Internet of things(IOT) is kind of new, happening and there is a whole lot of buzz around it. According to Gartner, Internet of things is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or external environment. It is in simple terms multiple sensors installed on various objects/devices/things that would collect data on specific parameters that can be later used for decision-making or controlling the devices.
Many big companies have put their hat in the ring for Internet of Things. Companies like Intel, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM to name a few. Going through their webpages gives a lot of detailed information on the interesting work they are doing in this space and also a lot of interesting applications like smart grids for utilities, connected factories, transportation and preventive maintenance.
With most of these case studies being on implementations done outside India, it just got me thinking as what could be the possible implementations that could be done in various sectors in India that could benefit the country as a whole. I have attempted to list down a few sectors where implementing such a technology will be beneficial in the long run.
This sector is unarguably the main stay for India. Internet of things can be used to make the agricultural practices better and thereby producing better yield.
Smart Irrigation systems
Irrigation is vital for good crop yield and there are challenges in getting the right amount of water to be supplied to the fields. With sensors installed in the soil and to the irrigation supply system, water levels in the soil can be replenished whenever the soil sensors indicate low water density to ensure adequate irrigation to the crops thereby benefiting the yield.
Smart Water pumps
Indian company PlaySolar is already doing a great service to the agricultural sector by introducing Solar powered water pumps to overcome the challenge of frequent power cuts, they have also integrated sensors to the solar water pump to monitor them remotely and also for preventive maintenance. Even without the solar panel, having water pumps that could be installed with sensors will help in monitoring the performance of the pumps and also proactively perform maintenance activities before the pump fails thereby reducing down time.
Tractors and crop machines are the backbone of mechanized agriculture. They are generally shared across farmers and any repair during the peak season of ploughing or harvesting will result in huge losses due to time delay. Companies like Mahindra, Massey Ferguson, Caterpillar etc which are in the business of providing these equipment sometimes take days to reach the remote villages to perform the necessary repairs. If the machines had sensors installed in them that would relay performance related data of these machines to a centralized server managed by the company, the company could take proactive steps as soon as a possible failure is identified and perform the necessary repairs before the machine goes down thereby increasing the uptime of the machines and the productivity of the farming community and minimizing the losses.
Most of the agricultural produce fails to reach the market due to lack of adequate storage facilities and also improper storage which results in spoilage and wastage. The government has taken adequate measures to improve the storage facilities but internet of things could just bring in an additional benefit. Storage facilities could have sensors which are monitored at a central location like the Food corporation of India HQ where vitals like room temperature, heat, light etc can be monitored and corrective actions can be taken to maintain these vitals in the optimum range as per the produce that is stored in the facility. This would help in the produce getting the optimal temperature, air, moisture, heat, light etc and prevent it from getting spoilt thereby ensuring that it reaches the market
Activities like sericulture, horticulture, prawn farming, fisheries etc are also dependent a lot on adequate temperature and climatic conditions for a successful yield. Improper conditions could lead to heavy losses. The implementation that I explained above for Smart storage can be used for these activities as well with centralized monitoring.
IOT has been around in healthcare probably since its discovery especially in advanced countries. There is a vast population of India that do not have access to the best of medical facilities when they need it. Indian firm LifePlot already has a low-cost connected care device that enables to collect vital medical information through ECG and will wirelessly transmit the data to a medical practitioner for remote diagnosis and care. The potential of such a device is huge given the vast population in remote corners of the country and the best medical facilities being concentrated in a few areas. The only challenge will be to have the necessary infrastructure in place in terms of connectivity and service for the success of this solution.
Enabling the differently abled
In those many case studies I read about IOT on various sites, I could find very few of them actually addressing a social cause. Most companies were trying to portray savings in smart power grids as a social cause which I felt was deceptive. One of the solutions I really thought could have a good social benefit was the smart home feature that most of these major companies had. Smart home basically is sensors on all your home appliances that will enable you to control the devices as well as the devices to perform actions on their own based on data. So you could turn on your air conditioner when you are about to reach your home and your coffee maker could automatically start preparing coffee for you as soon as it is 7 AM etc.
Smart home solution could be something that could be used to enable the differently abled. They could control all the devices around them using a single tab. The devices could also be empowered to make some basic decisions like for example the refrigerator could automatically detect that there is low quantity of a particular food item and automatically raise an order for replenishment to the nearest grocery store or to something like BigBasket saving a lot of overhead for someone who is differently abled. The tab could also have braille buttons for someone who is visually challenged also to be able to operate it. Home appliance companies can provide the service of remotely monitoring the performance of the appliances in the home and perform preventive maintenance thereby saving the ordeal of a repair for the differently abled person. Home security solutions will also be helpful for such people as it can enable them to alert the police and neighborhood in case of any emergency.
Safety of women and children is a growing concern in India. The rise in crimes against women and children in various parts of the country is shameful and disturbing. One possible solution could be providing an IOT sensor based identity card which will enable them to be tracked from a centralized location like the police headquarters, there could also be a beacon button which can be activated in case of an emergency so that the police force knows that there is a problem and the exact location as well to take action. In schools or colleges, this could be used for monitoring the location of the child in the school and also they could have a feature like proximity sensor which might alert the school authorities when the identity card of an employee of the school is very near to the identity card of any child. Distributing this kind of device across the population without them knowing the technology or benefit behind it will be key for the success.
This is a solution that all major IOT firms already have. This involves having sensors on various equipment within the industry and the supply chain for decision-making and centralized monitoring. The biggest benefit of this is the preventive maintenance capability where factory equipment can be monitored remotely and when there are signs of reduced production or possible repair, preventive steps and maintenance can be done to avoid down time and making the factory more productive. In India, the key challenge will be to develop a low-cost solution that can be used in all the MSMEs as they form the majority of the industries in the country.
India’s vast population has enormous energy needs. In spite of having various projects for power generation, we are still reeling under power shortage with frequent and long power cuts. Using IOT in the new buildings that would get constructed will enable to prevent wastage of electricity and thereby ensure savings. This could be part of the Smart City initiative.
Power and Water supply
This implementation is something all the major IOT companies are boasting off about having implemented it in major cities across the world. Implementing smart grids for power and water supply to monitor usage and prevent wastage will be a challenge on existing networks in India as it is wide-spread and not highly organized like those in major cities of the world. New grids and new smart cities that are getting built will be ideal candidates for implementing such a smart grid.
Transport networks in few of the major cities in the world have IOT already implemented. Implementing this in India would help in monitoring transport movement, preventive maintenance of transportation vehicles, monitoring fuel usage and emission and taking necessary preventive actions to bring them down to optimal ranges. Cars and bikes could also have sensors to enable centralized monitoring by the car or bike companies to monitor performance and perform preventive maintenance.
These are surely not the exhaustive list of the possible applications of IOT for a developing nation like India. These are just a few of them that came to my mind. However, for any of these ideas to be implemented in large-scale across the country, support from the government along with the adequate infrastructure will be key. There is a dire need for many startups to evolve in this space and come up with cost-effective solutions made within India for large-scale success.
There could be myriad of other areas of applications that I might have missed or overlooked. Also there could be a lot of companies and solutions that might be already addressing some of the problems I raised here.
Please feel free to comment about those and for any possible conflicting thoughts.