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IoT Promise: Emerging trends and opportunities

October 03, 2017

The explosion in the number of connected devices is driving the uptake of internet of things (IoT) across the world. In India too, the technology is being adopted at an impressive pace as internet proliferation grows. Although the concept will take time to mature in India, IoT promises to take most human-driven processes beyond their conventional realms. The impact will be far-reaching, particularly in the areas of healthcare, agriculture and e-governance. A connected ecosystem will act as a catalyst for fulfilling the government’s Digital India vision. Industry experts comment on the IoT adoption trends in India and the key drivers and opportunities in this space… (From left to right: Hemant Joshi, TMT India Leader, Deloitte; Vijay Kannan, Director, Digital Services, PwC India)

What are the key emerging trends in IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) space in India? How has been the adoption experience so far?

Hemant Joshi

The IoT market size in India is expected to grow to 1.9 billion units by 2020. Government initiatives such as Digital India and the Smart Cities Mission, rapid digitalisation, and automation in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and large industries as well as in sectors like healthcare, banking, financial services and insurance, education, analytics and security have created a massive demand for connected devices. There is rising adoption of IoT in areas such as personal healthcare, fitness, payments, entertainment, home surveillance and security and parking automation.

Vijay Kannan

M2M has been around for a while and it is primarily focused on point solutions that track an asset through cellular connectivity – for example, vehicle fleet management. This has been a very fragmented market with many small players offering point solutions. Operators such as Airtel and Tata have offerings in this space and have had some success, but it is still fairly ad hoc. IoT on the other hand is really about leveraging data generated from a broad set of sensors and devices and using analytics to drive more value for enterprises in all verticals. Large companies like Cisco, GE, Intel, Qualcomm, Google and Amazon are betting big on IoT and have made huge investments in this space. They are also keen on India as a market for IoT. As compared to M2M, IoT is still in its infancy in India.

What benefits does IoT promise for various industry verticals? Which industry segments are adopting IoT in a big way in India?

Hemant Joshi

Industrial IoT is a revolution in the field of automation. Various industries prefer IoT-based solutions to increase efficiency and reduce human error. Precision manufacturing sectors are now using industrial IoT in a big way along with robots. Similarly, the pharmaceuticals, chemicals and automotive sectors are benefiting significantly from IoT.

Vijay Kannan

IoT is one of those foundational technologies that will enable enterprises to drive digital transformation. Industrial IoT promises significant benefits for many industrial verticals such as manufacturing, healthcare, utilities, transportation, power, oil and gas, and smart cities. In the latest Digital IQ survey, in which more than 100 Indian companies participated, IoT tops the list of new technology investments for the next three years. Frameworks like Industry 4.0 are gaining traction and several large Indian conglomerates are at various stages of implementing IoT pilot projects as a part of their digital transformation initiatives.

Indian Railways is in fact looking at IoT to improve its overall operations and better manage its fleet of trains. The initial benefits of IoT will come from operational efficiency, but the big gains will be seen when companies transform their business models and launch new connected products in the market. There is a lot of innovation coming in in the form of new semiconductor chipsets, IP-based architectures and technology platforms, and new connectivity technologies like LoRa.

What opportunities do IoT and M2M present for the telecom sector?

Hemant Joshi

The telecom sector has witnessed rapid technology changes in the past decade and the business model has shifted from traditional voice and data to new technologies. IoT is going to bring about many changes in the current business model of telecom operators. IoT-enabled services like cloud, smart cities, interconnected devices and business intelligence offer huge opportunities to operators in India.

Vijay Kannan

IoT offers a big opportunity to telecom providers. It gives them an opportunity to expand their M2M connectivity portfolio and offer end-to-end solutions. For example, AT&T offers a home automation and home security solution in the US. Operators like Airtel and Reliance could do the same in India. Smart cities is another area where operators can play a major role. Realising this opportunity, most operators have invested in IoT platforms. Jio has collaborated with Cisco-Jasper. Airtel operates the Aeris M2M/IoT platform, and Tata Teleservices and Aircel have made similar investments. Tata Communications has made a big investment in LoRa technology, and has deployed it in five cities already.

What are the key issues and challenges impeding IoT adoption in the country? What role can policy and regulatory intervention/ support play in this regard?

Hemant Joshi

Although IoT is an emerging market and there is a huge demand for IoT-based solutions, it is still an unregulated space and has several challenges. Due to the absence of common standards in terms of connectivity, interoperability between devices is a challenge. Second, even though connected devices make life easier, they are vulnerable to hacking. With cyberattacks growing in number, the security of these devices, which store sensitive consumer data, is a big challenge. Third, most of the Indian IoT solution providers are involved in development of software and applications, rather than in hardware.

Vijay Kannan

Putting together an IoT solution is complex for an enterprise as it requires it to figure out everything, from sensors to the devices to connectivity and, more importantly, how to deal with the large quantum of data that is generated. Therefore, mature end-to-end solutions from leading vendors will play a big role in greater adoption. For example, what GE has done with its Predix platform and associated solution is impressive. Similarly, Cisco has been doing a lot in the space, even in India. In order to deal with large amounts of data and process it using analytics, the cloud becomes essential. This is where policy and regulation can play a key role in terms of making it easier for companies to adopt the cloud. However, there is a lot of uncertainty regarding the use of cloud in the country. If we do not leverage technologies like these, IoT adoption will slow down for sure.

How is the Indian IoT and M2M ecosystem likely to evolve going forward? What will be the key growth drivers?

Hemant Joshi

The government’s push towards emerging digital technologies in different sectors like healthcare, education, agriculture and banking has helped create new markets for IoT and M2M. Some key reforms and regulatory changes are needed to encourage IoT-based device manufacturing. The Smart Cities Mission is already creating a huge demand for IoT and M2M solutions, and the digital transformation of sectors like healthcare, education and finance as well as SMEs will be the key growth drivers.

Vijay Kannan

Start-ups will form one of the key elements of the ecosystem. There are several start-ups in India focusing on IoT, especially in the applications and platforms space. Many large enterprises are open to engaging with start-ups, even as they work with large platform providers. Another key element of the ecosystem evolution will be partnerships. In addition, clarity on return on investment (RoI) that companies see from the proof of concept (PoC) will be a key driver. If the RoI is clear, PoCs will move into production and we will see IoT adoption at scale.


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