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Smart cities in India

For past few years now, the word “Smart” is appearing in every field. Generally this term is used as an adjective to electronic gadgets like smartphones, smart TVs etc. Recently city planners are using the term ‘Smart’ in context of ‘City’ and our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had expressed a vision to build such Smart Cities in India.

First we will see “Why the word ‘Smart’ is used for electronic products?”

Actually the word smart refers to someone who is witty and thinks and acts fast, efficiently. Here it could be explained as the technological innovations that allow manufacturers to improve their products and add some specifications such as:

  • Customization: ability to customize in functions to the needs of the user
  • Adaptability: making it possible to meet and adapt to the demands of users within short delays
  • Proactivity: ability to anticipate the intentions of the user
  • Localisation: ability to adjust in function of the geographic position of the user
  • Interconnectivity: ability to communicate with other products or users.  

As soon as Government of India announced the 100 new Smart Cities in India and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earmarked Rs. 7,060 crore in the union budget for the same. The consultants from Singapore, Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan have approached the ministry with their concept of smart city. Also, IT companies like Wipro and IBM, have made presentations to build a telecommunication network and smart applications that would make services available at the press of a button. Lavasa Corporation Ltd that has built the Lavasa city on the outskirts of Pune has approached the ministry to share its expertise. For over two months now, the urban development ministry has gone through around 200 presentations but the ministry also want inputs from states before taking a final call.

Concept of Smart City:

“A developed urban area which is sustainable and provides high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas such as economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government. Excelling in these key areas can be done so through strong human capital, social capital, and/or ICT infrastructure.”


“It is an environmentally conscious city that uses information technology (IT) to utilize energy and other resources efficiently.”

There is no single, comprehensive definition of what a smart city means because concept of Smart City is ever-changing with the technology, need and resources. While identifying smart cities for an award for the period 2007-11 in the Asia region, five factors were taken into consideration:

  • Broadband connectivity;
  • A knowledge-based workforce;
  • Digital inclusion;
  • Innovation; and
  • Marketing and advocacy.

Three Indian cities, namely Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur, figured in a list of 20 cities from the region; four in China, four in Korea and three in Japan made it to the list.

Similarly the European countries used six characteristics to rank the Seventy European countries, they are as following-

  • Smart Economy
  • Smart Mobility
  • Smart Environment
  • Smart People
  • Smart Living
  • Smart Governance

So the perception of concept smart city is different from region to region or even country to country.

Origin of the concept:

According to some experts the concept of smart city is originated at the time when the entire world was facing one of the worst economic crises. In 2008, IBM began work on a ‘smarter cities’ concept as part of its Smarter Planet initiative. By the beginning of 2009, the concept had captivated the imagination of various nations across the globe.

Some experts also claiming the root of smart city in the concept of Smart Growth emerged in 1990’s for a city planning. Rather than letting the market dictate the way cities grow and sprawl, smart growth is a movement that implies we can achieve greater efficiencies through coordinating the forces that lead to laissez faire growth: transportation, land speculation, conservation, and economic development.

To this nexus, we add the notion that smart cities are also instruments for improving competitiveness in such a way that community and quality of life are enhanced. Cities that are smart only with respect to their economy are not smart at all if they disregard the social conditions of their citizens.


The NDA government’s vision for the creation of 100 smart cities is like India entering in to next era. There are some major movements from some big IT companies who are eager to provide their concept of smart city and support to develop them, not to forget suddenly they are being very confident about India’s economic growth in recent future.

Recently Ministry of Urban Development released a note on Smart City Scheme in Indian context. This note gave need of smart cities, Pillars and instruments of smart city and also set specific benchmarks to be called city as a smart city.

Need for Smart Cities:

We all know that urbanization accompanies economic growth of that particular region. As countries move from being primarily agrarian economies to industrial and service sectors, they also urbanize. This trend of urbanization continues to take place as seen in the following fig.

urbanisation trend

In fact, 90% of the world’s urban population growth will take place in developing countries, with India taking a significant share of that.

Urban areas also contribute a higher share of the GDP. The share of the GDP from urban areas in India has been growing, as seen from the Fig.

Urban share in GDP

While the urban population is currently around 31% of the total population and it contributes over 60% of India’s GDP. It is projected that urban India will contribute nearly 75% of the national GDP in the next 15 years. For this reason the cities are referred to as the “engines of economic growth” and ensuring that they function as efficient engines is critical to our economic development.

The global experience is that a country’s urbanization up to a 30% level is relatively slow but the pace of urbanization speeds up thereafter, till it reaches about 60-65%. With an urban population of 31%, India is at a point of transition where the pace of urbanization will speed up. It is for this reason that we need to plan our urban areas well and cannot wait any longer to do so.

Another view is that the India struggles with infrastructure deficits, a focus on smart cities will turn out to be one of the best ways forward.

The three prerequisites are a community that is efficient, liveable and sustainable. In conventional cities the water, gas, electricity, transportation, emergency services, buildings and public service systems operate independently in silos. But a truly efficient city requires that the performance of each system is optimised and managed in an integrated manner by collecting the real-time information.

Such an efficient city would also propel a community on the path to being competitive for talent, investments and jobs by becoming more liveable. The city administrators would need to do a slew of things to make it a pleasant place to live, work and play. Accordingly, it should appeal to residents, commuters and visitors.

The sustainable community will reduce the carbon footprint of urban life. This is critical because cities are the largest contributors of carbon. The roads, public spaces and buildings emit the bulk of a city’s emissions.

Smart cities are absolutely necessary in emerging as well as established economies. Emerging economies such as India, China and Brazil require smart cities because growing populations hold pressing short-term needs. These include flood preparedness, preventing blackouts, traffic de-congestion, crowd control and curbing logistical difficulties that accompany fast-paced urbanisation.

Pillars of a Smart City:

A city rests on the three essential pillars namely:

  • Institutional Infrastructure (including Governance),
  • Physical Infrastructure and
  • Social Infrastructure.

Institutional Infratsructure refers to the activities that relate to the planning and management systems in a city. The new technology has provided a new dimension to this system making it efficient and transparent.

Social Services relate to those that work towards developing the human and social capital, such as the educational, healthcare, entertainment, etc.

Physical Infrastructure refers to connectivity, transport systems, power and water supply etc. (See the following image)

pillors of smart cities


Ways to build Smart City:

It is not always possible to build smart city from scratch, usually worldwide, most cities try to evolve towards becoming smart cities via improvements in individual systems. A city struggling with traffic congestion may feel the need for a series of flyovers. But financial constraints drive it to settle for an interim step of deploying traffic management technologies to its existing infrastructure. For example traffic-choked Mumbai is a classic case. To optimise traffic at 253 crossings, Mumbai deployed real-time, adaptive traffic control systems. A central traffic management control centre supervises and reacts to traffic disruptions. Consequently, there has been a 12% reduction in average traffic time and an 85% reduction in energy usage from the city’s traffic lights. Cost savings and quality of life improvements made this “smart city programme” a success for citizens.

If water availability or disruption issues exist, implementing SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems to manage water flow ensure 30% savings on the energy used to manage the water systems, 20% reduction in water loss, and 20% reduction in water outage. A recent project to ensure energy efficiency to four water treatment plants in Beijing, China led to a remarkable 52% fall in energy usage.

City administrators need to decide their sustainability vision and prepare a roadmap to achieve this. They should then begin by improving existing operating systems like electricity, water, gas and transportation. This could be done via integration of connected hardware, software, metering facilities and collaboration between systems and networks. Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro is an excellent example in the impact of data and system integration to drive a smart city vision. Eleven different control centres manage the city’s critical infrastructure: electricity, water, oil, gas, public transportation, and urban traffic, air quality, and airports.

A smart city cannot be built by a single entity. Installation, planning and maintenance of technologies need local level and global-class players. Through this approach, multiple benefits can be realised: 30% energy savings; 20% reduction in water losses; up to 30% reduction in street crime from CCTV security cameras; and 20% drop in travel time and traffic delays.

Identifying the Smart Cities

The 100 cities to be developed as Smart Cities may be chosen from amongst the following:

  • One satellite city of each of the cities with a population of 4 million people or more (9 cities)
  • All the cities in the population range of 1 – 4 million people (44 cities)
  • All State/UT Capitals, even if they have a population of less than one million (17cities)
  • Cities of tourist and religious importance (10 cities)
  • Cities in the 0.5 to 1.0 million population range (20 cities)

In Delhi, it is being proposed that DDA will develop a new smart city through the land pooling scheme as a demonstrative city and the NDMC area may also be considered for demonstrating all the components of Smart Cities.

In deciding the final list of cities to be developed as Smart Cities, it would be ensured that some are Hill cities and some are Coastal cities.

At the moment 100 cities remains a tentative figure, with much still to be pinned down. There are some MOUs signed with foreign countries to develop some specific cities as smart cities.

Smart City Kochi (SCK): It is a joint venture between Dubai and the Kerala government.

Varanasi: Recently India signed MoU with Japan to develop Varanasi into ‘smart city.

Haldia: The European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC) plans to initiate a pilot project to demonstrate “smart city dmic-new-mapconcept” at the industrial town of Haldia in West Bengal.

Development of Greenfield GUJARAT INTERNATIONAL FINANCE TECH CITY (GIFT) started even before the announcement of 100 smart cities, which might get the tag of smart city.

Other smart cities will be developed in Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), Amritsar-Kolkata Industrial corridor, Bangalore-Chennai and Chennai-Visakhapatnam Corridor.

Recently France indicated interest to help make Nagpur a smart city on the basis of its location, availability of infrastructure, manpower etc.

Benchmarks for Smart Cities:

Sl.No.           Parameter                                               Benchmark
 1 Transport
  • Maximum travel time of 30 minutes in small & medium size cities and 45 minutes in metropolitan areas.
  • Continuous unobstructed footpath of minimum 2m wide on either side of all street with RoW (Road with Width) 12m or more
  • Dedicated and physically segregated bicycle tracks with a width of 2m or more, one in each direction, should be provided on all streets.
  • High quality and high frequency mass transport within 800m(10-15 minute walking distance) of all residences in areas over 175persons / ha of built area
  • Access to para-transit within 300m walking distance.
 2 Spatial Planning
  • 175 persons per Ha along transit corridors.
  • 95% of residences should have daily needs retail, parks, primary schools and recreational areas accessible within 400m walking distance.
  • 95% residences should have access to employment and public and institutional services by public transport or bicycle or walk.
  • At least 20% of all residential units to be occupied by economically weaker sections in each.
  • Transit Oriented Development Zone 800m from Transit Stations.
  • At least 30% residential and 30% commercial/institutional in every TOD Zone within 800m of Transit Stations.
 3 Water Supply
  • 24 x 7 supply of water
  • 100% household with direct water supply connections
  • 135 litres of per capita supply of water
  • 100% metering of water connections
  • 100% efficiency in collection of water related charges
 4 Sewerage &Sanitation
  • 100% households should have access to toilets
  • 100% schools should have separate toilets for girls
  • 100% households should be connected to the waste water network
  • 100% efficiency in the collection and treatment of waste water
  • 100% efficiency in the collection of sewerage network
 5 Solid Waste Management
  • 100% households are covered by daily door-step collection system.
  • 100% collection of municipal solid waste
  • 100% segregation of waste at source, i.e. biodegradable and non-degradable waste
  • 100% recycling of solid waste
 6 Storm Water Drainage
  • 100% coverage of road network with storm water drainage network
  • Aggregate number of incidents of water logging reported in a Year should be zero
  • 100% rainwater harvesting
 7 Electricity
  • 100% households have electricity connection
  • 24 x 7 supply of electricity
  • 100% metering of electricity supply
  • 100% recovery of cost
  • Tariff slabs that work towards minimizing waste
 8 Telephone connections
  • 100% households have a telephone connection including mobile
 9 Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • 100% of the city has wi-fi connectivity
  • 100 Mbps internet speed
 10 Health Care Facilities
  • Availability of telemedicine facilities to 100% residents
  • 30 minutes emergency response time
  • 1 dispensary for every 15,000 residents
  • Nursing home, child, welfare and maternity, centre – 25 to 30 beds per lakh population
  • Intermediate Hospital (Category B) – 80 beds per lakh population
  • Intermediate Hospital (Category A) – 200 beds per lakh population
  • Multi-Speciality Hospital – 200 beds per lakh population
  • Speciality Hospital – 200 beds per lakh population
  • General Hospital – 500 beds per lakh population
  • 10020Family Welfare Centre for every 50,000 residents
  • 1 Diagnostic centre for every 50,000 residents
  • 1 Veterinary Hospital for every 5 lakh residents
  • 1 Dispensary for petfor every 1 lakh residents
 11 Fire Fighting
  • 1 fire station per 2 lakh population / 5-7km radium
  • 1 sub – fire station with 3-4 km radius
 12 Education  
Pre Primary to Secondary Education
  • Area equivalent to 15% of residential area for building hospitals
  • 1 Pre Primary/ Nursery School for every 2,500 residents
  • 1 Primary School (class I to V) for every 5,000 residents
  • 1 Senior Secondary School (Cass VI to XII) for every 7,500 residents
  • 1 integrated school (Class I to XII) per lakh of population
  • 1 school for physically challenged for every 45,000 residents
  • 1 school for mentally challenged for 10 lakh population
Higher Education
  • 1 college per 1.25 lakh population
  • 1 university
  • 1 technical education centre per 10 lakh population
  • 1 engineering college per 10 lakh population
  • 1 medical college per 10 lakh population
  • 1 other professional college per 10 lakh population
  • 1 paramedical institute per 10 lakh population
  • 1 veterinary institute
 13 Others
  • Use of renewable energy in all sectors
  • Rooftop solar panels on all public, institutional and commercial buildings as well as multi-storeyed residential housings
  • Adherence to green building norms
  • Common ducting for all services
  • Double entry accounting on real time basis
  • 3D maps on GIS of property and all services – power, water supply, sewerage etc
  • Cities to formulate building and parking standards


Masdar City:

A highly ambitious vision is that of Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Masdar’s goal is to create a commercially viable, sustainable community providing the highest quality of life, with the lowest environmental footprint. Its development relies heavily on public and private companies working together, ultimately aiming to rely entirely on solar and renewable energy, with a zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. Upon its completion between 2025 and 2030, Masdar City will be home to an international community of 70,000 people.


Japan undertook four cities to develop as smart cities on experiment basis, those are

  • City of Yokohama
  • Toyota City,
  • Keihanna Science City (Kyoto), and
  • City of Kitakyushu

Let’s take example of Kyoto and see what they exactly did there-

In city of Kyoto, the first phase is to target the energy management and Co2 curbing. They developed Energy Management System (EMS) for Home, Commercial, Transport and Community.

Differential billing plan: Under Home EMS (HEMS) to reduce electricity consumption they use changing billing plan, smart meters and communication terminal. The demand is controlled by HEMS system automatically by charging different rate for per Kilowatt (kw) of electricity consumption and the same is communicated with the households through installed communication system (tablet). See the following series of images for understanding-





In this way they were successful to reduce peak hour demand and total demand of electricity.

Reward basis: In other experiment they allotted specific units of energy per head and calculated for the whole household. If such household uses energy less than their limit they get various rewards. In all this experiments they obviously tried to use solar energy maximum.

In transport sector they use electric vehicles (EV) and managed by EV Management System, Commercial sector managed by Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) to optimise energy use and reduction in Co2. In the end all these three EMC’s are connected to the CEMS (Community Energy Management System) for better co-ordination among them.

Atlanta vs. Barcelona: Now next example is comparison between two cities and none of them is exactly a smart city, but it shows that what an efficient city planning and reduction in urban sprawl can achieve.



As Indian cities face increasing challenges of overcrowding, traffic chaos, power and water scarcity, amongst others, smart cities will become the best option to resolve these problems. Though cities comprise only 2% of the world’s surface, they hold half the global population, consume 75% of energy resources and emit 80% of the carbon harming our environment. Given these statistics, the time to build smart cities is now. Because the 19th century was a century of empire, the 20th century was a century on nation states and the 21st century will be a century of smart cities.


  1. It was a pleasure reading this piece of article Akshay. Keep it up.

  2. nitinsawant.1988

    Nice work summarized… there are plenty of ideas rolling out in world, India should smartly choose to suit its needs… doesn’t matter if it stick to all checklist of smart cities, building a efficient infrastructure and servicies, good governance can surely make India a better place to live.. i didn’t found importance given to green open space, it is social factor of smart city.. example cited are good. .kyoto’s initiative is worth appreciating. .. wishing present government all the success. . A good governance is what a normal indian accepts.

  3. vishal sharad bhoite

    Superb article sir…..

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