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IoT in India: smart villages before smart cities.

ykopp.jpgOur consultants, developers and trainers are on the road for Trivadis throughout all of Central Europe. But some like Yannik Kopp were looking for an adventure a little further away. Yannik, who is a Cloud Solutions Consultant at Trivadis, spent two months in New Delhi last summer. He wanted to explore the different cultures of the subcontinent and in return he also got to know himself a little bit better, being encouraged to leave his comfort zone. To Yannik, India is a country of extremes and contrasts, which tested his limits more than once but still intrugued him and motivated him to continue living there.

Yannik is not only an avid traveler but also really passionate about IT. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that IT was a topic he focused on throughout his traveling in India. Since he started studying IT, he already paid close attention to innovative and pioneering projects, especially related to the Internet of Things (IoT).
His fascination for the IoT led him to the urban and bustling startup scene in New Delhi as well as the deepest, remote jungles of the country. He was involved in several exciting projects, but more importantly, these experiences connected him with individuals. According to Yannik, it was extremely rewarding to see innovative IT-projects change the life of people in India in a sustainable way. An impressive, positive impact of IoT, aside from striving to be profitable.

Smart villages before smart cities

India is placing its bets on the Internet of Things: During the past few month, the Indian government spent 15 billion USD on smart projects. But government-subsidized steps towards a digital future are facing the same problems as digital projects in companies. What can we learn from the difficulties in connecting the second-most populous country in the world, regarding the digitization in Europe?

Many people are desperately looking forward to it: the monsoon - the annual rainy season. In the capital New Delhi it’s barely raining until summer. Therefore, most of the Indians are excited for the flash flood. The monsoon season boosts the economy, cools temperatures down and hence it is - in some way – romantic. Apart from all the excitement, monsoons also cause a lot of chaos in Indian cities. Many streets are flooded because there are no proper water drainage systems set up. A few times a day, electricity stops working for a couple of seconds until generators start working again. It’s also common that heavy rain causes telephone networks to collapse. Rainy season shows how fragile the infrastructure in Indian cities really is because a lot of technical construction are simply made by improvisation rather than strategic planning.

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Indias’ smartest village

It’s exactly that improvisation, which makes it challenging to further connect Indian cities and to take the next step towards smart cities. That’s what I learnt from a meeting with Ashok Das, the founder, and CEO of Sun Moksha. He is convinced: “It will take centuries, to build smart cities in India. Meanwhile, I can use smart city technologies to improve lives in thousands of villages.“

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Ashok knows what he is talking about. To prove his theory, he initiated a trend-setting project in East India. He and his company supplied the village Chhotkei with a 30KW solar system. Inhabitants can now provide themselves with electricity. Sensors are monitoring electricity consumption and send related data to the cloud. Electricity demand and supply become manageable from afar. Thanks to the use of predictive maintenance necessary repairs on the solar system can be identified early on. Using an app, villagers can check their electricity consumption during the last billing cycle and settle the bill simultaneously.

Another interesting fact that determines the projects’ success: after training from the Ashok employees, villagers can take care of the maintenance and smaller repairs by themselves. This reduces outage time and saves money - capacity building in times of IoT.

These sorts of small villages’ project send positive ripples throughout the country and Ashok even won a prize awarded by the Indian government for a „flagship-smart village“.

Narendra Modis’ smart vision

Experiments like in Chhotkei are appreciated by the highest entity. The “smart city vision“ which was created around two years ago by president Narendra Modis are considered a flagship project. 100 cities in India are supposed to evolve into smart cities, have a stable infrastructure and thanks to smarter solutions, offer better living conditions for their inhabitants. Specific improvements can be seen through a stable water supply, electricity, waste management, public transport and a stronger connection between administration and citizens. The Indian government will invest around 15 billion USD into this mission.

Although peoples’ representatives are enthusiastic about the trending topic “smart cities“, not all Indians share the same excitement. There is a lot of media hype around the concept, but on a more personal level there are basic complaints. Some would rather have the government focus on fewer potholes in roads than a stronger connected city. Another individual criticizes, that these days city development is simply replaced by the term “smart city“. According to him, it’s more important that cities gain a safe and stable infrastructure first instead of making them smarter.

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Lessons for digitization at home

By now I understand the similarities to digitization projects, which I’m dealing with at home on a daily basis. Like the Indian government, a lot of European companies have taken on the opportunities of digitization and are headed in the right direction. But as criticized by my Indian friends in New Delhi and Co., a lot of companies are starting with highly complex projects without even analysing their starting situation and final goals first. Most of the companies want too much, too fast. They are dreaming of a smart factory - a fully digitalized business process without understanding their own IT infrastructure at the core. It can’t work that way and often causes passiveness and a lack of understanding among the staff.

Similar to the successfully electrified village Chhotkei, it can be rewarding for companies in this country to initiate digitization on a small scale first. The easy achievement of success can help to collect insights for following projects. Like in Chhotkei, you should rely on experienced partners and experts, who won’t just force one size fits all solutions on you, but rather plan individual and localized solutions. It can’t and shouldn't be the goal of a partner to create projects that can’t be realized based on the majority of the in-house staffs’ input and know-how. That’s the only way to achieve sustainable success and us at Trivadis believe in this approach. A smart vision for our future in European companies - no matter big or small - will soon be the reality.

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Topics: Industrie 4.0 Internet of Things Digital Business Transformation