Work On Building India’s First Smart City Is Already Underway

India is embracing the concept of Smart Cities with both arms wide open, and a few short months after inking pacts with the US Government, the plan has kicked into action.
smartcity
Work of developing the country’s first smart city has already begun on the outskirts of the city of Gandhinagar, the capital of the state of Gujarat.
Right now there isn’t much other than modern underground infrastructure and two office blocks, but the plan is to have drinking water on tap, automated waste collection and a dedicated power supply.
That doesn’t necessarily say smart city, but alongside the cutting edge communication and connected infrastructure that will be put into place, the government is also opting for smart planning.
That probably means the city plan was designed based on a computer model, that tested many variations of things as simple as placement of street lights to maximise efficiency.
Smart Cities are India’s only option to house and employ the 814 million people that are estimated to live in Indian cities by the year 2050. The current urban population is pegged at 400 million.
This mass urbanization is what pushed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pass a plan outlining the building of 100 smart cities all over India by 2022. Moreover, all this wouldn’t be possible with the help of the private sector’s involvement.
In order to make that dream come true, India allocated $962 million in its federal budget for the financial year 2015-16 for the setting up of smart cities. Still, the government is looking at large tax and other breaks to lure banks, brokerages and businesses to invest in the program.
While planned cities aren’t new to India, the scale of what the government is trying to implement is unprecedented, and probably comparable to what China did during its economic golden years.
Moreover, the government is not only building new smart cities, but also retrofitting existing cities like Dholera, Surat and Visakhapatnam with infrastructure that will earn them the smart city tag.

A Look At Indian Government’s IoT Plans : Smart Water, SmartAgri [And More]

The government has released a draft policy related to IoT (Internet of Things) plans and here are a few key insights.
The Goal.
To create an IoT industry in India of USD 15 billion by 2020. It has been assumed that India would have a share of 5-6% of global IoT industry.
Some of the key aspects of a smart city will be: 
Smart parking.     |    Intelligent transport system   |    Tele-care.     |   Woman Safety    |   Smart grids    |   Smart urban lighting.   |       Waste management.   | Smart city maintenance   | Digital-signage. |  Water Management.

IoT : Five Pillars
IoT : Five Pillars
The Policy framework of the IoT Policy has been proposed to be implemented via a  multi-pillar approach. The approach comprises of five vertical pillars (Demonstration  Centres, Capacity Building & Incubation, R&D and Innovation, Incentives and  Engagements, Human Resource Development) and 2 horizontal supports  (Standards & Governance structure).
Planned IoT Ideas include:
– SMART WATER : To setup Potable water monitoring tools to monitor the quality of tap  water in all government owned education institutes and public places
– SMART ENVIRONMENT:  To setup project for alarm and control of CO2 emissions of factories,  pollution emitted by cars and toxic gases generated.
SMART HEALTH (Remote) :  To setup projects for monitoring various vital parameters of patients like subtle changes in pulse, respiration, heart condition, temperature and preventive warning on early onset of pneumonia (in small children) or other life-threatening problems ,inside hospitals and at remote patient location including old people’s home and ambulance.
The plan is also to establish incubator related to IoT.

The expected cost to execute a 40 seater COE for 5 years would be  Rs. 35 Crores. Total 5 centres should be aimed which should include labs, office infrastructure and other necessities. Government would provide Rs. 100 Crores of funds. The rest of the funding would be sourced through industry by NASSCOM or any  other appointed association. [Draft Policy (PDF)]

Intel, Samsung Come Together To Launch OIC, IoT Consortium

Though IoT is the new new tech jargon, the first version of it has been around for some time (home/industrial automation, as it used to be called). Till date, there are no clear standards or specifications around IoT (Internet of Things) and tech companies like Intel, Dell, Samsung, Atmel Corp, Wind River and Broadcom have formed an alliance to create an industry standard for IoT, which will drive seamless device-to-device connectivity.OIC-IoT

The Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) is focused on defining a common communications framework based on industry standard technologies to wirelessly connect and intelligently manage the flow of information among personal computing and emerging IoT devices, regardless of form factor, operating system or service provider.

IoT : OIC Specification
IoT : OIC Specification

Key Highlights of OIC

– This Open Source implementation will be designed to enable application developers and device manufacturers to deliver interoperable products across Android, iOS, Windows, Linux, Tizen, and more.

– Member companies will contribute software and engineering resources to the development of a protocol specification, open source implementation, and a certification program, all with a view of accelerating the development of the IoT.

– The OIC specification will encompass a range of connectivity solutions, utilizing existing and emerging wireless standards and will be designed to be compatible with a variety of operating systems.

As far as the framework is concerned, it is being developed to enable a sense of proximity for the Internet of Things and Wearable devices and include support for Onboarding and Provisioning.

  • The framework must enable multiple new modes of communication, such as Peer-to-Peer, Mesh & Bridging, Reporting & Control, etc.
  • The framework should include a consistent implementation of identity, authentication and security across the modes of User ID, Enterprise / Industrial ID & Credentials.
  • The framework must support a “building block” architecture and provide an Open Source implementation.
  • The framework will support range of wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and NFC.

IoT : A Big Deal?

IDC expects the installed base of the Internet of Things will be approximately 212 billion “things” globally by the end of 2020. This is expected to include 30.1 billion installed “connected (autonomous) things” in 2020!

– Recommended Read : Challenges Indian IoT Startups Are Facing.

For an IoT primer, watch this video

IIT Bombay Incubated IoT Startup Covacsis Secures Funding from RIL’s GenNext Ventures & Cisco

covacsisIIT Bombay incubated Covacsis Technologies has raised series B funding from GenNext Ventures- the VC arm of Reliance Industries and networking giant Cisco. Existing investor Blume Ventures also participated in the round.

Covacsis had raised Rs 2.5 cr from Blume Ventures, India Venture Partners and an undisclosed European fund in 2012.

The company has customers like Sun Pharma, Ipca Labs, Cipla, Godrej Industries, Tata Chemicals, Welspun, Raymond Limited and Ruby Mills. It was looking to raise $5-6 mn in the next round at the time.

“We’re excited about Covacsis’ products and readiness for large markets and we’re more than happy to play alongside these 2 deep pocketed investors,” Karthik Reddy, Managing Partner at Blume Ventures said.

Covascis was founded by Tarun Mishra, a 1999 IIT-B graduate and it was incubated in IIT Bombay in 2009. Covacsis helps manufacturing plants optimize their operations with the help of sensors and analytics in real time. This is right up the alley of the likes of Cisco (recently announced a $100 mn Internet of Things fund).

Reliance, which has multiple manufacturing related businesses seems like a strategic investor in the company. GenNext Ventures hasn’t announced any big investments recently. The deal was reported by Techcircle.

Quite a few startups that fall in the Internet of Things category have been coming up in India recently. MagnetWorks, which launched at UnPluggd is another startup which does similar things. Intellocut another startup which launhced at UnPluggd and was funded by Blume Ventures operates in the textile industry.

Internet of Things: Indian Startups and Their Challenges – Part I

The foreign startups featured in the IoT series based on Home Automation and Cloud ignited a series of questions in the minds of Indian readers: Is this possible in India? Yes, it is possible and in fact it does make sense to do an IoT startup from India. There are a number of startups in India trying to work on IoT.

IoT, to put it in a layman’s words is technology that lets devices communicate with each other, sans human interaction and takes the desired decision. Indian startups like Transpose India, Epsilon Electronics, Azoi, Locanix et al are working in this space.

For the sake of convenience of readers and enthusiasts in this field, we will exclusively cover the challenges faced by the startups and how they overcame them. The series is intended to be a checklist for any IoT enthusiast willing to plunge in this domain.

Transpose India

Transpose India is a solution to the inability of designated infrastructure to sustain the ever increasing growth in vehicular numbers proposed by a bunch of young students from CEPT, Ahmedabad. India’s infrastructure is in shambles, people blame it to lack of funds but design, planning and strategy has played an equally important role. The startup intends to acquire and analyse vehicular data for planning purposes and resource optimisation. While there are several firms doing this, what breaks the startup from the rest is the automation of process of data collection and analysis.

Transpose India 1

The firm intends to capture the vehicular traffic on the road through a camcorder, which will be located at any high point that covers the maximum nadir. These sensors are placed at vantage points in the target areas and the input video is processed real-time and the numbers are wirelessly transmitted to the main server. The data acquired is further processed and made legible enough to be understood and converted into data packages. These data packages withhold the potential of producing further analysis in the form of future trends and patterns. It also helps understanding whether the infrastructure provided is living upto its potential or not. This data is then used for employing strategies needed for setting up infrastructure. What seems to be a simple process, has quite a lot of challenges involved.

1) With a variety of vehicles in the Indian market, the process of identifying the vehicles as a separate entity viz. a car, a bike, a cycle, a truck is difficult, let alone be accurate. Transpose has developed the design of the software in such a way that it clubs any two small vehicles like two wheelers and identifies it into one as a four wheeler. This gives a proper account of the space occupied on the road. The accuracy involved is round about 90 % when tested in their beta stage.

Transpose India 2

2) Battery Backup: One of the most important areas, which has not been given due attention, involved in the IoT section is power. When the aim is to minimize human interaction, the devices should be equipped to restore the power back up when the battery wanes out. Transpose intends to install the devices on the top of a traffic signal or solar power enabled street lights so that the issue of power never arises.

3) External Conditions: Come monsoon and all the fairy tale plans gets washed away. IoT devices in general, be it used for external or internal purpose, need to always be resistant enough to survive the wild conditions. If too much wind, rain or heat causes it to break down, the whole purpose of communication and convenience holds little substance. Transpose intends to come up with water resistant equipments to keep the cycle intact.

4) Cost: One of the major factor involved thwarting the forest fire speed of IoT is the initial cost involved and maintenance attached to it. Devices put up by the public agencies on the crossroads for recording cost a bomb, ranging in few lakhs. CEPT students have very conveniently built the device where they assembled the cheap parts and built it which slashed the cost by more than 50%.

5) Technology: This doesn’t seem hard to a guy who is a techgeek and starts his own IoT firm. But these were CEPT students, master in design and strategy but novice to the ‘For’ and ‘While’ loop along with the jargons of electronics. Getting the right technical manpower is a challenge for the big honchos even, let alone startups. Transpose had to reschedule many of its completion plans only for the lack of right techo. Having a technical co-founder always helps right from execution to hiring the right technical resource.

6) Communication: Since communication is the most stressed part in IoT, the firm has not found any issues with the same as of now. The firm uses the GSM network to transfer the data, which they claim to be not more than few Kb every second. But with a vulnerable infrastructure as ours, real-time communication do pose a challenge and particularly with startups like Tado, when implemented in India.

Transpose has patented its technology. While it already has tried and tested, the final version is to be out by August. The efforts of Transpose have been well recognized by Indian Institute of Human Settlements (IIHS) with which it has signed a MoU. On completion of the project, IIHS intends to give them the necessary grant as per the MoU.

3 Startups That Help You Build Your Own Internet of Things

We have seen startups providing home automation system in various domains using the concept of Internet of Things (IoT). While those were the systems already provided with built –in functionalities, Spark,ThingsquareCarriots are those startups that in fact help you create your own Internet of Things device. While the solutions IoT provides definitely looks no less than jargon to a layman, these startups have particularly stressed on building the Do-It-yourself (DIY) kit in a way that even layman can lay his hands on it.

Let us understand it with an example: You are working on an assignment that asks you to survey the caffeine viz. tea, coffee consumption in an office on different days like a light day, appraisal or hectic days etc. This is where the DIY solution comes into picture and can make the solution much simpler and accurate for you.

IoT 1

The solution proposes to install a flow meter between the coffee drum and the tap. The flow meter is equipped with sensors that send electronic pulses to the connected wire when a fluid passes through its internal blades. A calibration method has to be set up have a conversion constant from pulses to a volume unit (ml) and the work is done. Arduino board is the recommended one for accurate pulse record. When pulses are read, collected information is then sent to the Raspberry Pi. Then RPi handle reads, keep a log and send data to clouds. Each time a coffee is served the information is sent to the cloud. Then, all data is stored and pushed to external information systems to extract useful information by the smart Business Intelligence guys.

Such kind of solutions can be built with the components, be it hardware or software provided by the startups such as Spark, Thingsquare and Carriots. For instance, Carriots provides its cloud services and has its own intelligence system that consists of listeners (for calibration and counting purposes), triggers(for pushing data), and different APIs. The custom dashboard can be built in any web technology with a precondition that it should be capable to talk to the Carriots platform via API. It comes with a licensing cost in various plans.

Spark is also an open source system. It provides a solution called ‘Spark Core’ which is a Wi-Fi development board that makes it easy to create internet-connected hardware. Spark Core is a chip that can be installed in any of the devices that you want to control remotely. The device is capable of being programmed in the C/C++ or assembly language, wirelessly without attaching it with the PC. It can be reprogrammed. It connects directly to the cloud provided by the Spark through the Wi-Fi module in the chip. With the help of the cloud, the devices can be accessed from anywhere in a safe and secure manner through REST API. The devices can also be accessed without the cloud support, through the TCP and UDP communication protocols. The kit comes at $39.

IoT 2

Thingsquare works in a similar way. In the solution provided by them, chips are added to the devices that one wishes to control. These chips run the Thingsquare open source firmware. They connect to the cloud via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. This way one can build its own home or office automation system with minimal effort. The backend connects the devices with the API. The firm has partnered up with Texas Instruments for manufacturing wireless chips. Typically the chips are compatible with lighting, metering and wireless sensor devices.

Typically these startups provide you an ideal platform to control your device as well as store and assess your data remotely in a secured manner, an ideal example of Platform as a Service (PaaS) with some in built hardware and micro controller chips required.

Tado: Revolutionizing the Heating System With its Smart Technology

During harsh and cold winters, a responsible citizen is always in dilemma: Should I let the heating run at full power while no one is at home or bear the cold for some time after I arrive at home and start the heater? While the question sometimes seems trivial when taken as an individual case, but when we come to know that one third of the energy consumed around the world is used for heating or cooling buildings, there is definitely something that needs to be done. The systems used for these are controlled by non-smart technology that is outdated and that is where exactly Tado fills the lacunae.

So what does Tado exactly do? Tado is a state-of-the-art intelligent technology that works with a heating system to keep your house at a pleasant temperature, coupled with energy saving features. Consider a scenario: You leave home every morning at 8 only to return by evening and there’s no one else at home. The tado mobile app will keep a track of your distance from home and will let the heating system go slow in direct proportion to your distance from home. As the distance increases, the heating system will start slowing down. In evening when you are done with the day, the tado will activate the heating system from its hibernation and by the time you arrive home, tado heats the home to the perfect temperature. The heating will go up with every inch towards your home.

Along with this, Tado sets the house temperature in accordance to the external temperature and time cycle of the day. Tado responds to the particular heating properties of your home which are influenced by factors such as its insulation and window surface areas. This allows it to reach the desired temperature even more efficiently.

How does it work?

Sounds interesting, eh!! The Tado kit consists of a box connected that is connected to the boiler, ultimately responsible for the intensity of heating. It is this box that contains the intelligent system to regulate the temperature according to the need. The second device of the kit, Gateway is responsible for all the remote information sharing of the heating information to and from the app. It is plugged into the router. Another device called the temperature sensor, which is powered by solar cell, measures the temperature in the living area.

Tado, as it claims, is easy to install and works with a central or split heating system. The mobile app automatically informs your heating system of your location – without you having to open the app. The app also helps you get an overview of what tado° is doing and how warm it is at home. The web app gives a detailed report with a temperature curve, heating activity and events that influence the temperature regulation. The geolocation services is provided through mobile phone tower locations, Wi-Fi access points which are close to the phone, and triangulation instead of GPS to save battery consumption.

Tado Connection Kit

According to the estimates, Tado claims to save upto 300 pounds every year. Tado considers the no. of people in the house, the no. of rooms and its area while putting forth the statistics in terms of costs and percentage of power saved. Though the smart phone app is one of the most important controller of the technology, Tado can be manually controlled. Tado, a Munich based company, has been in existence since 2010 and is augmenting its reach in German and pan-European markets.

Where’s it lacking?

However, with all this pros there are some serious issues which haven’t been addressed or mentioned like the security of the system and the app, the effectiveness of the system with the aging of boiler or heating device, et al. Along with that, one also needs to think about the state of the system if the mobile app owner is not located on its mobile due to several reasons for longer hours. These factors pose an important question to the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.

This app definitely holds future when it comes to power saving and a systematic and thoughtful implementation will only service mother earth besides the economy.

Analyse Your Things With Internet of Things [A Primer on IoT]

When man couldn’t communicate ages back, they thought how wonderful and simple it would be if they could communicate their thoughts and feelings to each other that was easily understandable. Things would be moving faster, processes and system would be rolled out and life would be a tad simpler to manage.

After two millennia, man is at the brink of making one more revolutionary communication possible that is Internet of Things (IoT) as called so. How hassle free it would be if the last pill in the medicine pack would communicate about a need for new pack to the medicine store, instead of a person manually keeping a count of it and also avoiding a risk of missing medications on time!! That is exactly IoT : Passing of information between things in a language they understand without human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.  The following diagram explains it in a subtle way:

HealthCare and IoT
HealthCare and IoT

Understanding its process of communication will be simpler if we compare it with how communication amongst humans evolved. Just as we have names to differentiate each other, the devices are given identification through RFID, Barcodes, QR codes and Digital Watermarking. Through these identification systems, the objects communicate their current status on a continuous or continual basis to the needy systems.

Rightly explained by Kevin Ashton in RFID Journal during the inception stages of IoT, ”The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy—all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world.” And that’s a big deal!

We’re physical, and so is our environment. If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so.

Applications of Internet of Things
Applications of Internet of Things

When a particular environment is monitored continuously for raising efficiency or preventing hazards, risks and costs diminish. They prove fruitful in a longer run.  For e.g. a sensor embedded in a rental car will increase revenues through making car centres irrelevant and higher efficiency and decrease theft cases.

With advent of IoT, the ATM can be checked from remote office whether it is running out of cash. Along with these important fields, IoT will come handy in urban planning, environmental sensing, social interaction gadgets, intelligent shopping et al. Songdo, based in South Korea, is an upcoming model of perennially and ubiquitously connected city with stream of data being continuously tracked with very little human intervention.

Having been talked about so much and being so beneficial, what is thwarting the pace and reach of IoT? It is cost of sensors and actuators that must reach an absorption level. Technologies absorbing the data must grow at the same pace as data, to make the flow smooth among sensors, computers, and actuators. Software to aggregate and analyze data, as well as graphic display techniques, must improve to the point where huge volumes of data can be absorbed by human decision makers.

According to Harbor Research,  nearly 2 billion connected devices will be shipped. This number will grow to 8 Billion in 2020, out of which Domestic, Infrastructure and Healthcare will constitute major segments. It estimates a market size of 180 Billion. When computer and Internet market grew, no one in their dream imagined it to be outpaced by the cyber security market.

In particular, as the Internet of Things spreads widely, cyber attacks are likely to become an increasingly physical (rather than simply virtual) threat. As mentioned in the U.S. Intelligence report, an open market for aggregated sensor data could serve the interests of commerce and security no less than it helps criminals and spies identify vulnerable targets. The cyber security market for IoT is estimated to be as large as the IoT market itself. Considered as a threat to consumer privacy in already a hyper connected world, IoT in the hands of corporations seeking financial advantage and governments craving for more authority shall make the common man hapless.

Whatever they say may be, if Internet was the body of networking era, IoT is going to serve as the nervous system of the next networking era.

References for Data:

  1. http://postscapes.com/what-exactly-is-the-internet-of-things-infographic
  2. http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1261534&page_number=1
  3. http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_internet_of_things
  4. http://readwrite.com/2014/01/10/mobile-everywhere-smart-devices-internet-things
  5. http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/Internet-of-Things
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things