INTELECT – A New Forum to Drive Innovation in Smart Cities

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Everywhere in India, you feel the atmosphere charged with bullishness. Much of the optimism stems from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on an empowered India. This is not just hyperbole. A great example is the recent 100 Smart Cities initiative in India, whereby infrastructure, information and communication technologies (ICT), and standardization and interoperability are some of the key points of consideration. This, too, was among the topics discussed at the first ever INTELECT event held in Mumbai, India in January 2015.  Organized by IEEE in collaboration with the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturing Association (IEEMA), INTELECT strongly aligned with “100 Smart Cities” program and “Digital India”. As a panelist and judge of one of the technical tracks, it was great for me to see such a high level of interest in Smart Cities during INTELECT 2015.

This multi-day event brought together more than 100,000 experts from both the Power and ICT technology sectors, industry practitioners, students, and policy makers to debate and discuss issues surrounding the key topic of “Smart Electricity for Emerging Markets”. It also provided the opportunity for next generation technologies in the areas of power, telecommunications, and IT to be showcased. As a native of India, it was important for me to see that the participants and panelists understood that the implementation of Smart Cities technologies presented challenges–not only of convergence, but also of change management–and recognized the need to ensure smooth rollouts, adoptions, and adaptations of new technology.

By the end of this three-day event, I felt that the core issues of Smart Cities implementation had been conveyed and received. Even the student participants displayed their understanding of the challenges. Moderator Alpesh Shah (IEEE SA Director of Global Intelligence and Strategy) asked, “Should Smart Cities be considered a social investment?” of which many respondents agreed. A Smart City is not solely an investment in digital infrastructure; rather, it is a platform for social innovations, as well as the opportunity for commercially viable results. The high level challenges—beyond implementation—discussed included the need for appropriate policies around privacy, security, access, and usage. Privacy and security policies are hot topics of conversations in IoT as well as an interconnected and digital world; and are certainly not easily resolved. Access presents an interesting challenge, and many innovative minds discussed at the conference. Conversations on the last mile, micro-grids, and creative methods for roll out in rural areas—all made for exciting and enticing propositions in the march towards 100 Smart Cities in India.

Many of the challenges faced in India are common to any country considering Smart City rollouts. As the panelists pointed out, the implementation is where the rubber meets the road. For Japan, the panelists talked about energy surplus being a key challenge, whereas in India, it resides on the demand side.  Thus, while it is important to ensure a global perspective—it is imperative that countries considering Smart City investments understand there is no “one size fits all”. Given the cost of investment and size of the projects as frameworks and architecture are developed, appropriate factors required for creating a Smart City should be given serious thought and attention.

The Indian government provided strong support to the 2015 Intelect event through its Ministry of Power (MoP), Department of Telecom (DoT), and Department of Electronics and IT (DEITY). This demonstrates their commitment to ensuring that the technology, implementation, adoption, and policy developments are addressed in order to carry India into the next generation. INTELECT also had a “Humanitarian Track,” which showcased some of the key social entrepreneurship projects for taking rural implementation of technology beyond the cities to remote areas in India.

I look forward to participation at the next INTELECT event in 2017. If you are interested in learning about how your organization can participate, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] —to keep your company informed about the event.