Discovering Tomorrow’s Smart Cities

By Amelie Bui, Junior Manager – Academic Relations & Projects, September 2016

In the first week of September 2016, swissnex India received ten delegates from different Universities of Applied Sciences in Switzerland. The aim of their visit was to understand the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ in India, especially in Bangalore and Chennai.

The Swiss delegates were from different backgrounds, representing their fields of expertise which included mobility planning, renewable energy and environment technology, internet of things (IoT), and architecture.

The first two questions that the objective of the visit provoked were: What is a ‘Smart City’? and How do we define ‘smart’?

nThese two questions were raised at the workshop on ‘Smart Cities and Biomimicry’ at swissnex India where the delegates discovered how architecture can learn and be inspired by nature. The case of a shopping center and an office block in Zimbabwe where the temperature regulation was based on the architecture of mounds of African termites which lead to green architecture and ecologically sensitive adaptation, was one example presented at the workshop.

The workshop revealed that there was no unanimous or universally accepted definition for Smart Cities yet. Sustainability, waste, water, energy management, societal issues, education, transportation, technologies, security, etc., are some of the components that create the complex equation of a smart city.

The programme organized for our delegates, in collaboration with the Sofies SA, a sustainability consulting and project management firm, struck a balance between presentations and visits to give insights into the actual challenges, making it easier to adopt different perspectives.

The delegates visited Cisco Smart City and universities such as MS Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences, Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and IIT Madras in Chennai. Indian universities have similarly structured programs/applied research work such as the ones in Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences.

Several institutions, stakeholders and opinion leaders presented the current situation in India, its context, and their own projects on topics such as urbanism, and the potential effects of a water crisis. These are some of the issues that will be considered in the broader objective of developing a smarter city.

As waste management is an important aspect of developing a smart city, we organized visits to three waste management centers. And finally, to showcase a concrete example of ‘green city’, our delegates visited the Mahindra World City in Chennai which pioneered the concept of integrated cities designed to create a balance between livelihood, living and life with providing green energy by transforming food waste into bio-methane to operate tractors, buses and generators & organic manure for civilization.


The weeklong tour gave perfect insights into the situation in India and helped in increasing knowledge on the opportunities and challenges in the concept of the Smart Cities.

The tour ended on Wednesday night with a networking session at swissnex India, where the delegates presented their ongoing in Switzerland to an Indian audience.

Through the different visits, the delegates extended their network and expressed their interest in having deeper collaborations in the future. The coming months will show how this will evolve. Every journey or adventure brings new learning. The time spent in India could help emphasize certain learning points. First of all, a reminder that ‘smart’ has many meanings and interpretations. India has a huge potential for developing smart cities, but a long way to go, and emerging technologies will play an important role in creating a Smart City.

Smart Cities


The program was well balanced and gave the opportunity to have different perspectives on the topic of smart cities, to meet interesting stakeholders and opinion leaders, and some academics. The tour offered a lot of interesting stimulations and insights with a good feeling of the dimension of the problems, challenges and opportunities. swissnex India is very well connected to the Indian reality and is to be considered a fundamental entry point. In Switzerland I never had the perception that swissnex could play such an important role in the Indian context.
Dr. Roman Rudel
Head of Institute for Applied Sustainability to the Built Environment (ISAAC) / University of Applied Sciences & Arts Southern Switzerland (SUPSI)