In a conversation with Manu Kaushik, Prakash Chandraker, Vice President & Managing Director (Energy Business), Schneider Electric India, discusses the concept of smart cities in the Indian context. Excerpts:
Q. How do you define a smart city?
A. If we have to define a smart city for India, it will not be much different from the global concept. The degree may vary. The first parameter is efficiency. A city has various services verticals- electricity, water, telecom, transport and gas management systems. (In a normal set up) each vertical operates in silos and try to create their own efficiency models. Therefore, the room to improve efficiency is low. But if there is an integrated way (of doing things), you can bring in much more efficiency.
Second, smart cities should be livable, in the sense, that it should have its economy attached to it. It should be a cost-competitive city. It should be able to attract investments. Third, smart cities should be sustainable. If we develop expensive cities, the cost of services cannot be borne by businesses. And, they should not generate a lot of carbon dioxide.
Q. What are the most important components of a smart city?
A. To build a smart city, you need to have shared vision. Not only the vision of the municipal corporations, but various stakeholders, such as citizens, police, fire department and all people who provide services. Once you have a shared vision, the next step will be planning and organizing; How to create funding? Which organisation is going to implement (the different projects)? How we are going to develop below-the-ground, above-the-ground, and air infrastructure? What kind of IT backbone we would require? And, the various other facilities that are required by citizens.
Power sector is a good example (to show how a smart city should function). We have a national load dispatch centre in Delhi and we have five regional control centres. All these five centres report to the national load dispatch centre which monitors the transmission, distribution and generation of power across the country. The national load dispatch centre has a visibility of surplus and shortage of power across different regions. A similar concept can be applied to cities for the various services (it offers). You can create KPIs (key performance indicators) for each region, and those KPIs can vary, because we may not be able to improve infrastructure throughout the city.
Q. Is it more difficult to build a greenfield or a brownfield cities?
A. The complexity of building brownfield cities are far more than greenfield cities.
Q. What should be the starting point for the government?
A. The first priority is electricity. To create self-healing grids, that is, to basically creating intelligent grids, which, in case of a fault, identifies the fault, finds an alternate path, and gives information to the consumers and service providers. You can save up to 30 per cent electricity if we go for self-healing and smart grid solutions. Today, our AT&C (aggregate technical and commercial) losses are almost 30 per cent.
The next priority will be water management systems. Smart water management systems can reduce water loss. There are sensors which can be embedded in the system that will also test the quality of water. There are lots of improvement areas in the delivery of public services. In case of parks, you can monitor whether the surface is watered or not.
Smart buildings can be another area. Today, traffic management systems operate independently. It is possible to do that through the use of satellites, and you can regulate the timings of each signal. You can save up to 20-25 per cent time on road by making the traffic flow smooth. We are present in the entire value chain of smart cities.