by Navreet Rana
In 2016, Nasscom’s report on IoT stated that the IoT market in India is poised to reach USD15 billion by 2020 accounting for nearly 5% of the total global market and that the Indian government has committed to invest over USD1 billion every year for the next five years for building smart cities. Drawing an inference from this fact, Internet of Things should have ideally touched our lives in one and many ways by now. But no, it has not. We still do not have meters in our houses that interact with us through transactional SMS, send data on demand and can monitor and charge multiple energy bills into one device. Nor do we see dustbins on the roads that inform the civic authorities that–’Hey, I am full, it’s time to empty me for reuse.’ This makes it crucial for us to comprehend the reason behind this lag. What is it that is encumbering our way to become a smart and digitally well-connected nation.
Grasping the complexity is a slow process
First and foremost is the complexity of the system. We must acknowledge the fact that any application of IoT in itself is an ecosystem of sensors, physical devices, data, telecom connection, a storage medium (cloud) and many more subsystems. The interoperability and coordination amongst all these entities makes it complex to implement. To synchronize all the components in real time makes it a multifaceted operation. Getting all the components in line and ensuring their harmonization is a reason for the lag behind implementing this cumbersome task.
Lack of access to skilled labour
Along with this there are other hiccups in making IoT a part of our day to day lives. Skilled labour being one of them. The skill set required to be an IoT engineer or expert is a vast one. One requires individuals accomplished as hardware engineers, telecom engineers, internet security experts, cloud professionals, data analyst, user interface developers and machine learning practitioners. It is challenging to find a perfect amalgamation of the above mentioned expertise to serve IoT treats on the plate.
High cost of service
Any IoT system is heavily based on sensors. A sensor can sense anything like temperature, pressure, speed, motion, atmospheric pressure, physical presence, gas, smoke, impurities in water, space, touch and almost anything and everything. The data released by the sensors is collected and quantified and the devices are programmed to behave in a specific manner based on the data collected. Sensors, being the most basic unit of any IoT system, are used in the majority. The reduction in the cost of sensor can lower the overall cost of IoT device.
Along with sensors, it is the cloud service that is a surplus cost. Data that the sensors sense and release in real time has to be stored somewhere. Data also needs to be retrieved on demand. With this possibility in existence, a robust and secure data storage mechanism is needed to store data or future purposes. This is where the need for cloud comes in. Since the data is released in real time and is massive in amount, cloud storage is the key. Cloud hosting itself comes with a set of concerns which need to be addressed like the task of interfacing with other components and encryption mechanism to keep the data safe. The cost of hosting the data on the cloud itself is a significant investment in ongoing costs.
Internet density and other basic infrastructure required for a Smart India
Next factor worth considering is the Internet penetration in India. Internet density is the rudimentary infrastructure needed to implement smart technologies. But as per the reports published by Internet and Mobile Association of India & Kantar IMRB, as on December 2017, the overall internet penetration is 35% of the total population. With such low internet density, the application of IoT enabled services looks far from reach. Availability of internet is a prerequisite for any IoT implementation.
Another concern is the lack of supporting groundwork. Like electricity, gas, and water meters, drainage systems, garbage bins, medical equipment, refrigerators, water supply systems etc, devices that are compatible with IoT systems. Due to lack of awareness, not many in-house vendors are willing to venture into this field.
In a way we can say that the smartness exists but there is a dearth of vendors who are keen on manufacturing devices that can adhere to this smartness.
Research into long-lasting batteries is the need of the hour
Lastly, it is the battery life that is a vital apprehension regarding IoT devices. With the advancement and efficiency of IoT systems the need for longer battery life has also come forward. Devices that run through day and night and are capable of tracking run-time data cannot afford to run out of battery quite often. Moreover, with an intent to make the entire world connected and smart, losing battery will have a direct impact on the competence of the systems.
Here’s how we can create a Smarter India
Despite the above mentioned blockades, India is optimistic of the smartness and connectedness that IoT devices can bring in. It is evident from the fact that a 100 cities have been identified to be made smart under Smart City Mission in a span of 5 years. The mission aims at introducing smart and automated solutions in agriculture, city planning, vehicular traffic, water and electricity management, parking solutions etc.
Also, with the introduction of newer technologies like Narrowband-Internet of Things (Nb-IoT), low-power wide-area network (LPWAN), Low Range wide-area network( LoRaWAN), we seem to be fighting the problems of power consumption and longer battery life. Since power consumption directly influences the cost of implementation, reducing it will reduce the integration cost as well. Moreover, NB-IoT chips are simpler to create and thus come cheaper.
Another step that can be adopted is the introduction of specialized courses in engineering domains to combat the problem of dedicated skilled taskforce. Because, it is only through IoT, India intends to create millions of jobs. India is going through paradigm shift in terms of quality of life as well as in fiscal measures and it is not possible without the latest technologies. IoT technology is transforming almost every aspect of it and India must be prepared for it.
Navreet Rana is a technical Assistant at JIRICO, O. P. Jindal Global University’s research wing in the area of IP and Competition.
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