Coming soon to India: internet of everything

  • Dinesh Malkani, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 19, 2014 17:34 IST

The World Wide Web marked its 25th anniversary on March 11, an important milestone when we consider how technology has impacted our lives and how it will shape our future.

How fast the world has changed. According to Pew Research, 42% of adults in the US had never heard of the internet in 1995, and an additional 21% were vague on the concept.

Compare that to now. The International Telecommunication Union recently observed that three billion people will be online by the end of 2014. This year alone, more people joined the internet than the entire population of the United States.

However, we believe that as much as the internet has changed our world, it is the next phase of the Web that will truly transform our lives--the Internet of Everything.

Internet of Everything is the intelligent connection of people, processes, data and things. Citizens, companies and governments around the world are embracing it and turning to digitisation for more efficiency.

Today, 81% of India's population has access to mobile phones, while 10% use smartphones. Every month, for the next three years, India will add on average five million internet users and over eight million networked devices.

Our networked world will include far more than just computers, tablets and phones. We will see the digitisation of street lights, parking spaces, beacons, kiosks, sensor-based water defences, physical infrastructure monitoring and controls and smart energy grid services.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon described the 21st century as the century of cities. Nowhere will that statement be more relevant than in India. By 2050, India will add 404 million people to its cities according to the UN. Also, at 857 million people, India has the largest rural population in the world.

The government understands the need to address both urban and rural India. The Digital India programme focuses on digitally empowering citizens by enabling broadband in villages, universal phone connectivity, public internet access points, wi-fi in schools and universities, digital inclusion, electronic delivery of governance and services and job creation.

The future of competition is between cities. Citizens and especially young people will want to live in cities that are economically, social and environmentally sustainable. IHS Technology estimates that in the next 11 years, the total number of smart cities worldwide will grow to 88 from 21 now.

In 2013, CII & Cisco released a report titled 'Smart City in Indian Context', which described how the country needed to embrace ICT as part of its urban planning to create a better and sustainable India. The government understands technology is as essential as the three utilities - water, gas, and electricity - and has made it clear that broadband highways are as important as national highways.

Cities face budgetary challenges, including rising costs and shrinking resources. The world's cities account for 70% of greenhouse-gas emissions and energy-related costs are one of the biggest municipal budget items according to UN-Habitat.

Innovative platforms, open data and apps can reduce traffic, parking congestion, pollution, energy consumption and crime, and also generate revenue and reduced costs for residents and visitors.

Consider street lighting, which today accounts for 1.5% of the total electricity consumption in India, according to McKinsey. A Navigant Research study shows worldwide street lighting can amount for up to 40% of a municipality's electricity bill. Cities that use networked motion-detection lights can save70%-80% of electricity and costs, according to an independent trial of LED technology.

Smart street-lighting initiatives can also reduce crime in an area by 7% because of better visibility and more content citizenry says a Cisco estimate.

Another example to consider is buildings. As the 'Smart City in Indian Context' report noted, buildings account for nearly 40% of the total energy consumption in India that will go up to 50% by 2030. McKinsey estimated India would need to build 700-900 million square metres of new residential and commercial space from 2010 to 2020 every year. Buildings outfitted with intelligent sensors and networked management systems can collect and analyse energy-use data.

Traffic congestion costs the country $10 billion a year in wasted time and fuel. Drivers looking for a parking space cause 30% of urban congestion, not to mention pollution. Imagine if cities embedded networked sensors in parking spaces that relay to drivers real-time information about - and directions to - available spots.

Cisco believes digitisation of a country will depend on five key areas: visionary leadership, global open standards, smart regulation, public-private partnerships and a new ecosystem and India can play a powerful role in the Internet of Everything worldwide.

In October 2014, the government's Department of Electronics and Information Technology released the draft Internet of Things (IoT) Policy for India with the intention to create a $15 billion IoT industry by 2020.

The government shared its plans to grow connected devices to 2.7 billion in 2020 from 200 million today. In a report on the evolution of the IoT ecosystem in India, Convergence Catalyst said there are now more than two million app developers and estimated that by 2017, the number would go up to three million. According to the report, 60 start-ups are already working on dedicated IoT solutions and 14 smart grid pilot projects.

The year 2014 signals a major inflection point for the Internet of Everything, which will have a much bigger impact on the world than the internet did in its first 20 years. We have the opportunity to live in a Digital India where everything - and everyone - can be connected.

Streets will be safer, homes will be smarter and citizens will be healthier.

(Dinesh Malkani is president of Cisco India and Saarc.)

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