IoT Usage is Bound to Increase Over the Next 2-3 Years

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Ecolibrium Energy helps enterprises embrace the digital era with easily implementable IoT and AI-based solutions for substantial energy savings and enhanced asset productivity.

Chintan Soni, Founder and CEO, Ecolibrium Energy, talks to EFY bureau about the IoT market, segments driving demand of IoT, Ecolibrium’s IoT solutions and its unique proposition vis-à-vis competitors and much more.

Excerpts:

Q. Many opine that IoT is just a buzzword that industry Gurus have coined to create hype? Do you agree with that line of thought? Or do you feel that IoT is opening an entirely new market?

Chintan Soni, Founder and CEO, Ecolibrium Energy

Internet of Things (IoT) is much larger than a market – it is a space, a movement in itself. The IoT movement has swept across every sector and industry in every stage of development and scale. It is, today, an integral part of production, transport and distribution and consumption. So, it’s safe to say that every bit of the hype is completely justified. Besides, some of the world’s biggest players have begun their IoT journeys – both in terms of implementation and by investing in IoT technologies. Their belief and concentrated efforts to get a stronghold in the IoT space is proof enough. IoT will soon switch from being a mere ‘competitive advantage’ to a mandate, a bare minimum to stay competitive with others in the market.

Q. Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?

Currently, India uses 60 million IoT devices and this is set to increase to 1.9 billion units by 2020, according to a study by Deloitte. Another NASSCOM report states that by 2020, India will account for five per cent of the global IoT market, amounting to US$ 15 billion. This growth seems to be very much in sync with, or even exceeding world standards of IoT adoption. India’s adoption of IoT has been across sectors – with manufacturing, automotive, transportation and utilities generating huge demand. What is great to see is that IoT and Industry 4.0 in India have not been a phenomenon restricted to the urban sections of the country alone, it has also pervaded into rural sectors, such as agriculture. The consumers are another reason for this fast and seamless growth. Over the past few years, IoT has become a part of business strategies of large organisations, who often have separate teams that look for IoT opportunities to enhance operations.

Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next two-three years?

Over the next two-three years, IoT usage is bound to increase, because of two reasons. One, of course, is owing to the benefits of IoT itself, which is increasingly being acknowledged. Another major reason would be the applications built and layered over IoT. The efficiency these applications bring to users in terms of cost, time and effort, will be another big factor and reason in the increased usage of IoT in the next couple of years.

Q. Which industry segments do you believe will be driving a larger chunk of demand? Why?

In the manufacturing space, all sectors have started adopting and scaling up their IoT usage. I see a great deal of demand coming in from competitive sectors such as auto ancillary and engineering. But another segment that is now the dark horse and will also emerge as a major demand generator is the commercial buildings segment. Malls, technology parks, educational institutions and office buildings – they are all in the race to provide healthier and safer environments for their users or occupants. And most of these initiatives are IoT-centric. Facility management companies have all embarked on their IoT journey and there is soon going to be a boom in their IoT usage.

Q. What’s your bigger challenge – acquiring customers or acquiring talent? What’s your strategy in resolving the same?

A: I believe there is no one correct answer to this. When we started up, or when anybody starts up, the main focus is to add customers to the kitty – the main goal is not profitability. At this stage, it is easier to get customers than to get the right talent. This is owing to the fact that in India, it is still quite difficult to attract talent to companies that are not yet ‘established’ or big. But with time, Ecolibrium has grown in strength, geography and value. Now it is not too hard to find the right talent. We have many inbound applications and enquiries too. As far as customer acquisition is concerned, customer acquisition cost (CAC) and its effect on profitability is a factor we constantly take tab of, and therefore this has become a constant area of concern and review for us.

Q. What’s your strategy to create a differentiation for your solutions vis-a-vis your competitors?

Our SmartSense platform is a full-stack IoT solution that seeks to make industries and buildings smarter. This means that SmartSense can be used by an organisation through its Industry 4.0 journey – from energy data acquisition to analysis and condition monitoring to predictive maintenance. What this also means is that, for SmartSense, there exists no competitor. For instance, if an organisation uses solution A for energy monitoring, the SmartSense analytics module can be layered on this. If an organisation uses solution B for condition monitoring, SmartSense can be used for predictive maintenance. This creates a situation where other solution providers are made partners, not competition. And this means that any organisation, whether for end-to-end solutions or for a particular purpose, can contact and engage with team SmartSense, with no worry of integration issues with other solutions. We believe that this has been our biggest differentiator and has widened and multiplied the size of our addressable market.

Q. Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions amongst customers or channel partners?

At Ecolibrium, we follow a collaborative approach, where a customer is not seen as an external party. SmartSense Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation experts sit with a team from the client’s organisation to discuss the organisation’s Industry 4.0 vision and goals. Our team helps lay out the Industry 4.0 roadmap for the organisation and also elucidates the problems SmartSense can solve along this roadmap. This helps clients not only with clarity and alignment, but also gives them the assurance, confidence and economy of using one solution for all their problems, rather than going to multiple solution providers for each issue.

Q. Who is the key decision maker for you – the technology decision maker or the business decision maker? With whom do you start the conversation – and how do you balance the interests of both types of decision makers?

We engage with both business decision makers like chief manufacturing officer, maintenance/plant/operations heads, head of manufacturing excellence wings, and with tech decision makers like digitisation head, CIO, IT head, data analytics head. While the context varies in each case, since the organisations we usually engage with are fairly large enterprises, our key decision maker is generally from the business side. These are the people we usually start the conversation with at most times. However, no deal can come through without the biggest influencer/catalyst – the tech decision maker. They are the ones who understand and use the technology and so they play a pivotal role in the process too.

Q. How would you describe your solutions to a non-technical decision maker at the clients’ end?

SmartSense enables enterprises to prevent unscheduled downtime, optimise maintenance and energy costs. It helps companies move from a traditional scheduled maintenance practice where maintenance activities happen according to a schedule (notwithstanding machine condition) to a predictive maintenance model (where maintenance activity is carried out only if the machine requires it – by using current machine performance to predict how it will perform in future).

Predictive Maintenance is the biggest use case in the creation of Enterprise 4.0. It helps avoid unplanned downtime of assets and associated production loss, improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and equipment life, and avoid line losses across the enterprise.

With SmartSense, customers can optimise key operational factors:

  • 70 per cent lesser probability of unplanned downtime
  • 30 per cent reduction in maintenance costs
  • 10 per cent reduction in energy costs

Q. What’s unique about your solution or your firm for them to opt for it–vis-a-vis competitors?

SmartSense stands out from competition in a couple of ways:

  • SmartSense ‘Power Genome’ ensures early detection of machine degradation, using the least possible sensors – ensuring maximum data using minimum sensors, and making it more cost effective
  • SmartSense uses reliable algorithms that are built and enhanced using 4.1 TB data over seven years
  • The solution uses AI and ML models use Data + Domain, making it brand agnostic
  • SmartSense covers a wide set of assets such as motors, transformers, chillers, pumps, compressors, escalators and elevators.
  • Has a strong acquisition layer which is retrofit with 200 types of sensors, 12 industry protocols, and enables a third-party integration with SAP, BMS and other IoT platforms
  • Proven solution which currently has over 4000 equipment being analysed using Power Genome
  • SaaS implementation in an Opex model, with minimal upfront investment

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