There is little doubt that when it comes to smart cities, it's the Asia-Pacific region that is going to see the most action in the next few years. According to a report, 22 out of 37 major smart cities across the world are likely to come up in the APAC region by 2022.
Since it is technology that forms the connecting cord of smart cities, IT Infrastructure players are keen to tap into this substantial opportunity. The Japanese IT major, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is no exception. Primarily known as a storage company, HDS has, over the past few years been redefining itself as an IT infrastructure player, with some good results. Some of the city transformation projects that HDS is doing in countries in the APAC region are likely to help the company in lapping up smart city contracts in India.
Adrian De Luca, CTO, APAC region, for Hitachi Data Systems told ET that there is a $20 billion opportunity in the smart city space in the APAC region alone. "$1.3 billion investment in the smart city space has been announced by the Modi government and that is a good starting point."
"At Hitachi, we don't call them smart cities- we call it social innovation. And for us, a $100 billion company, that has interests in all areas like telecommunication, energy generation, medical businesses, construction etc- venturing into smart cities is a natural progression," Luca added. "In all of these industries, transformations are being underpinned by technology. So we at Hitachi are putting our information technology business at the center of these industry innovations."
The key areas HDS is investing in primarily include opportunities around connected healthcare. The company is already engaged in a number of healthcare initiatives in Australia. Rail systems are another area where HDS has a very strong presence in the APAC region.
Also an area of interest for HDS is the automotive business. "10 years back we pioneered 60 per cent of the sensors that went into the Toyota Prius. We are now really getting into information systems of what we call the connected cars," Luca told us. HDS is also into core surveillance and Luca said we can expect a couple of big announcements from them in the next few quarters in the public safety domain. "We are doing things like facial recognition in crowded domains, emergency response etc. We have a number of POCs in this domain. In Hanoi city in Vietnam, we are doing traffic analysis to help them better plan roads. We use mobile and satellite network to understand traffic patterns of cars and bikes."
And finally HDS is also investing significantly in the area of telecom analytics- which has huge potential in India. The kind of traffic over data networks is transforming dramatically. And a crucial part of smart cities is being able to understand hotspots etc on these networks. Luca believes that this area could be big for HDS in India.
A project in the area of smart cities that HDS has been involved with since a couple of years has been in Gujarat. "We have been working around low carbon energy and water treatment in Gujarat and it is through projects like these that we are looking at social integration in the smart cities space," Luca explained.
As we are coming out of cost focus and into the innovation cycle, the use of cloud is something that both old and new governments are talking about, India being no exception. This in general, spells good news for technology vendors.
Smart cities is all about putting IT at the center of industries. Be it electronic clinical patient records in the healthcare industry, or automation of the railways. From information systems in cars to city surveillance to telco analytics- all these things form a smart city.
For Hitachi, it is about investing where the action is. "We are bringing our R&D closer to where it is being consumed and investing in expanding our R&D efforts in Japan. We have an R&D center here in India and we have expanded in China. We have a R&D contingent in Singapore too. Within the last year we have actually seen our private cloud revenue doubling in the APAC region. We are signing a lot of contracts around managed services. So HDS is far less a storage company today but more of an infrastructure solutions company," Luca said.