Govt of India’s IOT policy
I recently came across an IOT policy document authored by the dept of electronics and information technology (DeiTY). The highlights of this policy document are –
- The Indian Government’s plan of developing 100 smart cities in the country, for which Rs. 7,060 crores has been allocated in the current budget could lead to a massive and quick expansion of IoT in the country.
- Some of the key aspects of a smart city will be:
- Smart parking.
- Intelligent transport system.
- Women’s Safety.
- Smart grids.
- Smart urban lighting.
- Waste management.
- Smart city maintenance.
- Water management.
- Pollution monitoring.
- Acknowledges that “Several countries like US, South Korea, China among others, have taken lead in
their preparedness for taking advantage of IoT”.
- Proposal’s objective is “to create an IoT industry in India of USD 15 billion by 2020″ so that “India would have a share of
5-6% of global IoT industry”.
- “To develop IoT products specific to Indian needs in the domains of agriculture, health, water quality, natural disasters, transportation, security, automobile, supply chain management, smart cities, Automated metering and monitoring of utilities, waste management, Oil & Gas) etc.”
- Develop 1 nodal agency (3 crores funding over 5 yeards) and 15 institutional/academic partners (1 crore each over 5 years).
- Set up a center of excellence (COE) with NASSCOM under PPP mode. These COEs will serve as incubation centers to support start-ups, SMEs, students and other innovators based on membership and supp from design to prototype in productizing their ideas. Expected cost is Rs 35 crores over 5 years for up to 5 centers in major cities.
- There is the usual blurb about introducing IOT specific courses in educational institutions, support for exhibiting products abroad etc.
All this looks good on paper but will it translate into any real action ?
What is in it for Indian start-ups in this field (including our modest efforts at WiSense) ? I don’t see any direct support for Start-ups other than through the centers of excellence (COE) proposed to be setup under PPP mode with NASSCOM. The proposal mentions incubation centers which will assist from design to prototype in productising ideas. Where is NASSCOM going to get people with this kind of expertise ? At most they can provide some office space.
Educational/research institutions do not have the urgency to show results unlike start-ups. Further, the former would be more interested in research than product development. The dept of electronics (in association with NASSCOM) can select start-ups to fund and take it from there. I may be wrong but VCs / angel investors in India are not interested in IOT startups (especially those involved in hardware development). I cannot blame them since the risk is clearly higher. The govt has to step in. It is going to be the biggest buyer (directly / indirectly) of IOT enabled products so it makes more sense for the govt to fund IOT startups.
Coming to WiSense, I do not see any other start-up in India which has actually built a working wireless mesh platform from scratch (both hardware and software) and selling it. In my opinion, hardware is not easy but software seems to be a bigger issue. Lot of start-ups (in India) struggle with developing stable bug free software. Distributed systems such as mesh networks are not easy to develop. Most people with this kind of expertise are employed in large organisations. WiSense is at a stage where it is ready to scale up. We need support to manufacture 1000 or more nodes in one shot instead of just 10 – 50 right now. One of our aims is to make WiSense the number vendor for low power wireless mesh network development kits for educational/research institutions in India. We can bring our per node cost down only if we can build in 1000 – 10000 range. Beyond development kits, we are already helping a couple of established companies in adding low power wireless interface to their products.
Indian start-ups should also realize that there is more to IOT than wearables and home automation. The government’s IOT proposal lists lot of areas in which longer range low power wireless sensor networks can be used. The Indian reality is that only the govt has the ability to encourage the growth of the IOT sector by buying IOT enabled devices. If we are able to build for local consumption, only then we can think of exporting to other countries.
Enough of my ramblings. I hope IOT is not one more bus India misses.