Internet of Things or King of Disruptions?

Date:   Wednesday , January 11, 2017

Headquartered in the U.S., InterraIT is a diversified technology solutions & services company with world-class development facilities. The entity offers an unparalleled scope of services ranging from consulting in the strategic uses of information technology to systems design, development, integration, & outsourcing.

Internet of Things (IoT), is a new concept, but has traversed a huge distance in such a short span of time. A wide ranging IoT ecosystem is emerging to support the process of connecting real world objects like buildings, roads, household appliances and human bodies to the internet through microprocessor chips that record and transmit data such as sound waves, temperature movement and other variables. During 2008, the number of things connected to the internet exceeded the number of people on earth and it is estimated by 2020, the number of state-of-the-art technologies which can be categorized under IoT will surge to 50 billion.

One of the biggest drivers of IoT is the increasing number of low cost sensors available for different kinds of functionality. Some of the standard sensors include movement (through accelerometer), sound, light, electrical potential (potentiometer), temperature moisture, location (GPS), and the list goes on and on. These sensors are included in a variety of devices and solutions. Now the trend is moving towards multi sensor platforms that incorporate multiple sensing elements. Wearable electronics is an example. These products include smart watches, wearable sensor patches, wearable body metric textiles, environmental monitoring and home automation sensors and others.

There are several definitions for the IoT. One described by the National Intelligence Council of U.S. seems to be more acceptable and widely quoted. It says that IoT is the general idea of things especially every day objects that are readable, recognizable, locatable, addressable, and controllable through the internet. Thus defined, the scope of IoT is much broader. Internet is a powerful communication medium, which makes distance neutral. Items that are for common use and not even remotely connected to electronics are now becoming elements of IoT. This includes items such as food, clothing, household appliances, materials, parts and so on. IoT is not a single monolithic market, but is composed of tens and thousands of small market.

Having said that, we have to introspect on what IoT portends for a country like India. Could that be leveraged to unleash India\'s development potentials? Let me start with three critical areas that India has to prioritize in its development process viz. food, health and environment. It does not mean that the rest of the applications, such as data acquisition, information creation and visualization, application in automotive sector, smart cities, security and others are less important. The scope of this article is limited to these three areas that are critically important to India at this stage of development.

A new branch of agriculture is slowly dawning in the Indian landscape- precision agriculture, which deploys computers, sensors and analytics of data collected for forecast and learn from experiences. It is empirically proved that production and productivity of farms using digital gadgets for operations like deciding the time of application of fertilizers, pesticides, harvesting, storage and onward movement to markets to fetch the right price for the produces are far higher than farming done using conventional methods.

Some of the corporations, which are engaged in farming, could increase their yield considerably through precision agriculture. They use sensors to examine the minutest biological changes in the plants, collate such information for analytical purposes and take appropriate remedial measures through right technological platforms. Drones are used to forecast the change in climatic conditions. For the movement of produces from the harvesting spots to consuming centers, they use sensors and other digital devices to measure the temperature variations during the haulage in specialized trucks and other vehicles. This helps them to maintain the texture, quality, freshness and to realize the right prices. Also, the new agriculture common market set up in Bengaluru is having digital linkages with state agricultural markets. Farmers now can sell and buy products from anywhere in the country with the help of a mobile phones and realize the best price for their produces.

Next in importance is the application of IoT in the health sector. Since most of the people do not have the accessibility to basic medical care, IoT can be used to reach out to the people. Every village can have a particular place and day assigned for consultations of complicated diseases through virtual media by highly trained doctors. Sensors developed for monitoring patients suffering from cardio vascular disorders and chronic diseases, can be used for constant monitoring of their health conditions by doctors sitting several hundred kilometers away from them. Also, IoT devices can help creating a health gateway for all citizens giving details of their health conditions based on their Aadhar card, which can be virtually tracked by doctors across the country.

Environmental degradation is another facet that poses challenge to most of the Indian cities and towns. In some of the metros, pollution levels are so high leading to chronic health problems to the people. There are drones and sensors that can collect data and forecast the possible level of pollution level very accurately. It can also instruct the authorities the preventive and ameliorative measures. This is particularly relevant at a time when the government is gearing up to create 100 smart cities in the country, which should have in built preventive measures to minimize pollution and to ensure safety and security.

There is a word of caution. IoTs are going to play an important role in every aspect of civic life across the world. There can be higher incidences of hacking, and disruptions. Developing a foolproof system to ward off such situations is as important as creating more IoT products.