IIITH’s Smart City Living Lab has a great run at IMC 2022

When IIIT Hyderabad’s Smart City Living Lab model was showcased at the India Mobile Congress 2022, it garnered eyeballs and stood apart as the first live testbed in India to demonstrate and validate how Smart City solutions can be developed.

“Shri Y.G.S.C. Kishore Babu, DDG(SRI) and his team from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had earlier visited us in the Smart City Living Lab and were excited at the work we were doing and encouraged us to showcase the capabilities of our unique Living Lab model at the Indian Mobile Congress 2022”, says Anuradha Vattem.

IMC 2022 marked a new chapter in Atmanirbharta with the launch of the 5G services by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji on 1 Oct 2022, at Pragati Maidan. Recognized as Asia’s biggest technology festival and India’s most significant networking event, the conclave brought together industry, government, academia and other ecosystem players across the TMT and ICT industry to discuss and demonstrate the potential of 5G. The all-star inaugural session featured state chief ministers, top ministers in the Telecommunications & IT space and leading industrialists including Mukesh Ambani (Reliance Industries), Sunil Bharti Mittal (Bharti enterprises), Kumaramangalam Birla (Aditya Birla Group) and other industry stakeholders.

India’s telecom industry, touted to have the second largest subscriber base of 1.17 billion continues its whirlwind transformation, keeping pace with the latest technologies, software-defined architectures, and network digitalization.

What made IIITH the Face in the telecom crowd
“In this context, The Smart City Living Lab architecture that the IIIT Hyderabad booth showcased was a live demonstration of the smart city solutions using diverse telecommunication standards like LoRaWAN, Wi-SUN, 4G,WiFi and experiments that we have been working with, Security, Network Management and a host of applications based on IoT, Sensors and Data models”, explains Anuradha Vattem who led the Smart City Research Center (SCRC) team to IMC2022, that included Prof. Aftab Hussain, visiting researcher Prof. Ajai Mathew, Vaibhav Naware and research student David Thomas Tency.

Ankita Tyagi, EBTC’s deputy head for intellectual property projects and coordinator for the Living Lab believes that “IMC was a great platform to showcase the relevance of our Living Lab to the entire ecosystem. Everyone was focusing on the technology and talking in silos. This is the only space where the smart city mission is coming to us with a demand and we are meeting it” she points out. “It was a really productive four days and my interaction with the IIITH team has been excellent.”

The Living Lab stall demonstrated the entire architecture and how the full stack is developed, right from the physical sensors on campus, from the way data structuring is done, to the application layers. Many visitors sought to understand how it can be scaled for compatibility, because different vendors provide their own stack of technology solutions that are different. “At the smart city level, standardizing datasets becomes critical. Hence, the Data interchange layer is part of our stack where we are working with the IUDX team to formulate standard data and information models for various domains”, reveals Prof. Aftab.

Dashboard and sensor nodes steal the show
“Though the event was chiefly for companies and startups in the communication network domain, our exhibits especially smart poles using Low Power Wireless RF Mesh WiSUN network attracted a good number of visitors”, reports Vaibhav Naware. The live demonstration of the Dashboard, the graphical interface that converts raw data into useable insights, fascinated many startups who were looking for remote monitoring and management of their deployments, especially in the IoT domain.

“We wanted people to see the full spectrum of telecom possibilities. Our campus with its 4000 inhabitants is a microcosm of a city and consequently problems seen in a city-level deployment are witnessed here. We had a hardware prototype of each vertical with different communication technologies”, observes Prof. Aftab. Most visitors
were interested in the IoT Projects and devices like the Retrofit Water meters, WiSUN node that is being used to control streetlights on campus, a LoRaWAN-based Energy Meter and outdoor/indoor air pollution monitors on Wi-Fi and GSM as well as water level indicator and monitoring systems that transmit leakage alerts. “Our stall especially attracted students, researchers and faculty from the academic community apart from the largest telecom giants, DoT and TSDSI, since we were the only institution exhibiting and modeling an actual living lab scenario and our solutions stood out against the milieu”, add Ajai and Vaibhav Naware.

“The highlight of the event for us was the visit by Union Ministers Shri. Ashwini Vaishnaw (Hon’ble Minister for Communications Electronics & IT) and Shri. Piyush Goyal (Minister of Commerce & Industry) who spent a good amount of time understanding the entire Living Lab concept and mulling over use cases in smart cities and rural areas”, observes Anuradha Vattem.

Setting up the stall proved to be a big challenge since the entire team had to complete the WiSUN launch in Hyderabad before heading for the IMC event. “We had five hours to set up our stall because of the strict security protocols in place for the PM’s visit. The teamwork was excellent with everyone coordinating remotely from Hyderabad, with just two of us doing the grunt work here”, laughs along with research assistant Thomas David Tency whose innovation of the retrofit model for the analog water meterdrew appreciation and is currently in the pipeline for incubation at IIITH’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Prof. Aftab points out that the level of engagement with officials and industrialists was much higher than was anticipated. “We had the top management of the biggest telecom companies at the conclave, who were excited by the living Lab Concept, the Live Dashboard and by the fact that we were actually doing innovation as we went along. But what impressed them most was that our devices were weathering the elements and giving out real time data. For some of these deployments, we had to do a lot of innovations along the way. In the case of water monitoring, we have come up with a low-cost digital water meter solution, which is retrofit on existing analog water meters”.

“I’ve been to some large conclaves in the US and looking at the way IMC 2022 was structured and presented, it didn’t feel like a third world country was organizing it. I was very happy and proud as an Indian that we are at that level where we can stand globally anywhere and demonstrate our technology at the same level as any other developed nation and with international quality” he notes.

Spinoff from the conclave
The IIIT Hyderabad booth was in a sweet spot near the exit of the auditorium that ensured a steady flow of traffic to the stall by speakers, government officials, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors. Even we were honored to watch our Honorable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji walk by our stall.

“Because of the Silicon labs event that was followed by our participation in the telecommunication exhibition, a lot of companies that came for the 5G launch like Qualcomm, GMR, Tech Mahindra and Ericsson have expressed interest in partnering with us. AP government officials too showed interest in our implementation when they saw the potential use cases using IOT, wireless and contactless technologies. We are also collaborating with DoT on 5G use cases. A few colleges hope to establish a similar establishment on their campus, while several students wish to pursue an internship at the Living lab,” discloses Anuradha Vattem.

“There was a lot of hard work and a terrific amount of teamwork that went into our participation at IMC 2022”, muses David “but in the end, this was one mountain that we climbed, and the view was worth it”.

Deepa Shailendra is a freelance writer for interior design publications; an irreverent blogger, consultant editor and author of two coffee table books. A social entrepreneur who believes that we are the harbingers of the transformation and can bring the change to better our world.


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