Byline: Enabling Integrated Services to Citizens through IEEE P1951.1

Author(s): Subramaniam Chidambaram, Chair, IEEE P1951.1 & Srikanth Chandrasekaran, IEEE SA

India is expected to witness an increase in urban population from 377 million in 2011 to 600 million (roughly twice the current population of the United States) in 2031 according to an UN backed report published in 2014. Given these numbers, the country is expected to have around 68 cities with population of more than 1 million by 2030. To realize the goal of making a city smart, it is important to integrate physical, digital and human systems effectively to deliver prosperous, sustainable and inclusive value to its citizens. 

The smart cities vision is to use digital technologies to provide integrated services to its citizens through the free flow of information, and to usher in an era of good governance. Designing smart cities ICT (Information and Communication Technology) architecture is the essential first step in this direction. Cities are complex ecosystems, where government services pertaining to transportation, public safety, utilities, healthcare, education, social services, culture, economic development and more are provided by a multitude of government organizations. 

A confluence of few key technology enablers that are making smart cities possible are:

  1. Ubiquitous internet / connectivity
  2. Advancement in sensor technology & reduction in cost of sensors
  3. Advancement in low power communication technologies. 
  4. Availability of cloud scale deployment and management frameworks / tools.

Smart City ICT Infrastructure 

Core systems that make up the smart city ICT layer are: City Digital Twin Systems, E-Governance Systems, Geo-Spatial Systems and Citizen Government Collaboration Systems. Domain specific smart city applications are built over this core ICT digital infrastructure layer. Cloud scale deployment and Cloud Native technologies are the key technology enablers for building and managing the smart city ICT layer.

Physical infrastructure in smart cities are being instrumented with appropriate sensors to collect data thereby creating a digital infrastructure layer over the physical infrastructure. Real time measurements generated by these sensors can be used to improve the operational efficiency of various systems/subsystems deployed in the cities (e.g. smart surveillance cameras can analyze traffic and actuate smart signals to adapt to traffic conditions, lowering congestion and air pollution). Miniaturization, reduction in the cost of sensors, low power communication technologies are the key technology enablers driving the wide spread use of smart cities. 

Data is the key asset in smart cities, and it is important to enable data sharing between multiple systems. Frictionless movement of data between multiple physical, digital and human systems is the holy grail as it generates value. There are 4 key steps in data management in each smart city systems namely – Ingestion/Acquisition, Processing, Storage and Exchange. 

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as part of LITD 28, is working on developing a comprehensive set of standards to define the ICT infrastructure and address the interoperability issues in data acquisition, data processing and data exchange. 

Apart from BIS standards, to solve the data exchange problem between systems in a smart city, India’s Smart City Mission within the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched the Indian Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) program. The UDX is a multidisciplinary program lead by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, to solve technical and non-technical issues related to the use of data to create public good. 

IEEE P1951.1 – The Need 

One of the key problem in smart cities is that, cities are managed by a multitude of service providers and government organizations. Component systems are acquired by separate program offices and run by separate operation units. These organizations are not even connected by common membership or any structure. Components system parts of the smart city ecosystem are independently managed and evolve on their own.

For example, digital evolution features of a surveillance system deployed by city police, ambulatory services system deployed by hospitals, e-governance systems deployed by municipalities are independent and is based on business process changes in the managing organizations. The city command center has no role to play in the evolution of the individual systems managed by these organizations. 

Let us look at an example scenario of Citizen safety and see how multiple physical, digital and human systems need to come together.

Citizens utilize social networking platforms to reach out for help or assistance. A proactive citizen safety solution would require integration of different component systems and automation of the workflow orchestration between these systems. In the example scenario, a citizen tweets that he/she is in danger via public social networking platforms using key hashtags. Collaboration systems poll for this information and orchestrate by creating tickets to be resolved in appropriate e-governance systems. Systems controlling the digital infrastructure employ digital twin systems and utilize a geo-spatial system for identifying the appropriate assets to control, and to notify service providers about the tickets. 

It is apparent that though city command centers do not play a role in the evolution of component systems, they city command centers do specify common operational goals and constraints for all the component systems which are part of the smart city ecosystem. These operational goals and constraints differ during various time periods based on the needs of the city. 

Component systems should have the ability to negotiate autonomously to meet the operational goals–within the specified constraints. There is a need to discover component systems deployed in a city, identify the entities managed by component systems in a standard way and to communicate the intent (goal and constraint) across component systems in a standard data exchange format by invoking a standard set of interfaces. 

IEEE P1951.1 DISCCS (Discovering and Intent Sharing between Smart City Component Systems) is a standards group focused on solving the discovery of the systems deployed in a smart city and the sharing of objectives between these smart city systems to make them work towards a common goal. Learn more and participate.