Gautam Balakrishnan, Vice President and Head-Smart Cities Business, Tata Projects Ltd
How is big data likely to play a role in infrastructure development?
Big data will be the thread that binds together all the diverse elements deployed in a smart city. It would be inconceivable to have any kind of meaningful smart city application layer without leveraging on big data. The Internet of Things (IoT) layer of big data sensors will generate an avalanche of data. This data is meaningless if it is not translated into actionable intelligence that the city can use to make better and more optimal decisions with regard to resource allocation. What is more important than even managing the data is the role that big data can play in making the city assets location-aware and integrated. A simple use case would be this: if there is a damaged street light and a leaking water main in the same intersection, without a big data platform, the city will not be aware that both the trouble tickets are in the same location and, very possibly, the same operations and maintenance (O&M) resource can resolve both issues. This will avoid duplication of efforts and unnecessary wastage of precious resources. Thus, big data platforms and their intelligent deployment in smart city space will move from being a 'nice to have' to a 'critical' infrastructure component.
How can big data improve and help manage revenue stream, especially in smart cities?
The bill payment gateways of smart city payment applications can be integrated into our smart city big data platform. This allows for total revenue assurance with no possibility of revenue leakage. This can be a critical plug-in for smart cities, which otherwise will have very limited visibility to the collection side of their financial operations. We have Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) from TCS that integrates most major banks and payment gateways, thereby enabling convenient, cashless payment transactions.
To strengthen the infrastructure project procurement process, how can big data play a role?
We use big data to identify which equipment is performing better than the others and how we can leverage the improvements and innovations of particular partners who perform better over the others. Our finding has been that using big data, we can identify hidden areas of high performance which yield superior overall results as compared with point solutions. Location-aware data makes decision-making far easier and more accurate. All of this information feeds back to our procurement process, enabling us to accomplish superior performance and motivate our partners to achieve even higher standards.
Can data help improve performance as well as transparency and save money?
Eventually, all enhancements to efficiency will lead to lower costs and help achieve higher revenues and thereby higher margins. This is an automatic reaction as one moves from a less optimal to a more optimal stage. Big data helps in integrating all the solutions that are deployed. Looking at something holistically makes it far better than studying it piecemeal. The ability to make better decisions that would help save time, resources and money will enable faster implementation and better management than in the absence of such tools.
Has the use of big data made any difference to infra projects in terms of timeline, costing, etc.?
There are many examples from our partnership with TCS and TCL of how big data-led design and execution of smart city projects can yield massive dividends. TCS has done pioneering work in computerisation and digitisation across the length and breadth of India. They have built state data centres, done e-governance projects and enabled citizen engagement even before the term smart cities was coined. TCL also has invested in LoRAWAN-based IoT network which is the most efficient platform for running IoT systems. A couple of use cases that come to mind are that we have deployed LED-based intelligent street lighting in Pune. It has a state-of-art SCADA-based command and control centre, which generates huge volumes of data. We have deployed a big data platform that not only parses the data and gets us meaningful insights on energy consumption and sustainability, but also gives us location-aware information of errors and faults that enables us to rectify problems in the shortest possible time and meet stringent service level agreements (SLAs).