Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise was cherry picked as the communications and networking solutions provider for the world’s best smart city through the GIFT project with Newgen. In an interaction with CIOL, Dirk Dumortier, VP-Sales Enablement, APAC, ALE and Prasath Rao – Territory Manager- India, ALE, talk about the road covered and some of the challenges.

What’s happening around smart cities presently? 

Dirk Dumortier: At APAC level–yes, there is much going on with respect to the smart cities. We are ready to define it as well. One needs to be very careful about what is a smart city. So, for us, since we are in the realm of communication and networking, we are building the foundation of a smart city on top of that. We are not the people who would do e-governance or application, but we make sure that implementation of such things become a reality. Our element is the ground work, making sure that the pipes and the tubes are there from which one can have uninterrupted water supply.

We are doing this across Asia Pacific. We have won deals in China and Taiwan this year. A lot many things are happening in Singapore. It is everywhere. Sometimes it is just a city, at times it is more than just the city like in Singapore – country wide.

And now it is coming to India as well. We have a history in witnessing the development of smart cities which goes back to 20 years. If you look back at Belgium and Tokyo, they were the first two digital cities of the world. If the government drives it nicely, it is a great way to bring up the economy of the country and that’s the whole thing behind smart cities – helping the economy. It brings in a smarter way of communication, innovation like internet of things as an element, by innovation you bring in new startups because they would provide the required help of funding and job generation. One needs to give an economical spin to the smart cities. That’s exactly what we have here…

Dirk Dumortier: I always start my conversation about smart

cities with people; people living in the cities since these are the ones we need to drive ultimately. What do you need as an individual in the city? What are you looking for? You look at the basic elements. We need safety – a safe city for the family where we may walk out at night without being scared. Then we have education for your kids. One has to make sure that there is a good education system in place. So, there are too many elements for smart city that together attract people and investment in any city. As an organization, we are developing a way to communicate by interconnecting all the hospitals, schools and universities, and other elements like that of safety in the city. Like having cameras in the streets that connect you to the police and then police can keep a watch on the city. We are developing internet of things and are connecting and integrating the things together to develop a smart city. So, coming back to your question, we can link it to the human needs. If you are able to do so, you succeed. If we are not covering the people and the need of the city, you are gone.

Once you have all the aspects–education, health and safety–people start coming. The people start making it their business and make it complex. If we have the basic said elements, investment comes. We have seen it in Belgium and in other places about what does it take for people to start their own business? You need to go to 20 other agencies before you get the stamp from the government; you are already tired before even starting to do the business. That’s where the government needs to help and when we have all the elements of a smart city covered, there is business.

Prasath Rao: Just to add on, I think it is not the issue of smartness, I think we as Indians are already over smart. So, the main leaf that you need to take from the global smart cities set up, if you ask me is it the political willingness.