As the world moves into the digital age, technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and data analytics have assumed greater importance. The advent of the “smartness of things” concept has triggered the onset of another industrial revolution, which is being driven by smart technologies. All across the world, governments are aggressively working towards making their cities smarter. IoT is a basic building block for the development of smart cities, which calls for an overall transformation of all sectors. Analysts predict that industrial IoT will surpass consumer IoT by 2020. This will primarily be led by sectors such as energy and utilities, industrial manufacturing, transport and logistics, and agriculture. Sectors like healthcare and retail will also see IoT adoption, although it is not expected to be at par with the adoption in the above-mentioned sectors. A look at IoT adoption trends across select sectors…
Energy and utilities
The energy and utilities sector has seen significant adoption of IoT in the past few years. Increasingly, energy utilities are deploying smart grids and smart meter technologies to better understand the power consumption patterns of their consumers and take the necessary steps accordingly. Based on the data accumulated, energy companies can analyse the demand and supply landscape at micro levels and adjust power distribution accordingly. This helps them gain better business intelligence and improve energy efficiency. IoT-based smart grids can automatically detect a failure in the distribution network and immediately reroute power distribution to service the area affected by the failure. Smart grids can also determine the real-time power requirements and prevent the loss of power by distributing only the required amount of power through the grid.
Utility providers have also started installing smart sensors across their network of equipment, which help them in better monitoring the health of the equipment. Installing temperature, vibration, and moisture sensors across power lines helps in predicting failures and taking preventive maintenance measures beforehand. Similarly, sensors can be deployed to monitor oil and gas transport pipelines, valves and pressure gauges to prevent leakages and contamination. According to Gartner, IoT usage in the energy sector is expected to grow to 50 billion devices by 2020.
In March 2018, Tata Communications deployed 300 smart street lights for Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company Limited (JUSCO). The lights can be switched on and off or dimmed remotely from a central command centre. In addition, depending on the need in each location, the lights can be adjusted in clusters. This helps in reducing manpower costs and energy consumption.
Agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy. IoT application in the agricultural sector can deliver better results in terms of efficiency and more output. According to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), there are about 40 start-ups in India that focus on smart agriculture. Given the huge number of advantages that smart agriculture can unleash, more and more indigenous players, riding on the back of technological innovations, are making inroads into the sector.
Agri-tech companies have started deploying solutions like data analytics, smart irrigation, agri-drones, produce monitoring and agri-sensors to drive efficiency and increase the per acre output of land. Smart irrigation solutions ensure the efficient use of water resources by analysing the humidity of the soil, crop needs and weather patterns. These solutions are specifically suited for arid and semi-arid regions. The use of drones in farming can help in dispensing fertilisers and pesticides over large acres of farmland in a very efficient manner. This method is not only more efficient, but also saves a lot of human capital.
Bengaluru-based Open Cube Labs is working towards creating farmer-friendly, IoT-based agricultural products which can help farmers better manage their land. The company has built a hand-held device that farmers can use to check crop health. They have also come up with smart sensors to provide real-time updates on soil health along with smart irrigation and smart livestock management systems. Another such start-up, Gurugram based Energy Bots has launched a GSM-based three-phase IoT device that allows farmers to remotely switch on/off their motor pump either by giving a missed call, sending a text or scheduling both at specific times of the day. Yet another company, Stellapps Technologies helps improve the productivity and quality of India’s dairy sector. It provides IoT-based solutions to optimise the milk production process, keep a check on the health of the cattle, monitor fodder needs, set up biogas plants, among others. Agri-tech company CropIn enables data-driven farming by connecting the players in the agriculture ecosystem. It uses technologies such as big data analytics, AI, geotagging and satellite monitoring to ensure operational efficiency. According to a recent study conducted by Statista.com, the global smart agriculture market would be worth around $26.76 billion by 2020.
Smart manufacturing as a concept entails deploying smart technologies and intelligent solutions to efficiently, effectively and safely carry out the whole manufacturing process. IoT in manufacturing is primarily deployed across three main areas – operations, productions and inventory management. In terms of operations, the use of IoT sensors in manufacturing equipment helps in better monitoring the health of the devices and taking pre-emptive maintenance measures, enabling companies to reduce the cost of maintenance significantly, increase operational efficiency and conserve energy. In terms of inventory management, manufacturers are increasingly deploying IoT applications to more effectively track the events across a supply chain. This helps ensure better transparency and efficient functioning. Manufacturers can analyse the data collected and take the necessary business decisions accordingly. In terms of production assessment, deployment of IoT devices helps to monitor the whole process from start to end. Getting a clear picture of the various bottlenecks helps in addressing them in an efficient and timely manner.
Transport and logistics
The transportation industry has transformed tremendously in the past few years. The use of smart devices has enabled better functioning, cost cutting and higher revenue generation for the industry. Logistics and transportation companies are deploying electronic log devices to make sure that drivers drive for 50 hours per week and have a two-day rest period. This helps in ensuring safety. Another innovative solution is smart ticketing wherein passengers can generate and pay for tickets through mobile wallets. This ensures a hassle-free travel experience for consumers and better managed revenues for service providers. A lot of fleet management companies are deploying data analytics to analyse vehicle performance and improve operations. In addition, companies have started using predictive analytics, which helps them predict maintenance needs beforehand and save on costs and time. ARI, one of the largest fleet management companies, is using Telematics and IoT technologies in order to better manage its fleet and study driver behaviour. Coca-Cola too has started leveraging IoT to understand driver behaviour and drive efficiency and save time in the loading and unloading process. Furthermore, given that fuel accounts for around 40 per cent of the running cost, logistics players have started deploying GPS and fuel sensors to build algorithms which can help them optimise refuelling points and navigate drivers on better routes. This provides the companies significant benefits. In India, a young start-up called Autoplant has developed an end-to-end cloud platform for supply chain management. The platform automated various processes in the entire supply chain by using technologies like AI, data analytics and IoT.
While there exist immense opportunities for the deployment of IoT across various sectors, they do not come without a set of challenges. In India, availability of a network that can support IoT is a key challenge. In the past few years, IoT solutions have been deployed on traditional networks such as 3G or 4G, which have not proved to be very efficient. IoT devices operate for long hours, have low power requirements, and are sometimes located in hard-to-reach areas (building basements or underground). These are the main roadblocks in the wide-scale adoption of IoT solutions in India from a technical and commercial perspective. All this calls for a network that can effectively address all these challenges.