Smart City in the Year 2020: The Biggest Challenges

What are the biggest challenges in the development of Smart City in India? We Spoke to industry experts to know the core obstacles.

Ashok Pandey
New Update
Smart City challenges

Various cities of India are working towards better, more efficient, secure and connected infrastructure. Some key measures towards a sustainable future are being implemented, be it smart cities, online banking, eCommerce and so on.


India has been doing a lot in terms of smart city developments.

Bhubaneswar is leading the way in building children centric green cities.

Odisha adopts Tamil Nadu's model of Micro Composting Center (MCC) for proper segregation and management of wet waste


Nashik to monitor water supply network through Scada project hoping to reduce the non - revenue water losses from current 44% to 25%

The government of Haryana to build Gurugram 2.0 - the dream city!

Kerala to start e-rickshaw mission - so far 5 companies have come together to manufacture e-rickshaws and e-autos


The United Nation Habitat has cleared a grant of Rs 100 million to Jaipur Municipal Corporation intending to improve sanitation and health facilities in Pink City.

Uttar Pradesh to use CCTV camera to track traffic violations.

Coimbatore to replicate Chennai's amphibian style equipment to clean water bodies


A lot of things happening in terms of smart city developments, still there are various obstacles. CiOL spoke to three industry experts to find out the major challenges in the development of Smart City in India.

Sukanya Mandal, IEEE Member and Data Science Professional Sukanya Mandal, IEEE Member and Data Science Professional

According to Sukanya Mandal, IEEE Member and Data Science Professional, “Smart Cities implementation encounters a lot of challenges such as -


1) Technical infrastructure challenges

2) Security and privacy of the technology deployed

3) Legislation and policies


4) Lack of trust and confidence shown by citizens - lack of transparency around the future benefits of such deployments

5) Lack of Funding and challenges to build a sustainable business model

6) Interoperability


7) Existing infrastructure for energy, water and transportation system

As city populations grow and urban sprawl proliferates, issues with economic and social progress are often magnified. These challenges not only affect a city’s quality of life but also puts added stress on traditional infrastructure, increasing the need for energy-efficiency austerity and resource conservation. New-age technologies can provide city governments with a large infrastructure buffer that helps them endure and overcome these issues in the future.

Technology innovation is the enabler that improves the possibilities and efficiencies of each smart city project. Each new technology brings with it an immense pool of new possibilities. Since every city has its own culture and infrastructure and funding policies hence technology adoption varies in diverse ways. This also means that it is not always possible to rely on other proven smart city projects to act as a blueprint for success.

One constant across all projects is data traffic. Although replicating projects is a challenge, data collection and traffic variation among various city pilot projects, compared to full-scale deployments, varies greatly. Due to the ever-increasing volume of sensors and their data, robust connectivity technology is a requirement for success. It is also often limited by a city’s budget.

Security and Privacy issues are threats that cities encounter while trying to implement smart city projects. As personal data gets uploaded into the cloud, it is often shared with digital devices, which, in turn, share the information among multiple users.

Important challenges faced by legislators include finding workable policies to regulate stakeholders, unleashing economic development, maintaining benefits for the city’s population and permitting growth in research-and-development investment. Getting participants to share their personal data, and balancing trade-offs is a challenge for many policymakers.

On the one hand, citizens are worried about the privacy of their personal data. The installation of various IoT sensors and cameras on smart street lights can also make them feel like they are constantly being watched by their city governments.

But, these data collected by project partners forms the core element of smart projects, which leads to a dynamic pricing model that balances the investment cost and provides revenue that helps maintain business operations.

In addition to these privacy challenges, securing funding to start a project, and ensuring there are sufficient resources to sustain the project over time, remain the most difficult challenges for smart cities. Public-private partnerships are one of the more popular investment types used to manage these financial challenges.

Aligning multiple city departments and stakeholders on common ground, and allowing interoperability and the sharing of data among them, helps in the allocation of the initial financial investment because, before implementing smart city initiatives, government departments and private partners have been working in their own silos.

This mindset is one of the major problems governments and system integrators must overcome. A change in management style, which introduces open collaboration and data sharing among municipal bodies can help reduce the financial blockade, allowing smart cities to achieve their goals.

Lawmakers are well aware of the interoperability and funding challenges faced by smart cities, so they are trying to formulate common interest among project partners. Legislation can help local governments implement smart city technologies and overcome the various challenges they face.

Education is a further way that smart cities can relieve apprehension among citizens. By making technology education programmes readily available, city governments can communicate the intrinsic benefits of these projects more easily.”

Anil Bhasin, regional vice president, India & SAARC, Palo Alto Networks Anil Bhasin, regional vice president, India & SAARC, Palo Alto Networks

When we spoke to Anil Bhasin, regional vice president, India & SAARC, Palo Alto Networks, he raised the major challenge of connectivity. “There is no question the promise of 5G is pivotal to bringing the nascent vision of “true” smart cities from aspiration to actualisation. The biggest challenge, however, is security.

For example, In September 2016, cybercriminals managed to compromise almost one-quarter of the networks used by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and infect them with ransomware.

If existing security risks are not dealt with and roll over, vulnerabilities, such as unsecured IoT systems, could be amplified exponentially under 5G if not addressed at 4G.

It is hence of utmost importance for smart city planning to take into account protection of citizen data, legacy infrastructure and critical systems.

New cybersecurity approaches are needed today, including adopting a preventive approach to security, increasing levels of security automation, establishing contextual security outcomes and integrating security functions with APIs.”

Nimish Gupta, MD, RICS South Asia Nimish Gupta, MD, RICS South Asia

While Nimish Gupta, MD, RICS South Asia, talked about different barrier. According to him “The initiative has faced roadblocks on account of various aspects including inadequate funds, skills shortage, poor technology adoption, absence of master plans, non-adherenceto timelines and stakeholder accountability.

For Smart Cities to be successful, we must look at conceiving a plan to create suitable revenue models for long term funding which is possible through participation of the private sector and capacity building.

Lack of skills needs to be addressed through education and training providing industry-led education to students and turning out industry-ready professionals. The existing workforce also requires professional and vocational training through competency mapping.

Low technology deployment to a large extent can also be attributed to associated skills, as the current workforce is not equipped to work and deploy the latest technological innovations. The non-existence of cities’ master plans and development plans is also a challenge.

Without these in place, it is difficult to plan and monitor change. Additionally, clearances are essential for carrying out complex work required by a smart city, but there is no adherence to timelines as there is no end date.

Stakeholder accountability in terms of the role of the central government, state-level governments, municipal and local bodies also need to be aligned and work in cohesion to fulfil the Mission.”

According to Sairam Veeraswamy, Senior Director - Innovation Programs, VMware India, there are some key challenges prevalent in current model:

Sairam Veeraswamy, Senior Director - Innovation Programs, VMware Sairam Veeraswamy, Senior Director - Innovation Programs, VMware India

Siloed ships in the ensemble. The current generation smart cities don’t talk to each other. This constraints in sharing data, insights and other best operational practices.

Lack of standards-based implementation. Every smart city floats their own standard which could lead to serious interoperability issues.

Misaligned priorities limit the inter-smart city leverage chain of unified value.

Absence of a platform-based approach could lead to poor utilization and lowered ROI

Lack of use case integration. An example of this is the predominant overlap between crowd management and surveillance. Since procurements are driven independently, there is a missing correlation between the two, thus causing wide operational gaps. Holistic system thinking applied early in the journey could save time, effort and help deliver seamless experiences.

Hemant Dabke, Vice President - Strategic Industries, SAP India, shared his views - The ‘One Size Fits All’ approach has rather been a roadblock to the smart city initiative in the country. Although we have a city wise blue-print based on their unique needs and aspirations in place, the execution of these recommendations follows a pattern that is rather uniform and needs immediate innovative urban design inputs.

Based on the data and previous studies, the participatory decision-making process or the demand-side governance structure needs amendments. Experience Management technologies can play a important role in this area, especially with the design recommendations in sample size, sampling segmentation, sample availability and real-time sample feedback.

SAP is working with the government in devising collaborative programs to help the youth acquire right skills and be gainfully employed. In India, SAP has tied up with MSME through its Bharat ERP program that seeks to bring accessibility of SAP technology for thousands of India’s SMEs. Our Code Unnati initiative is also enabling the youth with important technology skills in a world that’s rapidly being transformed through Industry 4.0 interventions.

Moreover, the smart cities mission in its initial phase majorly focused on infrastructure development. We need to move beyond the initial plans take the learnings pan-city.

Affordable housing, plugging of non-revenue water, urban poverty alleviation, renewable energy interventions and energy efficiency, transit time predictability, contemporary waste management practices and population health also needs an upgrade for a smarter future.

There is also a need for a platform that allows cities the flexibility of assimilating, analysing and manging the data inputs and find ways to monetize the huge amount of data that they generate.