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The Power of Getting Linked

Dinesh Malkani, President, Cisco India & SAARC
The article appeared in the Hindustan Times

March 11, 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, an important milestone when we consider how technology has impacted our lives and how it will shape our future. According to Pew Research in 1995, 42 percent of US adults had never heard of the Internet and an additional 21 percent were vague on the concept.

How fast the world has changed. As the ITU observed recently, three billion people will be online by the end of 2014. This year alone more people joined the Internet than the entire population of the United States. However we believe that as much as the Internet has changed our world, it is the next phase of the web that will truly transform our lives.

That next phase of the web is the Internet of Everything which is the intelligent connection of people, processes, data, and things. Citizens, companies and governments around the world are embracing the opportunity of the Internet of Everything and the digitization of companies and countries. The Digital India program unveiled by the government earlier this year is focused on the digital empowerment of citizens, where infrastructure would be offered as a utility to every citizen, governance and services would be on demand and citizens would be digitally empowered.

Today 81 percent of India’s population has access to a mobile phone while ten percent of the population uses smart phones. Every month, for the next three years, India will add on average 5 million Internet users and 8.3 million networked devices. India will have more than 177 million connected TVs by 2018 but there are many more things that can and will be connected. Our connected world will include far more than just computers, tablets, and phones. We will see the digitization of street lights, parking spaces, beacons, kiosks, sensor-based water defences, physical infrastructure monitoring and controls, and smart energy grid services. Imagine the value we can derive from the connections between things and our citizens, which when supported by our networked processes, will enable the transformation of data into actionable information.

The Internet of Everything has the potential to create $511 billion in value in India over the next decade. For the Indian private sector, the value at stake as businesses digitize is $394.4 billion over the next ten years. The value at stake for the public sector in India over the same period is $116.2 billion as government uses the Internet of Everything as a vehicle to digitize cities and communities.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the 21st century as the century of cities. Nowhere will that statement be more relevant than in India. By 2050 India will add 404 million people to its cities according to the United Nations. People tend to move to cities for jobs for themselves and education and healthcare for their families. Also at 857 million people, India has the largest rural population in the world. The Indian government understands the need to address both urban and rural India. The Digital India program aims to enable broadband in villages, universal phone connectivity, public internet access points, public Wi-Fi in schools and universities, digital inclusion, electronic delivery of governance and services, and job creation.

The future of competition will be between cities. Citizens and especially young people will want to live in cities that are economically, social and environmentally sustainable. Mayors and government leaders understand the importance of using new and innovative solutions to transform green field and brown field urban areas. IHS Technology estimates that in the next 11 years, the total number of smart cities worldwide will grow from 21 to 88.

In 2013, CII & Cisco released a report titled ‘Smart City in Indian Context' which described how the country needed to embrace ICT as part of its urban planning to create a better and sustainable India. The government understands that technology is really as essential as the three utilities: water, gas, and electricity. Our government leaders have made it clear that broadband highways are as important as national highways. The government has shared its vision of building 100 smart cities in India. A smart city is one that combines traditional infrastructure such as roads and buildings with technology to enrich the lives of its citizens.

Today cities face budgetary challenges, battling rising costs and shrinking resources. The world’s cities account for 70 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions and energy-related costs are one of the biggest municipal budget items according to UN-Habitat.

Innovative platforms, open data and apps can reduce traffic, parking congestion, pollution, energy consumption, and crime and also generate revenue and reduced costs for city residents and visitors.

Consider street lighting, which today accounts for 1.5% of total electricity consumption in India according to McKinsey. Worldwide street lighting can amount for up to 40% of a municipality’s electricity bill according to Navigant Research. Cities that use networked motion-detection lights can save 70–80 percent of electricity and costs, according to an independent, global trial of LED technology. Smart street lighting initiatives can also reduce crime in the area by seven percent because of better visibility and more content citizenry, according to Cisco’s estimates.

Another example to consider is buildings. As the ‘Smart City in Indian Context' report noted, today buildings in India account for nearly 40% of the total energy consumption which will reach 50% by 2030. McKinsey estimated in India that 700 million to 900 million square metres of new residential and commercial space would need to be built every year from 2010 to 2020. Buildings outfitted with intelligent sensors and networked management systems can collect and analyze energy-use data.

In India alone, traffic congestion costs $10 billion a year in wasted time and fuel.  Drivers looking for a parking space cause 30 percent of urban congestion, not to mention pollution. Imagine if Indian cities embedded networked sensors into parking spaces that relay to drivers real-time information about—and directions to—available spots. Think about how we could reduce congestion, pollution, and fuel consumption as well as generate more revenue for cities through dynamic parking fees for peak times.

At Cisco, we believe that the digitization of a country will depend upon five key areas: visionary leadership, global open standards, smart regulation, public private partnerships and a new ecosystem. We believe India can play a powerful role in the Internet of Everything worldwide and be a leader in the digitization of cities, the economy and the country. In October 2014, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Government of India released the draft Internet of Things (IoT) Policy for India with the intention to create a $15 billion IoT industry by 2020. The government shared its plans to grow connected devices from 200 million today to 2.7 billion by 2020. In a report on the evolution of the IoT ecosystem in India, Convergence Catalyst observed that there are now more than 2 million app developers in India and estimated that number would reach 3 million by 2017. According to the report already 60 startups are working on dedicated IoT solutions in India and 14 smart grid pilot projects in India currently underway.

2014 signals a major inflection point for the Internet of Everything, which will have a much bigger impact on the world and its cities than the Internet did in its first 20 years. We have the opportunity to live in a Digital India where everything—and everyone—can be connected to everything else. Streets will be safer, homes will be smarter and citizens will be healthier. The foundation of a digitized India will be the Internet of Everything. Together the industry and the government along with our citizens can make a Digital India happen.

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