Keeping A Watch: Communications infrastructure development for smart cities

Communications infrastructure development for smart cities

Smart cities are knowledge-based cities that conserve energy and other natural resources, provide a greener environment along with a vibrant urban economy to its citizens. To emerge as self-sustained communities and develop a smart city, strong communications infrastructure is required for connecting smart devices, people and sensors. The essence of smartness depends on how data is captured, analysed, processed and acted upon. Smart communication within cities involves multiple aggregations and access points. A city may access data from smart devices and sensors embedded in roadways, power grids, buildings and other assets and the collected data is shared via a smart communications system (which is generally a combination of wired and wireless networks) and then uses smart software to provide digitally enhanced services.


A geographic information system (GIS) plays an important role in transforming a city into a smart city as these solutions are deployed to create generalised location-enabled platforms for use case analysis. GIS is a centralised information system which provides an IT framework integrating not only every stakeholder but also every aspect of a smart city’s processes, including conceptualisation, planning, development and maintenance. It provides a comprehensive view of projects and their current status which helps in tracking performance, analysing assets over space and time, and providing insights through visualisation of information via maps and easy-to-understand reports. It provides a common platform for regulators to interact, thereby making the regulatory process less time consuming.

GIS operates on various levels and at the most basic level it is used for computer cartography, that is, for making maps. However, its real strength lies in using spatial and statistical methods to analyse geographic information.

A number of cities have deployed GIS solutions across the urban infrastructure sector. Varanasi has deployed GIS technology to ensure sustainable operation and maintenance of its water supply and sewerage assets. Vadodara Smart City is using GIS solutions for mapping of underground service lines such as drainage, sewerage and gas pipelines as well as other cables to ensure that these are not damaged during development works or works for laying new underground service lines. Pune Smart City has launched a road asset management system for providing a GIS-based decision support system to the city corporation to make crucial decisions about prioritisation of roads for repair and maintenance works. Agra Smart City in association with Scanpoint Geometrics Limited has created a GIS dashboard which will show various hotspots, a heat map, Covid-19 positive and recovered cases, etc.

In Chennai, GIS mapping of utilities is being conducted while Ludhiana is also deploying a GIS-enabled system to levy property taxes. There is GIS-based asset mapping of the water supply system in Jhansi and GIS-based asset management systems in Solapur. Smart Map Bhopal is an enterprise-wide web-based GIS solution created using the ArcGIS platform and functions seamlessly across the web and various mobile devices.

Kalyan-Dombivali has leveraged GIS to combat Covid-19. It has developed an interactive geospatial dashboard comprising multiple GIS layers to visualise the extent of the spread of the virus. Surat Smart City has created a data API and published it on the Smart City Open Data Portal to provide information on Covid-19 patients.

Recently, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched the e-Dharti Geo Portal, which will integrate legacy drawings such as maps and lease plans with the management information system so as to allow the data to become GIS enabled. The project involves the application of the National Informatics Centre’s GIS and utility mapping services.

Video surveillance system: CCTV monitoring

Technology innovation is rapidly changing the competitive landscape in every industry. Today, the security market is increasingly driven by advancements in technology, such as network-based, high quality equipment, which produces an enormous amount of data, and the need to secure the data collected. The Covid-19 pandemic has further enhanced the relevance of these solutions.

Video surveillance is a safe and secure city’s primary tool to monitor all types of movement and has evolved tremendously over the years. The purpose of city surveillance systems is to increase citizen safety by reducing crimes, stopping vandalism and deterring civil unrest. It monitors infrastructure and helps law enforcement agencies monitor public areas, analyse patterns, and track incidents and suspects, thus enabling a quicker response.

In a recent development, the Haryana government has planned the installation of CCTV cameras in all the cities in the state and appropriate guidelines for this are also being issued. Around 1,500 cameras will be installed for surveillance and traffic management in Faridabad and 94 junctions will be fitted with cameras for traffic monitoring. Moreover, the city has already installed 700 CCTV cameras under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). Besides this, around 760 CCTV cameras are being installed in Karnal under the SCM at a cost of about Rs 1.59 billion.

In a separate development, the Telangana State Police Department has initiated a project to design, supply and operationalise CCTV systems at 18 district headquarters. The CCTV surveillance system will be equipped with software that can be used by at least 100 users and the data will be stored at the unified command central solution platform at each district police headquarter command centre.

Modern CCTV camera systems allow users to store security footage in the cloud, and this can be accessed live from a mobile device or web browser. CCTV cloud storage allows users to get instant security alerts, making it easy to view and respond in real time, even when users are off-site. This is a good alternative to memory cards as it offers better storage of large video files and is more convenient.

Internet protocol (IP) surveillance is a digitalised networked version of the CCTV system, and is rapidly becoming a more flexible option for security and surveillance systems. The IP surveillance system has two components – an IP-based camera that records video content using a network video recorder and a video surveillance platform that captures and distributes the video content through the network. In order to enhance security at railway stations, Indian Railways (IR) is in the process of installing IP-based video surveillance systems (VSSs) at stations – at waiting halls, reservation counters, parking areas, main entrances/exits, platforms, foot overbridges and booking offices.

The Railway Board has approved works for the provision of VSSs at 983 railway stations and a budget of Rs 2.5 billion was allotted this year to IR from the Nirbhaya Fund for the installation of VSSs. Further, IR has recently procured Ninja unmanned aerial vehicles. The drones will improve the monitoring of railway assets and ensure additional safety for passengers with real-time tracking, video streaming and an automatic fail-safe mode. The Railway Protection Force has planned to use drones extensively for improving security. It has purchased nine drones for South Eastern Railway, Central Railway, the Modern Coach Factory at Rae Bareli and South Western Railway. It also plans to buy another 17 drones in the future.

IP-based VSSs are increasingly moving video storage on to network-attached disk storage. To facilitate this transformation, new video surveillance storage systems with higher availability, and greater bandwidth and scalability characteristics are emerging at a rapid pace.

Next steps

Smart cities make use of massive quantities of data and information, first collecting and then processing it to gain useful insights. For this, reliable communications and networking infrastructure is required. Technology is at the heart of upcoming smart cities, enabling automation and real-time integrated city monitoring. GIS technology has the benefit of scalability, from the individual asset within a building to a virtual global system, connecting all aspects of smart city planning and development.

CCTV surveillance, which began as a simple tool for criminal justice, has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry that covers numerous industry verticals from policing and smart cities to retail. Society is thus moving towards near-complete visual surveillance of commercial and urban spaces. Thus, the use of GIS technology and video surveillance is expected to result in better decisions, greater efficiency and improved communication.