zapp2photo - stock.adobe.com
In the northern Indian city of Kohima, data collected from sensors and other internet of things (IoT) devices is being used to manage street lighting, ensure public safety and deliver a slew of citizen services.
And between the capital city of New Delhi and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, the Vande Bharat Express – India’s first semi high-speed train – uses a collision-avoidance system comprising sensors and other IoT devices to prevent accidents due to human error or equipment failure.
In agriculture, Tea Tantrum, a supplier of wellness and premium teas in India, is using IoT technology to monitor moisture content and maintain the ingredient proportions of some of its products.
Industry watchers have singled out India as a hotspot for IoT deployments, with the market expected to reach $17bn by 2021, according to Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research.
P N Sudarshan, a partner at Deloitte India, is equally upbeat about India’s IoT market, which is poised to benefit from the country’s growing potential as a global manufacturing hub as companies look to diversify their supply chains amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the industrial segment, sectors like health sciences, power and core manufacturing will leverage IoT use cases in supply chain monitoring and asset maintenance to drive IoT adoption,” says Sudarshan.
“In the consumer segment, the need for personalised customer experience and enhanced after-market support will drive retail organisations to implement IoT. Similarly, in the public sector, the Indian government’s focus on establishing smart cities will create substantial potential for IoT spending in public safety, traffic management and energy management,” he adds.
Emerging use cases
Following the introduction of India’s goods and services tax (GST), which marked a big turning point for businesses in the subcontinent, more investments have been made in warehouses to improve supply chain efficiencies.
“Large, modern warehouses are fully equipped to track containers and are completely automated. This may not be easy for smaller warehouses, again because of legacy issues, but adoption of IoT is being driven by supply chain needs,” says Arun Jethmalani, founder and managing director of market intelligence firm ValueNotes.
In process industries, performance optimisation and preventive maintenance are the leading use cases, especially among companies that have invested in expensive equipment such as cranes, which could be better maintained remotely using the IoT, he adds.
Indian companies have also started to leverage IoT capabilities in product development. Take Staqo, for example, an IT service provider which developed a bicycle tracking application that uses IoT to improve user safety and deliver real-time alerts. This is being done by weaving intelligence into features such as dismount detection, geofencing and speed checks.
Finally, the onset of the pandemic, which has fuelled demand for contactless technologies, is likely to bolster IoT adoption in the property and security sectors.
“Every commercial and residential space is working towards making their environment touchless to avoid Covid-19 infections,” says Sunil Singh, director of engineering at GlobalLogic, a software engineering services provider.
“This holds a major growth potential in India and companies are working to make touchless access controls for electronic doors and elevator controls, along with other building information management systems. IoT is also going to play a major role in infrastructure security.”
And yet, concerns remain
Mathew Chandy, managing director of Duroflex, a local bedding supplier, notes that the main bugbear in IoT adoption in India lies in the nature of industries, some of which are largely unorganised with loosely formed processes.
“That is what’s stopping Industry 4.0 from going into full swing,” he says. “The highly unpredictable manner of demand movement and non-standardised processes are serious hurdles right now when we consider large-scale IoT implementations. We are trying to break away from the barrier.”
ValueNotes’ Jethmalani points out the heavy capital expenditure underpinnings of IoT as a deterrent too, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
“While pharmaceuticals and consumer goods companies are building new factories and embracing IoT to automate their plants, smaller companies have not joined the adoption curve,” he says.
Then there are challenges around integration and connectivity. “The lack of common standards is a worldwide issue with IoT, but in India it stops businesses from getting the full power out of this technology,” says Jethmalani.
“India is early in the adoption curve and integration is a big issue, apart from other factors like network connectivity and machine downtime. Many people are waiting for 5G for large-scale adoption because that’s built for IoT.”
Cyber security has been a perennial concern with IoT and will remain so until a global IoT security framework can be adopted by enterprises, says Prashant Bhat, managing director for cyber security and privacy at consulting firm Protiviti India.
“We also need to consider establishing a global IoT framework for product manufacturers. Companies adopting IoT should ensure the design implements a strong IoT logging, monitoring and maintenance framework,” he adds.
Besides technical challenges related to standards and security, IoT adoption is also hampered by the lack of capital investment and skilled talent – though the situation is improving with India’s IoT landscape already attracting players of all stripes, including research labs, suppliers and promising IoT startups such as ThingsCloud and SeeHow.
Bhat notes that IoT players and adopters in India are increasingly forming industry and technology forums to ensure that product designs, protocol standards, supporting solutions and implementation models are aligned. “This enables earlier, easier adoption and faster progress on the road to IoT infrastructure maturity,” he says.
On the supply side, Deloitte’s Sudarshan is hopeful that favourable market trends, such as the low cost of storing and computing data in the cloud, the declining cost of connectivity and sensors, as well as increasing smartphone penetration, will provide strong tailwinds for IoT adoption in India.