IoT Needs Communication Technologies Beyond Normal 3G/4G

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Technosphere Labs is a leading organisation providing end-to-end product engineering services and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity solutions. The company helps its clients to build smart digital products and vertical IoT solutions with multiple sensors and embedded technologies to connect to the cloud.

In an interaction with EFY bureau, Shaun Mitra, Chief Business Officer, Technosphere Labs, speaks about the role of government in promoting IoT deployment in India, future of IoT, major segments likely to drive IoT demand in future, Technosphere’s unique proposition vis-à-vis competitors and many more.

Q. Many opine that IoT is just a buzzword that industries Gurus have coined to create hype? Do you agree with that line of thought?

Shaun Mitra, Chief Business Officer, Technosphere Labs

IoT is no longer a buzzword. There are several applications across industries and domains where IoT is showing great benefits in terms of cost saving, better utilisation and increasing efficiency. There is no doubt that IoT is born out of the earlier techniques like machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. However, IoT is now beyond M2M and is touching upon real-life use cases.

Q. In your opinion, is the Government of India (GoI) playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If yes, how?

Yes, in my opinion, the Indian government indeed believes in the vast potential and opportunity presented by the IoT. The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeiTY) has come out with a draft IoT policy document, which focuses on creating an IoT industry in India worth US$ 15 billion by 2020, capacity development (human and technology) for IoT specific skill sets,  R&D for all the supportive technologies, to develop IoT products specific to Indian needs across verticals.

The Indian Government’s plan of developing 100 smart cities in the country, with a budget allocation of Rs. 7,060 crore, has encouraged a widespread expansion of IoT in the country.

IoT needs communication technologies beyond normal 3G/4G. Government has encouraged use of LPWAN and set up frequency band for the same.

Industry 4.0 is the new automation revolution happening in the manufacturing and industrial sectors in India. The Make in India initiative has encouraged a widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 best practices.

Q. What are your expectations from the GoI in terms of the initiatives they should take to make India an IoT-super power?

Incentivise IoT Product Development: GoI needs to provide major incentives and grants to motivate development of innovative IoT solutions.

Help set up IoT backbone in Rural India: Rural India would benefit from several IoT use cases for water utilisation, smart farming, energy, etc. If a stable IoT backbone is available, several use cases can be deployed for the national benefit.

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

No. The main hurdle is that implementation of every IoT use case is very unique and hence expensive and time-consuming. There is a need for vendors who can provide pre-developed vertical solutions or frameworks for each industry segment.

In India, cost is a critical issue. Therefore, apt models need to be offered where the buyer and seller both accept the value proposition.

Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next 2-3 years?

Some of the key sectors that exhibit immense potential for the IoT industry to grow are manufacturing, smart city, healthcare and insurance.

According to reports, the Indian IoT market is forecast to secure 20 per cent of the global IoT business ecosystem to reach nearly US$ 15 billion in next three years.

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

Energy and utilities, industrial manufacturing, transport and logistics, smart city and agriculture will be the verticals driving major demand. In subsequent time, industrial IoT may go beyond the consumer IoT sector.

India has a vibrant ecosystem that simplifies the process of IoT implementation.  Policies and standards are also being developed, with benchmarks for IoT connectivity, device protocols, IoT security, large scale production and optimised costs.

Q. What’s your bigger challenge – acquiring customers or acquiring talent?

Acquiring clients who have long-term IoT commitments and plans. This will enable us to scale and grow in a planned manner. Currently, clients are willing to look at pilot deployments, but they are not able to see the long-term vision.

Q. What fraction of your overall business is the IoT-related business?

The IoT-related business in Technosphere has been over 70 per cent in the past three years. This will increase to 80-90 per cent in the coming two-three years.

Q. How do you see your IoT-related business growing in the next 2-3 years both in terms of revenue and as a fraction of your overall revenues?

Opportunities exist to scale our revenues in the next few years. We are working to develop some IoT solutions for smart city and industrial IoT. Gradually, we will move more towards solutions addressing specific use cases than turnkey development work.

We are developing some of these solutions for our US customers and large Indian industrial companies.

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

Our strategy is to:

  • Provide quick-to-deploy IoT pilots using our modular WhizBlox.
  • Key partnerships with industry leaders such as Microchip, Semtech.
  • Stay focused on industrial and smart city verticals with defined use cases where we can deploy and scale solutions easily.

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

Yes, in some cases, we are teaming up with the customers and making investments to own the intellectual property for these solutions. Also, we would do joint marketing of these solutions and leverage their presence in the defined industry.

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?

Usually, it is the business operations group that we would initiate the discussion with as most of our projects are related to operational technology and operational efficiencies. Subsequently, we would work with the IT group to make sure we follow the security and other company standards.

Q. Have you come across any successful deployment of IoT in India that’s worthy of being noticed by other decision makers? If yes, can you share details of the same?

Yes. The ‘Industrial Worker Safety Wearable’ is something we have developed. It can be used for real time asset/worker location tracking and for monitoring worker health safety. We have used LoRa and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless technologies for this solution.

It is suitable for various industries such as chemical, mining and construction. The industrial wearable can be expanded/customised by additional sensors or electronic components or reduced in complexity according to the specific requirement of the end user.

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

Technosphere’s core focus is to bring innovative cutting-edge products and solutions using sensor and IoT technology. To a non-technical decision maker, we highlight the benefits of using our products.

Some of the benefits of our solutions are:

  • Home automation solutions such as smart HVAC control for reduced energy consumption and improved energy conservation.
  • Industrial IoT solutions such as industrial asset and people tracking solutions for effective asset and time utilisation, and legacy machine productivity monitoring to identify bottlenecks in production line (eliminating the need to invest in new assets).
  • Smart agriculture-based water and soil monitoring solutions, to enable water conservation and enhance soil quality.
  • Enhanced functionalities in Smart Digital Helmet to control various digital functions through voice commands and introduce ease of navigation.
  • Smart city applications such as environmental monitoring, smart street lighting remote management system for energy conservation and reduction of operational costs.

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

Technosphere’s WhizBlox, is a smart multi sensor, multi protocol IoT Hub, seamlessly integrates 100 types of sensors, for quick deployment of vertical IoT solutions. WhizBlox IoT Hub helps in faster go to market with live IoT pilot projects in just 4-6 weeks. The benefits include:

  • Mitigates maintenance and operational expenses and effectively addresses the challenges of LPWAN.
  • Helps to sense, process, connect to the cloud and view cloud data analytics on mobile/web applications, over a broad set of protocols and wireless communication systems.
  • It is compatible with the various upcoming new LPWAN technologies and multiple protocols such as LoRa, SigFox, Sub-Ghz mesh network.
  • Optimises operations with plug-n-play operations and faster go to market, thus providing quick end-to-end deployment cycle, with reduced development time and costs.
  • It is power efficient and has a low power microcontroller, and aids battery-based applications. It acts as an intelligent platform to monitor energy consumption and promote energy conservation across various applications using renewable sources such as solar energy for various outdoor applications such as solar LED street lighting control.

The core strength of Technosphere is the successful delivery of various industrial and enterprise IoT projects using various sensors and wireless technologies (Bluetooth, BLE, Wi-Fi, 6LoWPAN, LoRa, ZigBee and protocols such as CAN bus, Modbus, BACnet, LonWorks, etc).

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