Smart Cities: Opportunities for India-UK Collaboration

The smart cities mission program for 100 Indian cities is one of the largest programs undertaken by Government of India to address India’s rapid urbanisation leveraging ICT solutions. The program encourages cities to look at innovative solutions to address citizen expectations and aspirations and develop coordinated plans across various state departments and city agencies. A key aspect of the smart cities program is to encourage private sector involvement through innovative public private partnership models to bring in smart solutions and practices that have worked in other parts of the world and can be adopted in Indian cities. There are enough opportunities for foreign players to participate in the smart cities opportunities. It is expected that the mission will be a trigger point to go beyond the 100 identified cities – citizen aspirations for better quality of life will ensure that cities not covered under the program also adopt projects on smart solutions using private sector participation.



Today 30% of Indian population resides in urban centres, with these centres contributing around 65% of India’s GDP. It is projected that urban India will contribute about 75% of the national GDP in the next 15-20 years, while the number of people residing in urban centres doubles to 600 million. The speed of urbanisation will exert immense pressure on urban infrastructure, resources, and quality of urban life. While some new Greenfield cities may be contemplated for accommodating this significant urbanisation trend, most of this expansion will have to be accommodated within the existing urban centres. In order to manage this high level of urbanisation, it is imperative for the Government to explore smart living concepts leveraging information, communication and technology and examine practices that other countries facing similar urbanisation challenges have adopted.

The Smart Cities Mission Program covering 100 cities has been conceptualised by the Government of India to this end. While the Government’s outlay of INR 500 bn (GBP 5.5 bn) to be spend on 100 cities over the next 5 years to transform and rejuvenate these cities may not be enough, it is a beginning made to an ongoing journey to be sustained by citizen expectations and aspirations. As these cities embark on their journey to become smart cities, there will be significant opportunities for domestic and international organizations to participate through providing their products, services, solutions to improve quality of life of Indian citizens adopting innovative technology, financing, business and operating models. The section on smart cities highlights the program and the journey thus far along with opportunities that UK and India can collaborate and partner on.

The Landscape

With the aim of improving overall quality of life in the rapidly expanding cities, the Indian government has launched the ambitious 100 Smart Cities Mission program. Key components of the program involved preparing Smart City plans by the respective city governments through extensive public consultations, identifying and prioritizing key initiatives leveraging Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions and involving private sector participation in developing, implementing, operating & managing through innovative business models. Key components of the Smart Cities Mission program have been provided below:


Since the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India announced the Smart Cities Mission over a year back in June 2015, there have been various stages of selection which have been explained below:


Through a competitive process involving evaluation of smart city plans received from 98 cities, 20 cities were selected for the first round of funding allocation in January 2016. This was followed by a fast track round where select cities not making the top 20 in the 1st round, submitted revised plans, based on which 13 more cities were added for funding in May 2016. The 33 cities selected for Government of India funding under the program are given below:


Cities participating in the Smart Cities Mission program had to identify initiatives and prepare plans under 2 categories (i) Area Based Development – this is an identified area within the city selected based on public consultations in which smart city initiatives will be implemented as a pilot to demonstrate benefits to citizens and be rolled out across the city in a time bound manner; and (ii) Pan City initiative – smart solutions to be implemented across the entire city benefiting all citizens. The key components of the categories are presented below:


Based on an examiniation of smart city plans submitted by the top 20 ranked cities selected by Government of India for funding through a competitive process, private players have opportunities for involvement across 6 smart city themes: Smart Energy, Smart Transportation, Smart Buildings, Smart IT & Communication, Smart Governance and Smart Social Infrastructure. The key areas and proposed investment percentage for the cities is given in the chart below, which show urban mobility, social infrastructure & open spaces and Energy management as the top 3 investment opportunities in terms of funding requirements. While India has launched the 100 smart cities Mission only last year; UK also has been undertaking development of cities on parameters similar to the smart city features in India’s program. One recent initiative in UK is the Birmingham Big City Plan (BCP) which was launched in September 2010 with a 20 year vision.

BCP aims to bring about a change to creating a city which provides improved connectivity, increases the environmental quality across a diversified economic base. Key features of the BCP are:


Another recent development in the UK is Media City in Manchester8, a £ 1 billion smart city of 40 acres built in one go over the period of 3 years which is seen as a micro template on how and what Smart Cities could look like for bigger places. The BBC is one of the anchor tenants of Media City UK which has led to an entire ecosystem of technology companies growing within and around the area, together with residential and retail space and greatly improved transportation links.

Area Based Development – UK

MediaCityUK – A future proof Smart City within UK of over 40 acres


Another initiative where 5 cities from UK are participating is the 100 resilient cities challenge9 launched by Rockefeller foundation in 2013. Bristol, London & Great Manchester from England; Glasgow from Scotland and Belfast from Northern Island have been selected to be a part of the challenge. Key challenges identified by the selected cities of United Kingdom are given below:


The context

Smart Cities is one key area where the UK is looking at furthering cooperation with India.

The Governments of the two countries have come together to work on the Smart city vision of India. 3 smart cities10 in India have been identified that will be supported in their development by the UK government. Of the three cities, two cities are in the state of Maharashtra (Pune and Amravati) and the third is in the state of Madhya Pradesh (Indore). 24 smart features have been identified in the smart city proposal document to develop the smart city vision for each city in India. These smart features have been futher categorized across 6 smart city themes.


Based on Deloitte’s analysis of the smart city features listed in the smart city proposals of the top 20 cities, smart solutions using innovative technologies in urban mobility, citizen safety & security and intelligent governance services emerge as key citizen needs. These proposed solutions/ initiatives have been discussed below:

Urban Mobility

With public transportation options currently being limited in most Indian cities there has been a sharp increase in number of private vehicles. With no consumerate increase in road space and designated parking space, given absence of space in the cities, traffic congestion is a norm across Indian cities. As part of the smart city plans, most cities have stated their intension to promote public transportation by providing suitable options to citizens so that reliance on private vehicles can be reduced. This will also address environment pollution concerns. Technology in terms of smart solutions will be required across 2 aspects: i) in reducing congestion by implementing Intelligent Traffic Management Solutions, and ii) offering convenience using technology through Multi modal public transporation solutions Intelligent Traffic Management Systems comprise use of kerb side sensors and cameras mounted at key traffic intesections that monitor traffic flow and synchronize traffic light signals. These are timed to change based on real-time analysis of volume of traffic flow, and provide green light corridors for a smooth driving experience. Additionally, the data captured can be shared with citizens through real time updation of public information display boards (connected from the traffic control & command centre through the citywide wi-fi network) and mobile apps, so that prior information on the traffic situation can be provided, especially areas to be avoided on account of congestion and suggestions on alternate routes. Given that a key reason for traffic congestion is private cars attempting to locate parking spots, installation of parking sensors at the designated parking lots and sharing information on vacant spots through public information display boards and mobile apps (facility to book parking slots from apps can be an added facility provided to citizens), will enable citizens to plan trips efficiently and avoid searching for parking slots by slowing down their vehicles.

Multi modal public transporation comprises a main public transport system which is likely to be the mass rapid transit system usually, a metro railway or bus rapid transit system in India. While this system will operate through trunk routes in the city, the first and last mile connectivity will be provided by a network of bus & taxi services, battery operated autorickshaws, bicycles on rent, pedestrian walkways depending on the distance to be travelled, and road width. A key enabler for encouraging citizens to opt for public transportation will be providing real time information on schedules, availability and also convenience. Sharing of real time schedules of public transport like buses, tube, trams, and trains can be made available through the website or mobile app. The same can also be made available through public information display boards (e.g. Transport for London portal) which take information feeds through wi-fi. Real time scheduling is possible as the public transportation vehicles are GPS enabled – this allows scheduling to change in real time giving accurate information to citizens. The multi modal card (eg Oyster card of UK) is a convenience as it can be used across various public transportation options, can be conveniently renewed, eliminating the need to make any physical payment while using transport including private operated taxis, buses, autorickshaws, etc..

Citizen Safety & Security

This is a key concern of Governments across the country, especially when it concerns children, women and the elderly. Enabling technologies around safety and security today offer many options for monitoring and providing emergency assistance & support. The solution entails setting up a network of street cameras across identified spots in the city and linking the real time feed to the City Control & Command Centre. Cameras have the requisite software to identify incidents (e.g accidents, fire, explosions, etc.) and trigger alerts to the control & command centres based on which ambulance, fire engine, police from a nearest designated point will be mobilized as per protocol, with alerts sent to nearest hospitals as required. Such facilities not only ensure timely emergency response is provided, but also help in post incident investigations. Smart poles having street lights, cameras, wi-fi routers also have panic buttons which any citizen can press based on which emergency procedures will get activated from the control & command centre. Panic buttons are also being planned in public vehicles including taxis, buses, and autorickshaws. Being GPS enabled, they will send the signal with location to the control & command centre.

A generic schematic chart for the above solution is presented below:


Intelligent Governance Services

Improving quality of life for the citizen is a basic tenet for any smart city plan. Ensuring that the citizen is aware of the civic services they are entitled to and having a transparent and accountable system through which one can apply for services, pay for services and record their grievance & feedback, irrespective of economic and social background is key. This initiative leverages technology to provide a citizen portal through which a citizen can get information on any civic services provided by the city, apply for services online, make online payments and record their grievances without having to visit the offices of the city government. The portal is accessed through mobile apps, websites, as well as kiosks located in designated areas (especially for benefit of economically weaker sections who may not have access to devices, senior citizens who may require assistance). The portal is linked at the backend to the respective departments responsible for the services. Service requests are tracked through dashboards (available with senior city government officials, which also provide information on pending requests beyond the stipulated timeline) with status alerts being provided to citizens through sms, email and through the portal.

Key research focus areas which can support smart city development


Technology Industry in India

Most cities in India have allocated funding to the top 6 smart city features identified earlier. Crucial problems and targeted innovative and technology based solutions for each of the top smart city features are illustrated below:



Collaboration between India and UK can help resolve the challenges and provide innovative technological solutions for smart cities. During the Prime Ministers visit to UK in 2015, Key MOU’s have been signed between India and UK in the energy, nuclear energy, public administration and governance reforms, and a Joint announcement by India and UK on setting up of a fast track system for investments by UK in India. Some of these MOU’s could enable collaborations between India and UK for smart city development.


A recent development was Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan promoting a summit amongst the Indian diaspora in London to channel British investments in M.P.’s smart city programme in Indore.

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