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The Smart City ‘Living Lab’ on the Hyderabad’s International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT-H) campus is actually a real-world simulation of a Smart City covering all infrastructure spread of the 66-acre area and its 5,000-odd residents.

Smart city1For instance, ten nodes set up at different locations on campus record air pollution data every second and update the dashboard every 10 minutes. Water flow and distribution are monitored every minute and water quality is measured every four hours using IoT solutions. As many as 76 smart classrooms on campus are currently being monitored for their energy usage with the help of occupancy sensors, carbon-dioxide sensors, air conditioner sensors, energy meters and the like with the dashboard on a real-time basis. This is juxtaposed to weather parameters such as solar radiation, wind speed, temperature, humidity, wind direction, and rainfall data to facilitate better energy utilisation within the campus.

The Living Lab at IIIT-H is a one of its kind and the only one in the country, says Anuradha Vattem, its Lead Architect. “The opportunities in a Smart City are unending and so are the solutions. But someone cannot just go to a city and start deploying their solutions. They need a basic minimum infrastructure,” she explains, adding how this space has been turned into “a testbed for our solutions as well as for startups who want to showcase their IoT solutions in a live environment”.

Smart city2Vattem, who comes with the experience of about 25 years in the Defence sector, says the Living Lab is an open-innovation ecosystem that aims to enable various Smart City innovations and solutions, and translate them to products that can be upscaled to a city’s needs. It tries its best to bring in various stakeholders from the governments, startups, corporates, tech companies and policymakers, and is supported by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY), the Smart City Mission, and the Government of Telangana. The project has technology partners in the Amsterdam Innovation Arena and the European Business and Technology Center (EBTC).

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The Living Lab at IIIT-Hyderabad is a model that can be replicated by MeitY elsewhere, notes Ramesh Loganathan, professor co-innovation, who is heading the Research/Innovation outreach at the institute. He reiterates that each city listed under the Smart City Mission was to set up an Innovation Lab but apart from a couple of cities among the list 100, no one has been able to do anything. “We are saying they(cities) should tap into something like this (the living lab), even then we could not get any response,” he says, adding how they have spoken to about 15 cities through the Smart Cities Mission but not got any response.

Smart cityDr Vattem says IIIT-Hyderabad is open to guiding academic institutions to replicate the Living Lab or set up smart campuses. Echoing the same views, Dr Garg says: “The idea of a smart city is not fun or fancy but savings in terms of resources, ensuring a healthy environment with minimum environmental impact.” However, in the same breath, he warns that though the technology is significant, it was only a small part of the solution. “It has to be economical and serviceable. But the human aspect is most important because technology can backfire if we don’t understand human behaviour and can lead to increased consumption of energy sometimes.”

The Lab has been live since May 2020 monitoring multiple focus areas. Nearly 25 engineers and researchers are guided by faculty members- Ramesh Loganathan, Dr. Vishal Garg, Dr. Sachin Chaudhari, Dr. Aftab Hussain, Dr. Deepak Gangadharan, Prakash Yella who bring in their expertise in respective domains.

“We don’t want to limit our research to academics or the institute but make sure it translates into products and solutions that impact society,” says Dr. Sachin Chaudhari, an Assistant Professor at Signal Processing and Communications Research Center at IIIT-Hyderabad. “What we have now are our IoT solutions, but if a start-up or a company wants to deploy their solutions here and test it in a live environment, we are open to it.”

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Smart city3What does all this entail? Dr Chaudhari cites the example of water meters on the campus which were being monitored by plumbers who took down the readings manually twice a day. Not anymore. “We have retrofitted some of the old meters with a device we innovated and also deployed some digital meters which will collect the data and also analyse it even to report a leakage. In the process, we came up with cost-effective devices that can be retrofitted on old mechanical meters to convert them into digital,” Dr. Chaudhari says.

Speaking of the direct link between energy consumption and water usage, Dr Vishal Garg, Professor and Head, Center for IT in Building Science, notes that the energy consumed to deliver a certain quantity of water can help to know the water pump’s efficiency. “Also, we are not bothered about when we should pump water. The idea is to use electricity when it is cheaper and also not add to the city’s peak load. Instead of pumping water at 7 pm, it can be done at 4 am,” Dr Garg says, adding how through usage analysis such small incremental benefits can add up to a huge benefit.

Dr Garg says UPS devices, often installed with backup capacity more than the requirement, along with its standard standby losses, is the biggest source of oversized consumption and wastage of energy. “The energy consumption can be monitored either per building or based on end-use, like how much is consumed by the AC, TV, water pump, etc. When the consumption is going beyond a limit, a warning or alert can be issued.”

At the smart rooms on the IIIT-H campus, he says, monitoring ACs is just the beginning and the next step is to have window blinds and colour tunable lights that respond to outdoor light for better energy efficiency.

The Living Lab uses the smart OM2M machine-to-machine platform to manage the data collected through about 120 nodes from across the campus. The Living Lab is also working with the Indian Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) at IISc-Bangalore for seamlessly porting data in a secure and live manner for data consumers across the country.

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A recent study by Dr. Chaudhari found out that sending data intelligently reduces unnecessary data by 99 per cent. “A sensor need not record data every second. What is critical is to know what to capture and when to send it. It needs to be then interpolated to generate the original data. The idea is to reduce transmission and storage and yet not lose significant data,” says Dr. Garg.

In the pipeline is also smart lamp posts in partnership with Silicon Labs and Intel. While they will switch on and off based on the light conditions, these lamp posts will also be able to measure air quality and weather conditions, have a buzzer for SOS alarms, and even for recording data on urban flooding. A mesh of such will facilitate seamless data transmission across campus using its own network and not banking on WiFi or GSM.

For security, the team will be looking at beyond CCTVs looking at other sources like temperature nodes too. Dr. Garg points out that a smart energy meter at home can give details of sleep time and waking hours of the occupant, and his/her preference to use AC, geysers, washing machine, TV, or any other appliances.

Shubham Manta, one of the engineers working on the privacy and security aspects, says a lot depends on the policy of data collection. “Instead of individual numbers, an average or summary of data can be collected for a larger picture thereby not distinguishing each person’s data. Or location details can be removed from the data,” he says, underlining the need to encrypt data subsets and allow access only to authorise persons. Dr. Vattem adds: “IP-based protection is also an option.

Ensuring the data does not get into the wrong hands is a big challenge in a Smart City. As a Living Lab, we are testing all these possibilities.” #KhabarLive #hydnews

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