IoT in India: Experts Tell How You Can Grow and Benefit from IoT Solutions

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Curated by Vinay Prabhakar Minj

During a panel discussion on the topic “PROFIT FROM IOT – The Macro Dynamics” at the IEW/IOTSHOW.IN 2019, five industry experts share their views on how companies/startups can grow and make profit from IoT in India, as well as the challenges facing the industry.  

The 5G is on the horizon and people are really bullish about it, expecting that it will transform the internet of Things (IoT). It is anticipated that by 2020, 3.4 million things shall be added to the Internet every minute.

Frost & Sullivan report says globally IoT devices stand close to 15 billion in 2018 and it is expected to reach 60 billion by 2024.  For the India market, as per the NASSCOM study, it is expected to create business opportunities of about US$ 15 billion by 2020.

Currently, there is close to 500 million connected devices in India and the number is expected to grow to about two billion devices by 2020. That’s a long way to go. But we see a lot of implementation of IoT, specifically in smart cities project with connected lighting and video surveillance solutions. In fact, building automation, surveillance and security is one of the key drivers of global IoT market growth, contributing close to 40 percent share.

IoT cuts across different domains/industries. So, there is a need for greater collaboration between these IoT platforms and providers, in India or globally, opines Arushi Thakur – Associate Director, Measurement & Instrumentation Practice Frost & Sullivan.

“A lot of integration, partnership and consolidation is needed for the IoT to succeed in India as well as globally,” she says.

(L-R) PVG Menon; Shailendra Miglani; Narang N Kishor; C Subramaniam and Arushi Thakur.

IoT is more of a business revolution than a technology revolution

What is really IoT? The experts say it is all about heterogeneous and aware devices interacting to simplify people’s lives in some way or the other.

With time, IoT is becoming more mature. Because of IoT, new business use cases coming up, as well multiple business models are evolving around IoT. For example, product-as-a-service – it is a very big business model that is coming up where people are not interested in the asset, but the services that they get from it.

“IoT is more of a business revolution than a technology revolution. Things are actually getting mature so that businesses can provide mature offerings to customers. And that is how IoT is going to scale up,” says Shailendra Miglani, Global Black Belt Team-Technical Sales, Azure IoT Cloud.

Our Indian ecosystem is so laggard that unless there is a push from the Government, they don’t start moving. Fortunately, the Indian Government has been very pro-active in coming up with some major initiatives which will shake up the ecosystem from its slumber.

“IF WE WANT TO MAKE PROFIT FROM IT, THEN WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT WHERE WE ARE WORKING IN”

Startups should try and solve real-world problems to succeed

From a policy perspective, IoT is a subset of the larger electronics industry. The new national policy on electronics that has been approved by the Government of India provides the vision to grow and achieve a US$ 400 billion electronics system design manufacturing industry by 2025. And there are some specific goals set out, one of them is to curtail the huge amount of imports that are happening in the industry today. To do that, there is a huge thrust on R&D for emerging technologies, including IoT, 5G, AR & VR and drones. The government aims to achieve this target through a network of incubators.

A sovereign patent fund has also been announced to invest in startups which want to make patents in these new domains.

But PVG Menon – Founder and CEO of VANN Consulting – says, “Technology for the sake of technology is not going to work anymore. If you are running a startup in this space, then try and solve real-world problems.”

“If you are looking at starting a startup which is going to build a sensor at US$ 1 which is already available at US$ 10, then it’s probably not going to be too successful, because the Chinese already have a plan to make it available at 50 cents,” he explains.

As IoT is a mixture of different domains and different technologies, he says, one will need to concentrate on having the right design and system integration skills.

IoT is not about software anymore, it’s all about sensors, hardware design, power management, ruggedness, reliability and compliance issues.

“So, a combination of skillset is required within the team, organisation or consortia to come up with rugged, reliable IoT products, systems and solutions,” says Narang N Kishor, Founder, Narnix Technolabs and Chairman of Sectional Committee on Smart Infrastructure, BIS.

Profit from IoT is Highly Dependent on the Macro Dynamics in the Nation

IoT is not a technology, it’s a paradigm shift in the way we think and talk. If we want to make profit from it, then we need to understand the context where we are working in (purpose of working) – says Narang N Kishor.

According to him – Profit from IoT for different nations, different ecosystems and different stakeholders are highly dependent on the macro dynamics in their respective environments. What is valid for you may not be valid for us. We need to look at our own ground reality much closer to our home, i.e. the Indian macro dynamics.

“SECURITY IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WHEN IT COMES TO IOT, BUT IT IS QUITE UNDERESTIMATED, AND PEOPLE ARE NOT ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH IT”

A comprehensive environment scan of the macro dynamics (within one’s techno-socio-economic environment) can help us understand their impact on any IoT organisation’s business revenues and provide actionable insights to address the challenges and develop a long-term strategy and roadmap to evolve and mature into sustainable IoT organisation.

Arushi Thakur notes, “Sooner or later, there is going to be a little bit of commoditisation in the IoT platform. But the real game changers are going to be the designers or the ones coming up with unique solutions specifically for India.”

Harmonised set of standards needed to open up the market

Security is the biggest challenge when it comes to IoT, but it is quite underestimated, and people are not able to understand the problems associated with it.

Unfortunately, there are also no well-defined standards that people can to follow while designing their products. And as a result, organisations look at the best practices available and tries to adopt them in their architecture.

“If there is a standard or a written document/guideline on how IoT architecture can take care of security, then it will be very helpful for the enterprise to make their architecture fool-proof,” notes Shailendra Miglani.

Narang N Kishor agrees that it is important to come up with a common, harmonised set of standards which everyone can leverage and have interoperability between end-to-end devices to open up the market.

Does it mean standardisation and platformisation can go hand-in-hand and come up with a much more comprehensive and holistic framework?

While he agrees with the above statement, C Subramaniam – Cloud Platform and Machine Learning Architect in Internet of Things, Intel – opines that the work on standardisation is much larger.

He explains, “In order to achieve end-to-end automation, one should understand not only security but also the communication between the Cloud and the EDGE or with a gateway in between and how the actuation happens.”

“We also have to look from the data angle. And while doing so, we need to have an end-to-end standardisation which has to be per domain/per application level. It will take time. But what’s happening right now is that the standards are evolving in the platform area and we need to go further so that we can trust it and at act on it digitally.”

An India-specific standard is not required. Rather it should be India-appropriate standard. And for that, the MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) in India need to be empowered – concludes PVG Menon.

What these experts are trying to say is that we will need to adopt the best technologies from the West but deploy it in the context for India.

A few more additional points from PVG Menon: 

1. The thrust of the National Policy for Electronics (NPE) is to give a fillip to Design & Make in India. The only way to achieve this is to solve India specific problems with solutions which are unique for India.
2. Huge enabling factor for innovation is to create a Market for India-designed products. There are enabling policy measures like the Preferential Market Access (PMA) policy, which forces govt to buy products which have pre-defined levels of Domestic Value Addition to be met. DVA norms are as defined by TRAI (ex-factory cost of goods minus cost of imports)
3. Both Innovation and Technology Disruption must enable disruptive outcomes. Just chasing technology for the sake of technology will not help. Example is how governance can be improved using IoT enabled street lights — the police can identify areas of the city/district which are prone to crimes, and ensure that street lights are working there — or install lights if none are there in that area. This will lead to more safety and reduced crime rates — which will result in safer cities for citizens

Longjam Dineshwori

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