As the Internet of Things (IoT) slowly become the new norm of our digital ecosystem, Indian standardisation bodies have made enormous efforts towards cementing IoT standards. With reference to these efforts, Baishakhi Dutta of Electronicsforu.com Network, spoke to Sushil Kumar, Deputy Director General (IoT), Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC), who said IoT designers can refer to TEC’s technical resources for creating a standardised IoT ecosystem, including the much-anticipated embedded SIM applications.
Q. Can you provide a general overview on the growing IoT landscape of the country – what successes have been achieved and what are yet to come?
M2M communication and IoT is one of the most disrupted technologies till date. It comprises of a number of technologies like AI, Big Data, Machine Learning, 5G, cloud computing, edge computing, etc.
Initially, it was projected that around 24 billion devices will be connected globally by 2020. Now the estimated number has gone up to 50 billion devices by 2020.
In India, we released many technical reports in 2015 and as per our estimation, there will be around 2.6 billion connected devices by 2020 in the country. However, the National Digital Communication Policy, recently released by the Department of Telecom, has projected 5 billion devices to be connected by 2022. Whatever the targeted number be, its achievement will depend upon the development of the ecosystem.
As cities are becoming smarter, the use of IoT technology will increase as well. Nothing can be made smart without IoT. The technology can be used in a big way in the development of smart cities and other projects like power, smart metering, smart grid, connected vehicles (whose standard has been released by the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways).
As more such types of projects come alive, the number of connected devices in India will increase naturally. Let us hope that we achieve this target of around 2 billion or 2.6 billion by 2020.
Q. How is TEC working to solve the primary challenges in the IoT ecosystem today?
TEC is a standardisation and advisory body to the Department of Telecom. We are working on resolving various challenges, which Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundarajan has also mentioned in many occasions.
We released a 13-digit numbering scheme for communication of M2M devices, where the gateways will be directly connected to the ESDM or PLMN network (which will work on SIM-based devices). This 13-digit numbering scheme for M2M devices will coexist with the 10-digit numbering system (for voice calling).
For example: With this technology, a phone will also work as a device for the gateway. This means a phone or laptop, or tablet may communicate with your wearable health devices, and then using WAN through cellular or broadband, it directly transmits data to the cloud.
This type of system can be used in smaller cities and rural areas for taking vital health parameters – like BP, sugar, heart rate, pulse rate – which can be transmitted to the cloud.
Thus, in this way, this technology will help people to keep their BP or sugar level in check and stay fit. These health problems are mostly related to lifestyle and cannot be cured in a single day.
We are also facing shortage of beds in hospitals. This issue can also be solved to a large extent if post-surgery patients could be discharged earlier and the data related to his health can be transmitted to the hospital directly from home.
In developed countries like Korea, there are smart homes with smart beds which are fitted with sensors. Suppose if a patient doesn’t take turn for 5 minutes or 10 minutes, then according to the set program, an alert will be sent to the connected hospital.
Also, the hospital will be alerted in case a patient falls from the bed when nobody is around at home. Such type of devices can also be used in India.
But interoperability across devices, networks, and applications is required. If there is no interoperability, then large-scale production will not be possible and consequently, prices will never come down. Communication technology is critical for improving interoperability.
Suppose you have a smart ambulance, and from there the vital health parameters of the patients are being transmitted to the hospital. But what if the signal goes off? To avoid such situation, an embedded sim can be used for vehicle tracking devices. Because, it can sustain the vibrations and temperature with a longer range which a normal SIM cannot do.
Q. TEC has released many technical documents. What was the motive behind it?
In mid-2014, when DoT was preparing a roadmap for M2M communication, the work to finalise the standards and how to develop the ecosystem was assigned to TEC. For this, we created a multi-stakeholder working group, which have members from IT companies, telecom service providers, other communication technology providers, platform providers that are standard developing organisations and international bodies (like SSEEI, ETSI). Initially, we formed five working groups – one each for power, automotive, safety & surveillance and health and a common group – for the horizontal service layer, which we call as platform structure.
Then after studying for about one and a half year and going through various levels of discussions and meetings, we compiled the technical reports. The documents described the use cases, challenges, ways to make technology smarter, the requirement of the ecosystem, and the way forward. In total, 13 technical reports have been released till date; 12 are from my side.
From these technical reports, the requirement of 13-digit numbering scheme came into light after studying the entire ecosystem and the global scenario. We created a numbering resource document some years back, but we had to put it on hold after some people raised question as to why the numbering should be increased.
In 2016, we ultimately finalised it. It is now being implemented, which will co-exist with the existing 10-digit numbering scheme.
Q. How can IoT solution providers benefit from the embedded SIM applications mentioned in these documents in creating solutions?
For the embedded SIM, the GSMA guideline document was released in 2015 and is being implemented. The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and, BIS have included it in their standard for the vehicle tracking device. These guidelines have been made essential for all the passenger-commercial vehicles like cabs.
If you are using the normal sim in the vehicle then its life will not be more than 3-4 years. However, the embedded sim which is in the form of IC cannot be taken out or thrown away, and it will last for the entire life of the vehicle (around 10-12 years). It will not get damaged and can have an automatic subscription of more than one operator. The embedded sim is quite useful for remote asset monitoring for smart ambulance, spectrum for low power wireless technology like LoRa and Sigfox which work in 865–867 MHz and horizontal service layer.
By using IoT in various verticals, we can improve the quality of life of the common citizen. And Big Data analytics will play a big role in making this innovation possible. Using it, we can create intelligence and that intelligence can be used for many operational and planning activities. We are working with the ITU-T study group 2020 on IoT and its application in smart cities.
Q. There were reports last month that said TEC has been asked to finalise the standards for M2M technologies in two months – how far has the work progressed and what steps are left to be completed?
Whatever we have done till now, that is also a part of this standardisation.
Q. Do you think that there is any clarity on which type of communication technology should be used in which application?
LoRa is a technology which works in T-licence frequency band and can be transmitted to very long distances, like in rural areas it can transmit up to 10-12km. In cities, it can transmit up to 2.5km. In cellular domain using sim technology, we are using many meters with the help of it. Take the example of the basement of an apartment. If the cellular signal doesn’t go there, then we can use indoor BTS. LoRa signal can also go, for which BTS needs to be stopped. But that will add to the cost. There are other technologies like RF Mesh and PLC that take the metering to the transformer level, aggregate the data (according to the number of flats in society) and transmit it afterward on optical fibers or through mobile sim (3G/4G).
In cellular technology, we now have NB-IoT and LTE-MTC which will be used for the IoT domain and will compete with LoRa and Sigfox. The usage will depend upon the use cases.
In the wearable health devices, we are working on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Smartphone, which has in-built BLE, can work as an aggregator and send the data. BLE is also present in laptops nowadays.
Q. Talking about IoT, security plays a huge role. Do you think this is well developed in India?
It’s a very big subject. We are working on the security by Design Principles and Trust Centre. Hardware and software security features are required. MTC (Mandatory Testing & Certification of Telecom Equipment) scheme has already given a notification on this and essential requirements are being prepared. It is expected to be launched from the 1st of April. In this purview, the communicating devices will come under security testing.
Q. Regarding the IoT experience center, what is the motive behind coming up with this?
IoT experience center includes members from all stakeholders who have developed technology and have done some innovations. The motive behind it was to understand (IoT) and present their use cases.
Q. Are you still receiving proposals? Is there any particular deadline?
Yes, we are still receiving proposals. But there is no such deadline. People can come and discuss.
Q. Where do you think IoT is helping the ESDM sector to grow relating to their necessity and demands?
The entire credit goes to the semiconductor companies for their innovations. They have developed sensors, chips and are miniaturising them.
Q. Do you think that lack of hardware infrastructure will affect the IoT ecosystem in India?
No, I don’t think so. There are several R&D centers for it here.
Q. From a sales perspective, what will be your message to CXOs or entrepreneurs to become successful?
In the IoT domain, it is required that whatever product is developed should have all the necessary features. No doubt that it will be a smart device, but it should be a secure device because the brand value will count a lot. Secure devices are to be deployed before the implementation of MTCTE policy. A lot can be done in this domain.
Q. Is TEC particularly helping in testing and certification of telecom products? Can you provide some idea on that?
Yes. The testing is done in the labs for EMC (Electromagnetic Conductivity) safety, technical protocols, SAR (Specific Absorption Rate), IPv6 and many other features.