The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term to describe a system or a technology solution where the Internet is connected to the physical world by the use of sensors. Kevin Ashton, a British technologist who co-founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is also known for coining the term in 1999. In India, companies are creating products in the IoT space since the past two years. Mint profiles four companies working in the fields of home entertainment, automobiles, toys and energy management

From left: Hardik Sanghavi and Kunal Dadia. Photo: Sameer Joshi/Mint

ENTERPRISE: Auto Tranz (proprietorship)

ENTREPRENEUR: Hardik Sanghavi (29) and Kunal Dadia (29)

FOUNDED: 2013

LOCATION: Mumbai

BRAND NAME: Animus

Dadia missed a no-parking sign while parking his car and his car got towed away without his knowledge. “This was exactly when I wished I knew where my car was and if the car could have given me an alert on the parking zone," said Dadia over the phone.

With the mission to create such intelligent sensors for cars, Sanghavi and Dadia started Auto Tranz with an initial investment of 15 lakh. Their first product was a device to track vehicles from a remote location, with information on mileage and other details. They subsequently integrated the product with better features including theft prevention, towing, tyre pressure, door open and battery alerts. The fourth product that the company launched is called Animus.

“It’s a small 3-inch device that is fitted within one foot of the steering wheel and is installed in a OBD2 (on-board diagnostics II) docket of the car," said Dadia. The device has all the features of the previous products and additional ones as well. It carries out analytics by which it can inform the car owner about how critical a problem in the car is, it also connects car users to local repair shops and mechanics in case of emergencies. These alerts are given to the user via Web or a mobile phone application. The device is priced between $100 and $150; and 2,000 such devices have already been sold. The company is looking to launch a better version of the product by next year. In addition to this, the company may also raise money next year to fund its expansion plans. It is currently being incubated at Zone Startups, a Mumbai-based incubator that is a collaboration between BSE Institute, a unit of BSE, Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone incubator and Ryerson Futures.

From left: Sandip Maiti (Photo: S. Kumar/Mint) and Amit Deshpande

ENTERPRISE: Minio Technologies

ENTREPRENEUR: Sandip Maiti (50) and Amit Deshpande (36)

FOUNDED: 2013

LOCATION: Mumbai

BRAND NAME: Social Toys

Maiti’s daughter sketched a pictorial story of a toy dog through a series of sketches. The drawings depicted a toy dog being commanded to protect its owner’s gaming console. The dog began barking when another kid tried playing with the console. Not only that, the dog alerted the owner about this intrusion through an alert on the phone.

It’s not just television, phones that are getting smart, toys too are getting smarter. Maiti and Deshpande thought of creating such smart toys, the mailbox being the first toy. “Kids today have stopped playing with physical toys, as these toys haven’t kept pace with technology. Smartphones, tablets and other devices seem to be their new toys," said Maiti.

The technology solution created by the company is such that a chip is fitted into a toy which works through manual buttons or voice recognition over a Wi-Fi connection. This toy is also connected to a website over the Internet on a social toys network. The Social Toys Network is like an online playground that connects toys with each other, owners and other participants that wish to play with the toy. These participants are usually children, their family and friends.

“We are building our own toys, but the technology solution can be integrated with any other toy that is manufactured by any other company," said Maiti.

The toys are expected to be sold in the range of $99 to $199. These toys can be used by accessing a website or a mobile application. The targeted age group of kids is between eight and 12 years. These toys are different from robots, they have logical messages to convey which are not pre-programmed, they pick up information directly from the Internet.

Shubham Malhotra. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

ENTERPRISE: Mango Man Consumer Electronics

ENTREPRENEUR: Sai Srinivas Kiran (26); Shubham Malhotra (27)

FOUNDED: 2013

LOCATION: Bengaluru

BRAND NAME: Teewe

Kiran and Malhotra wanted to build a product that would make it easy to play any digital media on a television from any device. With this idea they began working on a smart set-top box, but soon realized that it was becoming an expensive proposition that customers are unlikely to purchase. The duo then decided that the selling price of the product they were trying to create should be less than 2,000 and started working backwards to reach to the product.

“We came up with a HDMI dongle, which connects to the television, and using a Wi-Fi network can link to all devices in a home such as smartphones, laptops and tablets," said Kiran.

A customized version of Android Open Source Project powers the device, which works in sync with an app which has to be installed on all the devices from where one would like to play their media. The app supports all popular platforms such as Android, Windows and iOS.

The Teewe app eliminates the hassle of going to each device and finding the media that one wants to play as it syncs data on all devices available on the Wi-Fi network. All the user needs to do is open the app, find the file they want to play and tap a button, without having to worry about where the file is stored.

The company started shipping the product in September this year and has already sold around 5,000 devices.

Teewe has raised seed funding of 1.5 crore from Palaash Ventures and other investors. The company is now looking to raise a second round of funding, which will help it streamline its supply chain. The company is targeting to sell 100,000 devices by mid-2015. It is also looking at tying up with content providers.

From left: Abinash Saikia, Anil Gupta and Satya Kishore.

ENTERPRISE: UrjaGreen Technologies

ENTREPRENEUR: Anil Gupta (56); Satya Kishore (27); Abinash Saikia (28)

FOUNDED: 2012

LOCATION: Bengaluru

BRAND NAME: SmartBuildings

Saikia and Kishore were batchmates at IIT-Madras. They were already thinking about building a solution based on Internet of Things for home automation when they met Gupta in 2012. Gupta invested $150,000 and directed the duo to work towards a solution that would help enterprises control and manage energy costs in their office building.

“Energy happens to be the third-biggest expense incurred in an office building, after wages and rent, however, even after spending crores in bills the information that facility managers have about energy consumption in their buildings is superficial," said Saikia.

The technology solution developed by SmartBuildings helps companies understand their consumption pattern in detail and take corrective actions to reduce and control energy costs. The solution includes a master device which senses various parameters such as light level, temperature, humidity, etc., through sensor devices installed in the building and based on the information received, the master device controls different systems. The system also sends data to a cloud-based server where the company uses analytics to make sense of the consumption data generated by the sensors, which helps in further fine-tuning the system.

The company has so far installed the solution in four office buildings in Bengaluru, which includes offices of a few big IT companies.

INDUSTRYSPEAK

The IoT industry in India is likely to spread across multiple dimensions which include consumer experiences, industrial fabric, logistics networks, health infrastructure and e-governance frameworks. The Indian economy will greatly benefit from the implementation of these devices as IoT will bring optimization, arrest leakages, reduce costs and increase availability of resources. India is a land of opportunities in these dimensions.

IoT companies in India can be put into two categories, the first is the 1% opportunity. These are companies that are going to improve efficiency across various sectors by 1%. The second category is of the 10X opportunity which includes companies that will provide leapfrog experiences. These may include disruption in rural healthcare and education. These solutions in India will be affordable, and systems will be resilient for Indian environment with low training needs.

Investments by venture capital and private equity funds have been low in this space because, not just in India but even in the US IoT is in its early stage of development. Companies are still in the prototpying stage and investors are taking time on assessing the team and products that are being created.

Nasscom is looking to launch IoT labs in its start-up warehouses (a setup where founders of start-ups work together and are provided with facilities and resources) by June where firms will have access to devices, sensors, boards and other resources to carry out prototyping and testing processes.

—Ravi Gururaj, chair—product council and member—executive council, Nasscom

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