) and Smart Buildings – wherein safety and security are its two prime elements. “Smart Cities will have to be safe and secure at the basic level and will require the buildings to be connected via efficient communication networks. The utilisation of such technologies allows greater monitoring and quick response to address critical needs. Besides, a greater degree of control will be also required to control and monitor distinct range of electrical devices. The opportunities prevalent and being streamlined are hence immense, with the evolving requirements we will be addressing the needs with our customer-centric products and technologies.”


BuildTrack is one such automation platform being offered by Surmount for workplaces, buildings and townships. The product addresses capabilities around safety, security, comfort, convenience and energy efficiency. The offerings come in the form of sensors, switches, switch nodes, sensor nodes, cameras, locks and internet gateways.


Another key area witnessing an increasing transformation due to the rapidly evolving technologies is the field of project management. As per the industry experts, the solutions or systems which can be accessible by different operating systems and handheld/mobile devices play are most favoured by project managers and project consultants. Oracle’s Primavera solution is one such system ensuring total lifecycle management solution. “With the new government’s focus on roads, housing, smart cities etc. the country will demand solutions that enable monitoring, measuring, transparency and controls that comes with an EPPM solution,” believes Pankaj Dewan, Primavera-India Country Director. He further adds a paradigm shift in the client approach towards opting for solutions based on cloud platforms – which has the ability to deploy quick and efficient solutions that can save money, time and human involvement by maintaining a one-stop destination for accumulating and storing data.


The rapid advancements in technology have also brought a sea change in the mode of transportation services being implemented in the country.  According to Apurba Dhar, Director-Business Development, RATP DEV Transdev India Pvt Ltd with the increasing urbanisation sprawling worldwide, the majority of our everyday activities – work, study or leisure – call for convenient, hassle-free travel which can be increasingly adapted to the moment. “In addition to the foundation requirements of on-time performance, frequency, reliability and convenience, people now expect a high-quality service provider, especially technologies that can ease the process of transportation.”  RATP Dev Transdev, is one such pioneer involved in the development of digital  mobility solutions. Using the passengers’ lifestyles as the starting point – listening to their needs and following the emerging behaviour driven by digital platforms – and by co-creating mobile applications, the company contributes to make each journey more natural, more pleasant and efficient experience. 




To remain cost effective in a price sensitive market like India is the most common concern being upheld by the technology providers in India. The other key hurdle is the unrealistic client expectation and increasing project complexities. “Faster and cheaper remains a key desire for many but it is important that we don’t ignore the required building blocks for success. Detailed design and planning, better control over all the aspects of the work and confidence in the supply chain and effective technologies are fundamental to create more efficient, faster, less expensive construction,” avers Amit Mukherjee, Divisional Director, Mott MacDonald.


Linking affordability and technology is the other common worry being upheld by technology providers in India. The need has become more complex with the rising demand for mass housing and affordable housing requirements. According to analysts, affordability when linked with technologies need to be assessed as per the long-term benefits ensured. “Technology is not a magic, it is a cultural change, which will reform the human mentality at a macro and micro level. Though we see a gradual rise in the acceptance of such technologies, the ground reality towards its actual implementation still lags behind,” says Khera.  However, with the increasing awareness and availability of qualitative technologies, players remain confident on the customer approach to soon undergo a qualitative change. The acceptance of technology in an effective sense will gradually raise demand prospects, ultimately resulting in increased production of such technologies. The situation is expected to reduce the pricing of such technologies and make it more available within the affordable brackets.


Another key hurdle being pointed out by the industry experts is the stability in electricity services and seamless access to security and automation control systems through mobile applications and such handheld devices. As high value residential and commercial properties are developed, especially high-rises, the expectations of the tenants and owners is more than just quality brick and mortar and is more inclined towards the automation service benefits ensured through the project. “The customers who own, rent or lease such properties expect a greater level of safety, security and control over their properties. Despite the proximity towards the location, with the technical advancements, the owner expects to view, monitor and operate the on-going activities of their property,” shares an industry expert. 


Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) who aims to sets a benchmark through its Smart BKC project also anticipates similar growth glitches to arise during the project implementation. Talking on the technical difficulties anticipated during project execution, Sanjay Sethi (IAS). Additional Metropolitan Commissioner-I, MMRDA states, “A major bottleneck foreseen is due to the lack of ICT enabled automation which will be encountered during project implementation. Severe congestion in roads during project execution, threat of crime and terror activities, intermittent wireless connectivity, difficulties in parking management, establishing central channel for information dissemination, coordination with multiple vendors, stakeholder adaptability and evolving a new eco system are the few other major bottlenecks anticipated to evolve while implementing the project.”


The need of the day thus is not just for technologies which can offer futuristic requirements and automation abilities, but a customised solution that can not just simplify life but also enhance and improve the lifestyle standards. While the increasing focus on the government’s agenda to develop 100 Smart Cities has created immense hope among the players involved in the automation business, the industry as a whole also awaits the need for standardisation and availability of efficient infrastructure to implement the techno-powered development. 

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