False Notion of Fear is Restricting IoT Adoption

False Notion of Fear is Restricting IoT Adoption: Prabhu Ramachandran, WebNMS

Interviewed on Jul 28, 2015 by Ishan Bhattacharya
False Notion of Fear is Restricting IoT Adoption: Prabhu Ramachandran, WebNMS
Prabhu Ramachandran, Director, WebNMS, the IoT division of Zoho, is also a part of the policy-making committee for IoT deployment in India. He says that IoT is an amalgamation of existing technologies put together for dealing with specific challenges.
It is true that hype leads to adoption. But don’t you think that the hype enveloping IoT is actually leading to confusion?
There is a lot of hype around Internet of Things (IoT), which is true and because of the hype lot of people are confused. There is a lot confusion between the vendors and the end customers. Enterprises think that IoT is something that is very sophisticated and expensive. They think that if there are ten different things that are mission critical, IoT is too difficult. But that is not true.
The concept of cloud has been there for a long time, even before the term ‘cloud’ was associated with storage. After the word cloud was coined, came the hype part and finally it took almost ten years for this technology to settle. Then cloud infrastructure providers came and cloud software providers came up. Same goes with IoT. IoT is not billion devices, it need not be expensive as well.
There is already some level of automation happening everywhere. Buildings have systems in place that can tell temperature in a particular room, sensors warn if there is fire and this is what we call local automation. What IoT brings in is, you enable the entire process of automation with internet. This helps collect data from multiple places and then generate value out of it.  This hype will lead to adaptation and with growing adaptation cost of sensors and other IoT related devices will come down and the overall expertise among vendors will increase. The adoption level of IoT is not to the point where we expect it to be.
Going by the rate of implementation, IoT is still a new technology. Then, will it be proper to say that IoT will bring in challenges and situations that IT has never faced before? What if it backfires?
The problem is, with the kick off IoT, we are not there, where we should be. So, IoT going out of control is a better problem to solve than worrying about it gaining momentum. Let me take the example of Tata Nano. Everyone thought that the roads will suddenly become more crowded because of Nano and there will be more pollution, but what happened is that it never kicked off properly.
IoT is nothing new, technology wise it is a collection of existing technologies and therefore it will not bring in some unknown new problems.
Talking about getting backfired, high level policies (with regards to IoT) that are being looked at pertains to how to pick up few protocols for communication between devices and try to implement it locally, this will help vendors do away with thinking about 20 different protocols and instead focus on five.
IoT is more about moving things connected through a sim card. The question is who should be held responsible for the sim card. So when I put a sim card in a machine or a truck who should be accused of misusing it? Policies are being made around this. Numbering of sim cards will also be done. May be the sim cards attached with a machine will have 12 digits to differentiate it from the ones we use. Policies pertaining to price of IoT devices are also being made. 
Researchers say, IoT will drive tremendous amounts of money, but do you think this has resulted in companies going overboard with IoT?
IoT includes sensor vendors, hardware vendors and then comes software vendors. Within software there are two three players like middleware, platform like ours and analytics.
Today, what is happening is, people see the potential in IoT as a result a sensor vendor is trying to make software and software vendors are trying to make hardware. SIs are also trying to build both. This has resulted in poor collaboration in the IoT ecosystem. There is no standardization of IoT and hence adoption is less.  
When we go and approach a customer we are very clear that we cannot provide an end-to-end IoT solution as our role is only in the software part. There should be one entity which can go to the end customer and say they will provide end-to-end solutions by comparing the solutions available in the market. So, this is a major barrier as to who will face the customer with a complete set of best of breed solutions. To solve this we are going and partnering with vendors who manufacture hardware. The most important player in the entire value chain will be system integrators.
Cost, security or mindset, which among these are acting as the major resistance for IoT?
Security is easier to solve, then comes cost and the main barrier is mindset. Customers today fear IoT because they think it is too big and expensive. Which is not true.
There are too many players in the market today and when adaptation goes up everything will become commoditized. Honeywell is one of the top sensor makers and probably they might be selling a million sensors across the world and when IoT adoption starts happening, their sales can reach 10 million, which means economy of scale will come into play and there will many startups that will start challenging and naturally cost will come down. Apart from this, wherever there is IoT adoption, there is a clear return on investment. 
Can IoT based software or hardware sync with existing IT infra and how can CIOs convince business about its ROI?
The end will be justified by the means. IoT might or might not need a revamp in infrastructure. It depends on how you want to use IoT. There are lot of places where we have to retrofit because the machines are already out there. You have tractors, diesel generators, and others without any sensors. We have to make them internet enabled.
With deployment of IoT CIOs can bring down their operational cost in the form of money spent on energy consumption, human based security and logistics.
Let us consider cell towers. Assume a place has 1000 towers. The company that owns these towers will outsource maintenance of these towers to a local company. There will be trucks filled with diesel that will check the amount of fuel need by each tower and then fill accordingly. This process can be automated. If these towers are IoT enabled then the need for those trucks to go every day will not be there. There will be savings in the logistics side. Same concept applies for ATMs. IoT deployment also increase efficiencies and thereby make enterprises more competitive.
For WebNMS, what role will partners play in the entire value chain of IoT?
IoT is nothing fancy, sensors are already there, 3G, 4G and 5G connectivity is coming in, and it is a matter of proper training which is not a difficult thing to do. But, clarity is still lacking. We recently partnered with a Belgium based hardware provider called Option.
Then the likes of Cisco and Huawei are already there. The good thing about the bigger companies is that they are open, so when Cisco produces a device we should be able to integrate our solutions. But with smaller companies, integration is a problem.
On the implementation side, every country and every domain we are finding out specific partners. For instance, for oil and gas, we are trying to partner with companies which are already doing something in that specific area. It cloud be like they are providing IT services for an oil and gas company or carrying out installations for them, they understand their business mode and their pain points better.
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