"Internet of Things... The Opportunity for India"
Date: Tuesday , October 21, 2014
Analog Devices, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADI) is a semiconductor company providing analog bridge to the digital world. Headquartered in Norwood, Massachusetts, the company has a current market cap of $15.64 billion.
To date mostly our personal computing devices like PCs, smart phones and tablets are connected to the Internet. With Internet of Things (IOT), it would be an explosion of 30 to 50 billion THINGS connected to the Internet by 2020. The current count of such devices as per Cisco\'s \'Internet of Everything\' Connections Counter is 11.8 billion.
What does THINGS connected to the Internet mean? How would that help and what functions would they perform? The vision is of billions and trillions of sensors connected to humans, cars, machines, buildings, power grids, appliances and even animals, sensing critical information ranging from something as simple as temperature, to the vital signs of equipment, to the status of the environment and feeding the information via some network to a central location. Cloud Computing and Data Analytics then take over, crunching and making sense of the data, storing and pattern matching to make intelligent decisions and in few cases even feeding the decision back to an actuator to take an action.
IoT has four broad functional areas - Sensors, Network, Cloud and Data Analytics. IoT has every discipline of electronics, sensor technologies, networking, processing, cloud computing and data analytics involved and hence is an engineer\'s dream.
IOT is not something entirely new and in some form or shape is already deployed. Smart Meters are deployed with several power utility companies, sensing the energy consumption, power quality and outage real time and feeding the information to the utility\'s Network operating Center (NOC) for billing, demand response and outage management. Sea water level is being tracked for climate change in various sea level monitoring stations worldwide, feeding directly to a central Internet data center. This year Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw a plethora of wearable medical gadgets reporting the vital signs and health of a person and counting every step a person takes, feeding the data back to the cloud for analytics and on the mobile app for visual representation.
How could we leverage this IOT wave in India? We were a decade late in adoption of the PCs, we caught up to the smartphone revolution within 2-3 years of its emergence, but only as consumers. But, as compared to the onset of the PC and smartphone revolution, the India eco-system has matured, a market for IOT exists, skillset in India is vastly cross functional and I believe, is ready to catch the IOT wave.
Being the IT hub of the world I believe India is well positioned in the core skills that are required for Cloud and Data Analytics. On the electronics side, several engineers working in large MNCs, Indian OEMs and design houses are already designing complex electronic systems for global consumption with manufacturing mostly happening outside of India. The communication and wireless networking expertise exists with several MNCs, design houses and Indian defense industry engineers. Semiconductor vendors like Analog Devices are building relevant sensors and wireless networking technologies with their design teams in India for global customers. Sensor technology has progressed significantly with the enhanced power of semiconductors. Traditional Moore\'s law is being christened as \"More than Moore\" with the semiconductor companies integrating more and more of the sensor and mixed signal components on a single chip or package, thus reducing the cost, power and size of the devices. Startup atmosphere is bright with several preferring the challenge and adrenalin of a startup endeavor with incubators and venture capitalists in plenty, even though focus is mostly on e-Commerce and software.
Central and state government have woken up to the need of developing the electronics sector and taking credible steps via the National Electronics Mission to pump up Electronic System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM), creating clusters both for mass scale manufacturing and prototype builds and planning to fund startups in the ESDM sector. Most importantly, the market for IoT exists in India across several sectors like smart grid, rural healthcare, industry automation, security, surveillance and many others. Access to global markets could be enabled through partnerships with India\'s IT power houses as channels and system integrators. An IoT Fund should be the next logical step. IoT enthusiasts in Bangalore have started a Bangalore IoT group. I believe the IoT eco system in India is available and ready and needs to be nurtured by companies, startups, investors, government and industry bodies coming together for a singular mission of making India the \'Hub for IoT\' for the entire world.
We need to look no further than our smartphones to start our IoT journey as it is already packed with sensors like the camera, accelerometer, GPS, gyroscope, magnetometer, microphone and proximity along with WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular connectivity to the cloud. More types of specialty sensors are making their way to your latest mobile gadgets.
The single biggest opportunity is add-on sensors, interfacing to the smartphone and delivering an apt App and a service. Fitbit has grabbed attention as a lifestyle fashion statement. Sensordrone from Sensorcon has packed an incredible 11 sensors in a small device connected to the smart phones. Sensigiz and Fin are exciting startups from India. Smartphone offers a perfect platform for IoT aimed at the consumer segment with lots of interfaces, enough processing power and most importantly the connectivity options to the sensors and the cloud along with the App framework for visualization.
While smartphones have revolutionized our world, the single biggest bottleneck is its battery life. Enabling sensors and add-on sensors to the phone would drain the juice on our smart phones. Smartphones are also not good for continuous monitoring at the industrial, hospital and other remote locations like on power grids, machines, cattle and appliances.
Good news is that there is a world of sensors out there and easily available: temperature, pressure, motion sensors like acceleration, rotation, tilt, shock and vibration, humidity, light, infrared, proximity, PH, gas, current, voltage, microphone and many more. Designers need to integrate these sensors with ultralow power processors and add an interface to a wireless network. The wireless network could be GSM/GPRS, but for cost considerations and low power requirements, wireless sensor network is a must.
There are myriad of opportunities for engineers and entrepreneurs to make relevant apps, sensor add-ons to the smartphone and offering value added services. There is opportunity in a vertical integrated Application as a Service (AaaS) model for a specific industry vertical with customized hardware, software, network and data analytics. There is opportunity in pure play data analytics or offering targeted services based on already available data. Creating a versatile IoT platform, an infrastructure to capture all the data coming from billions of sensors has already several big companies and startups in the fray. I believe that IoT adoption will be economics driven, very application specific and the wide range of different types and sizes of data, bandwidth availability, reliability and cost considerations will not make a \'one size fits all\' model. Customizations and optimizations for each market vertical and sub-vertical would be the key with the industry severely fragmented for at least in this decade.