IoT is key to the planning of smart cities

Internet of Things will play an instrumental role not just in communication networksbut also in sanitation, transportation, healthcare, and energy use


Photo: iStockphoto.
Photo: iStockphoto.

The forecasts predicted by the Ericsson Mobility report issued in June 2016 clearly states that as many as 16 billion connected devices will be Internet of Things (IoT) technology-enabled by 2021. Globally, most analysts affirm the path of technological advancement is leading towards the path of IoT.

IoT refers to a technology that will make every possible device Internet ready and connectivity which shall enable flow of data creating a network of objects. The advanced Internet use would result in developing device to device relationship, apart from user-device relationship. Ericsson further reports that “IoT is set to overtake mobile phones as the largest category of connected devices by 2018”.

Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work explained in his contribution to Forbes magazine that “This (IoT) is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.”

AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Harman Industries, Intel Corp. and many others across the globe are working in enabling IoT use cases successfully. From Youbikes in Taiwan, to everyday use home appliances connected with internet in the US. IoT has reached consumers in many parts of the world. Grocery shopping doesn’t necessarily need a smartphone but a small device in the kitchen could do that for you. Small chips and devices are making everything technology controlled with an aim to make life easier. Detection of waste levels in bins for proper waste management in cities, smart parking and traffic guide, environment and water management using devices—IoT use cases are infinite and multidimensional.

Players in India

Apart from having its use cases for personal well being and comfort, IoT will be instrumental in the planning of smart cities, and not just for communication networks but also for sanitation, transportation, healthcare, energy use and many more. Companies such as Sterlite Technologies Ltd and Aeris India are working towards building network infrastructure in smart cities to enable IoT technologies with the aim of linking intelligence and information with devices.

Sterlite is currently working in building Internet network capacities and system in two smart cities, Jaipur and Gandhinagar. Its chief technology officer, Badri Gomatam, believes that for a smart city, a network is required that creates applications for e-governance, public safety, traffic and utilities, basically a high level ICT (information and communication technology) architecture. He added, “Creating Smart City Networks requires a balance between traditional ICT, leveraging new technologies to improve efficiency and capacity and create new services of value to the citizenry.”

Aeris Communications India, a US-based company is a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) specialized in providing connectivity to machines. The company claims that it currently has 7.5 million connected devices on their platform globally. Rishi Bhatnagar, president of Aeris Communications India, says, “The IoT market in India is projected to grow over a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 28% through 2020. I believe it is an achievable projection with the government programmes such as Digital India, which aims to unite the nation with high-speed digital highways and connect 1.2 billion Indians, 100 Smart Cities, Make in India and other such initiatives. We are currently working on smart city projects for network infrastructure building for IoT.”

The MVN enabler company is in talks with all the telecom operators and Aircel is already using their platform in vehicle telematics and smart meters.

Vehicle telematics will be used to gain access on vehicles on road by tracking driver behaviour online and smart meters are a way to curb distribution theft of electricity in India.

Challenges

An aspect, however, most technology experts feel remains unexplained is the lack of legal framework or policy regulation for IoT network. The question remains that the onus in case of default lies on whom, the network provider, device manufacturer, monitoring authority, or the user of technology. Countries such as the US have advanced in creating a regulatory framework on such technologies. The security framework for such extensive transmission of data over networks will also need implementation for protection from cyber crimes and identity thefts.

Another requirement for the IoT ecosystem to be ready in the near future is the right kind of skill development for information technology professionals. Rishi Bhatnagar says, “Academia needs to work together with IoT companies to help understand the kind of changes in curriculum for the right training of technology professionals in India in this direction.” He further added that institutes such as Indian Institute of Technology and National Institute of Technology should lay emphasis on educating on IoT infrastructure as the future of technological revolution.

What could happen if IoT was applied to India

Evidently, the road ahead for IoT in India, even as it lacks clarity, still has vibrancy. There are more than 4 million app developers already focusing on IoT. Nitin Bansal, head of networks at Ericsson India, believes that “industry readiness is definitely there”. “The opportunities here in India are immense, and India could potentially play a pivotal role in the development of global IoT ecosystem both as a market and as an innovation hub,” he said.

About the smart meter project by Ericsson India, he said: “We have recently done a pilot with Assam Power Distribution Company for a smart meter project in which we will provide a comprehensive Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solution for operating 15,000 smart meters, along with systems integration and support services in Guwahati.

“The solution will offer outage management, reduction in aggregate technical and commercial losses, power quality management and net metering. The smart meter deployment is a key component in the transformation of power supply to significantly better the energy usage and distribution while reducing CO2 emission.”

Imagine a world, where every human is connected to a device which is connected to a daily health monitoring device through the Internet. In case of a natural/unnatural mishap, an alarm is raised for healthcare units to rush immediately for aid. No phone calls are required, no delay in aid due to lack of alert and hence, lives are saved. That is the kind of world the Internet of Things is capable of creating.

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