About 5% of infra spend could go into smart cities

Written by Shubhra Tandon | Updated: Apr 16 2014, 08:10am hrs
Siemens, the German engineering multinational that caters to multiple sectors from power to health care, has carved out a separate business unit, Infrastructure and Cities, to provide solutions on sustainable urban development the world over. This unit essentially deals with all aspects that would improve the quality of life in urban areasbe it efficiency, health or environment protection. The world over, nearly 50% people live in cities, but in India only about 30-32% live in cities, which will grow to 40% by 2030, says Tilak Raj Seth, head (infrastructure & cities), South Asia, Siemens. By 2030, India is expected to have 68 cities with a population of more than 1 million which would contribute nearly 70% to the countrys GDP. In this context, Seth speaks to FEs Shubhra Tandon how infrastructure and cities is making Indian cities smarter and sustainable. Excerpts:

What is the infrastructure and cities business about

More than two years ago, in October 2011, it was realised by our global business that with an increasing number of people moving to cities, the action lies in urban centres. So, unless you are engaging with or re-aligning your businesses which engages the specific demands of cities, you are a little away from reality. So, we took out a few divisions from other verticalsmobility & building technology from the industry sector, and the power distribution and smart grid applications from the energy sectorand put together this new sector called infrastructure and cities.

There are challenges in cities of reliable power, affordable transportation and energy efficiency. All cities need to balance quality of life, economic competitiveness and environmental protection. We realise that the world over no other organisation was addressing these needs exactly the way a city needs. A city also requires these getting integrated under one roof. If you slice these, then you are not addressing the needs in an integrated manner. Siemens, the world over, felt the need to put all its solutions together and optimise it for cities.

This business, Siemens claims, is working towards building more smart cities. What is Siemens definition of a smart city

A smart city is that where the citys developmen t or the demand matches its infrastructure. There has to be affordable mobility, which is a critical component, reliable availability of power, safe and secure systems and information availability so that a city-dweller could choose to use this information in the best context possible. It could be as simple as having readily available information on which road to take to avoid traffic.

Is there an assessment of what would be the cost of having smart cities in India

There are no absolute figures available. But the government has said that it is going to spend $1 trillion on enhancing the entire infrastructure in the 12th Five-Year Plan, which is not cities alone but includes roads, airports, railways, transmission network, etc. So, what could go into making new smart cities could be to the extent of 5% of $1 trillion.

What would be the share of Siemens in the smart cities planned in India

We will be there in all cities in one form or the other, because there is a little bit of Siemens in everyones life in India. Today, power, for example, cannot be reaching your home unless it has touched a Siemens solution. You look at power, air-conditioning or travel; it cannot be that you havent touched Siemens somewhere. In some cities we may have a larger role to play, especially when it comes to transport, power, building efficiencies and security systems.