“The Awareness About IoT Solutions In India Is Still Quite Low”

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Eric Zhou, executive vice president, UNISOC

As a core subsidiary of Tsinghua Unigroup, UNISOC is a fabless semiconductor company committed to R&D in the area of core chipsets in mobile communications and IoT. Its products cover mobile chipset platforms supporting 2G/3G/4G/5G communication standards and various chipset solutions in the fields of IoT, RFFE, wireless connection, security, TVs, etc. Eric Zhou, executive vice president, UNISOC, in an exclusive conversation with Electronics Bazaar, discusses why IoT adoption is still slow in India and what needs to be done about it. He is of the view that IoT has a major role to play in almost every dimension of life.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the interaction.

EB: Do you feel that IoT is opening an entirely new market, or is all this just hype?
IoT is more than just a buzzword – it is a massive, lucrative digital opportunity that can transform service delivery, business operations, and the end consumer’s quality of life. This scope for disruption, more than anything else, is driving the growth of the IoT industry in India.

As per a recent NASSCOM report, the Indian IoT market will exceed US$ 15 billion by 2020 and will play a huge role in driving business growth and digitisation across the country. Such an impressive growth trajectory cannot be attributed to mere hype.

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EB: In your opinion, is the Indian government playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If so, in what way?
The role the government should play in driving the growth of the IoT market cannot be overstated. There is an urgent need for policy makers and regulators to collaborate with industry stakeholders to define and implement standard business processes, as well as develop infrastructural capabilities and policy frameworks.

The Ministry of Telecommunications has already set up a team to study the business
model of the Internet of Things, including revenue, costs and product sharing. The  government is also currently studying a simplified licensing and regulatory framework for IoT/M2M service providers. TRAI advocates a coordinated approach to develop 5G services, IoT/M2M systems, and a security framework to advance the programme, and to coordinate with industry stakeholders across domains such as agriculture, smart cities, smart transportation networks, diversified logistics, smart meters, and consumer durables.

Doing so will expand the IoT/M2M connectivity service market and will have a major impact in defining the value chain and the technology stack for the IoT ecosystem in India.

EB: Apart from the government, does the private sector have any role to play in the IoT space currently?
It is encouraging to see that private players in the IoT space are already taking major steps to encourage large scale adoption of IoT solutions. At UNISOC, for instance, we are playing a major role in driving the 5G revolution in India with products and solutions such as MAKALU, our proprietary 5G platform, and IVY 510, our first 5G modem. Our aim is to support the commercialisation of 5G technology and create a robust foundation for IoT connectivity in the country.

EB: Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?
IoT adoption in India has progressed at a slower pace than in other developing and developed economies due to multiple factors. To begin with, the connectivity infrastructure in the country is still in a relatively nascent stage and not strong enough to support the large scale adoption of advanced IoT solutions. The lack of industry-wide standardisation is another challenge that hinders the growth of the country’s IoT ecosystem.

But the most important aspect, however, is the human factor. The awareness about IoT solutions in India is still quite low – whether amongst the end consumers or business decision-makers. Business leaders and key stakeholders in the public sector need to create a culture that thrives on and promotes IoT adoption. Only by doing so can they accelerate the technological development in this high-potential space and drive the growth of the Indian IoT market.

EB: How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next two to three years?
Certain recent developments, such as the deployment of the narrow band (NB) network, hold a lot of promise for the Indian IoT market. The renewed focus from domain-leading organisations with international operational models and deployment expertise also hints at a stronger IoT ecosystem within the country. If things progress as planned, we can expect India to witness its own IoT revolution in the next two to three years.

EB: Which industry segments do you believe will be driving the most demand? Why?
While IoT solutions are expected to find adoption across all industries, we foresee the maximum demand to be generated by industries such as manufacturing, automotive, telecom, urban mobility, energy and consumer products. Other conventionally nontechnical sectors such as education and agriculture are also expected to demonstrate high demand for new-age IoT solutions that can address large need gaps and drive operational optimisation.

EB: What fraction of your overall business is IoT related?
A major chunk of our business is focused on IoT. UNISOC’s core vision is to build a smart world through powerful connectivity. Through our IoT solutions, we power a lot of smart electronic products, including smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi modems, home devices, wearables, connected car products, and many more. Our Industry Electronics Business Unit and Connectivity Device Business Unit are both related to IoT.

EB: Have you seen any outstanding IoT deployments in India that you were impressed by?
Yes, there are some successful pilots that do merit greater attention in domains such as domestic cloud services, industrial IoT, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. The country’s consumer market, however, has not yet registered much success when it
comes to large IoT projects.

This dynamic will need to change if the country is to achieve true digitisation – something which will only be possible through a robust, consumer-led IoT ecosystem.

EB: What’s the USP that UNISOC offers?
One of the biggest differentiators for UNISOC is the depth and scope of our offerings. We have created an entire ecosystem of solutions that cater to connectivity requirements across verticals, categories, and markets. Our progressive R&D and manufacturing capabilities have helped us deliver cutting-edge technology to a wide consumer base at affordable price points.

We continue to make significant investments in R&D initiatives to further build on this differentiation, and bolster the depth and quality of our offerings. For instance, as mentioned earlier, we are preparing for the imminent 5G revolution by developing and launching futuristic solutions such as MAKALU and IVY 510. We have also been collaborating with several domain leaders such as Rohde & Schwarz to test new-age 5G applications. These developments are aimed at establishing UNISOC as the leading chipset and SoC solutions provider in the global technology space and the partner of choice for organisations contributing to the creation of tomorrow’s techled world.

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