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Tata Communications IoT Lighting Up Smart Cities and More in India

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From connected streetlights to traffic control and parking meters, the Internet of Things (IoT) powers smart cities, promising safer, greener, and more efficient urban living and working environments. Cities can use the data collected through IoT to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services, and more. This year, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) held several conferences and events, exploring concepts, innovations, and collaborations for India's future smart urban development trajectory. As Kaushal Kishore, Minister of State, Housing and Urban Affairs, said, “Smart cities should not only lay emphasis on Swacchta and technological aspects but should also lead to the holistic development of the people by providing them basic amenities and employment opportunities."

Tata Communications, a digital ecosystem enabler powering today's fast-growing digital economy, is among the major companies developing IoT solutions for the public and private sectors. In an exclusive interview with Praveen Arora, Vice President - IoT, Tata Communications, CIO Insider explores the national and international strides created by the company through its voyage into the IoT. Below are excerpts of the conversation.

In conversation with Praveen Arora, Vice President - IoT, Tata Communications

Could you give an account of the major IoT developments embraced by the business sector? Also, tell us about Tata Communications’ role in revolutionizing India towards becoming a smart and green nation.
Since 2017, we have been helping businesses across various sectors to transform into a digital ecosystem while increasing efficiencies and effectiveness through our IoT solutions. Combining man, material, and machine, our central focus has always been on people and the planet. Likewise, the foundation of our IoT deliverables comprises a suite of potential solutions around worker safety, connected operations, and smart cities—smart street lighting, smart metering, and smart utilities, including asset tracking. We have also launched an IoT fabric proposition, a single platform that harbours solutions related to hardware and applications managing data from any IoT device. The platform enables users to plug and play multiple IoT devices on one hand, while view various configurable dashboards at the user end. Thus managing the lifecycle of IoT use cases for issue-based business problem solving with speed, scale and agility.

Our strong belief in sustainable developments reflects in the commercially viable solutions, frugal design, and ‘Made in India’ for India and the global markets. In conclusion, these solutions help clients in the industrial environment, including smart cities and municipal corporations, by meeting safety, efficiency, sustainability, and innovation targets. These solutions are deployed at scale across various sectors.

Tell us about how you encourage and enable customers to conserve energy and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
With Sustainability as core pillar of our company strategy, we linked the business environment and society in our innovation and low-carbon products and solutions to enhance customers’ competitiveness while enabling supply chains to be environmentally friendly. In one of our initiatives at JUSCO’s (Jamshedpur Utilities and Services Company) streetlight solution, which reduces energy consumption by optimizing the lumens as well as glow timing through our LoRaWAN™ controllers. With LoRaWAN™ technology, the street light automatically adjusts to the desired lux levels during different time of operations based on need, eventually reducing usage to achieve low energy consumption. Equipped with IoT controllers, it can remotely analyze and convey technical problems, saving field response time and non-value adding field personnel movement, which also reduces the overall carbon footprint. We have similarly accomplished the same in industrial environment by optimizing the manufacturing efficiency and thus reducing the energy consumed per unit product output. We have achieved around half a million metric tons of CO2 emission reduction for smart cities and through the streetlight case alone.

What kind of environmental and business-oriented impacts will you expect from your future IoT foundation?
Our solution delivers flexibility, addressing enterprises' larger sets of use cases and business pain points. It reflects our efforts through issue based problem solving, with technology and enabling it through a right suite of sensors, devices, platforms, applications, networks, and analytics. Our solutions are deployed PAN India and internationally, focussing on connected operations (for the enterprise Industry X.O) and smart cities (including utilities), and smart asset tracking. With frugal engineering , we strive to build low cost solutions for effective and efficient decision-making and prioritising resources utilized across industries and smart cities, in India as well as globally.

Tell us about your strides in the IoT field and how you are helping businesses transform their customer and employee interactivity with the systems.
We have our solutions covering connected operations for enterprise setup, primarily focusing on employees and customers (people first). While we have smart city solutions fulfilling the needs of the smart cities (Planet first).

At Tata Communications, we have an internal incubator program called 'Shape the Future.' As the name suggests, the program encourages employees to propose innovative ideas. One among the many innovative ideas was IoT and that’s where Tata Communications IoT took root.

JUSCO, India’s first planned industrial city was one of our early projects where we initially began to provide a smart street lighting system for the residents of Jamshedpur. Later in 2018, JUSCO went further up a notch when Tata Communications completed India’s largest streetlights automation underpinned by the public IoT network based on LoRaWAN™ technology.

Later we devised IoT solutions around asset tracking, employee health and safety, automated metering, and industrial IoT, among others.

With asset tracking, we provide a unique asset management system, enabling enterprises to track their assets regardless of the distribution range and in real-time.

Offerings under connected worker, garnered immense demand during the COVID-19 pandemic mainly for its ability in creating a safe working for employees, with features like overseeing overcrowding and detecting body temperature, among others. The solutions also nudge response teams to react immediately to unforeseen incidents, drawing benefits like SOS alerts, health parameters, geo-fencing, plug-and-play, and security.

Additionally, products such as our Safety Watch monitors a worker’s body vital stats and work environment, signalling a two-way alert between the employees and supervisors, automated attendance, location tracking, and geofencing. The other offering, SAFEPASS®, delivers real-time visibility of every employee's safety and movement and instantly alerts about any anomaly or incident. These solutions are scaled in India and are also picking up international interest. As a result, we have deployed approximately 200,000 connected worker solutions beyond 30 locations in the country. This solution has been instrumental in reducing over 40 critical incidents while improving efficiency by up to 15 percent across plants through a single window of safety and productivity requirements. Therefore, in sum, we care for people and planet and this is the very platform on which our corporate sustainability goals are built.

How do you ensure enterprise security, and how is your security architecture built?
Our suite of solutions is embedded with multiple security layers right from the start of the signal sent by the device. The security layers are like five concentric circles which help filter out invading effects in the case of intrusions and misuse of information. They also help keep invaders at bay, securing the entire environment with layers of inbuilt mechanisms thanks to our proprietary technologies.

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