Internet of Things (IoT) in a layman term is simply connecting your day-to-day devices from microwave to washing machine, home to car and office building to factory to the internet, so that sensors attached to these devices/appliances/machines can sense information (temperature, moisture, vibration, motion) and share with a computer program that can help make your life convenient/safer/ efficient or effective. For example, refrigerator informing BigBasket that it is running out of Cereals, camera alerting your mobile about an intruder, car informing the insurance company about bad driving behavior, shop floor machines alerting of a repair required in advance to avoid a complete breakdown, or city street lights turning on only when needed thereby saving energy.
World of IoT is fascinating at the same time complex to understand as the movie “Minority Report”, where Tom Cruise and the magical system can predict crime and stop them just-in-time. Let’s explore journey of Raju (fictional character) from rural India and his encounters with devices/appliances around him, since the day he is born un-till he starts managing an automobile parts factory, to understand how simple connected solutions adds value to his life.
As per available stats there are 676 districts in 29 states and 7 Union territories in India with a total number of 6,38,000 villages i.e. ~70% of population of India lives in villages. Shyama Prasad Mukherji’s Rurban Mission [SPMRM] says that“Development of a cluster of villages that preserve and nurture the essence of rural community life with focus on equity and inclusiveness without compromising with the facilities perceived to be essentially urban in nature, thus creating a cluster of Rurban villages”. The Rurban mission provides several glimpses in the requirements of Smart Villages, whose main motivation is to prevent migration of rural workers and youth to major urban cities by improving the living conditions in villages and provide access to technology.
Raju’s Childhood: Raju is born in a small village in northern India, where his mother faced complications during his birth but without early warnings, was not able to diagnose in time and was on verge of passing out during his birth. Knowledge Institute of Tech, Tamilnadu, published a solution where in a wearable device can monitor key vital stats (pressure, temperature and heartrate) of a pregnant woman and send alert to nearest doctor or healthcare unit for a timely action. BloomLife, a wearable which can dig deeper and monitor the health of fetus is another solution. Cheaper alternative can be designed to fit Indian family budget to measure basic parameters such as temperature and pressure, which can lead to a lot of forewarnings for timely actions.
Raju starts growing up playing in his homes vicinity, where in the kitchen relies on gas cylinder connected to a single burner stove for cooking through a gas pipe. One day, there starts a gas leak from the pipe and Raju, our 5 years old, while playing in the veranda is not able to identify the leak and ends up pushing a burning oil lamp on the floor. This results in minor explosion and Raju ends up getting burn injuries and is rushed to hospital by the neighbors. Veerobot gas sensor is sold on Amazon for Rs. ~200, which can be plugged onto a micro-controller like Arduino with some logic to alert the home owner through an SMS and help a great deal in such instances. Before leak converts into a fire, it can detect and concerned person can be alerted.
Raju’s Teen: Raju starts going to school and due to his childhood passion to play with electronics and open any gadget he encounters, he starts exploring solution using combination of sensors, processor and SIM card. A common problem in his village is loss of lives due to weak walls and roofs, which catches excessive moisture and collapses without much warning. Raju creates a simple device bundled with moisture sensor, which can be plugged inside the walls during or post construction. It sends an SMS alert to home owners when moisture content increases beyond a certain level so that corrective action can be taken. In another instance, Raju selects IoT as the problem solver to resolve issue with crop damages. Soil moisture and nutrients sensors, controlling water usage for optimal plant growth and determining custom fertilizer profiles based on soil chemistry are some of the areas, he creates local solutions, sometimes termed “Jugaad”.
Raju’s Adulthood: By now Raju gains sufficient expertise in building connected solution and completes his engineering from VIT in electronics and telecommunication. Meanwhile, before graduation Raju comes across typical issue of water wastage in crop water distribution system due to poor design and uneven surface of the farmland. Using flow and level sensors attached to the water sluice gates, Raju helps farmers in his town to do trend analysis and calculate the amount of rain received in the current year to decide minimum level of irrigation required for the crops. Raju comes across a connected health ATM which can be deployed anywhere with a AC power and give access to the doctor online. ATM allows you to become proactive and check parameters such as BMI, etc. cheaply, quickly and instantaneously and most importantly communicate with a doctor through a video conferencing.
As Raju graduates on to Raj and joins auto body parts manufacturer as lead designer and engineer of connected solutions such as infotainment, telematics, driving controls and diagnostics. Raj, designs a solution to retro fit sensors on the factory shop floor and monitor health of critical machines to predict failures in advance. Before these machines used to stay down for two days for repair, resulting in loss of productivity but measuring and monitoring vibration, pressure and alignment, Raj was able to predict failures with 70% accuracy.
As we can live through Raju onto Raj’s journey, we see that Internet of Things solutions with a combination of simple electronics, basic programming and connectivity (wired or wireless) adds tremendous value - health (pre-natal), safety (leaks), productivity (crops), preventive checkup (ATM), conservation (water mgmt.) and prescriptive maintenance at factory. Such solutions are not complex or expensive and can be made affordable with economies of scale and government support.
Essence of the story is that our lives can be supported by simple solution, which are not robotic but complementary to humans and can help improving standard of living.