Converting Necessity into Opportunity : Purushottam Kaushik

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Purushottam Kaushik, Managing Director, Cisco Systems India

A key participant in central government’s ambitious Smart City project, Cisco is helping implement solutions in the Indian context. Purushottam Kaushik, Managing Director, Cisco Systems India, in an interview with Dr Ravi Gupta, Editor-in-Chief, eGov magazine, highlights the role Cisco can play in both making and running of Smart Cities

Tell us about the Smart City strategy of Cisco.

Cisco is engaged at various levels considering the programmes that the government has announced. The movement from villages towards the cities has been to the extent of nearly 70 per cent in search of a better life. However, the cities have not been able to fulfil all the expectations of the people moving to the large metros with regard to the quality of life or maybe in te rms of security, better housing, better transport, better sanitation, etc.

Cisco has the experience of working across 25 large cities and offering technology related solutions. There are 47 solutions which we have worked in – parking, lighting, sanitation, water, roads, safety, security, etc. So, we have technology-led solutions. The approach of Cisco with the government is of devising a policy and a vision for the larger view. So, it’s basically helping them to build a bigger picture and then looking at solutions which can be implemented in India.

Basically, we are working with the Central Government, cities, municipal corporations and also the state governments. One important part is the safe city part, which is basically obligation of the Government. Also, we have already been working with teams in Lucknow, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai to this end.

How do you think that IT integration can help in making safe cities and what role does Cisco envisage for itself in the backdrop of announcement of ‘100 Smart Cities’ project?

If you look from the ICT-layer perspective, the solution is kind of a three-layer solution. The first thing is the connectivity across the city. So, one needs to have a very strong or high availability of network because of the scalability and flexibility of IT. There has to be a fibre network with an IP- enabled access.

Second part is the end-points, which can be of numerous types. Cameras are part of a safe city. Similarly, there can be a combination of cameras and sensors for traffic management, along with Wi-Fi access points. These end-points can be of various types where inputs will be gathered to provide output to customers.

The third part is the control layer where all the information travelled is collected from the end-points and then carried through the network to data centre. For instance, there are parking solutions. In a crowded market, there could be three parking  lots. Now, if one knows exactly that this is the parking slot available, one would straight away go there. It helps businesses, citizens and even the government, as they don’t want to have traffic congestion. So, it’s a solution which solves problems at each layer – government and businesses, and creates new business opportunities for the people and the citizens.

Cisco has the experience of working across 25 large cities and offering the technology-related solutions. There are 47 solutions which we have worked in – parking, lighting, sanitation, water, roads, safety, security, etc

Then, there are transport solutions, water distribution, power and waste disposal solutions. The data thus gathered can be used by so many agencies across the city.

How do you see the readiness of the urban bodies to adopt these kinds of solutions?

We see huge openness to adopt many of these solutions and it is more about demonstrating it actually than just talking about it. But we are saying that there are few tools, through which services can be delivered much faster at a much cheaper rate with a wider impact. Some of these solutions, which are technology-led, can be implemented in a phased manner and that’s what Cisco is right now working for. That’s the first step of an integrated view of the city and identifying

some solutions which can be introduced with some potential revenue there. However, people will come and invest only when things are clear.

There’s apparently lack of allotment of funds for states or municipal corporations to work for Smart Cities. In this scenario, how companies like yours are handling this issue while associating with civic bodies?

There are two-three ways of looking at it. One is that whether government has some money for Smart City now; but there are various existing programmes within a city which, if combined, can create enough pool for developing a Smart City. Today, there may be a power project going on for enabling the hanging cables by taking those underground. Similarly, there could be a project for water distribution. There could be scenario where the departments concerned work in isolation. But, looked at in a holistic manner, there is a connectivity layer for every project.

The government has said they will be making available around Rs 100 crore per city and then it will further be enhanced by the state govern- ment and the private players. At least, this is a good degree to move ahead.

Third is that an investor comes in and looks at the revenue model and only then invests. But there are returns that come after years of investment, which also needs to be looked into.

What is your take on the number of cities adopting ICT for their growth and well-being?In every state, we are looking at seven to 10 cities to be upgraded, because whatever we say, only 33 per cent people living in the cities are predicted to contribute over 70 per cent of the GDP. So, that’s where the focus will be; around 100-150 cities will be seeing a lot of action happening on the ground.

But, a section of the media says that it’s not happening…one year has passed and nothing has rolled out till now?
 Ultimately, Smart City is the name of some programmes, which are being run under JnNURM and other similar schemes. It has a huge momentum and has generated hope and excitement among the people to have a better quality of life. Also, there are business opportunities and that’s where the government is focused.

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