Next time you visit the sprawling market at Dharavi, keep the Bluetooth, GPS locator and Internet data of your smartphone switched on. Chances are that a notification will flash on your phone, showcasing all products sold by certain shops there. This is made possible thanks to an emerging field of engineering known as 'Internet of Things' (IoT), which seeks to connect the physical world to the virtual.
Internet of Things (IoT) seeks to connect physical objects with the virtual world. Currently, it involves enhancing the experience of physical objects by attaching electronic devices which communicate with each other with web connectivity.
Under a pilot project, students of Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B), in collaboration with Swansea University in United Kingdom (UK), have installed devices called 'beacons' in 30 shops in the Dharavi's market, connecting them to a “physical web”. The experiment is part of Internet of Things Technology Research Award being conducted by information technology (IT) giant Google, which has provided 100 such devices to IIT-B.
The award, announced in February last year, gave students access to 100 beacon devices designed to allow any smart device — in this case, smartphones — to interact with real objects without having to download specific applications. The collaborative project is headed by professor Matt Jones of Swansea University and professor Anirudha Joshi of IDC.
IIT-B said the ‘physical web' will help Dharavi residents promote their business, while shoppers will be able to make more informed choices while buying products.
"This enhanced shopping experience aims to not only boost the customer-seller relation but attract more buyers to the markets of Dharavi. In the greater scheme of things, this will bring a change in the way Dharavi is perceived," read a statement from the institute.
Chinmay Parab, a student working on the project, said they chose Dharavi for their experiment in an effort to bring fruits of technology to a vast poor population. “Most new technologies, at inception, are exclusive and cater to only those who can afford them. We questioned, ‘Can we use technology who really need it?’," he said.
He added that the shops that are part of the experiment have been given a poster asking shoppers to turn on Bluetooth to experience the physical web.
After the project is over, team members will submit feedback and report to Google, which is likely to provide follow-up grants and in-kind support for the project.