Interview: Shivananda Koteshwar-Director Design Technology, MediaTek, Shares Insights on IoT

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Introduction: Shivananda (Shivoo) Koteshwar– Director, Design Technology, MediaTek Bangalore, India shares insights on Internet of things, where it is today, its growth potential and the challenges and how to overcome them.

  1. Every research agency and analyst groups have their own numbers and take on IoT.  What is your take on IoT Industry and how do you see it currently. 

Internet of Things, especially wearables, industrial automation and home security will grow exponentially in the next 5 to 10 years, following the smartphone boom. According to Gartner, the Internet of Things (IoT), which excludes PCs, tablets and smartphones, will be comprised of 26 billion connected units by 2020, generating an incremental revenue of over $300 billion.  I personally feel these numbers are on the conservative side and it would be much higher than this.

Computer Era started with Server Era where one machine serviced many users. Then came the PC Era where one machine served one user and now we are in IoT era, where many machines (devices) serve one user and also other ‘things’. Hence the number of connected devices in the IoT segment will be much bigger than what is predicted.

MediaTek

  1. What are your views on the Indian IoT markets?

India has been receptive towards IoT adoption especially with the Government’s great initiative – Digital India and Smart Cities. As the tagline of Digital India suggests, it’s power to empower.  While the country’s Internet connectivity is improving, we expect India to add a significant value to the overall IoT market, and start-ups will be key contributors to this ecosystem. The start-ups I have worked with have created innovative solutions in efficient manufacturing, road safety and increasing efficiency in energy & water distribution channels.

A study commissioned by TCS says that 80% of companies witnessed a growth in revenue through investments in IoT technology. We would like to engage with the Indian developer community and other IoT ecosystem players to fuel Innovation in India. We expect the opportunities in IoT to have the power to transform India from an off-shore software development nation to an important entrepreneurial IoT center, with products produced and launched in India for the local market or to be taken to the global market.

  1. What are the drivers for IoT and how can it be taken to the next stage in India and globally?

It is broadly accepted that the IoT market opportunity will be vast in terms of potential unit volume and scope. We believe that the global developer community will be a major source of innovation in IoT in India and globally. According to Vision Mobile (September 2015), there will be 9.7 million IoT developers by 2020. And basis NASSCOM data, India has more than 4,200 start-ups and is the third largest base of start-ups in the world. Additionally, according to a recent study by Progress, 58% of developers expect IoT to expand beyond smartphones and tablets within two years and most of them see mass adoption of IoT apps occurring within the next five years.

We have been witnessing a growing trend of ‘API-fication’ to Internet of Things and the growth of cloud services, and we think that it will also be a critical factor to lead IoT to the next stage. There was a phase when datasets were only available to large enterprises, making it difficult for developers to access, which has changed. Now developers can use APIs to collate IoT data from their devices and various sensors, upload that data to the cloud and use it for various apps. One such example is the complimentary MediaTek Cloud Sandbox service that MediaTek Labs offers the members of its developer community, which allows developers to store, display and remotely access their IoT device data during proof-of-concept and prototyping stage; this lowers the entry barrier for smaller start-ups and entrepreneurs to get started with their IoT development.

  1. According to you what are the key challenges for IoT currently.

With opportunity comes challenges and we think that one of the key priorities in India is the Internet connectivity. With fluctuating connectivity across the nation, IoT may not receive adequate and equal attention in urban and rural areas, which may also hamper the growth of the digital nation. This situation is likely to improve as the Government aims to connect all 2.5 lakh gram panchayats in the country with a high speed digital highway using optical fiber.

The biggest challenge for start-ups has been lack of support from the focussed community. There was no single platform where hardware developers, software developers, solution providers and investors can interact.  MediaTek Labs, launched in September last year, has been very good in addressing some of these pain points providing access to hardware, software development kits (SDK) alongside technical and business support and matchmaking with appropriate supply chain partners.

Security is also turning into a critical factor, as the number of connected devices is increasing. There is sufficient security provided by the devices, but attackers are getting mightier. Hence, we do believe that adapting a scalable security solution which provides security round the clock is required.

To further blend IoT into devices, there is also an urgent need for skilled workforce which is currently insufficient in India. More skill development courses and specialised courses in undergraduate and graduate levels are required.

  1. How differently is IoT adoptions in different industries and in B2B and B2C space and how long will it take for the industry to mature?

IoT verticals can be classified into 6 different areas: (1) Environment and Weather monitoring, (2) Infrastructure and Inventory, (3) Smart Anything (Home, roads, parking, village, city, lighting, water, etc.), (4) Manufacturing and Energy management, (5) Medical and Healthcare and (6) Transportation, Logistics and Supply Chain

In each of these areas, there are products and services in B2B and B2C space.

Home automation, Medical and Healthcare, and Wearables have been the initial segments where we have seen interesting products and solutions such as  MediaTek powered OukiTel smart watch, Belkin’s WeMo and Ubiquiti mFi Home automation platforms to name a few. Smart Anything and Energy management is the next big wave which will attract major investments and growth for the next 3 years.

  1. What do you think of the Policies or regulations or the lack of it in IoT space and what can be done about it? What should the Government be doing to nurture the IoT in India?

It’s great news that this year, India has announced the Draft policy on IoT.  Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Zero Defect, Zero Effect” slogan for high quality manufacturing in India without impacting the environment will be the highlight of the country’s first Internet of Things policy.  The objective of the policy is to create an IoT industry in India worth $15 billion by 2020 and to increase the connected devices from around 200 million to over 2.7 billion by 2020. It has been assumed that India would have a share of 5-6% of global IoT industry.

To make manufacturing in India popular, the government is offering up to 100% duty benefit in imports of raw materials required for manufacturing IoT products. Raw materials purchased from domestic market will be entitled for reimbursements of excise duty and CST.  These two steps from government is a positive move to realize “Make in India.”

  1. What advice would you give to the Start-up community who is working on IoT projects? 

I have mentored many start-ups in India and have noticed that they struggle a lot with “Go To Market” strategy and lack good supply-chain partners.

My advice is to be relevant and have a strong go-to-market strategy. Focusing on showcasing technology depth is good, but that alone is not enough to generate the drive required for the company to move forward.

Also I believe having global leaders as mentors can help steer the company in the right direction. Collaboration, supply chain, market reach, efficient and effective eco-system are a necessity in IoT space and these can be leveraged from mentors.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about how MediaTek is involved in IoT space and how are you are helping the ecosystem to develop?

MediaTek has a strong position as a leading chipset designer and player in the device eco-system, offering a wide portfolio of solutions across electronic product categories. MediaTek has introduced a platform based around the world’s smallest commercial System-on-Chip (SOC) for Wearables, MediaTek MT2502 (Aster). With its embedded support for GPRS/GSM and Bluetooth 2.1/4.0, this highly integrated SoC design avoids the need for multiple chips, meaning smaller devices and reduced costs for device creators, as well as eliminating the need for compatibility tests. The MT2502 is complemented by Wi-Fi and GNSS chips, offering high performance and low power consumption to devices with more sophisticated communication or location acquisition requirements. This means you can easily create devices that connect to other smart devices or directly to cloud applications and services.

MediaTek has been working with Trade organizations and ecosystem players in India (e.g. IESA, NASSCOM) to democratize technology and encourage development of innovative solutions in the IoT space.

In September 2014, the company launched MediaTek Labs (http://labs.mediatek.com), a new strategic eco-system initiative to stimulate new innovation in the IoT & Wearables market by opening up the company’s industry-leading reference designs to the global developer community. MediaTek LinkIt™ is a portfolio of software and hardware development platforms, currently consisting of MediaTek LinkIt ONE, MediaTek LinkIt Connect 7681 and MediaTek LinkIt Assist 2502, which have created great traction in the areas of Wearables, smart home appliances and smart city concepts.

On June 1st, 2015 MediaTek announced the launch of the industry-leading MT7687 – a low-power, Wi-Fi System-on-Chip (SoC) that allows home appliances and smart devices to connect to and be controlled through a home network. Enabling a diverse range of IoT applications, the MT7687 provides advanced security, integrated memory, and an enhanced user programmable microcontroller.

MediaTek Labs helps developers innovate by providing them with simple to use hardware and software development kits, technical and business support.  In addition, it offers supply chain matchmaking support through MediaTek Labs Partner Connect, addressing a commonly expressed developer pain point in the Wearables & IoT industry, namely the difficulty for smaller developers to find the appropriate partners to develop and launch their products. Labs Partner Connect has already helped match-make developers with MediaTek supply chain partners for design and development of new Wearable and IoT products based on MediaTek LinkIt, which we hope will be commercialized during the year.

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