In an exclusive interview with Dataquest, Jitender Sandhu, M2M Director, ASEAN and India, Gemalto talks about importance of securing M2M technologies for India’s smart cities. He also talks about the challenges the company did face while enabling M2M application in the country. Excerpts:
Q1. How is security critical in laying the roadmap of smart cities in India, given the M2M technologies would be the backbone of the smart city initiatives?
The concept of smart cities is ideally aimed at developing the entire urban ecosystem including the physical, social and economic infrastructure development. Starting from health, home to traffic and resource management, the smart cities projects aims to improve many aspects of daily life by employing big data and Internet-of-Things applications. Here, the importance of Machine-To-Machine (M2M) technology arises as it ensures connectivity between devices, gateways and network infrastructures to provide them with a restricted level of autonomy to sense and take decisions.
With the deployment of M2M technology, smart cities can promise real-time monitoring of resources, data-analysis, and improvement in the decision-making. Automotive vehicles, traffic system and parking system will be connected to conserve fuel and save travel time. City resources can be managed efficiently as energy water consumption and waste production can be closely monitored in real-time and any leaks or issues can be resolved quickly. Health and location of needy citizens will be monitored in real-time with automatic calls being made for medical assistance in case of emergency or arising of abnormal situation. Government will be able to use all the real-time data collected from different sources, not limited to that mentioned above – to plan and implement its various policies.
At the same time, this mesh of flowing information from various sources will contain a lot of private data from citizens, government bodies, enterprises and connected servers that needs to be secure. All-time secure availability of this data will also be very critical to serve various e-governance platforms thus forming a well-connected ecosystem.
Connectivity between so many things makes security a critical aspect of the structure. There will be many access points an attacker can target on a connected device and get his hands on the data moving around the internet.
Any insecure entry point in this whole ecosystem can result in breach of privacy or data theft. It can even result in attack by planned disruption of critical services. Various stakeholders involved in data management flow should have only limited and controlled access to data with history being maintained at all levels. Data will have to be encrypted, whether at rest or in motion, to keep it secure in case of an accidental or a planned breach.
Hence, securing these connections and communication between the connected devices is essential to smooth functioning of all the elements of the smart cities.
Q2. What technologies are needed for building cities of the future?
The most important element supporting the development of Smart Cities is – Secure and 24×7 Connectivity. A smart city utilizes IoT sensors and technology to connect devices across the city. Data collected from all devices and sensors is analysed and patterns are studied to enable smooth functioning of the city resources. Hence, smooth and constant network connection is essential in supporting the ecosystem and real-time management. Mobile network operators (MNOs), are a natural and crucial partner in the deployment of secure and reliable connected solutions. Internet capabilities ranging from 2G to 4G support deployment of different smart cities applications.
Further, for any smart city to work, the underlying infrastructure needs to be intelligent and secure. For instance, there needs to be a secure connection between real-time traffic management system and a central control system to enable a smooth flow of vehicle and avoid any planned chaos on roads. Any undetected weakness in one part of the system can potentially compromise security of the whole system. Hence, while building critical infrastructure and solutions for smart cities, there needs to be clarity about the networks and systems they are connecting, whether it’s car park, traffic or waste management projects.
Q3. What challenges can be addressed using M2M applications? How does Gemalto fit in the ecosystem?
In India, there are a few challenges that can be addressed for the widespread adoption of M2M technologies. One of the most eminent hurdles in progressing with M2M technology is the lack of omnipresent streamlined infrastructure for the successful deployment of these solutions.
In the future, smart cities will showcase an organic integration of the IT and physical infrastructure with IoT-enabled systems operating collectively to generate useful information. The required infrastructure to support the smooth functioning of the system is already underway. Further, to realize the full potential of M2M applications, substantial spectrum and availability of affordable 3G and 4G services will be a must. While it may take some time for public high-speed broadband and 4G to become commonly available across the length and breadth of the country, the foundation for service delivery and communication groundwork has been laid out.
Currently, the efficient use of M2M applications supported by 2G or 3G connectivity is already helping organizations accomplish more with fewer resources. Additionally, the expected regulatory framework for IoT will further fuel the growth and strengthen implementation of IoT technologies which have been largely stagnant due to lack of industry standardization.
Q4. What are the strategies for increasing adoption of M2M technologies in government, logistics, telecom and transportation sectors?
In our approach, we are increasingly focused on engaging with industry partners, government bodies and enterprises to highlight the importance and benefits M2M technologies.
Urbanization challenges including the over usage of city resources are further propelling the need to adopt smart IoT solutions across industries. Smarter concepts in the transportation and logistics sector will be the leading adopters of this revolutionary technology to ensure security, efficiency and keeping pace with the urbanisation challenges.
India is also gradually improving its usage of M2M enabled solutions and devices for public service with the aim to accomplish the Digital India vision that includes widespread adoption of e-Governance services across platforms.
With better infrastructure, M2M can be a major bonus. Given the current internet penetration in India, which is roughly at 31%, strategic deployment can help internet proliferation substantially. This, along with steady connectivity will result in better response time.
Since most infrastructure is owned by the private sector, it makes effective public-private cooperation essential. Cooperation across the whole ecosystem consisting of industry players, government agencies, supply chain supporters, hardware manufacturers will improve the sharing of information and experience and consequently boost adoption of M2M technologies.
To fully embrace the benefits of IoT and M2M, there needs to be a high level of confidence in the system of connectivity and information sharing these services. A secure and reliable system is required to manage citizen information before fully committing to the change. Safeguarding the information shared and the data that will be created in the course will be imperative for M2M technology to grow and reach different sectors.