Private Sector Companies Have Taken First Move to Apply IoT Technology

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PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India, one of the top professional services firms, is enabling the companies to deploy IoT in their infrastructure through PWC technology Solution wing. The firm is providing consulting services, IT strategy roadmap formulation, program management services and smart factory solution to various sectors.

In an interaction with EFY bureau, Ankur Basu, Director – Technology Consulting (IoT), PwC India, discusses about the role of government in expanding the IoT market, rate of successful IoT deployments in India, major segments likely to drive IoT demand in future, among others.

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?

Ankur Basu, Director – Technology Consulting (IoT), PwC India

IoT is definitely not a buzzword or a hype. This fact is reinforced by the companies who entered early in their ‘Connected Enterprise’ journey and have already started reaping the benefits. PwC’s global survey conducted in 2016 mentioned that IoT services will work in collaboration with cloud computing, advanced analytics and other technologies to transform businesses. Market dynamics are changing at fast pace in developed as well as emerging economy. Product companies are introducing new range of industrial products with digital features that’s driving incremental revenue. Likewise, there’s a strong commitment from process industry to invest significant percentage of revenue on digital technology.

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

The Government of India through the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is taking various steps to boost IoT industry in the country. The initiatives proposed are Smart Cities and Digital India Program, which are aimed at setting up digital infrastructure across the country. The creation of smart cities will offer numerous avenues for telecom operators, sensor manufacturers, cloud hosting companies, IT services firms and data analytics companies. The Startup India initiative has also helped innovative companies to set up production facilities in the country that will surely make hardware and software cost-competitive.

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

The rate of deployment is still not satisfactory. While projections by analysts paint a rosy picture, the ground reality is quite contrasting. Large scale implementation of sensors, edge gateway and artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning (ML), barring few government projects, is still far and few. The companies in private sector, largely dominated by manufacturing and logistics, have taken the first move to apply IoT technology in their operations. The other sectors, namely retail, oil and gas and mining, are having initial discussion to lay down their digital blueprint, where IoT will play a major role.

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

Companies who have moved ahead with their enterprise digitisation journey in last two years will start reaping benefits in coming two-three years. On the other hand, large companies will embark on Industry 4.0 journey that will push the IoT economy. Product vendors, system integrators, project management and consulting companies will play a significant role in strengthening the movement.

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

Manufacturing and healthcare will be the two dominating industry segments. These include oil and gas, electronics, steel and allied, pharma and hospitals. The Smart Cities initiative will push home automation companies, electricity distribution companies, lighting and associated companies to augment their product offering.

Apart from these, automotive, logistics and distribution companies will also drive the demand.

Lastly, major telecom companies will play a big role since the quality of cellular connectivity will decide the fate of investments.

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

Acquiring customers is the bigger challenge compared to talent acquisition.

One option towards gaining customers confidence is by demonstrating the value of IoT (includes cloud, AI/ML as blended offering) by doing quick pilots for their critical business use case. Innovative engagement models linked to ‘outcome’, ‘low capex, ‘subscription-based services,’ etc., also boost customer acquisition.

The talent part can be better handled by setting up inhouse IoT lab, training to employees who want to pursue IoT as career option and exposing them to real life industrial scenarios.

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

Firstly, we’ve created a complete ecosystem for digital transformation that comprises of hardware vendors, system integrators, cloud providers and platform vendors. Hence, our unique differentiator is our ‘single window’ offering for the customer.

Secondly, all our solutions are first tested in our inhouse lab which is bound to increase the success rate of any implementation.

Thirdly, we also provide multiple revenue models, some of which eases the initial investment burden for the customer.

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

One of the strategies being adopted by us is to do quick ‘pilot project’ for the customer and demonstrate the value. The pilots are maximum of two-three months duration.

The second approach is to invite potential customers to our inhouse labs and showcase relevant use cases in operation.

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?

More often it is the business decision maker who is our first point of contact. The technology decision maker is also a key stakeholder in all our pursuits.

The primary interest of the business decision maker is to reduce the operational cost by increasing efficiency, productivity and transparency. Our solution offering essentially covers most of the expectation of a business user.

Technology decision maker’s key interest is to adopt emerging technologies and also ensure that the legacy platform is reused to maximum extent. The technology decision maker’s additional interest is to economise the team’s productivity and train them on new technologies so as to become self-sufficient in long run. Our propositions are aligned accordingly.

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?

One of the large-scale implementations of IoT in India is ‘container tracking’ solution, currently operational in Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. The project has combination of technologies like RFID, camera/OCR, cloud, advanced analytics and decentralised control. The consumers include Ministry of Shipping, port authorities, shipping lines, container corporations, fleet owners, etc. Given the large cross-section of beneficiaries, the project is a true example of large-scale Industry 4.0 implementation that’s running successfully for past two years.

The project involves tagging the containers with RFID tags at the ‘port of origin’ which is then tracked through its journey to the port of delivery and return. RFID reader fitted at toll plazas, CFCs, ICDs, port gates, railway stations, etc., reads the tag and pushes the information to the cloud. The AI/ML engine processes the data on near real-time and provides insights to the beneficiaries.

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