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Is India Ready For The Internet Of Things?

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The world we live in is rapidly evolving into a world of ubiquitous connectivity. People, process, data and things are becoming increasingly connected. This connectivity is opening up a world of opportunity for everyone. The countries, cities and the people who will succeed in this continuously connected world will be people who are able to understand the opportunities that present itself and efficiently and effectively work towards unlocking the rewards of these opportunities.

The extraordinary explosion in the growth of connectivity is happening at a very rapid pace that is making it hard for people to fully comprehend the extent to which it will alter their lives. 90 per cent of world's information was created in the last two years. The world's population in 2010 was 6.8 billion and there were 12.5 billion connected devices. There has been an enormous increase in the amount of information being generated, and by 2020 we are estimated to have 50 billion connected devices.

The extent of connectivity is just the beginning. The beauty of internet of things (IoT) lies not in the connectivity of everything but the outcomes that can be achieved using this connectivity. Governments can provide better citizen services, can run efficient cities that better manage power consumption and more efficiently take care of waste management.

Businesses will be able to engage with customers in ways that previously couldn't have been imagined. Customers will not just be buyers of products and services but will also become co-creators of these products and services. People will be able to remotely manage their homes, monitor their families and communicate & collaborate with colleagues. Resource Pooling will become extremely easy allowing people to efficiently utilize energy resources, water resources etc. The virtual office of tomorrow will truly be a global collaborative workplace with people working from anywhere, anytime and the common bond holding them together will be a common goal.

In this context, one has to understand the opportunities that present itself for India, Indian businesses and its citizens.

India is fast emerging - both in terms of adopting these technologies, and designing the world of the future.There are three very large opportunity areas that we need to consider.

1.    Smart Cities: Indian cities will need to start making increasing investments in human and social capital. The investments will focus on building traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure. This will help fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources. This will be primarily driven by greater participation & engagement of citizens in the growth of cities.

2.    Smart Device Opportunities: There is a huge opportunity for India to become the design house for the world to build smarter devices. India has the knowledge capital and the critical mass in terms of user base to build devices that allow for remote monitoring, are self-correcting, self-updating and self learning.

3.    Applications & Platforms: There is a huge opportunity for India to become the hub for digital transformation of global organizations. Organizations across the world will soon start grappling with challenges such as the best ways to connect new application, systems and devices to complex and fragile networks. Organizations will soon look to transform themselves to take advantage of the possibilities of streamlining their business to better engage and furnish the needs of digital native customers. India with its huge talent pool in all new technology areas holds the promise to become the hub for digital transformation. Not only will India enable organizations to transform globally but also provides the ideal test bed to pilot new digital business models that can be taken global.

However, for India to benefit from the large scale implementation of IoT, there are a number of challenges:
  • Access to shared infrastructure
  • Lack of uniformly accepted standards for devices, processes and data management.
  • Control, monitoring and security of the data put on the internet
Besides these, issues of high bandwidth requirements, delivery over high scale at low costs and battery/ power support for the entire value chain remain. While the latter set of constraints is relatively easier to manage, it is today a mammoth task for India to achieve the former mechanism for standardization across infrastructure and measurement models and protect the information that is made easily accessible.

There are a number of early indicators that point to India being well placed to monetize on the opportunity presented by Internet of things. These indicators include:
  • Technology Talent Pool: India has established itself the hub of technology talent in the world. We are well positioned to tap the IoT opportunity and become the IoT knowledge capital of the world.
  • Startup Ecosystem: in the last few years, India saw a major surge in the number of start-ups in the space, contributing across market segments such as transportation, infrastructure design and planning, health and pharmaceutical, energy management etc.
  • Increased Use of technology in everyday life:India is home to one of the largest urban middle class and more people are joining the middle class. The middle class in India today has a lot of disposal income and has an appetite to adopt new technology innovations.
As a country, we certainly have the capabilities, and exploring answers to these questions will put us one step higher in the global scheme of innovation. Here are some recommendations from Zinnov for India to make a major leap into the world of Internet of Things.
  • Solve Connectivity issues: The Internet of Things primarily works or fails based on the effectiveness of the network. It is important for us to identify and fix issues related to bandwidth and latency to move forward in the scheme of adopting the Internet of Things. This is all the more applicable to rural India, where broadband connectivity is still a major issue.
  • Resolve Standardization models: The second most important feature to succeed in an IoT implementation is the have standard measures across infrastructure. Taking one step at a time, India should look at remodeling shared infrastructure to create more measureable and calibrated structures.
  • Embrace tomorrow's technologies, today:Indian companies should go further and explore concepts such as Konnected Network of Things - KNoT - an evolving variation of the traditional internet of things (IoT) with a wider scope including the M2M interaction over a local network, going beyond the dependence on internet. KNoT technologies are on the rise globally, and it is estimated that over the next decade the opportunity is bound to generate revenue in excess of $10 trillion with more than 30 billion connected devices. In another couple of years KNoT should be in the zone of enlightenment, showcasing a great opportunity for Indian companies, who are already working in this general area of IoT, to scale up, specialise and take on newer challenges of tomorrow's technology, today.
  • Pre-empt Security Concerns: It is still a debate around who owns the data on the internet absolutely. Access to private and location specific data publicly could easily be misused for targeted attacks. This needs to be thought through even before embarking on the implementation process.
  • Build on strengths: India's strengths lie in its increasing technology-savvy population. This should be used to the country's benefit while designing a connected system.

The journey into a new world of internet of things has just begun and the opportunities abound everywhere. The only thing certain today is that the world that lies ahead of us is something beyond what we can imagine today.

The author is  senior director of market expansion at Zinnov