Enhancing Smart Living leveraging IoT

‘IoT plays an important role in controlling our existing electrical components and electronics in an intelligent manner. An IoT enabled AC can maintain an optimum temperature by turning itself on or off to save immense energy”, assures Dhaval Doshi, Founder & Director, SmartHome NX. Excerpts below:

Would you appraise us on how integrating IoT devices in homes can ensure efficient energy allocation, pertaining to Indian Scenario?

Indian homes especially in urban areas are being ridden with a lot of new energy consuming appliances. Air conditioners and fans are often the power guzzlers and shoot up your electricity bills. You would also be surprised to know that a lot of homes with old lighting still use inefficient CFL lighting. These are not as eco-friendly as LEDs. Now, in this state when a consumer is at home we are not necessarily switching on and switching off appliances and lights appropriately as we move from one room to another. We forget to turn off lights or fans when we leave for work in a hurry. Sometimes, we even forget to turn off the geyser. So, you can imagine how much energy wastage can occur in an Indian home ridden with old technology and with our human nature of simply forgetting to turn off what we don’t need.

IoT plays an important role in controlling our existing electrical components and electronics in an intelligent manner. An IoT enabled AC can maintain an optimum temperature by turning itself on or off to save immense energy. Lights, fans and every appliance can turn on or off based on whether that space is occupied or not. In addition, IoT devices also allow us to view our energy consumption habits by monitoring the power consumption and displaying it in an easy to view dashboard on a phone.

The projected growth of smart cities and the need for energy efficiency.  How do you think this can be achieved?

I think there are two sides to this. First at a macro level optimal energy efficiency can be achieved by a view of consumption patterns across a city or locality. This data should be used to reallocate energy on the grid as required. Of course, a smart grid can help in reallocating this energy accordingly. Second, at a micro level every household or office should have sensors that can talk to the municipal grid to relay data that can help optimise overall efficiency of all houses. For example, imagine if there was data that showed us that certain office premises were keeping their lights on for the entire night even when its not occupied. Policies can be made to incentivize them to keep the lights off. Additionally, data from homes could tell us why a smaller home is consuming more electricity - just because it is ridden by old CFLs and inefficient appliances. As a whole, a smart city will achieve the objectives of energy efficiency not purely by IoT - IoT is just an enabler; what is required is that citizens and municipal organizations join hands to optimize and reduce energy consumption with proactive steps in terms of replacing energy-inefficient technology, mindful energy usage and even incentives. IoT is the backbone which will allow us to do undertake these initiatives with data and automation.

The government of India has been focussing on Sustainable cities over smart cities in the current times. What’s the future of Sustainable Cities in India?

I have always been an advocate of sustainable practices - be it in interior design, architecture or urban planning. However, I don’t think this is a “this or that” conversation. I think “sustainability” and “smart” go together. For example, if the government is trying to solve the problem of energy efficiency, let's say through solar panels. In that case, an IoT-enabled solar grid compounds the benefits and efficiency that we will achieve. You see, solar and renewable energy will bring sustainability but it is data and automation which will bring efficiency in the overall solution. I think that’s the future. Sustainable cities is just an approach to be more conservative - this is a need of the hour - especially when we talk about water shortage. To give you another example, we are currently talking to a developer in Bangalore who is looking to setup a water management solution where IoT sensors will help fill up the overhead tanks by turning on the water pumps on time; however, the source of that water comes from water harvesting solutions. A few industry level events like the IoT India Congress are also focusing on sustainable solutions for smart cities, especially in water management. The idea of bringing all the industries together on one platform helps solve the macro and micro challenges in Smart Cities

What challenges do you face while operating in India? What methods do you adopt for mitigating these challenges?

To set up anything in India the largest challenge is the basic infrastructure. I think when we started we had a vision to ‘smarten’ up homes with the best in technology. Currently, we think there is a lot more work to be done just to build a solid foundation for a Smart home. For example, we need to ensure there is spotless wifi connectivity by intelligently designing the wireless network of a home - before we can even install our wireless Smart home devices. The way forward for any project for us - be it Smart buildings or Smart homes, we see ourselves establishing the infrastructure before we can implement solutions. These challenges are being tackled now with builders and the industry becoming more aware and conscious. Moreover, with the advent of 4G and connectivity being a need of the hour, consumers also demand this infrastructure from developers, builders and system integrators like us. This has helped the case in many ways. The way forward with 5G and fiber to the home seems bright and we are looking forward to it.

Would you appraise us of SmartHome NX’s solution for Smart Cities in India? Do you assist the Government of India or state government’s too in their proposition to build Smart Cities? How?

We are currently working with the government to figure out how we can bridge the gap between Smart city initiatives and Smart homes. While we work closely with the latter, we see an immense gap to fill between an individual home unit and the locality. Our work has been primarily on the policy side but it is still at an initial stage. As far as innovation in terms of technology is concerned, we already have it. The question is when will the Smart cities movement pick up for us to integrate with it?