By Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram
Far from the days of racing to catch-up with technologies, an era has now dawned where Indian start-ups are forerunners in trendy fields like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data.
Start-up companies are not just important but essential to the growth of a nascent technology. These play a very unique role in the ecosystem, bringing in fresh, new ideas and radical perspectives. Listed in this feature are ten interesting Indian start-ups in the IoT and Big Data space.
Enterprise solution provider SenzIT is working with IBM to transform the courtroom, a place that has defied the pace of modernisation in most countries. By digitally recording the whole sequence of events, right from the start of a case to the announcement of the verdict, and correlating those events with news and relevant videos gathered from here and there, SenzIT would try to ensure a fair and transparent trial. The solution will involve IoT devices, analysis of large amounts of data on a cloud platform, facial recognition and other advanced technologies.
By harnessing the power of IoT and Big Data, Algo Engines provides operational intelligence to wind turbines, met masts and solar plants. In simple terms, it collates large amounts of data collected by sensors embedded in such power-generating systems and converts them into actionable insights. By immediately remedying faults or changing settings based on environmental changes, the efficiency and effectiveness of these devices can be maximised. However, one must not underestimate the amount of data that needs to be analysed. Considering that hundreds of wind turbines would be flashing updates three times per second to the control centre, it is nothing short of very big data.
Pune based start-up Altizon Systems is a serious player in the industrial Internet space. Their scalable Datonis platform includes sensor data appliances and software development tools, which manufacturers can use to build connected industrial equipment that constantly feed operational data to a cloud based platform for aggregation and analysis. A few original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are already using the solution to improve operational efficiency, remote monitoring and predictive maintenance.
Although registered in the USA, Azoi is an Indian company. Founded several years back by two friends, the Gujarat based start-up continued to fiddle with futuristic technologies like gesture-recognition till they hit bull’s eye with their latest product, Wello.
Wello is a health tracker disguised as a mobile phone case. Whenever you hold the case, its sensors measure vital parameters and pass on the figures to a smartphone app, which not only monitors your health status but also identifies patterns that can help improve your lifestyle.
How you can use IoT
Commercial products are the tangible face of technology, the aspect that common people can easily understand, and of course use. And, in that dimension, IoT is doing really well. From trendy wearables to smart energy savers, there is a vast variety of exciting IoT products available in the market these days, making it a popular shopping category this holiday season.
In previous issues of Electronics for You, we have frequently covered trendsetters in this space, including Nest Labs’ smart (now self-learning) thermostat and smoke alarm, Belkin’s WeMo range of home-automation products, smart lights such as Phillips Hue and LifX, smart watches like Pebble, and fitness aids like Fitbit, FuelBand, Jawbone Up, and so on. Let us now take a quick look at more such exciting IoT products.
Neurio is a smart device that can infer a lot of things from your power-consumption pattern. When you install the Wi-Fi-enabled Neurio sensor in your power meter panel, its current transformers keep measuring the flow of electricity into your home. This usage information is transmitted to Neurio cloud, wherein your home’s power data is stored and constantly analysed. By monitoring the variations in energy consumption, Neurio can make useful inferences like when your dryer has finished its job or if you forgot to turn-off the air-conditioner, and notify you through SMS. The team is working to enable more customisation through if-this-then-that (IFTTT) programmability.
The next best thing to being with the elders of your family is at least knowing constantly that they are well and assuring them of immediate help in emergencies. Packaged as an easy-to-setup-and-use smart watch, Lively literally stays with the users, making sure they are fine. It reminds them to take their medicines, watches if they are as active as always, and alerts concerned people, when required. It has a one-touch help button, which sets Lively care team into action. The personnel stay on the line, constantly talking to the senior citizen till help arrives. For use at home and within 457m (1500-feet) of it, the device does not require a smartphone, as it connects using a Lively hub. For outside use, it is paired with a smartphone app.
IoT has something for everybody, from elders to kids. Toymail is a service that combines an attractive mailman toy with a Toymail app. When you are away at work and want to connect with your kid, you can record a voice message, which will be conveyed to your child by the mailman toy. The kid’s childish reply also comes back to you, recorded by the mailman and delivered on your smartphone, just in time to make your day. There is also a service that delivers personalised daily messages to your child, with interesting thoughts, stories, news or something else that would be of interest to that age group.
This IoT tool helps you connect with the weather, to save water and even your crops. This Wi-Fi-enabled touch-screen device sits in your garden or farm and connects with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which manages numerous satellites, radars and weather stations, to bring you the best weather forecasts. With a six-hourly weather update and extremely-accurate EvapoTraspiration calculations, it manages the watering needs of your garden or farm.
When the Internet is down or there is no forecast information available, RainMachine quickly switches to historical data to help in its watering plans. You can remotely manage RainMachine using a smartphone app. Garden management is emerging as a popular segment in IoT and there are other products like Fliwer and Iro in this space.
No equipment can ever be completely comfortable for a baby, but this is as comfortable as medical tests can get. Owlet is a snug-fitting shoe that constantly monitors your baby’s vital signs, including heart rate, oxygen level, temperature and sleep quality, and issues an alert when parameters are abnormal. It optionally transmits the information to a smartphone app for analysis by caretakers, doctors or parents.
Even though this IoT gadget is a work-in-progress, it is worth knowing about. When somebody speaks up for justice, they are always under danger of attack by anti-social elements. In remembrance of the murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova in Chechnya in 2009, a Swedish organisation called Civil Rights Defenders has launched the Natalia Project. The system basically involves an IoT wristband for use by activists. When the alarm is triggered or the wristband is forcibly removed, it sends out an alert along with location information to a network, which immediately sends other members, who are located nearby, to the aid of the attacked activist.
A socially-impactful solution developed by Purdue based Spensa Technologies, MyTraps helps farmers to remotely monitor and manage pest attacks on their farms. The solution uses wireless insect traps, an online cloud service and a dashboard. Several Wi-Fi-capable insect traps called Z-Traps are installed across the farm to lure and capture pest samples. These samples are analysed and the information is wirelessly conveyed using a base station to MyTraps service and the user’s smart device. The user gets to see a satellite image of the field with details on the infestation, counts of pests captured in each trap, analysis of pesticide use and suggestions. This helps farmers to take further action to save their crops.
These small, sleek, wireless, sensor-packed cubes provide a lot of actionable information to improve the quality of your life. Unlike fitness monitors that keep watching you—what you eat, how much you sleep and whether you exercise—CubeSensors watch the environment and provide information about air quality, lighting, temperature, humidity, noise, pressure, etc, along with suggestions to improve the conditions.
Not just Revolv, other smart-home hubs including Iris and Staples Connect are also becoming popular these days, because managing umpteen apps to control the devices in your home can be painful. Smart-home hubs like Revolv help you bring together most standard, branded home-automation products under the control of a single hub, and hence a single app. So, you can switch-off all your lights, turn-on your oven, program the washing machine, and do many more such things using a single, easy-to-use interface.
Quirky’s egg minder
Egg minder is a smart egg tray that manages your stock of eggs. By telling you when eggs are about to go bad, it helps avoid wastage; and by alerting you when your stock is running out, it makes sure you have eggs for tomorrow’s breakfast. What makes this gadget worth a look is its simplicity.
Egg minder is part of the Wink range of products developed jointly by product-development platform Quirky, GE and Electric Imp. Other products in the range include an intelligent personal dashboard, smart piggy bank, power strip and multipurpose sensor.
Internet of Things is no longer a distant dream but an exciting reality, as is evident from the many IoT products populating store shelves.
Another Indian healthcare wearable, Cooey, constantly monitors health parameters like temperature, heart rate, detailed weight break-up (fat, muscle, etc) and more. It unobtrusively monitors the health of kids, elders or anybody else, and alerts their guardians in times of need. Although there are many international products in this genre, what could make Cooey a better choice for Indians is the localised ambulatory care provided in emergencies.
CarIQ is India’s answer to smart cars. Work on CarIQ started in 2012, following the team’s realisation that people make very smart decisions till the point of purchase, comparing various car brands, models and technologies. However, after the purchase, they flounder in decisions ranging from service, maintenance and security to the actual driving of the car.
CarIQ platform, now available for pre-order, aims to connect a car to the cloud, enabling both the driver and the car itself to make smart decisions based on real-time data. Basically, data derived from the car’s microcomputer is passed on to cloud based servers, where it is analysed to generate insights about the condition of the car, credibility of the driver, fuel efficiency and so on. CarIQ platform will also assist businesses in delivering high-value personalised services, such as emergency response, to car owners.
Founded in 2013, Altiux offers product engineering services spanning segments like mobile, embedded and other technologies. On the IoT front, they offer a toolkit for speedy development and deployment of machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. The toolkit includes connectivity middleware components (BoxPWR), a management platform (Internet of Things and Everything Else) and an intelligence framework (IOTelligence).
A power-saving tool that is made for India. Basically, tagPlug is an easy-to-plug-in device that can replace any switch in your house. All you need to do is plug the device in, install and configure the app, and you are ready to remotely control that switch. You can turn your lights on or off when you enter or leave the house, program it to automatically switch-off once your phone is charged, set on/off times and more. You can pre-order the product from their website.
Transpose India, a start-up born out of CEPT University, Ahmadabad, aims to use data to sort out endless traffic problems in India. The team at Transpose India believes that proper collection and analysis of data, about not just the number of commuters but also the environmental behaviour at various times of the day, can help ease the traffic even in places where it is generally thought that widening of roads is the only solution.
Transpose has developed an assembly of components to develop economical, portable and intelligent sensors, which can be placed at problematic areas to capture videos and wirelessly transmit relevant data like number of vehicles in real-time to the main server. The data is then sorted into data packages, which can offer insights into current and future patterns and trends. This can be used to come up with practical solutions to traffic congestion.
Goa based Inventrom not only provides kits and courses to learn about robotics but is also focused on developing smart robots like Minion Bot and developing home-automation products to keep in line with the IoT boom. Their award-winning wireless programmer and wireless sensor node can be used by learners to experiment with their own connected products.
The worldwide enthusiasm about Internet of Things and Big Data is surely getting reflected in India, too. It would be nice to see this ecosystem grow, because Indian start-ups will be able to provide products with a desi touch and more customised, localised services at affordable rates to us.
The author is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai.