In the age of IoT, we need smart homes before smart cities can be a reality in India

B.One-smart-home-automation

Science-fiction or a future reality.

Lights that switch on as you wake up, music that plays when you are taking a shower, a kettle that brews coffee without you telling it and doors that identify you; sounds like an ideal scene from a sci-fi flick isn’t it? But this underlying technology is now gradually being offered with what is called as IoT or Internet of Things.  The definition of ‘smart’ changed with the coming of the smartphones and now with smart home appliances and gadgets, it is now set to become the keyword for development. Be it the house, office, or even the state, people are eyeing smart capabilities with intelligent systems in place. But is it possible to target the larger aim of developing smart cities without building the foundation?

‘Smart cities are not possible without smart homes,’ says Arjun Valluri, Chairman of Blaze Automation – a company behind building IoT-enabled automation products for home spaces. The company launched its B.One Hub for the Indian market this week with prices as low as that of a smartphone. Now, this brings us to the question about whether India is even ready to embrace the smarter technology, given that there are regions which still lack internet or smartphone penetration and digital literacy is still in its early stages.

If one looks at the smartphone as one of the first devices to introduce the ‘smart’ in our lives, the change brought about was incremental. Being used to a constant ‘click-click’ physical button-enabled interface, the smartphone opened the floodgates of the mobile internet and offered a less-painful touch-screen experience, and the success is palpable. However, with automation, the concerns are primarily around security. In such a scenario, having an app, inside a phone which is vulnerable to damage or theft, control your house doors is a little unnerving. ALSO READ: B.One home automation IoT Hub launches in India; prices start at Rs 15,000

However, Valluri says this is exactly why people are buying automation products. It is for security and self-monitoring that people are gradually moving towards the smarter, automated product portfolio. “56 percent of people would buy a product like this for the purpose of security,” adds Valluri. With the younger generation being more adept with technology and having higher demands for smarter, IoT-enabled systems, such a technology makes sense. As a result of this, a lot of builders have started layering automation as part of the apartment package. Of course, the extra lakh or two goes on to validate the fear in the minds of the consumers about ‘safety’.

But isn’t the security also compromised when people are telling these ‘artificially intelligent’ machines to open the door at exactly 9 AM when the house help arrives? The amount of data that goes behind building, and further improving, smart devices is huge and any hacking attempt is bound to loosen all the threads. To address this, Blaze has added what it calls military grade encryption to its smart hub and has identified areas in the globe where the company peeks into personal data of customers only if allowed to. Other than that, there are additional precautionary measures where security experts are asked to tinker with the smart systems to look for backdoors. ALSO READ: India could embrace 5G technology through Internet of Things: J S Deepak

India is an extremely price-sensitive market and also a skeptical one when it comes to embracing security-related technology. Similar to how the smartphone market is unfolding, Blaze Automation is also riding on the ‘affordable’ tag to help people shed the initial hesitation towards moving towards home automation. With prices of B.One Hub starting at Rs 15,000, users get to pair smart lights and sensors with the system to make it a one-stop control portal. For example, you can buy three sensors in addition to the hub, costing you an additional Rs 5,000 or so, and in Rs 20,000 you can automate your whole house. It is to be noted that B.One is not the reseller of compatible smart devices, it is currently only offering support through its smart platform. To put into perspective, you can buy an intelligent home speaker such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo or a smart TV by Samsung, along with smart bulb by Philips; what B.One will allow is allow you to operate or control all these devices through one app. There is no requirement for device-specific apps.

There indeed is a certain level of ease and comfort that comes with automation. You can remotely, from any part of the world, wake your kids up for their school and open or close doors of the house while sitting in the office. But is India ready for this leapfrog? ALSO READ: Smart City still remains top agenda in NDMCs Rs 3,600 crore budget

“When smartphones launched in India, people thought the adoption curve will be very slow. But now look at all the data. What is Reliance Jio doing? It is pushing all the data because adoption of smartphones has been huge. In due course, a number of people will have smartphones because the question of affordability will not be there. That’s why we have telecom operators, infrastructure developers who are pushing data because voice game is over for them,” Valluri explains by drawing a parallel example. He continues saying, “I trust India will get on IoT adoption very fast in next 3-5 years, just like what they did for smartphones.”

“India is also driving the ‘Smart Cities’ initiative. The government is planning for 100 smart cities and (automation products) are the building blocks of smart cities. You need to have all the apartments in smart cities automated only then energy saving is possible,” Valluri concludes.

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