“Wearables Bus Not Missed Yet, Just Delayed”- Kuldeep Malik, Country Head, MediaTek India

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MediaTek has always been at the forefront of technological innovation – be at producing mass scale chipsets for feature phones or the Helio series chips for ultra-fast smartphones. Now, the Taiwanese semiconductor behemoth is taking lead in the Internet of things space with products and solutions for both consumer IoT as well as industrial IoT, globally as well as in India. We spoke to the man – Kuldeep Malik, Country Head – Corporate Sales International, who leads MediaTek India in this eventful and ever exciting journey of IoT.

Q. How do you see the adoption of the internet of things, both globally as well as in India?
Internet of Things (IoT), especially wearables, industrial automation and home security is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, all thanks to the smartphone boom. Closer home, India has been receptive towards IoT adoption especially with the Government’s Digital India and Smart Cities initiative. While the country’s Internet connectivity is improving, we expect India to add a significant value to the overall IoT market.  Already, we see a variety of fitness related wearable devices, automobile telematics, and “smart home” systems being adopted across markets. And though consumer adoption is still low for IoT devices in India, with innovative concepts being deployed around Smart Cities and Digital India, we expect the adoption to pick up pace. In fact, some of our partners have a few prototypes that are expected to be deployed soon in the market. Say for instance, by using MediaTek’s MT7681 SoC platform, one of key customers has recently developed a prototype for a smart lighting solution that is expected to be deployed in one of the Smart City projects. Or like how MediaTek is working on real estate projects, providing our Wi-Fi technology for smart metering and home security solutions.

Q. What are the trends you see in this field?
As per various forecasts from industry bodies, we do expect to see a positive outcome. According to a report by IDC in 2015, shipment volumes are expected to grow to 155.7 million units by 2019. India has already seen numerous players, both global and local, introducing wearable products, like Fitbit and Xiaomi that have helped to propel the market with their sub-$100 bands. We see this trend continuing. While the concept of IoT is gaining traction, from a device perspective, we are still at a nascent stage in India compared globally. In the near future, we expect a lot of emphasis to be laid on the development of healthcare wearables. On the side-lines, development on enterprise related IoT will continue to evolve at a much faster pace, propelled by Government initiatives like Digital india and Smart City.

Q. Can you guess the market size of IoT in India for us?
India is a booming IoT market given the large presence of Hardware and software services in the country. Additionally, the impetus on Digital India will only further fuel this growth. In terms of numbers, a recent Nasscom report states that India aims to capture 20 per cent market share in IoT, an emerging sector which would be worth $300 billion by 2020.

Q. Which are the industry verticals you see gaining traction in deploying IoT tools or solutions? Globally as well as in India?
A key influencing factor in the growth of the IoT market is the need to implement predictive maintenance techniques in industrial equipment to monitor their health and avoid unscheduled downtimes in the production cycle. In light of this, industries are ramping up their investments to accommodate the Internet of Things. There are seven industries globally and in India which are gaining traction in IoT namely: healthcare, utilities, wholesale, manufacturing, retail, logistics and process manufacturing.

Q. How is your company positioned in this scheme of things? Where does exactly it fit in the ecosystem?
As a semiconductor firm, MediaTek is positioned to act as key Enabler in the ecosystem of IoT, because we provide the technology building blocks for the “things” within the IoT. And within the embedded device space, connectivity and network processing-related functions are increasingly being deployed combined with embedded processors in applications beyond mobile phones, like combining wireless connectivity chipsets with integrated Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Say for instance, MediaTek earlier this year globally added to its smart homes portfolio, the MT7697 – that supports Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and provides the highest integration among comparable SoCs, combining and optimizing DB WiFi, BLE, CM4 and RAM.

Q. Can you give us a brief about the IoT solutions you have for various industry verticals?

MediaTek is already quite actively involved in three categories; M2M, Wearables and Connected Homes, in India.

M2M: For M2M devices, we have modules from our partners based on solutions like the MT2503, which integrates functionality even further as GPS is now embedded inside the System on Chip (SoC). The processor will help power the next range of IoT and wearable devices and in comparison to other processors, this has a slim design.

Wearables: Wearables category is seeing a big jump in growth, and MediaTek is ready to tap into this booming market with a range of its wearable solutions for fitness tracker, BT notification watch, calling watch, fashion watch and GPS tracker watch.

Some of the recent key wearable processors include the MT2502, MT2503 and MT2601. The MT2502 is one of the world’s smallest commercial System-on-Chip (SOC) for Wearables. This SOC works with MediaTek’s energy efficient Wi-Fi and GNSS companion chipsets also. This means it is now easier to create devices that connect to other smart devices or directly to cloud applications and services. Recently, MediaTek tied up with Intex to power its newly launched range of wearable devices. Of those, the upcoming iRist Pro is powered by the MT2502, providing upgraded features like the water resistant build, and support for Bluetooth 4.0, and compatibility with Android 4.4 & above.

Further, the MT2601 SoC for wearable devices is based on Google’s Android Wear software. By enabling Android Wear on MT2601, MediaTek is offering a comprehensive platform solution for device makers to implement their own hardware and software, and introducing a multitude of possibilities in Android Wear devices for the fast-growing consumer class globally.

Connected Homes: MediaTek offers various solutions to cater to this category, like the MT7688, MT7681, MT7687 and MT7697. The MT7687 and MT7697 are the latest additions to the growing range of platforms under this category and are based on ARM Cortex-M4 architecture, and can be used for the creation of high-performance, low-powered connected appliances, home and office automation devices, smart gadgets, and IoT bridges. Additionally, the MT7688 and MT7681 are designed for easy embedding into small and simple home appliances such as smart lighting, door locks and plugs, and seeing a positive market response.

Q. Also, do you have some users, globally as well as in India, who have deployed your solutions or in the pipeline of deployment?
We are currently working with organizations both in Private and Government domain in leveraging IoT led solutions for their growth initiatives. It is important to note that the solution deployment is not limited to mobile alone. It encompasses the overall technology landscape. We are also very strong in home automation space, healthcare and medical. Based on MediaTek solutions, various devices for AMR (Automatic Meter Readers), POS (Point of Sale), and VTS (Vehicle Tracker Solution) have already been deployed globally as well as in India market. There is growing demand for these solutions in this segment.

Q. Wearables did not take off as was anticipated. Where do you see the industry missed the bus?
We don’t think the bus is missed yet. Delayed, perhaps. Wearables segment has seen some of the coolest innovations of the last few years, and is now a booming consumer market. There’s been a flood of wearable personal health tracking products that promise to improve overall health by monitoring activity, exercise, sleep, and heart rate. The sudden interest in wearables has resulted in intense competition, rapidly making this market crowded and fragmented, while waiting for a dominant design to take hold. And that’s where confusion lies for the consumer.  Several aspects of the wearable devices – from the underlying physics to the end-user experience – play a crucial role in driving consumer adoption and acceptance. There are many aspects of the Wearable technology which are still undergoing modifications like better accuracy in sensor technology, increased intelligence and battery life, user centric design etc. which will eventually result in adding value to a consumer’s direct personal experience.

Q. Where do you see government as a customer and how the Indian government is looking at this?
India is a very diverse country with a vast population, having its own set of issues which pose a hurdle in the government’s ambitious plans. Say for instance, regarding the Smart City project; it is a great idea and is definitely going to convert into something concrete, but the results will take some time considering the scale of investments, planning and execution this project requires to be successful. In order to meet the desired deadline, clearances need to be issued at the earliest. Secondly, due to the advancements in technology, the industry is undergoing constant changes with newer technologies coming into the foray and hence the government needs to be on top of the game if they want to succeed.

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