When technology embraces intelligence, transformation become the order of the day. Call it Connected Machines or Internet of Things (IoT), the next wave of the Industrial Revolution is here and its impacting every sector of the global economy.
India is on-track to become a potential superpower in the next decade, and is ramping its infrastructure to support transformational changes through digitalization. Ongoing initiatives like Digital India and 100 Smart Cities are fueling the country’s vision to become one of the most powerful economies by 2020. However, plenty of work still needs to be done to support its transformation, which has the potential to impact the more than 1.3 billion people of this country. With information and communications technology (ICT) being a key enabler of IoT, India will need to ensure it is making smart investments in building a robust infrastructure that can support its digital transformation.
IoT solutions require integration of IT and OT and an Intelligent Platform.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of IoT, it describes the intelligent network of assets and people connected via sensors, devices and video cameras that capture data that can be analyzed using advanced statistical models, machine learning algorithms and AI to gain greater insight that supports better decision-making. This requires tight integration of IT systems used for computing and data analysis with operational technology (OT) used to support, manage and monitor assets, people and processes in cities, businesses and industrial operations. IoT platforms that offer embedded IT/OT integration and analytics can accelerate the process to deliver valuable outcomes.
In conventional production-oriented processes, OT requires wired technology and real-time operating systems. Today, however, they use IP-based technologies with the evolution of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications from embedded platforms to IP-based wireless networks is accelerating this transition, resulting in effective information exchange across faster networks supported by advanced technologies like 4G/LTE.
The IoT Opportunity for India
IoT is now transforming industries on a global scale. A prime example is in the energy sector, which is rapidly evolving by connecting thousands of grids and millions of smart meters at customer homes and offices, helping utilities to realize greater operational efficiencies, cost and energy savings through automated power distribution and smart integration of IT and OT. A resilient energy system, for instance, can address network failures and other inefficiencies in power grids. Intelligent data capture and analysis supported by technologies like advanced supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems will deliver upbeat network monitoring and management capabilities.
India, however, still has a long way to go in terms of energy IoT investment. As of February 28, 2017, the total installed capacity of India’s power stations stands at 315 GW, however, smart grid investments are still a concern. India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) estimates that a typical city in India would require about Rs 300 to 500 crore (USD 46 million to 76 million approx) for modernizing the electricity grid. This would entail investments to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore (approximately $7.6 billion USD) for building smart grids in 100 cities. Compare this with the National Smart Grid Mission’s commitment of Rs.980 crore (approximately $210 million USD) announced in 2015 for the 12th plan 2012-17. This is a call to action for India’s power sector.
The scenario is more or less the same for Smart Cities. With the government’s vision to ensure safety across public domains like streets, buildings, shopping malls, etc., OT/IT integration holds even greater relevance. The “Smart Cities / Safe Cities” concept envisages social innovation and public safety through connected intelligence delivered by IoT. The scope of the project also includes effective collaboration among different sectors like healthcare, education, law enforcement, etc. With Aadhaar at the helm and the digital infrastructure to drive it forward, India has embarked on a historical social security mission for inclusive growth. Further, the latest developments around digitization of financial transactions, as well as the e-governance drive, have brought IoT closer to the citizens. With effective IT/OT integration strategy, the country can implement a common governance and process model around a centrally managed data lake.
India is abuzz about Industrie 4.0, the new automation revolution happening in the manufacturing and industrial sectors. The Make in India initiative has given an impetus for wider adoption of Industrie 4.0 trends. Digitalization fever has swept through almost all of India’s industrial firms. In fact, PwC revealed that 65 percent of industrial firms in India expect their company to transform digitally by 2020.
Challenges aside, with greater focus on integration of physical assets into digital ecosystems of the value chain, the fourth Industrial revolution promises huge opportunities for India. Data analytics has been identified as the key driver for Industrie 4.0, with IoT, cloud computing and mobile technologies accelerating adoption in large scale. By investing in competitive technologies, Indian firms can achieve complete value chain transformation and become true digital enterprises in the target period.
Tackling the IoT Integration Challenge
Typically, IoT integration involves the task of addressing the digital divide between the physical devices, which generate diverse operational data and the digital platforms designed to ingest and govern data to derive meaningful insights. Also, the integration that targets initiatives like Digital India and Smart Cities cannot be focused on one industry vertical—rather it should enable secure and open information exchange across accompanying verticals and platforms.
Secure, composable and scalable IoT platforms are in demand. They allow businesses and other entities to develop their own applications and solutions to support more effective management of resources. For instance, utility companies can build applications to save energy, whereas telecom service providers can launch targeted campaigns by tapping the location data of its users. Of late, initiatives such as transportation-as-a-service have been gaining popularity among developed countries.
To achieve its digital transformation goals, India must develop a future-proof IoT infrastructure that can adapt to emerging technologies and changing customer requirements. While integrating their existing platforms, they should position themselves to embrace popular open source technologies such as Hadoop, Spark, and NoSQL. Further, they should create a centralized data lake and prioritize IT/OT integration.
In short, the IoT strategy for pan-India digital initiatives demands a flexible infrastructure that provides city and urban planners with the flexibility, convenience and cost advantages required to position India as a thriving power player in the global digital economy.