Beacon – The Path Breaking IoT Technology

Can you imagine how we lived when smart phones not existed? Isn’t it difficult? The world around us has been revolutionized by Technology & Innovations and it has completely changed our life and the way we do anything. The next and even bigger technological wave is Internet of Things which is more commonly called IoT.

The IoT Beacon is one of the path breaking technology standard that helps us locating a device/thing in a close proximity like inside a building. Saying that, now it’s possible to locate and find your watch /keys/wallet in your home if you forgot where you kept them. However, Beacon has much more broad and important use cases than this. It revolutionizing the retail industry with goods selling themselves and a better customer experiences. Use cases of Beacon ranges from Home Automation to Hospitals to Retail / Commercial Buildings and many more.

So, what make Beacons so useful?

Well, it’s the technology behind Beacon – which is BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and the Backend Cloud Integration system. Find in this webinar video how Beacons work,  their evolution, big players behind Beacon and future opportunities.

We cover this and much more in our hugely popular IoT Bootcamps that are conducted online. Find out more about them at our site

You can also join our web forum “IoT Interest Group” to stay updated on Internet of Things. Join Here.

100 Smart Cities in India

Smart City

We’ve recently heard our new PM, Mr Modi talk about 100 smart cities to be created in India and just recently CM for AP, Mr Naidu declaring that he would like to make 10 cities in AP as smart cities. We also heard that IT minister of Telangana would like to have free Wifi across Hyderabad.

Sharing my understanding of a smart city its impact to the denizens of any Indian city:

A smart city, at a philosophical level would mean an urban center that has been optimized and is self sustaining on these fronts

  • Human resources

  • Socio economic implications, welfare and inclusive development

  • Cultural

  • Financial capital and infrastructure

  • Natural resources and environment

 

To summarize, “Livability” of an urban center that is sustainable over a long period is what defines a true “Smart City”

There are many “policy” level implications to make it all possible though eGovernance and Internet of Things plays a very important role in making a city smart. World wide there have been a number of initiatives and organizations like IBM and CISCO are doing good research and a number of pilots in this area. Intel had recently started an initiative to make Dublin as first Internet of Things city.

Here, I have evaluated some of the critical applications of IoT from Indian city context.

Public Safety

This is one area where IoT and application of ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] can have maximum positive impact.

  • CCTVs at vulnerable and high density areas is something that a lot of Indian cities have now started implementing. Though, their effectiveness and upkeep is something that has a huge scope of improvement. Also, ability to monitor and analyze all the video data generated from these devices is a big question. This is where the latest development on big data analytics, motion analysis, facial recognition, etc can come have a positive impact.
  • There is a large amount of ground information that gets generated at individual police stations. This information if captured in a systematic manner, mined and processed along with police database on “bad” elements in a city, in a holistic manner can help in generating “predictive” analytics that can help predict and prevent a number of crimes. In the US, cities like Chicago and New York have been able to reduce crime rates by more than 30% through this. I understand that there a number of other things that need to be in place within the ecosystem to enable it. Though, if we have such a vision, this can also be an opportunity. As the information systems in these areas would and are going to get build from ground up.
  • Citizens of a city play a critical role on the safety standards that prevail in that city. We already see a vast contrast in different cities and states. Besides the governments in these cities and states, the residents awareness and willingness to participate in the governance and their own safety also plays an important part. Smart Buildings, GPS enabled Vehicles, Personal GPS trackers and many such IoT applications working in and integrated manner with a Smart City systems will help complete the circle. There is a good traction happening in this space in some Indian cities and shall pick up pace.

More about other aspects of Smart Cities in Indian context in my next blog posts:

  • Utilities like Energy and Water
  • Waste management
  • Traffic management and
  • Transportation
  • Health

Axelta as an organization has been focusing on evangelizing adoption of Internet of Things in India and is working on a number of projects, community initiatives and competence development in collaboration with private and government educational institutions to help make the vision of 100 smart cities in India possible. Our IoT Academy that does a 2 days boot camp to equip social and technology entrepreneurs to understand and incubate ideas is also a step in the same direction.

Outsourcing / Off shoring in Internet of Things – Next big opportunity – Part 2

As promised, this is the second part of my view on Outsourcing / Off shoring and IoT.

Since IoT is still in an early adoption stage, there are mostly pilot projects being done in serious business applications. Given the research-oriented nature of these projects and the maturity [or lack of it] of the IoT platforms being used for them, most of the work is getting done in-house or by the platform vendors. As these dimensions are not conducive for outsourcing being successful. Cost is also not a major factor because the finance guys are also getting their financial models in place to ascertain the ROIs on such investments.

When IoT adoption moves to the next phase [after having proven their worth in pilots] to actual deployment across different divisions and across the globe, there will be a huge need of resources across different technologies including platform specific insights. Cost and availability will play an important role in that phase. Outsourcing and IT services firms, need to and are preparing for such eventualities.

There are a few factors to evaluate on how / where should the services organization focus on to prepare for this opportunity.

  • Technologies – IoT is a coming together of multiple technologies namely
  • Hardware / PCB – design and development. Gateway
  • Embedded development – including knowledge of protocols like MQTT, 6LoWPAN, CoAP, XMPP, etc, IoT Gateways play an important role in this
  • RF related development – including ZigBee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth / BLE, etc
  • Cloud development and deployment – Data streaming, complex event processing, etc
  • User interface for managing devices and newer workflows that emerge from these deployments. This includes mobile-based development and development platforms.
  • Big data and analytics – for generating intelligent business insights from the large data coming from the sensor nodes
  • Last but not the least, integration of the IoT systems with the existing enterprise solutions deployed

There are certain areas where existing IT services vendors are quite proficient in and can quickly scale up. Though, other areas will be very new for them and they will have to either tie up with specialized vendors or start building their competence on.

An obvious question here will be whether there will be a need of resources who have knowledge of all these technologies and their interaction or having competence in individual areas would suffice. This question is still out in the open, but my view is that a combination of the two will be needed. This entire system being too new to a majority of the folks, not having deep understanding of how these operate and the challenges around them will not make them very effective. Keeping this in mind, Axelta has recently launched a weekend [2 days] training cum hands on workshop to get the engineers experienced with all aspects of these technologies and their interaction.

  • Domain – I mentioned in my previous blog on this topic, domain will play a more important role than ever in successful deployment of IoT solutions. I had brought about this point in my first blog post IoT – connection between real and virtual world where I had mentioned that vast gap between real and virtual world is getting bridged through IoT. Therefore, people who have worked in the real world are deep subject matter experts in that space will play a very critical role in success of IoT. Which means, that besides the consultants and analysts who have built a reasonable understanding of the domains / verticals through study and consultation, folks who are embedded into the verticals will be needed. That is an opportunity for the industry people but a challenge for IT services organizations
  • Product – IT Services firms have till now depended on just the services. Which has been very linear model and over last decade, there have been a lot of cost pressures on them. There have been many attempts to move up the value chain and build products that can move them away from the linear model. Though, the success in such investments have been very limited. Main reason being that the entire management structure and the overall engine has been geared up for providing IT services. Given that this is an entirely new area and there is a space for multiple new players, IoT throws a very good opportunity to these firms to make the transition. The challenge though being that they still have the same engine that is geared to get more head counts and more billing. A very good option for these firms could be to dig into their large cash piles and buy out some of the IoT start ups in India or in the western world. Give them funding and freedom of operation, nurture them like CISCO has done in the past and like Microsoft Ventures does and then absorb them over next few years

Focusing on product / platform is also important at this point in time because that is where most of the action is happening right now and will happen over next couple of years at least. Till the time a few companies emerge as the leading contenders like SAPs and Oracles and Googles of the world.

  • Managed Services – This has been a trend over last decade which has now picked up momentum. Where industries outsource their entire IT or IT enabled services to outsourcing firms. IoT will need much more of these managed services. It will also enable such outsourcing through larger automation and bridging the gap from the real world. IT services firms that gear themselves up for providing managed services leveraging their or external platforms have a lot to gain from IoT over next 5 to 10 years.

To summarize, IoT and M2M is a brilliant opportunity for IT services firms for ensuring their growth and profitability over next decade but they will need to get their strategy right as well as be ready for changing their proven models to succeed in the IoT outsourcing world of the future.

 

IOT start-up/Any startup: the prerequisite’s

The world has woken up to the tremendous potential of IOT devices. There are literary hundreds of start-ups springing around us across the world. Some will succeed, many will fail. What is it that start-ups in General and IOT start-ups in particular should focus on to succeed? This is a million dollar question. Let me try and answer some of the things I have learnt:

1. Focus on the business problem/Use case you are trying to address. Many start-ups start making a very specific product but somehow end up making a very generic product. They want to take care of all possible scenarios and cover everything. Especially start-ups making software products put in a lot of energy and time in making generic solutions. This path is fraught with danger of delays, overspending and many end up making a product which does not fit anywhere. My suggestion is focus on your use case. Bring clarity in it. Make your solution work covering 70% of the use case requirements. Launch it ASAP, learn from the feedback and improve. This is especially true for IOT where you have several companies making generic device management platforms, very few focussing on specific use cases. Number of such platforms that will finally win will be limited, but if your use case has specific relevance, it will win in that market.

2. Focus on technology but… Define the technology you are going to use as soon as possible and do not get carried away with recent advances. Many of the recent developments are not yet stable/usable enough to be good for you. A company can lose lots of valuable time in travelling on these new unchartered paths only to realise that the technology either does not meet their ultimate need or is not mature enough. Developers might lose lots of valuable time in learning these new technologies only to get disheartened and I have seen this leading to attrition etc. Let others use them first and then you can follow at a much faster pace. IN IOT space this is critical as so many new things are happening daily. Keeping the clutter out should be clearly high in your thought process. Get that device working first, fully and make it robust.

3. There is no such thing as stud.. As a start up, already lots of pressures are there to get a good team in place. What I have seen is, getting high end tech talent is extremely difficult and is generally not needed. Especially in IOT space, everything is so new, that getting excellent people in any area is difficult. My suggestion is hire good people who have the right attitude. For the electronics side (if you are into device building) you can get good electronics background people in India who have experience in working in those 100’s of electronics companies in that are cluttered around Govt undertakings like BEL, BHEL, DRDO etc. They are good and have manageable salaries. Similarly on software side, target those thousands of MOM and POP companies having 1-2 clients that dot in Hyderabad/Bangalore/Pune etc. Make sure in the interview that they understand that in start ups, real returns will come in only after some time and lots of hard work needs to be put in. Do not hesitate to negotiate hard on salary.

4. Financing (Angel investors, crowd sourcing etc..) Recently I met a guy who was co-founder of a start-up that grew 20 times in 2 years. He has just quit. Why? Could not handle financier’s demands and growth targets pressure, direction financier wanted the company to go. Although financing might be mandatory at some point of time, In India, it’s very much possible to run the show on a very shoe string budget. DO NOT spend your live savings but develop some mechanism so that basic requirements can be met. I will speak about it more in a subsequent post.

TO BE CONTINUED….