‘Infrastructure holds the key to success of smart city projects’

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 31, 2016

Jean Turgeon

It’s important to build on the legacy infrastructure, says Avaya’s Vice-President Jean Turgeon

For the smart city project to be successful, the government has to step in with clear mandates. And that is already happening, according to Jean Turgeon, Vice-President & Chief Technologist Software Defined Architecture, Worldwide Sales, Avaya.

Speaking to BusinessLine at Gitex 2016 in Dubai, Turgeon points out that there is a need to “break silos” with legacy infrastructure making way for new ones.


How are smart city projects shaping up in India?

If you look at India, China, Singapore, Australia or the US, the big difference is in the maturity in smart city projects in India or the Middle East. They (India and Middle East) are much more advanced; and that is being replicated in other parts of the world.

The key message is: in order to build smart cities the government, industry, and all other verticals need to pay more importance to the foundation of the infrastructure.

What sort of infrastructure are you referring to?

I mean the networking and communications infrastructure which requires a new level of automation that did not exist in the past. If you think you can build a smart city as yet another bandage on top of your existing/legacy infrastructure; it may work. But, it will take you forever to deploy it and face security challenges.

What is the “maturity” you see in a developing country like India compared to developed ones?

The big difference is the government entity pushing with very clear mandates. Like in India, they said we are going to change the infrastructure and have the smartest and most reliable wireless infrastructure. We see the government having a vision and push for it.

How long are you willing to place your bets on India?

The Indian market is maturing. I’m pleasantly surprised to see the number of smart deployments taking place in the country. Some months back, I met people who said there are sophisticated systems for traffic management or tracking movement of garbage disposal trucks. It may or may not have been advertised. But, the innovation is being implemented, deployed and leveraged. The key to a smart city is the breaking of silos and that is where the government has to come in.

What do you mean by breaking of silos?

Take an example: it is great that you have a sophisticated traffic management system. But, what do you do with it? You see there is congestion at say 4 PM every day. You do your big data analytics and reprogram the lights (to avoid congestion). That is breaking of silos.

Don’t you think it is more difficult to have technology-based solutions in a country as large as India?

Yes. When there is a massive legacy infrastructure it is difficult.

So where does Avaya come in?

We understand legacy and can provide slow migration from such legacy infrastructure. In some cases the legacy infrastructure can also coexist.

How does Avaya handle the existing red tape?

It is fundamentally the mandate of the government to break the silos and drive smart city deployment.

What we are doing at the moment is a bit of consultation and education in bringing people up to speed. There is technology evolution; there is technology innovation which is now available which allows you to push the reset (button) and build a new foundation.

Is Indian market ready for Internet of Things (IoT)?

Yes, legacy infrastructure is making way (for new ones).

For IoT to be successful, seamless internet connectivity is a must. It doesn’t happen here as internet usage is need-based through prepaid offerings?

I go back to the criticality of the government. If the government does not intervene and the industry continues to milk the legacy infrastructure, then again the impact of the smart solutions will be minimised. Things have to be shaken up. Otherwise, people will resist.

(The writer was at Gitex 2016 at the invitation of Avaya.)

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Published on October 31, 2016
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