Opportunities & Challenges for IoT in India

Date:   Tuesday , June 14, 2016

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A cursory look at Google trends search for Internet of Things or IoT rightfully shows that the general interest has grown since last one year or so. IoT has started to permeate into our collective consciousness in an awesome way! The world expects IoT to create a hyper-connected network of things. We are well aware of the value which connected networks brings (think Internet), and the fact that technology adoption is itself accelerating at an amazing pace.

A deeper look into what is pushing the growth of IoT

1) Increased availability of affordable smartphone (Smartphones will be crucial even in the IoT era as a personal control hub)
2) Hardware supply chain ecosystem growth due to drop in cost of components like sensors (spurred by smartphones)
3) Focus of semiconductor companies on IoT by providing products for various use cases
4) Increased corporate and government investments in IoT and related opportunities (e.g. Smart cities, Digital India)
5) Hypergrowth in the developers/startup ecosystem (includes the Investor community)
6) Allied factors like Cloud services (& storage), Big Data & Analytics and growth of API adoptions

One of the key elements in play here is the increasing smartphone penetration, making India second biggest smartphone market in the world. This growth of mobile devices plays a significant role as India is a mobile only country. As the digital divide between HAVEs and HAVE-NOTs diminishes, it also sets the tone for the next wave of technology adoption like IoT, gradually bridging the gap between the online and offline worlds. NASSCOM predicts that India will get minimum 20 percent of the Global IoT revenues of $300 billion.

For this to happen, there are multiple players from hardware, cloud service, security, telecom, and others working in tandem. Government interest and push from programs such as Digital India, Smart cities and Startup India Stand-up India are further contributing to the growing number of IoT developers and start-ups across the country.

IoT is not only going to benefit large enterprises, there will be an immense opportunity for start-up developers to showcase their innovations. Gartner had predicted that 50 percent of global IoT solutions will originate in startups that are less than three years old. The number of start-ups in India is expected to scale up quickly from 3,100 startups in 2014 to a projection of more than 11,500 by 2020, and IoT startups are expected to grow fast.

A 2015 study by Progress says that 58 percent of developers expect the IoT to expand beyond smartphones and tablets within two years and most of them see mass adoption of IoT apps occurring within the next five years. Semiconductor companies can directly play a role by helping developers create innovative IoT applications or by providing assistance in using IoT products and services and connecting them to start-ups and businesses across sectors such as agriculture, health-care or retail.

With the increased push for IoT adoption, there are some challenges that need to be overcome as well. Given below are a few:

1. Fragmentation of standards with new ones emerging every day creates a complex situation for an observer. However, as we have seen from the early days of the internet, there will be harmonization of standards and the emergence of a de-facto industry standard over a period of time.

2. Security is another cause for concern in connected devices, especially when it involves sharing of personal information. There is an increased awareness about security and steps taken to prevent attacks; however, threats evolve and are more sophisticated.

3. It is crucial that value is extracted from IoT through cost savings and better service delivery.

Over and above, these three global challenges, there are some India-specific challenges as well.

4. One of the major challenges in India is the Internet connectivity. With a varying availability of connection across the nation, IoT may not be recognized equally in urban and rural areas which can hinder the growth of the digital nation. This situation should improve as the Government rolls out the plan to connect all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country with a high-speed digital highway using optical fiber.

5. Another deterrent to the adoption of IoT into many sectors could be the lack of skilled workforce for implementation of nationwide IoT systems. As per the Labour Bureau Report of 2014, the skilled workforce in India is only two percent, which is much lower when compared to the developing nations and the number of persons aged 15 years who have the skill or will be trained in a skill is merely 6.8 percent. In order to support this growing ecosystem, the government will need to introduce and support education programs that will help deliver necessary skill-set required.

IoT has become a dynamic driver of innovation and has been accepted by all, however, as per World Economic Forum, manufacturing organizations tend to be early adopters of new innovations. Today, any organization - regardless of size or industry - can harness IoT to deliver new services, elevate customer relationships and unlock new recurring revenue streams with the help of the synergies between domain experts and IoT experts that deal with hardware, software, apps, cloud, security and many others.

We are on the initial leg of the journey to realize the promise of IoT, the new capabilities that businesses and individuals will gain by leveraging connected devices and keep the efforts moving forward at a faster pace to create a massive market opportunity.