Author Archives: Hussain Fakhruddin

Top 12 Mobile App Development Trends To Watch Out For In 2019

 

app development trends 2019

 

The popularity of mobile applications is soaring higher than ever, putting to rest speculations of whether this market has entered a mature stage. While the average per-session app activity duration (i.e., the time spent on apps) grew only by 6% on a YoY basis last year – users are increasingly turning their attention to newer applications, incorporating more innovative technologies that can disrupt day-to-day lives and make things just that bit easier. The old adage – ‘there is an app for that‘ – has never been truer.

This ever-growing interest in new mobile apps has, in turn, resulted in a surge of consumer spendings at the app stores over the last few quarters. By the end of this year, this figure will stand at ~$115 billion, nearly 28% more than the total spendings in 2017. The robust demand figures are also causing professional mobile app developers to come up with newer and better software products in general, and smartphone applications in particular. The app industry is constantly evolving, and we will here look at some interesting mobile app development trends that are likely to dominate in 2019:

  1. M-commerce apps are set to surge

    At the end of 2015, the global mobile payments market was worth $450 billion. Cut to 2019, and that figure will jump to $1086 billion (well over double) – underlining the exponential rate at this sector is growing. In a recent survey in North America, it was found that 2 out of every 3 advertisers/sellers with dedicated shopping applications generate more than 60% of their business leads over mobile. In these markets, 44% of all sales take place via mobile apps – well over the 33% share of desktop (website) and 23% of mobile web. Across the world, more and more customers are completing purchases on their phones – thanks to the ready availability, and robust security, of shopping applications. The growth of m-commerce transactions is also being driven by the high adoption rates of mobile wallets (projected to touch $6.1 billion in value by 2022). In the next year and beyond, expect more m-commerce/shopping apps to be launched in the stores, along with other new mobile wallet applications.

Note: The number of apps with Apple Pay integrations or Google Pay integrations is also set to rise.

  1. Further growth in cloud applications

    The overall Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market is growing at a mighty impressive CAGR of ~18.2% (2017-2021). The market for cloud applications alone is expected to grow to $68 billion by the final quarter of 2019 – a 123% increase over the corresponding figure in 2014. With memory/storage space and other device-specific limitations becoming increasingly prominent – users are, not surprisingly, showing their preference to store critical, confidential big data on the cloud (once again, security is a key factor over here). Within the next couple of years or so, cloud-based apps are expected to contribute a whopping 90%+ of the total volume of mobile traffic worldwide. Compared to this year, mobile cloud traffic will spike by around 10% in 2019. New software from mobile app companies are almost certain to have seamless cloud storage and support features – with strong authentication/safety assurances and easy accessibility options. The future of mobile apps is in the cloud!

Note: On average, more than 1400 cloud services are used by an enterprise. Clearly, the scope for business cloud applications to grow is huge.

  1. Rise & rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning

    Mobile apps with built-in AI support will become even more mainstream in 2019 and beyond. ‘Intelligent’ digital assistants like Google Assistant, Siri and Amazon Alexa are showing the way – and the impact of ‘robots’ in day-to-day activities will increase considerably in the foreseeable future. Already, 4 out of every 10 business houses make use artificial intelligence, and the more refined machine learning techniques, to deliver optimized customer service (think of the shopping apps with AI-based chat support, to guide buyers along, and even help them complete transactions). A big factor in the rising influence of AI and ML in mobile app development has been the growing popularity of chatbots. At a conservative estimate, chatbot applications can generate yearly savings of up to $7.5 billion for businesses. The value of the worldwide AI industry will go past $1.2 trillion in 2019 – and we will be looking at a bigger-than-ever pool of ‘intelligent applications’. Right from voice search, predictive text for easier typing and GPS route suggestions, to email classifications, quick & correct translations, and email/photo classifications – AI can increase the usability of mobile apps in a myriad of ways.

Note: The demand for personalized app experiences is higher than ever among end-users, and AI can play a big role in delivering that.

  1. On-demand apps will continue to rule

    Apps like Uber and Lyft have completely revolutionized the concept of ‘hailing a taxi’. Food delivery, laundry services, product delivery, cleaning & pest control are some other fields where on-demand mobile applications are making their presence felt. Expect this trend to gather further momentum over the next half a decade or so – with on-demand services becoming available for many other use cases. Scalability, customizability and, of course, convenience are the three pillars on the basis of which the popularity of these applications are growing. Before 2018 rolls to an end, the on-demand mobile app economy will become a $59 billion sector. With constantly increasing user-bases and surging revenues, this sector will go up further in future.

Note: In 2018 Q1, Uber’s revenues jumped by 70% (amidst speculations over the company’s profits). Mobile on-demand apps are already strong…and growing stronger.

  1. Greater focus on ‘smarter’ apps

    The number of total app downloads has undergone a ~5X increase from 2012 to 2017 (57.2 billion vs 255 billion). Keeping pace with that has been the growth of the global market for internet of things (IoT) – from less than $3 trillion in 2014 to almost $8.99 trillion by the turn of the decade. Worldwide investments and spending on ‘connected gadgets’ is set to breach the $1 trillion mark by 2021 (the 2017-2021 CAGR will be more than 14%). From healthcare, energy and retail services, to education, smart agriculture and smart cities – IoT applications are being put to use in many new and innovative scenarios. LoRa technology and blockchain technology are also growing at a rapid clip – and combined with IoT, they can lead to the creation of truly powerful and useful new applications. Lack of complete awareness and specialized skills remain a challenge though – and going forward, the onus will be on professional mobile app developers to be familiar with the latest developments in IoT and smart things. The need to ‘stay connected’ is greater than ever for the average user, and IoT apps can be extremely useful.

Note: There will be >20400 million installed IoT units in 2020. The current figure is around 11000 million units. Consumer apps are the biggest users of the technology, although IoT-powered business applications are also on the rise.

  1. More apps for wearables

    In 2019, the total sales of wearable devices is expected to be well over 250 million units (in 2014, a year before Apple Watch burst onto the scene, the total shipment figure was less than 30 million). On a YoY basis, there will be a 36% growth in the value of the market for wearables across the globe. The remarkable growth in wearable technology is, in turn, revving up the demand for custom apps for wearables. A recent report pegged the 2016-2020 CAGR for the global wearable apps market at 57% – a far cry from the scenario even a couple of years back, when there was a serious dearth of good-quality apps for smartwatches. The launch of free and multi-featured fitness bands/sports bands is a key factor fueling this growth. Apart from smartwatches, the market for more innovative wearables – on-body sensors, smart jewelry, mobile communication tools, etc – is also growing fast. Leading app development agencies have already turned their attentions on making apps for wearable tech – and this trend will continue in 2019 and beyond.

Note: The wearable tech market is projected to breach the $100 billion mark in 2023, and the $150 billion mark in 2026.

  1. Advantages of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) will become more apparent

    Ever since its arrival in 2015, accelerated mobile pages (AMP) has continued to grow. Thanks to the considerably faster loading of mobile pages, problems like ‘lazy loading’ – and related customer negative impressions – have become a thing of the past. In fact, a study found that AMP pages are ~84% faster than regular mobile web pages. The enhanced clickability, improved UX, and strong reliability and availability assurances of AMPs also push up the overall visitor/traffic figures – while minimising the average bounce rates. The fact that AMPs can be displayed in a customised manner on the different browsers – delivering a seamless end-user experience – is yet another big factor. Over the next few years, the popularity of accelerated mobile pages will continue to soar – and for businesses, managing/updating web pages on the go will become easier than ever before.

Note: By 2017, nearly 4.5 billion AMPs had been published. Nearly 30 million domains were in active usage, for creating AMPs.

  1. App security to remain under focus

    Last year, the total volume of mobile malware increased by more than 20%. There has been a series of high-profile software/cloud security breaches – leading to the theft/misuse of private and personal data. The number of malicious applications is constantly rising – and according to a report, by 2019, the frequency of ‘smartphone infections’ will nudge the 1% mark (i.e., 1 out of every 100 smartphones will be affected in some way or the other by buggy/malicious software). In such a situation, it is only natural that concerns over the security and data-safety features of mobile applications are increasing. App-makers and software testers have to realize that, if a user has any doubts over the security standards of an app, (s)he will not download it (and there are hordes of alternatives available). All types of potential risks that a new application can face – right from insecure data storage, absence of state-of-the-art binary protections, and authentication/authorization problems, to injections from the client-side, unforeseen data leakages, DDoS attacks and problematic server-side controls – have to be identified and thoroughly checked. Smartphone-owners, on their part, should know better than to download every new app that hits the store(s).

Note: Increased mobility is directly proportional to chances of security breaches, according to nearly 63% app-users.

  1. Role of AR/VR in mobile app development

    Gone are the days when virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies were deemed to be for high-end gaming applications only. While apps like Real Strike and Pokemon Go are definitely showing the potential of AR-based gaming, use of applications powered by augmented reality is expanding in both the enterprise space and the consumer space. Asia-Pacific has emerged as a fastest growing geographical area of the global mobile AR market – with the latter slated to reach $80 billion by the end of 2022. Dedicated AR applications will go up by almost three times in the 2018-2022 time span (4680 million in 2022; 1570 million in 2018). By the next year itself, the total count of AR/VR based apps will go beyond 5 billion. Developers have understood the need to deliver more immersive, innovative, 360° experiences to final users – and as such, they are trying to incorporate AR modules in their apps, to drive up engagement levels.

Note: The key here lies in using AR/VR in a way that actually enhances the functionality and value of mobile applications. Using the technology just for the heck of it will not be advisable.

     10. Android Instant Apps are growing rapidly

The launch of Android Instant Apps in 2016 changed a lot of things. For starters, it started giving customers the opportunity to check out the flagship content of any app, without having to download and install the full application. In addition, Instant Apps have also been statistically proven to have reduced frictions in app-usage and app-dropoffs after single use. By the first half of this year, the user-base of Instant Apps had expanded beyond 500 million devices. A common pain point of many Android-users across the world is the lack of storage space on their devices – and Instant Apps solve this problem nicely, since no full installations are required. In March 2018, Google unveiled Play Instant for third-party Android game developers. There are question marks over whether the growing popularity of Instant Apps might have a negative impact on app download figures – but for now, it can be said with confidence that Android Instant Apps are here to stay.

Note: With the help of Instant Apps, Dotloop managed to bring about a 62% increase in user-engagement levels. Jet has also managed to boost conversion figures by nearly 28%.

      11. Beacon technology to play a bigger role

With a projected CAGR of 130%+ for the next half a decade, beacons are probably the sub-sector of mobile technology to really look out for in 2019. The face-off between Apple iBeacon (the leader, with more than 50% market share) and the Google Eddystone platform will be fascinating – with both having multiple innovative connectivity features and high-end capabilities. Within the next couple of years, the world will have over 500 million bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacon units – and the overall beacons market will race past the $25 billion mark in 2024. Mobile apps powered by beacon technology and strong geolocation support find acceptance in a number of sectors, with the retail industry being right at the forefront (serving as coupon aggregators). By 2020, beacon technology will start to create 1.6 billion retail coupons on a yearly basis. Once again, specialized knowledge and skills will be required to implement beacon tech in mobile applications.

Note: Progressive web apps (PWAs) will also continue to grow in 2019 and beyond, albeit at lower rates. PWAs are relatively less complex, and hence, are easier to develop.

       12. Growing importance of low-code development

Platforms like Zoho Creator, Appian, Outsystems and Microsoft PowerApps are changing the process of mobile app development for a vast cross-section of developers. These are the low-code app development platforms (LCDPs) - and their adoption is already high, and set to grow further over the coming years. This June, Mendix Assist became the world’s very first LCDP powered by artificial intelligence (AI). There are, however, two points of concerns over here: firstly, many of these platforms are not necessarily ‘low code’ per se, but have quite a lot of ‘hidden codes’, which clients cannot see. Secondly, there are speculations over whether LCDPs can ‘replace’ human developers in the long-run (not likely, since skilled coders will always be required to monitor and manage these platforms). The global LCDP market has already moved past $15 million – and by the end of 2022, the value of this sector will be just a shade under $27.5 million.

Note: Nearly 1 out of every 4 LCDP-user starts out with negligible programming knowledge. 71% users, on average, can start making apps with these platforms within a time-frame of 3 months (or less).

Cross-platform app development is yet another thing that will continue to grow bigger in 2019, The market for specialized cross-platform tools is growing at a CAGR of 37% – and platforms like React Native are being increasingly used (iOS and Android). The focus of mobile app developers will squarely be on coming up with top-class UX solutions. Applications that deliver true value AND are easy to use are the ones that will succeed.

These are exciting times in the mobile app market, with the latest technologies (like AI, AR, Blockchain and IoT) ushering in a stage of transition. One thing is for certain though: this market is not going to slow down anytime in the foreseeable future!

 

Top 13 EMM Trends To Watch Out For In 2019

 

EMM trends 2019

 

The importance of mobile strategies in the enterprise space is rising at remarkably high rates. In a recent study, it was found that nearly 45% companies already have ‘mobile-first’ approaches – and 7 out of every 10 enterprises consider that ‘mobility‘ will be a key propeller of growth in the foreseeable future. Speculations about a slowdown in the global Mobile Device Management, or MDM, sector have also been laid to rest by a MarketsandMarkets report (from a sub-$2.9 billion market value in 2018, MDM is projected to jump to ~$8 billion by the end of 2023). Over the next 5 years, the CAGR of this market will hover around the 23% mark.

The rapidly increasing role of laptops and smartphones and tablets and other smart gadgets for business is, in turn, fueling the growth of the worldwide enterprise mobility management (EMM) industry. Between 2014 and 2020, the market is expected to grow by nearly 488% ($85 billion vs $500 billion), with BYOD being one of the most important drivers of this growth. Over here, we will round up all the important trends and stats in EMM to watch out for in 2019:

  1. Focus on business apps is increasing, with location-based services to the fore

    As enterprises are getting more advanced and spatially decentralised, the demand for customised business app development is going up. These ‘made-for-enterprise’ applications typically have quicker loading times (time is a key factor), and generally have non-intrusive auto-updation features. Given that employees might have to work from different places, the built-in GPS and other location-based features are emerging as vital elements of business apps. What’s more, the apps also need to be platform and OS-agnostic. Going forward, it can be reasonably expected that enterprise mobility would considerably reduce the reliance of people on traditional, static desktop/laptop systems.

Note: The performance of enterprise applications should not be affected by the status of network availability at any time.

  1. BYOD will continue to grow

    The CAGR of the ‘bring-your-own-device’ (BYOD) market for the period between 2014 and 2020 will be over 36% – a clear indication of how this is fast becoming a workplace norm. Given the high penetration and sheer variety of smartphones, tablets, laptops and other smart tools being used in an enterprise scenario, it becomes important to keep things organised with streamlined mobile device management (MDM) and EMM strategies. The BYOD adoption figures in companies are being driven by the potential savings in hardware costs – and the ‘BYOD culture’ is being embraced by companies across different verticals. In terms of the security factor, BYOD does bring in a set of fresh challenges – with data security, network security and device security being the most critical. By the end of this decade, the BYOD security market will be worth ~$25 billion – and EMM is going to play an increasingly important role in it.

Note: There are still a few factors holding back the growth of BYOD, with low device awareness levels and lack of adequate trust being the main issues.

  1. Cross-platform apps are the need of the hour

    Earlier this year, Google announced the beta version of Flutter – an open source toolkit for cross-platform app development (iOS and Android). Tools like React Native (by Facebook) are already fairly popular among professional mobile app developers. Platform barriers are going down in the domain of enterprise mobility – with the BYOD culture taking over, and employees using iOS and Android devices demanding for a seamless, consistent app experience. That, in turn, is pulling up the demand for cross-platform applications that deliver all the features and rich functionalities of native apps. By December 2017, more than 445 thousand cross-platform apps were in active use, and that number will continue to swell as EMM platforms get more and more refined.

Note: The number of iOS apps ported to the Android platform is nearly double of the number of apps going the other way, according to a research report.

  1. The role of augmented reality is becoming prominent

    There was a time when augmented reality (AR) was implemented only in high-end consumer apps. Technology has moved forward since than, and a key trend in the recent proliferation of EMM strategies is the usage of AR in business applications. Right from interactive employee training and corporate travel communications, to virtual modeling, field services management and sales boosts – a wide array of tasks can be made easier and more immersive than ever with the help of this technology. The potential of AR to merge elements from the real and the virtual worlds, to deliver true simulative experiences, has been identified by businesses across the globe. Real-time location system (RTLS) is being used in combination with IoT systems to make the enterprise AR resources more powerful.

Note: By 2022, the global AR/VR market’s value will be northwards of $208 billion.

  1. Rise and rise of IoT

    According to experts, IoT devices are all set to emerge as the largest set of ‘connected devices’ this year, overtaking mobile phones. As the setup of cutting-edge IoT tools and frameworks in existing enterprise IT infrastructure is getting simpler, and the connection/implementation costs are falling – more corporate houses are starting to rely on smart gadgets/platforms to collect, store and access mission-critical data. The growth of IoT in the business space is being further bolstered by the ever-increasing number of wifi-enabled devices in use. The total number of mobile subscriptions is going to go past the 9 billion mark in 2021, while smartphone subscriptions being well above 6.1 billion. In the next few years, mobility programming will be shaped by the way in which these devices are used. In addition, the exponentially-rising count of enterprise devices would also fuel the demand for smarter unified endpoint management (UEM).

Note: Real-time analytics and dashboards, powered by IoT, will also help in better business decision-making.

  1. Shortage of expert developers with relevant experience

    Advance mobility systems is gradually replacing traditional computing methods in enterprises. As a direct result, the demand for a set of ‘next-generation developers’ – with high-end technical (programming) and management skills – is arising. Unfortunately though, there is a shortage of such workers, due to a combination of factors – like lack of technical expertise or relevant experience, to inadequate formal education and/or inordinately high salary demands. In 2019 and beyond, the need for experienced developers (who would be able to add to the productivity and efficiency levels of enterprises) would increase. Skilled human workforce will continue to be the biggest asset for any company. Without adequate monitoring and proper management, EMM can run into problems.

Note: The demand for business app development is, roughly, 5 times more than the delivering capacity of leading IT companies. As business applications are increasing, more and more people are required to optimally use them.

  1. Rise of the ‘hybrid workers’

    In a survey conducted earlier this year, it was found that only around 18% of enterprises actually provide company-owned mobile devices to employees. On the other hand, ~30% companies reported that they were entirely reliant on BYOD practices. The remaining 52% enterprises are of interest over here – since they have a ‘hybrid’ of BYOD and company devices (provided to select employees, depending on tasks and job roles). The rise of such ‘hybrid approaches’ – and in turn, ‘hybrid workers’ – is an important trend in the study of EMM. As a whole, the importance of enterprise mobility has never been higher – with 75% workers stating that business workflows are directly affected by mobile devices. At many places, the management expects employees to remain available even after office-hours (and also from remote locations). In such situations, such ‘hybrid approaches’ – a cross between BYOD and company devices – make a lot of sense.

Note: For the early adopters, effective EMM can be a key differentiating factor, and can generate significant, unique competitive advantages.

  1. Cloud computing will grow immensely

    More mobile devices are driving up the demand for EMM/UEM, the rising number of ‘endpoints’ is expanding the volume of big data generated, and the potential use cases of such big data are constantly increasing. Enterprises would, understandably, try to move beyond the limitations of on-device memory and storage, and switch to secure cloud computing practices. As per reasonable estimates, the CAGR of cloud computing will be just a shade under 23%, and nearly 80% of the total revenues generated by cloud platforms (in 2020) will be contributed by the three biggest players – Microsoft, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google. The onus will be on IT managers to find and implement cloud platforms that offer an ideal combination of reliability, affordability and availability. There are security threats to be wary of, and on-premise hosting of important enterprise data can be an effective strategy. It remains to be seen what other security controls come into the fray over the next few years, to make EMM and cloud platforms more robust.

Note: The total revenue from EMM will push towards $3 billion in 2019. Investments on enterprise mobility is going up steadily across the globe.

  1. Chatbots are the future of business interactions

    Given that, on average, 8 out of every 10 enterprises are looking to implement chatbots by the turn of the decade, there are little doubts over this. In 2019 and beyond, ‘intelligent robots’ are likely to emerge as the faces of businesses, easing both customer interactions and employee communications. The AI-powered chatbots will double up as task-schedulers as well, and can take away the human error element from repetitive, day-to-day jobs. In addition, enterprises have the opportunity of utilising the insights from the chatbot interactions to take better decisions, decide future course(s) of action, and haul up efficiency levels. In fact, a recent study found that chatbots have the edge over apps (69% vs 51%) as the most preferred medium of communicating with a business. Enterprise mobility management has to factor in the performance of chatbots.

Note: In 2016, the size of the worldwide chatbot market was $191 million. By 2025, this market will be worth $1250 million – and enterprise chatbots will become mainstream.

       10. EMM to become more ‘intelligent’ than ever

New and interesting use cases of artificial intelligence (AI) in the enterprise domain are constantly being unearthed. That, as a result, is also expanding the overall scope of EMM. Right from static image recognitions & tagging, contract analysis and image text queries, to data detection/identification, data processing and even predictive maintenance – AI comes in handy in a myriad of fields, boosting performance and productivity metrics. With the range of features of the latest generation of flagship smartphones going through the roof, the demand is for more interactive business applications, and AI-powered tools can deliver that easily. The cumulative value of AI software implementations in businesses (directly and indirectly), will touch $37 billion by the second half of 2025. AI and ML are changing the way enterprises work, that’s for sure.

Note: $1.2 trillion is the projected market value of the global AI industry, in 2020.

        11. The need for multilayered security

The importance of data for the modern-day enterprises can hardly be overemphasized. The increasing prevalence of the ‘BYOD culture’ poses a definite security threat – and there are chances of data breaches, DDoS attacks, and other forms of unauthorised third-party access. In such a scenario, EMM simply has to include a solid, multilayered security model – securing critical business data at the device level, the platform level, and the overall infrastructure level. The focus is squarely on making the storage and the authentication processes more secure – with chances of data breaches reduced to a minimum. Better endpoint security is the name of the game, and in this context, blockchain technology also can have an important role to play.

Note: In 2017, there were a whopping 1579 cases of reported data breaches. With UEM, such attacks have to be reduced considerably in future.

         12. Availability of EMM as a solution package

The scope of enterprise mobility is widening at a rapid clip. Apart from the functional elements, developers also need to keep an eye on the compliance standards, and privacy/security guidelines. The need for a more holistic management platform or system has led to EMM services being offered as a suite. In such a package, MDM is, of course, the most important component – but there are other tasks, like MCM (mobile content management), MAM (mobile applications management) and MIM (mobile identity management), that are also included in a EMM suite. There is a need to provide support to more devices, while cloud integrations need to be stronger (these two factors, in fact, are driving up the demand for UEM). A more consistent naming convention would also be useful.

Note: Solution-bundling is actually increasing the usability of EMM, and giving enterprises greater options to choose custom mobility management services.

           13. Challenges that have to be overcome

EMM might hold out the promises of business advantages, but implementing it optimally is not the easiest task in the world. For starters, the nature and functionality of the different enterprise IoT systems are diverse, and everything has to be managed by the enterprise mobility platform. Cloud-based solutions need to be fully scalable and highly secure, while ensuring seamless collaboration between PC management teams and mobility management teams is also a challenge. The user-experience (both for customers and employees) has to be uniformly excellent too. Apart from managing data and endpoints, EMM also needs to provide predictive analytics, to be of real value to businesses. Reaching newer markets and designing enterprise-specific use cases is also something that needs to be looked into. In 2019, we can reasonably expect these challenges to be addressed, as enterprise mobility gets more nuanced.

From greater responsiveness, a plethora of features, and compactness, to higher engagements and availability of important insights & analytics – there are many advantages of a dedicated EMM framework. In the next year and beyond, developers will place maximum emphasis on enhancing functionality levels – so that enterprises get real value and a boost in ROI. It’s still early days for EMM…and it will get smarter, more flexible, and more feature-rich in future.

 

 

Publishing Android Application on Google Play

(In this post, a senior Android app developers outlines the process of publishing a brand new application in Google Play Store)

 

Android app development

 

I was wondering how small to medium enterprises are making lots of money with a single app. Yes, it is 100% true. These days, people spend almost 2-3 hours in a day on mobile applications rather than websites. The reason is straight and simple: apps are fast processing, user-friendly in nature, offer enhanced visibility and customer experience etc. Believe me, even I started my app journey a few years ago and till now I’ve collected a great (and varied!) deal of experience. So what are you waiting for? Take a step forward towards your dream and mark your valuable presence in digital world by building your app.

If you are planning to learn the basic to advanced phases of application development journey, then you can participate in the Android Development Course accessible over the web from anywhere anytime.

Publishing an Android application is a method for making your products visible to users so that they can use, download or suggest improvement and submit feedback without any interruption. Publishing is the last step involved in the Android development process.

Once you have finished and done with final testing of your Android app, you can sell or distribute it freely to the users with Google Play (android marketplace). There’s one more way to release your application which includes sending it directly to the users so that they can download it from your website or other available sources.

In this blog, I’m explaining step by step guide to publish your Android application on Google Play which is the world’s largest app marketplace. Check it out:

Step 1: I prefer performing Regression Tests before entering the marketplace.

Regression testing is an essential step to check whether your application is compatible on the all the devices you are targeting. So you need to test all the basic features of the app by running it on various devices and tablets.

Step 2: Application Rating- Well.. Is your app mature enough?

Google Play will show the maturity level of your application to the users. So you need to specify the rating of content in your app from available options as:

a). Low Maturity

b). High Maturity

c). Everyone

d). Medium Maturity

Step 3: Targeted Region- Most of my consumers are from London.

On Google Play, you can control your region or country to sell your application. So it’s your responsibility to precisely select the time zone, localisation or other specific demands according to the selected region.

Step 4: Size of the Application- Are you qualifying the minimum criteria?

Google has limited the maximum size for an APK to 50 MB for publishing it on Google Play. If the size of your application is more than 50 MB, or you want to avail a secondary download to your users, then you can leverage the APK expansion files. Google Play will freely host it on its infrastructure. And, it will automatically handle the download on devices.

Step 5: Screen Compatibility and Software Development Kit (SDK)- My app is not running smoothly on Tablets. What to do?

It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is designed to execute properly without any bug on the pre-specified Android platform versions. Also, it must support the screen size of the devices you are targeting.

Step 6: Pricing of the Application- Should I pay?

The price of the application must be decided prior because there are applications available on Google Play which are free and do not get affected by your application (your application should not get affected either). For this, you can do one thing i.e. to specify the price to a specific target country.

Step 7: Promotional Content- I’m the one you were looking for?

It is one of the broadly used market strategies to boost your product popularity among users. You can say a good practice to showcase the assets of product is a high-quality graphic. After publishing, the promotional content can be used for the store’s product detail page and is also shown in the search results of the brand.

Step 8: Upload release-ready APK file- Countdown begins..!!

In further steps, you will upload this APK file on the developer console. It is distributed to the audience. While preparing for the release of a product in the market, always try to configure, to build and a trial before the actual release of the application. To optimise your application, the configuration has to be done carefully. It includes basic codes, cleanup and code modification tasks etc. Build or debug process is done using Android SDK and JDK tools. The final step is all about testing, which includes the final check of the application, or you can say an assurance check before the application is launched in the market. When you have finished all these steps, then your application is ready for release and distribution in the marketplace.

Step 9: Wrap up the Application Detail- Who am I?

Google Play presents various options and tactics to promote your application. It encourages user-engagement on your main product page which shows details, colourful graphics, screenshots from your application and video content for introducing descriptions, backlinks to other apps and release summary. So, you can show an attractive and well-maintained application page with useful detailed descriptions.

Export Your Application:

There are few tools you must have access to export your application:

  • Dalvik Executables tools: Dx tool helps in converting .class file extension to .dex file.

  • Android assistance packaging tools: AAPT is helpful for converting a .dex file to .apk file extension.

  • Android Packaging Kit: APK is used for final stage deployment.

All you need is to export APK file before marking your presence in Google Play marketplace. For export, open your project in the Android Studio and click on ‘Build’. It will generate a signed APK. Now click on the generate signed APK displayed in the above screen and choose to create a new key store, it will store your application.

Write your key store path, key store password, alias and key password in the window. Click next. Once you are finished with filling all the information such as build type, flavours and destination of the app, click finish as it will generate an APK file for your application.

Google Play:

You need to register on the Google Play where you have to create a Google ID and accept terms and conditions. It will ask for a payment of $25 to proceed. Hooray..!! Once you are registered on Google play, you can finally upload your application.

Native Apps vs Hybrid Apps – Which Of These Offer Greater Advantages?

native apps vs hybrid apps

 

Total revenues from the global mobile app market is set to touch $190 billion by the end of this decade. For all the speculations over the growing maturity of this industry, the fact remains that mobile apps are still growing at exponential rates – and more & more new mobile technologies are coming into the picture. From a developer’s perspective, the options are pretty much clear – (s)he can create native (platform-specific) apps, hybrid (platform-agnostic) apps, or mobile-optimized, responsive websites which deliver most of an app’s utilities.

In 2015, native technologies were being exclusively used by around 20% of all app developers. Cut to 2017, and that figure had already fallen to below 3% – thanks to the rapidly proliferating popularity of hybrid applications. It can be reasonably estimated that, on average, 3-4 out of every 10 developers will start to work exclusively with hybrid technologies (giving up on native applications) within the next couple of years or so. In the following native apps vs hybrid apps debate, we focus on the respective advantages and probable issues of the two app development methodologies:

  1. Single platform vs multi-platform

    Native mobile apps are built for single mobile operating systems (iOS or Android). For separate mobile OSes, separate versions of the app have to be created. Native applications can typically access all the functionalities of a specific device, without any glitches. Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are created with standard code languages, and are meant to run on multiple operating systems. While plugins are available for hybrid apps, their customizations are not likely to be at par with native-built apps.

Note: Developers have to use Swift or Objective-C for iOS programming, and Java or Kotlin (in rarer cases) for Android development. For making hybrid apps, C# or Javascript (with HTML5) is commonly used.

  1. Frameworks and IDEs

    Depending on the precise type of app that has to be made, developers need to be familiar with the corresponding integrated development environments (IDEs), frameworks and platforms. Developers working on the Apple platform, for instance, need to have relevant experience of working with Xcode (latest version: Xcode 9.4.1) – while Android developers have to be conversant with all the functionalities of Android Studio (latest version: Android Studio 3.1.3). If you wish to make hybrid applications, however, a completely different type of expertise is required – with tools like Facebook’s React Native and Microsoft’s Xamarin. It might be a stretch to refer to the hybrid platforms as ‘tougher’ than the native IDEs – but they present a separate challenge for app-makers.

Note: Hybrid apps typically have a native shell that uses Webview to pull in the code (the shell can also be downloaded). The other important part of these apps is the back-end coding, done with Javascript or HTML5 or CSS.

  1. Are hybrid apps cheaper?

    To start off with, hybrid apps are generally less costly, and less time-consuming to build than pure native applications. However, there is a catch over here. The greater the degree of customizations implemented on a hybrid app, the higher the costs are likely to rise. In the long-run, native apps might end up being the more cost-effective propositions – thanks to the higher degrees of personalization options and the superior user-end experience (UX) they deliver. Let’s just put it this way – developers who have the biggest focus on quality should go with native apps, while those who wish to generate the maximum value in a limited time can opt to build hybrid applications.

Note: Hybrid mobile apps can also be viewed as a combination of responsive web apps and native applications.

  1. Preferences of end-users

    Delivering optimal user experience is the name of the game for any service provider at present. While native apps do have more natural design flows (and as such, are likely to provide better user-experiences), there is little to choose between them and hybrid applications in this context. In fact, all that final users look for is how well an app performs on his/her device, and whether or not it meets his/her expectations. Provided that the development has been done with due care and expertise, it does not make any difference to the user whether an app has been made with native or hybrid technologies. More often than not, it is pretty much impossible for a random smartphone-user to find whether an app is native or hybrid.

Note: The focus should squarely be on identifying the requirements of target users, and creating apps accordingly. Both native and hybrid apps can fit the bill, depending upon the situation.

  1. Development Cycle and Resource Usage

    Apart from being cost-saving propositions in the short-run, hybrid apps also have significantly shorter development cycles than fully native applications. Typically, native development requires higher amounts of manpower and technical resources as well. Since basic web technologies are used in a hybrid environment (like HTML or CSS), they are generally easier to build as well, than their native counterparts. A rather common strategy of many app developers is to go the native way for very simple apps, and consider using hybrid development frameworks (Xamarin, PhoneGap, Ionic, React Native, etc.) if and when that app becomes popular and has to be made available on other platforms.

Note: Native apps require separate coding to be done for each separate platform. Hybrid apps, on the other hand, are made on the ‘write once,run anywhere’ principle.

  1. Performance factor

    In terms of speed and micro-level performance metrics, native apps still hold all the aces, by virtue of their more customized designs. While hybrid applications are becoming more and more user-friendly over time, they are still some way off from matching the speed and performance of completely native apps. In addition, developers can rest assured of full access to native APIs (application programming interfaces) for native apps. The degree of API access for hybrid apps is lower. Since hybrid apps need to record web technologies for optimal performance, they do not quite deliver that ‘right feel’ – something that is the USP of native apps.

Note: The functionality of hybrid applications can run into problems if high-level device interactions are required. There is a limit to what native plugins (which manage such device interactions) can achieve.

  1. The learning curve

    While it would be an exercise in futility to find whether native IDEs or hybrid frameworks are ‘easier to learn’ – it can be stated that the learning curve for hybrid app development is comparatively less steep. Once a developer gets the proper hang of a framework (say, React Native), (s)he can start making apps for multiple mobile operating systems. Native app development, however, requires full proficiency with the tools and techniques of each platform. That typically takes considerably more time. Not surprisingly, the time to market for native apps is, on average, quite a bit higher than that of hybrid apps. From the earnings perspective though, native apps offer separate financing streams for the different platforms. All the ROI from hybrid apps is channelized through a single stream.

Note: Development of both hybrid and native applications requires stable internet connections – although this requirement is greater for the former. In a native scenario, internet is required for the API-client applications and for updating a particular app.

  1. Overdependence on plugins and libraries

    This is something that holds hybrid apps back somewhat. These apps are heavily dependent on external frameworks (Ionic, Cordova) as well as on native plugins. The more plugins are added, the more complex the overall development process becomes. It might also happen that a particular framework/library version is not in sync with the platform – and performance glitches can crop up as a direct result. Native apps have no such dependencies, and hence, they offer a more consistent performance assurance. The availability of native SDKs is a big factor in this regard.

Note: For high-end gaming applications (3D/HD) that require heavy graphics, native development is the correct approach. Hybrid technologies might not be able to handle intensive animations rendering and other performance requirements satisfactorily.

  1. The security factor

    Well over 22000 malicious mobile applications get blocked everyday. There are multiple channels via which both native apps and hybrid apps can come under attack – right from code injections and poor implementation of SSL, to data leakes, problems in data storage and reverse engineering. However, hybrid applications do have an extra risk layer – since they have external tools and frameworks for coding. Also, the developer ecosystem for native mobile applications is still much stronger than that of hybrid or web apps. Irrespective of whether separate app codes are maintained (native) or platform-agnostic single code base is used (hybrid), developers have to keep an eye out for probable security threats and manage them effectively.

Note: In a recent survey, it was found that, when faced with adverse app experiences, 48% users were likely to reduce its usage, while a bad word-of-mouth publicity might be started by 31% of them. It’s all about ensuring that final customers are not put off by any feature or shortcoming of an app.

     10. Web technology vs specific technology

The entire native apps vs hybrid apps debate boils down to this. While specific technology is used in native applications (Swift for iOS apps; Java for Android apps), web technology (CSS, Javascript, HTML) lies at the heart of hybrid mobile apps. It also has to be kept in mind that all hybrid apps run in WebView – which can cause certain performance issues as well, if there are any problems with widgets. In terms of performance acceleration capabilities based on the underlying hardware, both types of apps are more or less at par.

Note: Native apps are usually fully compatible with other applications installed on a device. Compatibility issues are more likely to crop up in the case of hybrid applications.

     11. Updating an app

This process is decidedly simpler and quicker, when we are talking about hybrid applications. Everybody does not set up their phone apps to be auto-updated when connected to wifi. Changes made in a native app are reflected ONLY after a user updates the app from the store – and repeated reminders for updation can end up irritating customers. In the hybrid development scenario, it is not necessary to update the apps in the stores. Modifications made on app pages that are loaded directly from the server get displayed immediately. In a nutshell, hybrid app updates generally do not require any additional human involvement, while native app updates can result in unnecessary (and negative) attentions.

Note: The fact that a single source code is used for hybrid apps also makes it easier for coders to make changes in their programs with ease. In most cases though, hybrid apps do not support offline mode.

     12. Companies love Native AND Hybrid apps

In 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that his company’s mobile strategy was a bit ‘too reliant on HTML5’ – and switched over to native applications. Native-built apps are also used by several other industry biggies, like Instagram, LinkedIn and Redfin. The love for hybrid applications is also increasing – and they are already being used by organisations like Banana Republic, OKCupid, Untappd and HealthTab. The tradeoff here is pretty much apparent – companies that wish to deliver the most optimal mobile experience are sticking with native apps, while those that wish to reach out to the widest possible audience quickly are taking the hybrid approach.

Note: Hybrid apps can also be operated as Progressive Web Apps, or PWA.

Native apps and hybrid apps both have their own advantages and probable downsides, as is evident from our discussion above. At the end of the day, the onus is on the developers to consider their budget, how quickly they need the app, the maximum level of complexity, and the degree of UX optimization required – and then determine whether a native or hybrid strategy would be the best way to go forward. The final choice should depend, not on the technologies per se, but on what you want an app to do – and how such features can be added in the best possible manner.

 

 

NB-IoT In India: Looking At The Key Facts, Stats & Updates

NB-IoT in India: Trends and updates

 

India is fast growing into a strong global IoT hub. By the end of 2016, there were ~200 million ‘connected devices‘ in the country – and this count has been estimated to jump to 2.6 billion units in 2020. In terms of revenue, we are looking at an almost 3X increase over the 2016-2020 period ($5.6 billion vs $15 billion). Globally, the overall size of the IoT market will swell to well over $3 trillion by the end of this decade. LPWAN (low power, wide area networks) standards are driving the growth of IoT across the globe in a big way. According to a recent Infoholic Research report, the worldwide LPWAN market will be growing at a CAGR of >93% between 2016 and 2022. We have already highlighted the importance of Semtech Corporation’s LoRa technology in previous posts here and here. Let us now turn our attentions to another competing, and increasingly popular, technology – Narrowband IoT, or NB-IoT.

There are, at present, around 200 million active NB-IoT connections in the world. Come 2021, the number of connections will shoot up to 685 million (a 242.5% spike). The 2017-2022 CAGR of the global NB-IoT market will be ~62% – going up from $16 million (2017) to $181 million (2022). While Europe and North America are, rather expectedly, the early pace-setters in this domain – the Asia-Pacific has emerged as the biggest contributor to the global NB-IoT market – thanks to the proliferation of smart cities, and the large-scale deployments of optimized IoT solutions. The growth of NB-IoT in India over the past few quarters has been well and truly remarkable too. Reliance Jio, in collaboration with Samsung, is planning to deploy a pan-India cellular IoT network (covering 99% of the nation’s population). Last month, Vodafone reported that it is deliberating on the implementation of NB-IoT solutions in India (following its ‘superIoT’ approach). Over here, we will briefly touch upon some interesting facts and stats about the growth of NB-IoT in India:

  1. What exactly is NB-IoT?

    Before getting down to analyzing the technology, it is important to understand the precise nature of narrowband-IoT. Broadly speaking, NB-IoT refers to a new form of LPWAN radio technology, that is typically meant for transferring low data volumes over large networks (NB-IoT powered devices can be used for indoor as well as outdoor use). Alternatively known as LTE-M2, the technology is implemented either through dedicated LTE base stations, or on 200-khZ bands that were not previously in use. NB-IoT was standardized by 3GPP in September 2015 – with the LTE Advanced Pro Release 13 specifying its standards. An optimally functioning NB-IoT setup can deliver a maximum range of 34-35 km (significantly higher than that of LoRa; comparable with GSM), while the downlink data rate varies in the 2 – 170 kbps range. Unlike LoRaWAN and Sigfox, NB-IoT uses licensed LTE frequency spectrums. The highest possible uplink data rate is 250kbps, and the maximum coupling loss is 164 dB (marginally higher than LoRa; similar to Sigfox).

Note: Apart from the ease of bandwidth availability, NB-IoT ensures minimal interferences, excellent battery performance, and general ease of usage. It is, hence, an ideal communication protocol for sending/receiving data over long distances.

  1. Sectors under the NB-IoT focus

    Enterprise applications are increasing in importance in India – and smart automation is playing a key role over here (think: Smart Cities Mission, Digital India). Vodafone, which is actively involved in NB-IoT implementations for business/enterprise cases in Europe, has similar plans for the Indian market in the foreseeable future. The telecom giant is eyeing four industry verticals – education, automotive, medical and energy – as the ones with the biggest growth potentials for IoT. In addition, the consumer IoT sub-domain is growing fast too – thanks to the availability and growing awareness about smart home applications, tracking tools, and smart asset management solutions. The prime point of concern in the Indian IoT market is gradually shifting from ‘connectivity’ to ‘security’ – thereby entering a phase of early maturity. NB-IoT promises to be exciting on two counts – it can help individual end-users, as well as automate enterprise applications to take them to the next level.

Note: Since 5G will have significantly lower latency levels and bring up opportunities for AR/VR tools – it will make IoT connectivity in general, and NB-IoT use cases in particular, stronger.

  1. NB-IoT overcomes bandwidth limitations in India

    For all the developments of LoRa technology in India, the fact remains that there are restrictions on unlicensed IoT bands in the Indian market. NB-IoT does away with this issue, by using licensed frequency bands (the license fees are low). Availability of NB-IoT modules is hardly a factor – since the technology is making a relatively late entry over here, and multiple MNOs (mobile network operators) are already offering such modules. The onus lies on IoT developers to factor in the bandwidth requirements and the limited mobility of narrowband-IoT, while using the technology to create new applications/tools. Competitive pricing is yet another must-have factor for any new technology to be practically viable – and NB-IoT comes up trumps regarding that. The average per-device monthly cost should be around $0.5 (or even slightly lower, depending upon the precise nature of applications). The growth of NB-IoT in India will also be fueled by the network coverage capabilities of the technology.

Note: The value of the Indian digital economy will touch the $1 trillion mark in 2024. It can safely be stated that the country is well on its way towards becoming a ‘digital superpower’.

  1. The developments at MWC 2018

    The Reliance Jio-Samsung partnership is important for the large-scale commercial deployment of NB-IoT in India. At this year’s Mobile World Congress (Feb 26 – Mar 1), several other interesting NB-IoT-related announcements and developments also took place. For starters, France-based Sequans Communication released its first-ever ‘made for NB-IoT’ chip. A new set of 9 radio frequency (RF) chips for LPWANs were showcased by Qorvo. Using Vodafone as the network for its live demo session, Chinese chip vendor company Goodix announced the start of NB-IoT chip sales (the IP will be obtained from CommSolid GmbH). A dual-mode network (LTE-M1/NB-IoT) was presented by Vancouver-based startup Riot Micro. It was also announced at MWC 2018 by China Mobile that chips from 5 companies – ZTE, Huawei, Qualcomm, Mediatek and RDA – have been used to deploy full-fledged NB-IoT networks in as many as 346 cities. According to Qorvo, the global LPWAN market grew by an impressive 20% in 2017 – and by the time 2025 rolls in, it will be the single largest connectivity technology in the globe (with 4 billion+ active IoT devices).

Note: Just as the non-cellular IoT market is being led by LoRa (with Sigfox also having a strong presence), NB-IoT leads the cellular IoT sector.

  1. Successful NB-IoT trial runs in India

    Tata Communications has plans to deploy the largest LoRaWAN network in the world in India. The project, spanning 38 cities, will be completed before the end of 2019. NB-IoT networks are also set to become commercially available on a large-scale in India – with Reliance Jio (and Samsung) and Vodafone both eyeing rollouts in the coming months. Vodafone India announced last month that it had already completed multiple smart city test cases in Pune and Kolkata. At present, more use cases from different business sectors – from retail and automobiles, to manufacturing and healthcare – are being researched. On its part, Reliance has already deployed a fully functional NB-IoT network in Mumbai, and the networks in several other cities are being planned. The total number of Jio subscribers is already well over 158 million, ~9000 new towers are being set up every month, and LTE coverage in India is estimated to reach 99% by 2018 Q4.

Note: In North America and Europe, Deutsche Telekom leads the way in terms of NB-IoT network deployments.

  1. Disruptions with NB-IoT

    The chief objective of the Reliance Jio-Samsung collaboration is the assurance of faster, interruption-free internet across India. Non-IP data delivery will be something that will set apart the NB-IoT movement in India apart – and this innovation will be backed by a steadily growing user-base. For the deployment, all the installed Jio stations will have to be upgraded (the spectrum finalization will also pave the way for 5G, as and when the technology comes along). According to reports, narrowband-IoT can bring about technical disruptions in various industries – like transportation and logistics, smart metering utilities, weather tracking and vehicle tracking, security & surveillance, and predictive maintenance. In a country like India, NB-IoT is likely to pay a prominent role in smart agriculture/precision farming as well – improving yields and efficiency levels, and lowering uncertainties. As already mentioned above, the technology has the power to revolutionize both enterprise and customer IoT systems.

Note: The IoT scaling opportunities in India are unmatched (according to Qualcomm). In 2016, Qualcomm entered into a partnership with Philips, and another collaboration with CISCO (in Jaipur). The market is growing fast.

  1. Help from Finnish NB-IoT technologies?

    In March, Telia became the first Finnish operator to implement NB-IoT technology in its network. In general, Finland is easily one of the global leaders in NB-IoT applications – with Nextfour (in partnership with telecom giant DNA) launching a LTE-M/NB-IoT application in Turku. Not surprisingly, Finnish NB-IoT technologies are being used as a reference point for Indian companies. Late last month, it came to news that a leading telecom service provider in India has expressed interest in the IoT technologies that are being used in Finland – for the optimization and betterment of the Indian IoT sector. Both Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have plans to penetrate the IoT and home automation market – with the help of powerful and innovative M2M solutions. Given that the domestic home automation market is set to move beyond $54 billion in 2022, there is ample scope for more players to use NB-IoT to make a difference in this sector.

Note: Reduction in costs, efficiency boosts, better reliability and easy deployment options are some of the main advantages of NB-IoT.

  1. Band selection for NB-IoT

    The 865-867 MHz unlicensed spectrum band is used for deploying the LoRaWAN protocol in India. Given the top-notch coverage of NB-IoT, the 900 MHz band (licensed) is generally used by most mobile operators for it (the 700 MHz and 800 MHz bands can be used as well). By 2015, there were already 14 commercial networks operating on the MHz band – where indoor penetration levels are excellent, there is high propagation, and the existing ecosystem is also fairly strong. Interestingly though, 1800 MHz is the frequency band that has the highest percentage of active LTE networks (>76%) in the world. In countries like Australia, Singapore, China and the United Kingdom, the 1800 MHz band is the most popular for LTE networks. The 2.1 G and 2.6 G bands are also used, albeit at a much lower level. Developers need to be aware of the country-specific bandwidth regulations, and abide by the same – while designing with NB-IoT.

Note: NB-IoT cells are typically larger in size than standard MBB cells. The former should ideally be able to accomodate ~100 concurrent connections.

  1. Main features of NB-IoT

    The buzz about IoT applications in general, and NB-IoT technology in particular, is rising in India. A lot of factors are serving as the drivers of this 3GPP-standardized  technology – right from the 600 bps-250 kbps bidirectional transmissions and the ~10 years battery life (using two AA batteries), to the relatively easy maintenance requirements, the SIM-based security system with ciphering and authentication, and the easy plug-and-play usability (no local networks/gateways required). Compared to GPRS, NB-IoT can deliver a much higher (almost 20 dB) coverage. The fact that NB-Iot works only on licensed bands adds an extra layer of security to the technology. The minimum number of connections in a single NB-IoT cell is 50 – and the real-time data tracking is high on accuracy. What’s more, connectivity and modem costs are minimal – and that, in turn, means that the IoT communication costs with NB-IoT can be significantly lower than that associated with LoRa or 3G modules.

Note: Mass deployment of IoT applications can go a long way in improving public health and safety standards. Users would also be able to save a lot of time and energy by switching over to LPWAN technologies.

       10. NB-IoT: A major source of revenue

Investing big on a new communication technology would only make sense if the returns are high enough. NB-IoT is on firm grounds regarding this – with a cumulative revenue of $1.67 billion being projected for the 2016-2021 period. Smart city projects, smart home applications, and automotive and logistics tools are going to be the top-three revenue earners (in that order). Safety & security ($227 million) and smart agriculture ($159 million) are two other sectors that are going to be disrupted by the arrival of NB-IoT, both worldwide and in India. The cost advantage of NB-IoT is also worth a special mention. The average price of a LoRa module and a Sigfox module is $8 and $9 respectively – higher than the average cost of a NB-IoT module ($5). To put things in perspective, a full-featured Cat4 module can cost as much as $30. The tremendous revenue opportunities of NB-IoT, together with the lowly cost figures (only Bluetooth is cheaper) indicate that large-scale deployments can be really profitable for operators.

Note: LPWAN use cases can broadly be classified under 4 different categories – Industry, Appliances, Personal and Public.

       11. Is NB-IoT suitable for everything?

As both Reliance Jio and Vodafone have pointed out, narrowband-IoT can be deployed in many different business sectors – and more and more new use cases are coming into the picture. That said, the technology might not be an ideal fit in certain cases. For example, since cellular networks do not generally have strong power-saving mechanisms, they are not particularly great for applications that involve infrequent transfer of very small amounts of data. Utilization of capabilities is yet another factor – since NB-IoT does not require voice technology, or high data transmission rates, or messaging tools, all of which are present in standard 3G/LTE devices. As a result of this, the effective cost of using devices only for NB-IoT goes up. Also, the operability of NB-IoT can become rather suspect in remote locations (in the absence of base stations nearby). In such scenarios, the battery life gets adversely affected as a result of the extra strain on the device transmitter. The good thing is, operators are doing their best to work around these issues – and make sure that NB-IoT standards have uniform usability.

Note: There are three alternative deployment scenarios for NB-IoT – standalone (with new bandwidth), guard band (with reserved bandwidth) and in-band (with same resource in LTE carrier).

      12. Understanding the developer mindset

In 2015, there were 4.5 million IoT developers in the world. Cut to 2020, and this figure will cross the 10 million mark – with many Indian players joining the community. The burgeoning popularity of NB-IoT has a lot to do with what these developers actually want from their IoT communication systems. According to a M2M Barometer Survey report, ‘2-way communication’ (55%) and ‘low cost’ (43%) are the two most sought-after features in any IoT technology, followed by ‘extended geographic coverage’ (40%) and ‘long battery life’ (34%). Now, NB-IoT satisfies all of these requirements and many more – and that makes it easier for developers to adopt it and deploy it in their LPWAN systems. By the end of 2024, 6 out of every 10 IoT devices will be powered by NB-IoT – emphasizing the importance of the technology in the long-run.

Note: In January, Telstra became the first Australian carrier to deploy NB-IoT in its network. Incidentally, Telstra also provides Cat M1 IoT coverage (started in 2017).

Apart from the endeavors of Reliance Jio and Vodafone, Huawei is also deliberating with leading Indian telecom players for commercial IoT deployment. There are potential interoperability issues between Huawei and Ericsson (which can affect the rollout of NB-IoT globally). However, the successful ‘interoperability tests’ done by Vodafone reduce such concerns somewhat.

Under the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ of the present government, 100 smart cities will be developed in India. In a truly ‘smart city’, narrowband-IoT can be utilized for a lot of purposes – like smart water metering, air-quality monitoring, smart parking, damage prediction, sheep tracking (in farming), and smart waste management. All of these (and much more) are already being done in different countries. With LoRa and NB-IoT both set to become mainstream in India – the country can easily rank among the global LPWAN leaders in the not-too-distant future.

 

 

Farming With Robots: An Overview Of Applications & Use Cases

Robots in Farming| Smart Agriculture

 

The face of agriculture, as we know it, is changing. Technology is playing a pivotal role in making farming techniques smarter than ever before (which is mighty important, given the spiralling food requirements of the burgeoning global population). Switching over to smart precision farming techniques is enabling crop-growers to significantly increase productivity levels from their lands (i.e., making more with the same resources). The role of robotics, powered by powerful GPS technologies and big data, in agriculture is firmly in focus at present. By 2022, the worldwide agri-robots (or, Agbots) market will go beyond $12.50 million – ~365% more than the corresponding figure in 2016. The CAGR for the 2017-2022 period will be just a touch under 21%.

Thanks to the rapid evolutions in farmtech over the last half a decade or so, agricultural robots are no longer about only the John Deere smart tractors and agricultural drones/UAVs. North America and Europe lead the way in precision farming and usage of farming robots, with Asia-Pacific (primarily, China and India) also growing at a fast clip. The growing awareness about IoT (internet of things) in general, and smart farming techniques in particular, is helping end users optimally use agricultural robots – for a myriad of purposes, speeding up processes, making things efficient, and ruling out chances of manual errors. According to a recent Tractica report, annual shipments of such robots will touch the 594000 units mark by the end of 2024 (the annual shipment in 2016 was 33000 units). In what follows, we will focus on some important functions and use cases of robots in farming:

  1. Types of farming robots

    As the implementation of data-backed, tech-based agriculture is rising, more and more types of agbots are coming into the picture. Robots with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and built-in analytics systems are being used for various on-field tasks – right from crop and cattle management, to dairy management, soil monitoring, and overall farm yield optimization. The watchword here is sustainable expansion of agricultural produce, with the help of technology. Apart from agricultural drones and GPS-powered smart tractors, milking robots, unmanned spraying helicopters and materials management systems are steadily growing in popularity. Water management and irrigation is yet another domain where agbots are delivering considerable benefits. There are ‘smart harvesting robots’ as well, as well as ‘intelligent’ tools for farm inventory management. In a nutshell, robots are giving shape to the concept of fully ‘digital farms’. Interestingly, agbots have also provided a much-needed thrust to indoor farming practices.

Note: Clearpath Robotics, John Deere, AGCO and Lely are some of the biggest players in the worldwide farming robots industry.

  1. Micro-level crop monitoring

    In the United States, the average size of agricultural farms is 444 acres (this figure has remained relatively stable over the last couple of decades). Now, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manually monitor large fields. Lack of actionable data and insights, in turn, increase the uncertainty factor associated with farming – and to mitigate such risks, agbots (ground-level robots) and drones can play a very important role. These farm robots typically make use of powerful sensors and geomapping technologies to bring holistic, real-time crop information to end-users (i.e., the crop growers). There are certain agbots, like BoniRob, which can reach very close to the ground crops – in order to deliver granular-level crop information. Several companies have also started offering farming hardware and software analytics tools as a package.

Note: Broadly speaking, agricultural robotics system have 5 key components – the cloud network, the satellite system, the actual farm robot, the smartphone/tablet, and the logistic unit.

  1. Micro-spraying and weeding

    In a 2016 report, it was estimated that QUT’s Agbot II had the capacity of pulling up the annual savings of Australian farmers to $1.3 billion. Micro-spraying and weeding robots come as a welcome alternative to spreading pesticides on fields manually – which: a) is unduly time-consuming, b) leads to wastage/overuse of chemicals, and c) might have adverse effects on the environment. Agbots used for weeding are powered with advanced computer vision – for identifying the weed-affected areas correctly, and spraying the required amounts of pesticide on those areas. This, understandably, reduces the overall use of herbicides – helping farmers cut down on unnecessary expenses. Robots that spot and uproot weeds (instead of applying chemicals on them) can also be used. On average, autonomous weeding techniques with agbots can kill ~90% of pests, saving 75% of pesticide usage simultaneously.

Note: Laser technology can also be used by certain agri robots to kill weeds. Accurate tactile sensing capabilities is a must-have in any good weeding/micro-spraying robot.

  1. The role of drones and sensors

    By January 2017, the value of the global agri-drone market had swelled to $32.5 million (as per a PwC report). Land mapping, on-field pest detection and general crop-inspection are some important purposes for which drones are being extensively used. In fact, we are probably not far away from a time when agri-drones would be able to communicate with each other and ‘work as a team’ (say, for in-depth crop treatment, irrigation management, and weeding). In the smart agriculture ecosystem, sensors also play a crucial role . For instance, soil moisture sensors can constantly track the condition of the soil (moisture levels, humidity, etc.), send the data to the cloud network, and generate irrigation notifications for the farmers. As a result, chances of water wastage are done away with. In New Zealand, SmartN is already being used to track the places where cows have urinated – since such areas do not need any further fertilizer or chemicals. Without properly functioning on-field drones and sensors, the utility of agricultural robots would have been very limited.

Note: The agricultural drone market will be worth $2.9 billion by the end of 2020 – nearly 5X more than the corresponding figure in 2015.

  1. More efficient picking, sorting and harvesting

    The European Union-funded cROPS project (Clever Robots For Crops) have shown the way for this. Dedicated applications for picking and sorting ‘soft fruits’ are being tested and deployed – and these applications typically have the degree of manual dexterity required for the job (crops like wheat and corn can be easily harvested by automated combine harvesters). Octinion, a leading research company, released a prototype of its strawberry-picking robot a few months back. The robot can sort and pick 70% of all ripe strawberries (Shibiya Seiki – a Japanese company – showcased a similar agbot in 2013). Autonomous apple-picking robots, armed with vacuum removal mechanics and computer vision (so that the tree itself, or the fruit, is not damaged in any way) are coming into the picture – and they are expected to become fairly mainstream in the next couple of years or so. The vision systems in the agbots enable the latter to gauge the ripeness of the fruits, detect the presence of dust on them, and manage temperature/wind conditions. Crop damage at the time of harvest is a big issue in traditional agriculture – and farming robotics is designed to eliminate that concern.

Note: Abundant Robotics (California, USA) and FF Robotics (Israel) are both conducting trial runs of their apple picker robots. The built-in AI sensors can also let farmers know of the correct harvesting time/window for their crops.

  1. Key drivers of farming with robots

    Come 2024, we will be looking at annual revenues in excess of $74 billion from the global agricultural robots market. The exponentially rising global population is, arguably, the single biggest factor behind the rapid developments in precision farming with robots – since there are more mouths to feed, total land resources are limited, and yields have to be maximized. Using agbots and smart farming techniques are also likely to generate significant economies of scale in larger farms. The fact that wage bills make up nearly 41% of the total farming expenses is also motivating farm-owners to replace a section of the labor with agbots. Unavailability of sufficient manpower is yet another factor – with the youth mostly uninterested in getting involved in traditional farming and getting their hands dirty (literally) in the process. The growing food scarcity levels, the constant climatic changes and farmland transfers, and the existing bottlenecks of manual farming (along with the uncertainties and low yields) are also making people switch over to agbots as viable (and much more efficient) alternatives. The impact of IoT in agriculture is growing all the time, and robotic farming offers manifold advantages.

Note: Not all is plain sailing for agricultural robots yet though. The technology itself is rather fragmented, there is still a widespread lack of awareness among farmers, there are infrastructural issues, and the benefits/value propositions of robots in farming might not be immediately apparent. As farmtech standards evolve further, these issues will gradually get resolved.

  1. Planting and seeding with agbots

    In India, nearly 16% of all fruits and vegetable produce was lost in 2016-2017. The waste percentage of cereals was also alarmingly high. Across the world, a lot of wastage occurs at the time of seeding – simply because farmers follow the outdated method of spraying seeds from a moving tractor (with a so-called ‘broadcast spreader’). Farm robots with cutting-edge geomapping functionality can be used as an alternative – to prevent seeds from being wasted. These agbots are designed in the form of ‘robotic seeding attachments’ (to be attached to tractors) – and they can accurately determine all relevant soil features, so that the right seeds are dispersed at the right places in the right time. Agbots can also power nursery automation – ensuring that all greenhouse activities, like potting, seeding and warehousing, are optimized. Precision seeding, in a way, is all about maximizing the chances of growth of food plants from seeds.

Note: With urbanization happening globally at a rapid clip, agbots are helping in the creation, management and maintenance of indoor farms (in urban environments). In Hong Kong, such a farm robotic system can bring down water usage by as much as 95%, while the growth of plants also gets considerably accelerated.

  1. Rise and rise of fully unmanned technology with robots

    Smart tractors have been in existence for a long time – but certain factors are still holding the technology back. Primary among them are the relatively high price tags of sensors (for small farmers, this is a huge factor), a feeling of distrust stemming from lack of knowledge, and regulatory issues. Going forward though, agricultural robots certainly has the potential of ushering in fully unmanned farm technologies. The total number of smart tractor shipments (with GPS guidance, or some other form of steering technology) is expected to be >700K in 2028 – and by 2038, more than 40000 Level 5 tractors will be sold. Agricultural robots will gradually start to work in fleets (rather than as standalone units) – and most of them will have at least some degree of functional autonomy. According to experts, 2024 will be ‘trigger year’ for agbots – following which shipments will start to accelerate in a big way. The cost of farm automation suites will also start to fall gradually, further fueling adoption levels. ‘Intelligent agribots’ are not going to totally replace humans on agricultural fields – but they will be the face of autonomous precision farming in the foreseeable future.

Note: Agribotix, a noted agricultural intelligence company, reported in a case study that it had managed to reduce crop losses by 13%, on a 110-acre land.

  1. Robotics for milking

    By 2017 Q3, more than 34000 robotic milking systems (or, RMS) were in active use on farms across the globe. Instead of having to deal with risk of infections and low volume of milk production – collaborative agbots can be used to sprinkle ‘safe’ disinfectants on the animals’ udders, prior to the milking process. What’s more – these robotic solutions also ‘prepare’ the animals for milking – which ensures that the volume and quality of milk obtained is optimal. As a rule of thumb, the frequency of milking has to steadily decrease over the lactation cycle. The high price of milking robots (~$175000 for a system that can milk 50-70 cows) is a concern – but over time, it can be reasonably expected that the cost will come down. With proper management and regulated operations (training the workforce will also be crucial), cow-milking robots can yield definite advantages – which may not be apparent at first.

Note: It has been found that, in the first three days of the robotic milking process, 3 out of every 4 cows voluntarily go to these robots.

    10. Mowing, Pruning and Thinning

What should be the ideal spacing between seeds on a field – so that the chances of healthy crop growth would be optimal? Traditionally, experience and guesswork were the only tools to answer this question. The scenario has now changed though, with specialized agbots having the capability of gauging the ‘correct’ density of plants, for proper growth (the robots typically reduce the density). This is known as ‘thinning’ – and even with robots, the process can take quite a bit of time. Agri-robots are also being used to mow or cut certain portions of plants, to foster their healthy growth (this is known as ‘pruning’). For both ‘thinning’ and ‘pruning’ crops in the best possible manner, agbots make use of high-level computer vision technology. Automated pruning has already been done in the wine industry (vineyard robot Wall-Ye) – and a robot for blueberry pruning has also been developed.

Note: Last year, LettuceBot – created by Blue River Technologies – bagged an ‘outstanding product innovation in agriculture’ award.

     11. Technical refinements are required

The benefits of switching over to smart agriculture and robotic farming are pretty much well-documented. Even so, issues remain – primarily from a technical perspective – in the path of the growth of agritech in general, and agbots in particular. For starters, the lack of regulatory uniformity is a big problem for both the OEMs as well as the final users. There are also scopes for improving the accuracy of robot positions (which, in turn, will make weeding, irrigation, crop monitoring, and other activities more effective). Question marks still remain over the safety factor of farm robots, for humans as well as for the environment. In addition, it is also uncertain as to who would shoulder the responsibilities in case an unforeseen accident does occur. For accurate analysis (for example, determining the ripeness of fruits before picking), robots need to factor in external things like temperature fluctuations and light variations. The investments required for deploying agbot systems are large – and unless the technology is properly refined – they won’t be able to deliver good value for money. There’s still a long way to go.

Note: Precision irrigation is rapidly growing popular across the globe. It offers two important advantages over traditional irrigation methods – firstly, areas that were previously inaccessible can now be reached, and secondly, plants can be targeted separately.

     12. Sheep herding with robots

Shepherding cattle herds is one of the oldest, and also one of the trickiest, tasks associated with cattle farming. Agricultural robots, in the form of drones, can automate this process as well. Already, UAVs are being used in Ireland (copters) and New Zealand to manage sheep herds. These drones can, of course, be remotely operated – and their constant tracking operations make sure that not a single animal strays away from the herd. Another interesting point is that the sheep followed the drones out of their own free will. The flipside to this is the short battery life of these cattle drones (~20-25 minutes) and their steep price (the Q500 drones are available at $1299). In Australia, many ranchers use helicopters for cattle herding. Drones can be an excellent, and a much cheaper, alternative for them.

Note: The practice of fertilizer application on agricultural fields has also been revolutionized, thanks to the advent of farm robots. The robotics systems of Rowbot, for instance, ensure effective utilization of nitrogen fertilizer.

Present-day farming is – or at least should be – all about the ‘sustainability of agriculture’. Agricultural robots, for all their advantages and powerful functionalities, are still at a nascent stage – and there are still several rough edges. As these issues get resolved, robots in farming would start to increase annual yields, lower crop/food prices, ensure better food accessibility levels, and make farming standards more efficient than ever before.

Agriculture is increasingly becoming tech-based – and the impact of IoT on farming has been profound. With the need for improving agricultural productivity levels increasing everyday, it can safely be assumed that agbots will become more mainstream in the coming years. It also has to be kept in mind that these robots are not, and will never be, meant for working in isolation. A certain level of human interaction (for management, operation, performance tracking, etc.), will always be required.

Automated farming is definitely the future. Agri-robots will be right at the face of it in the next decade.

 

 

Smart Water Metering In India With LoRa Technology – All You Need To Know

 

smart water meter with lora technology

 

In Papua New Guinea, nearly 6 out of every 10 people do not have access to ‘safe‘ water. The corresponding stat for India stands at ~18% – which is still an uncomfortably high percentage. On the global scale, total water demand is expected to touch 6350 cubic kilometers by 2030 (i.e., 6.35e + 15 litres) – nearly 59% more than the cumulative water demand in 2000. Per capita water consumption hovers in the 85-100 gallon range (per day) – and across the world, problems related to water pollution, wastage, and consequent water scarcity are increasing. In a recent survey, it was found that >75% of people were not happy with the water resources available to them. Agriculture and irrigation contribute a significant chunk of the total water usage in many countries – and the fact that 85% households have little or no idea about automated rainwater harvesting tools further complicates matters. In such a scenario, it is vital to manage, use, transport and distribute water efficiently, and minimize water wastage. That is precisely the concept behind ‘smart water meters‘.

The water scenario in India is pretty grim too. A CWC report has revealed that 90+ important water reservoirs in the country are currently operating at only a quarter of their capacity. In a list of 180 countries ranked according to water availability, India comes in at a lowly 133rd (in terms of water quality, the situation is worse – with India rooted at the 120th position among 122 countries). Internet of Things (IoT) in general, and LPWAN in particular, are being deployed for the creation of smart water meters – to improve water productivity, monitoring and quality standards. SenRa is right at the forefront of smart water metering solutions in India – and in February, the company entered a collaboration with Nordic Automation Systems (NAS) for countrywide LPWAN implementation. Semtech’s LoRa technology is the best fit for such smart water meters, and over here, we will offer interesting insights on how the LoRaWAN protocol is powering smarter water management in India:

  1. Understanding the drivers of water scarcity problems in India

    In an ideal scenario, every Indian would have had access to clean water in adequate amounts. The truth is, sadly, far from such a situation – with almost 64 million people not having clean drinking water (according to a 2017 report). The rapid surge in population is causing total water consumption levels to go up exponentially, and the growing water pollution – caused primarily by industrial discharges and general waste disposal – is also a cause for concern. Man-made and natural disruptions in the water cycle are not helping matters either. There are many political as well as regulatory disputes too, regarding the provision/availability of water in specific regions. The total water required for irrigation is also increasing steadily – and since most farmers are not even acquainted with (forget using!) agritech tools and precision farming methods – there’s a lot of water wastage happening here as well. It’s high time more attention is paid on tackling these burgeoning issues – and usage of technology, in the form of LoRa-powered smart water meters, is going to be instrumental in this regard. The total investment required to manage the water problems in India is likely to be northwards of $14 billion.

Note: An optimally functioning smart water system will help in gathering critical real-time data, analyze issues, detect problems (say, leakages) promptly, and send notifications to concerned parties. LoRaWAN is ideal for transferring the water data over relatively long distances.

  1. Size of the Indian water sector and investment required

    The water sector in India is expanding at a rapid clip – and groundwater resources are getting depleted quickly too. As per reliable estimates, the total water demand will go up by ~32% from present levels by the end of 2050 – and if the current rates of water wastage persist, we might well be looking at a situation where the country is forced to import water (only 22% of the per capita water needs will be resolvable from the resources in the country, in 2050). Big investments are required to stop this bleeding – and ensure that water resources remain sustainable in the long-run. In European nations, the total investment on smart metering solutions is expected to touch the $8 billion mark by the turn of the decade. Similar investments are required in India too (given the relative ‘lack of technological preparedness’ in India, the required spending might be higher). Care has to be taken to make sure that the IoT smart meters installed at the utility endpoints deliver accurate and holistic information – ranging right from tracking chargeable consumption levels and detecting end point leakages/damages/losses, to understanding water consumption patterns and serving as ‘intelligent water regulators’ (with the help of built-in predictive analytics). Between 2015 and 2020, the total capital expenditure on Indian water infrastructure will increase by a whopping 83%.

Note: The Smart Cities Mission initiated by the Government of India – with the objective of developing 100 cities – is a praiseworthy endeavour. However, by January 2018, less than 5.5% of the project had been completed.

  1. Why use LoRa in smart water meters?

    Smart metering solutions must have the capacity of delivering small amounts of data over long distances (high coverage), and they need to offer good battery performance too. The power consumption levels need to be low, so that the operating expenses do not go out of hand. Management and maintenance of the deployed smart water meters have to be straightforward as well. LPWAN technologies are ideal for creating such meters – and LoRa technology offers several advantages over the other options. For starters, the built-in security of the LoRaWAN protocol (AES-128) is a big factor (neither Sigfox nor cellular standards can match this, while security standards vary in wifi or LAN setups). The open standard nature of LoRa technology and the increasingly strong ecosystem (LoRa Alliance has well over 500 members) also work in its favour. Unlike other technologies that use mesh networks (which typically pulls down battery performance and network capacity levels), LoRa uses a ‘star-of-stars’ topology – to deliver seamless long-range connectivity with battery preservation (the Adaptive Data Rate, or ADR, is crucial for this). In addition, the chirp-based spectrum of LoRaWAN delivers considerably higher communication range than the FSK (frequency shifting keying) modulation used in many other standards. The unlicensed 865-867 MHz ISM band is used in India for designing LoRa-based smart devices.

Note: It was announced earlier this month that IoTsens, a leading IoT service provider, had started using LoRa radio technology in its smart water platform in Spain (in collaboration with FACSA).

  1. Greater savings with smart water meters

    In 1951, the per capita availability of water in India was 5177 cubic meters. By 2050, that figure might very well drop to sub-1000 cubic meters, if the smart city developers do not start taking corrective measures quickly. At a time when the ‘real cost of water’ is going up at unprecedented levels and a major water crisis is right on the horizon – the significant savings made possible by switching to LPWAN-powered smart water meters seem all the more attractive. Thanks to the real-time leakage detection systems and notifications, a water meter can find and notify people about problems (say, a faulty toilet flush) immediately, so that the repairments can be made. The billing system can become more transparent and fair – with households having to pay only for the amount of water they use (instead of paying a flat-rate water bill, which is common in many buildings and high-rises). By optimizing water management, bringing down energy bills and minimizing additional sewage charges, smart water meter systems can reduce total water costs by up to 35%. The population is growing fast (projected to reach 1.7 billion in 2050), water costs in rural AND urban areas are going up – and if technology is not adopted quickly and optimally, things can very soon spiral out of control.

Note: Individual metering solutions decrease the amount of water that has to be sent to the distribution tanks. That, in turn, reduces both water consumption and water wastage.

  1. LoRa-based water meters are ideal for smart city setups

    Apart from offering more benefits than other LPWAN technologies, LoRaWAN-powered tools are also suitable in smart cities. The reason for this is simple: in a single network deployment, a large number of automated, ‘intelligent’ services – from smart metering tools and smart parking sensors, to smart street lights and smart environment trackers – can be delivered to end-users (i.e., the citizens). Instead of attaching specific gateway(s) with the different nodes, the LoRa standard allows water data (or any data, for that matter) to be received by multiple gateways. LAN, wifi, or even satellite connections can then be used to move the data from the gateways to the centralized network server (for further in-depth analysis). Spectrum inference, strong security assurance, and excellent long-range communication capabilities all combine to make LoRaWAN just the perfect LPWAN protocol to be used in smart water meters. What’s more, there are no needs of managing too many protocols, and the authorities can always keep track of of how the network/devices are being managed.

Note: A typical, full-featured LoRa system will have 4 key sections – the end nodes, the gateway, the network server and the application server.

  1. Components of smart water metering solutions

    Broadly classifying, a working smart water system powered by LoRa technology will have the following key components: first up, there is the LoRa gateway (300bps – 50kbps data rate; link budget 168 dB (max.)) – in charge of receiving water data from the endpoints (nodes), and sending them to the server (network overhaul). A wide range of pertinent metering data – like meter and billing details, energy snapshots, tamperings (if any), and transactional information – are obtained by the gateway. Next up are the actual meter pulse sensor(s), which receives data-pulses from the index and moves them to an automatic water reading (AMR) system for monitoring. Both inductive pulses and magnetic pulses can be picked up by the AMR. Finally, there is the cloud system (with the server having the operating system) – where web services are used to make data available for all authorized entities (on tablets, smartphones, computers, etc.). The cloud database has multiple levels of security (in many cases, as many as 5 security layers) – ruling out possibilities of data manipulation or access by unauthorized third-parties.

Note: With the help of LoRa technology, IoT developers can create high-performance, bi-directional, cheap devices for data retrieval from the sensors. These metering solutions typically have very high fault-tolerance levels.

  1. What is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)?

    Manually visiting locations and taking readings from water meters is fast becoming an impractical, and unnecessarily time-consuming exercise. In addition, manual water meter readings also leave ample room for human errors to creep in. This brings into the spotlight the importance of AMIs, or Advanced Metering Infrastructure systems. These automated systems offer real-time data and analytics – and can be easily be used by administrative bodies, corporate organizations, and utility service providers. The data transfer mechanism in AMIs is completely secure – and they also help smart city developers to accurately predict water consumption and water loss amounts. In addition, since smart metering solutions (supported by LoRaWAN) collect and monitor data on a constant basis, consumer behaviour patterns can be detected – and behavioral changes (related to water usage) can be identified quickly. The SenRa smart water meter PoC has been presented in a city in central India (existing water meters were replaced with smart meters at 41 sites).

Note: In general, IoT in India is making rapid strides – thanks to the endeavour of big players like Tata Communications. From developing smart cities and planning automated emergency services, to smart meters (power, water, energy, etc.) and efficient asset-tracking & monitoring – IoT is moving everything to the next level.

  1. Market opportunities for LoRaWAN smart water meters in India

    With a proven coverage distance of 11-12 km, ~135 dBm receiver sensitivity, and minimal power consumption (sleep current lower than 2uA) – a LoRa module can indeed deliver a lot of value to water management and monitoring practices. The Indian market is, at present, cluttered with GPRS and FSK meter readers (together, they make up more than 70% of the smart meter market in India). Going forward, however, the presence of LoRaWAN water metering tools will be much stronger – with the technology set to power more than 50% meters by the next 3-4 years. The prime reason for this growth are the inherent shortcomings of the other connection technologies: with FSK meters, the communication range is relatively short, GPRS connections can suffer frequent network outages, and real-time data readings are not available in IC meters. LoRa technology is not bugged by any of these problems – and hence, the prospect of LoRa water meters in India in the foreseeable future appears bright.

Note: The three-day Smart Asia India 2018 Expo and Summit will take place in Bengaluru from the 4th of October. Apart from smart water metering, smart transportation, smart energy tools and other innovative IoT products will be exhibited at the event.

  1. Smart water meters vs traditional water meters

    Apart from the lack of real-time data, high maintenance costs, billing uncertainties and poor battery performance, traditional water meters (the ones that are still used at most places) have many other shortcomings – which smart metering solutions can effectively address. Both the capital expenditure and the operating expenditure of a LoRa meter are considerably lower, and the system can automatically detect theft attempts and/or tampering. The real-time automated reading capabilities are miles ahead of the error-prone manual readings from traditional meters – and cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) logic is used to deliver real-time data analytics. The amount of non-revenue water (unproductive water) becomes a lot lower too, after a user switches over to smart AMI meters. The end-to-end water consumption visibility to final users is yet another advantage. With advanced cloud computing, big data management and intricate algorithms, smart water meters can revolutionize the way in which water is used in India. A much more efficient and a much more cost-effective solution, that’s what they provide.

Note: OEMs have to pay particular attention to the amount of power that a LoRa smart water meter consumes in the ‘sleep’ and ‘standby’ modes.

   10. Collaborations are helping the growth of the ‘smart water sector’

Last September, SenRa was chosen by IoT service provider CharIoT for the deployment of a series of smart city services (water meters, smart parking solutions, smart public lights, and more). In fact, SenRa has plans to deploy LPWAN standards in 90+ Indian cities – bringing most of the country under effective IoT coverage. This February, CharIoT and SenRa joined hands to deploy the very first AMI Ultrasonic Water Meters (for living areas) of the country. Trimble started using LoRaWAN in its Telog 41 IoT water sensors since late-2016 (for efficient water measurement, management and analysis). SenRa also struck up a partnership with application enablement platform (AEP) Yodiwo in August 2017 – with an eye on speeding up the process of designing and deployment of smart IoT solutions customized for different verticals. Tata Communications, of course, is also working on a wide range of LoRa-based solutions in India. As more and more large players and enterprises join up, the IoT revolution in India (in general) and the ‘smart water sector’ (in particular) will further gather momentum.

Note: By 2020, the value of the Indian IoT market will be more than $15 billion. Between 2020 and 2025, the market will continue to grow at a CAGR of >53%.

    11. The AMR vs AMI debate

This is, in essence, a debate between water meters with one-way communication and two-way communication capabilities. Automatic meter reading (AMR) is often viewed as a ‘lite’ version of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) – with the former requiring, understandably, considerably lower investments than the latter. There is a school of thought according to which unidirectional AMR water grids deliver all that is required (leakage detection, accurate readings, automated bills) – and spending the extra bucks for bidirectional AMI systems is not required. However, this represents a rather myopic view of the state of affairs. The functionalities of LoRa-powered AMI water meters are much more advanced – and as technology evolves further and new monitoring techniques come into the picture – they will be able to deliver full value (AMRs will prove to be of limited usability in the long-run). AMRs serve the purpose for now, but AMI systems are definitely the future.

Note: Meters can remain submerged under water. In any case, they remain in close proximity to water. Developers have to ensure that this does not damage the irreplaceable system batteries in any way.

     12. The importance of data visualization

It’s all very well to create and deploy high-end smart metering solutions – but unless the average Indian is convinced about the benefits of the technology, adoption rates are likely to remain low. This is where the importance of water data visualization comes into the picture. With the help of figures and charts and graphs, people can check out their water usage over a specific period of time (say, weekly or monthly) – and get an estimate of their water bills. To keep the users motivated and responsible, the many advantages of water conservation and optimized water consumption can also be displayed. The data from the smart water sensors can be accessed by consumers on a dedicated mobile app (integrated to the platform). Communicating the importance of saving water and using resources smartly is important, and data visualization is an crucial tool for that.

Note: There will be more than 1 billion active LPWAN connections in the world, by 2021 (the 2014-2021 CAGR will be 205%). LoRaWAN will power a large percentage of these connections.

Thanks to strong governmental initiatives, increasing concerns for energy preservation, and rising demands for accurate billing – Asia-Pacific has emerged as the most quickly expanding market for smart meters in the world. In India though, the general lack of awareness about IoT is still a challenge (29% of SMEs and 18% of large enterprises have not even heard about IoT, while a further 15% and 27% (respectively) are uninterested). The fact that smart water meters are somewhat different to smart energy meters – the main power system(s) are not as easily accessible – also has to be considered.

Globally, the market for smart water metering solutions is estimated to move to just a tick under $8 billion in 2020. As the IoT market in India matures more, and people get more familiar with the concept and the advantages of LoRa smart meters – their adoption will soar here too. After all, IoT-powered water meters have too many benefits to be ignored!

Roles of Web Designers and Web Programmers In Building Business Websites

 

business website development

(This post has been contributed by Jessica Watson, noted blogger & web content developer, currently associated with Aurion Dubai south company registration experts)

It is the era of technology and social media, and in this technological epoch, business websites are gaining in popularity. Business websites can generate profitable revenues for a company. The demand for professional website development is increasing due to need of businesses for having a strong online presence. Web designers and web programmers develop the websites according to the requirements of their clients. Web developers or web programmers have different roles in the development of the site. A brief discussion about their main responsibilities is the focus of this document here.

Purpose of the website

Web programmers develop the website for the general public. All sites are available at World Wide Web – ensuring that the public can find their relevant information there. Web designers understand the requirements of the target audience and clarify the purpose of the website. For the clarification of the meaning of the website, they set meetings with the client and discuss business requirements in detail. They also remove their confusions regarding any requirement and write down each requirement in a precise manner.

The content of the website

When the purpose of the website becomes clear, then web developers or programmers decide the type of content that will be hosted on the website. The content of the website mostly depends on its target audience. Web developer posts the content on the website using the web languages. They only post qualitative content to attract the audience.

The front end of the website

Web developer or designer starts their work either from scratch or uses existing packages like the templates. For the front end of the website, they have to decide the color, theme, font style, font size, design and even handle the responsiveness of the website. The responsive website can be viewed appropriately on mobile screens. The front end of the website is the client side script which manifests in the web browser and end user can interact with it. HTML and CSS are the most popular web languages which web developers use to maintain the front end of the website.

The back end of the website

In the management of the back end of the site, web developer or designer manages the server side scripts. Server-side scripts usually handle languages like PHP, C#, Python, Java, and JavaScript. Web programmers develop logic and implement the logic through writing code in any language depending on the scenario. All functionalities of the website are handled at the back end. For instance, business websites may include bank transactions (i.e., online payment gateways) or any other query.

Database handling

The website is incomplete without the database because of data of the customers and items of the business are stored in the database. Items or products of the company are the critical elements for a business website, so database management is mandatory. In a case when visitors register themselves on the website by providing the data, the latter gets instantly stored in the database for further processing. So database management is the duty of the web programmer or developer.

Testing of the website

Testing is essential after the completion of the website because it is the process in which it is estimated whether the business requirements are achieved or not. All the technical issues are resolved through the testing. The key functionalities of a website have to be carefully tested and customized, prior to handing it over to the client. Testing of navigation between web pages is also necessary. Testing of validation of HTML forms is essential as data has to be saved in the database. Web developer also does the screening of the database after storing the data into the database.

Registration with the search engines

The website will be accessible when it is indexed with the search engine. Google is the most popular search engine. The search engine will display the list of links depending on the query entered by the user in the search bar of the web browser. To complete the website registration procedure, a web developer has to think domain name for the website. Domain name is the name of the website through which user can search the website through the use of the web browser. The web developer has to provide domain name, email address, physical address and phone number for the registration process. Web developers, in collaboration with online marketers, adopt tactics to keep the website link inside the top ranks to generate the traffic for the website. This makes it possible for the website to be able to make more revenue due to the traffic.

The software houses which work on massive projects divide the tasks of the project into subtasks and assign duties to different web programmers and developers. Multiple web developers work on a single project. Software house companies hire expert web designers for the front-end development, back-end development, and the database management. Their expertise can help in the management of each task efficiently. Web developers have to create effective business websites which manage online selling of products with a definite customer-centric approach. There are hardly any room for error as far as creating official websites – which establish the brand personality of businesses – are concerned.

 

 

Author Bio: Jessica Watson has been writing for websites and blogs for four years now, currently, she works with Aurion Dubai south company registration experts who are very famous across all UAE.

How Can LoRa Technology Boost Smart Agriculture In India?

 

LoRa technology for smart farming

 

For all the steady growth in the secondary (industrial) and tertiary (services) sectors over the last few decades, the importance of agriculture in India remains huge. On average, 1 out of every 2 members of the Indian workforce is employed in the primary sector – and the latter contributes >17% of the country’s GDP. Around 59% of the rural population (who make up a whopping 70% of the total population in India) rely on farming as their chief means of livelihood. Now, it is hardly possible to increase the volume of cultivable land at a pace to match the rapidly swelling population and the growing food demands – and hence, the onus is squarely on the farmers to maximize productivity and yield levels from the available land and other resources. This requirement, in turn, puts the spotlight on smart agriculture in India.

Implementation of technological solutions to boost agricultural performances is not exactly a new concept. Smart tractors have been in active use across the globe for a fairly long time – along with various other internet of things (IoT) tools and applications. Semtech’s open standard LoRa technology (in collaboration with National Narrowband Network Communications (NNN)) is being used to bolster the rural IoT and smart farming network in Australia. Earlier this month, it was also announced that Spanish IoT service provider IoTsens will be integrating LoRaWAN in its smart water platform. In India, LPWAN technologies like LoRa and Sigfox have begun to make a difference in the agricultural scenario. In what follows, we will take you through the major applications, use cases and impacts of LoRa technology on smart agriculture practices in India:

  1. Suitability of LoRaWAN in precision farming

    The lion’s share of farmlands and cattle ranches in India is in rural, relatively remote locations. Cellular connectivity, if at all available, is typically weak and unstable at such places. What’s more, the locations are often not covered by the licensed spectrum band either. In such a scenario, LoRa technology (which uses the unlicensed frequency band 865 MHz – 867 MHz in India) serves as the best possible alternative. The ease of installation, deployment and integration of LoRa network(s) in existing IoT frameworks is also a big factor. Generally, the sensors used in agritech need to transfer/update real-time data only at certain pre-specified intervals – and when included in the ALOHA-based LoRaWAN infrastructure – they help farmers gain timely, actionable information on a regular basis.

Note: There are more than 40 IoT startups in India that are working on smart agriculture solutions.

  1. Role of LoRa in removing the uncertainty factors

    While Indian farmers are increasingly adopting farm technology tools, agriculture, by nature, is still a high-risk activity. There are a multitude of factors which can have an adverse impact on annual crop yields (droughts, excessive rainfall/flooding, pest infestation, wrong harvesting methods, etc.). Implementation of LoRa technology can minimize such ‘agricultural risks’, or ‘field risks’, by doing away with the uncertainty factors and guesswork associated with the traditional ‘visual observation methods’. With the help of smart on-field sensing tools and advanced data analysis, farm-owners can get access to all the pertinent data – right from tracking soil moisture levels and determining proper irrigation techniques & fertilizer usage, to the vital health parameters of cattle on a ranch (this removes the risk of one sick animal contaminating the others as well). The excellent range and battery performance (>8 years) of LoRa systems ensure that they are economically viable for the farmers (who might not be particularly well-off) too.

Note: Quantified Ag has already started using LoRa-powered wearable devices for animals (e.g., cow ear tags) for constantly tracking health, welfare and productivity levels. The information received is routed through the receiver and the cloud system, to the smart device(s)/website(s) of the farmers.

  1. Importance of sensors & semiconductors in smart agriculture

    By the end of 2017, the worldwide shipments of agricultural IoT devices stood at 43 billion. Cut to 2020, and that figure will jump to ~76 billion – a 76.7% rise. Apart from automating regular agricultural practices (and making them significantly more efficient), different types of semiconductors and sensors – powered by LPWAN technologies – are being used for livestock tracking, smooth data collection & transfer, smart food processing, and other related fields. In a country like India, where agricultural losses (during and after harvest) are as high as $13 billion (well over ₹ 92000) – LoRa technology can be instrumental in bringing down the wastage levels, ensure better food availability, and (ideally) greater returns to the crop-growers. The need for smart agritech solutions is established and the benefits of LoRa gateways, transceivers, and on-field semiconductors and sensors are fairly evident. The onus is now on OEMs to come up with suitable, high-performance tools and systems to take IoT-based agriculture in India forward.

Note: In a LoRaWAN infrastructure, circuit protection can be an important issue. The ESD Protection Platform designed by Semtech handles this very well.

  1. Security assurance, geolocation capabilities and a growing ecosystem makes LoRa a perfect fit 

    On average, an Indian farmer earns not much more than ₹ 77000 annually. Understandably, he does not have the funds to invest big on smart farming solutions and systems. LoRa comes across as an ideal solution – since using the technology involves minimal (or zero) spectrum costs, thanks to the fact that it uses unlicensed ISM bands. Even if the connection has to be taken from a third-party service provider, the fees are very low. The robust AES-128 encryption standard makes sure that there is no chance of data losses or breaches in the rural IoT systems. The open standard nature of LoRa is yet another advantage, and the built-in geolocation technology does not involve excess power consumption (GPS-free). The average daily power used up by the smart agri-sensors is less than 13 joules – ensuring optimal battery longevity. The ecosystem is growing fast too – with the LoRa Alliance, set up in March 2015, currently having more than 500 members. Support and expert guidance is always at hand.

Note: Both private and public LoRa networks are available for deployments, as per the precise requirements of farmers and the nature of the fields.

  1. LoRa technology for agriculture is big…and growing bigger

    For any new technology to be adopted on a large-scale, it needs to find worldwide acceptance first. Semtech’s LoRa comes up trumps in that regard. At the start of this year, well over 65000 LoRaWAN protocol-based macro cell gateways had been deployed, across as many as 65 different countries (in comparison, Sigfox networks were deployed in 45 nations by 2017-end). The number of sensors being used has also been projected to exponentially rise over the next couple of years or so. By 2019, more than 40% of all active LPWAN technologies will be working on LoRa standards. All of these stats underline the global popularity of the technology – and in the context of Indian farming, newer and more innovative use cases for LoRa deployment are being conceived on a regular basis. System integrators, node managers, IoT engineers, manufacturers and network operators are all coming together to help the farming community with technology solutions. LoRa is certainly the future, as far as precision agriculture in India is concerned.

Note: At the Annual City Of Camarillo Awards in 2016, Semtech bagged the ‘Business Of The Year’ award.

  1. For managing water scarcity the smart way, there is LoRaWAN

    Of all the water resources kept aside for farm irrigation, a stunning 60% gets wasted (as per a UN FAO report). In India, this water wastage percentage jumps to 70% (due to pollution, evapotranspiration, runoffs, etc.). To minimize such unduly high wastages, the importance of implementing IoT-based smart irrigation systems is paramount – and once again, LoRa seems to be the go-to technology over here. Farmers can set up soil moisture sensors and actuators on their fields – which would collect accurate, periodic information, and that would help irrigation activities: a) become more effective, and b) involve lesser consumption/wastage of water. The soil moisture data collected from the fields is transferred to the centralized LoRa gateways for further analysis, and on the basis of this analysis, the need for irrigating a field (or any section of it) can be established with certainty. In other words, using agricultural IoT tools allows farmers to arrive at a smarter irrigation decisions. Optimized use of water for irrigation is an absolute must – and LoRaWAN paves the way for that.

Note: It was officially announced in February that Waterbit, a leading smart irrigation agency, has started using LoRa RF technology in its Autonomous Irrigation Solution.

  1. Key elements in smart farming infrastructure

    While the installation, connection and maintenance costs of LoRa networks are pretty much low – Indian farmers need to have a clear idea of the main components of the system. For starters, there are the ‘water flow sensors’ that help in estimating the correct amount of water needed for field irrigation at any point in time. For measuring the soil moisture/ground moisture levels accurately, there are ‘soil moisture sensors’ (which can be digital or analog). Humidity sensors and temperature sensors round off the other important sensing tools that are present in a farm managed by LoRa technology. The ‘gateway’ ensures steady internet access and connectivity for the system microcontroller (generally, single-board microcontrollers are used). In an automated irrigation system, the importance of the ‘water valves’ – which release/stop water flow for irrigation based on preset triggers – also deserves a separate mention. In India and several other developing countries, the main power system often makes use of solar energy for the entire operations.

Note: All sensors have to be carefully calibrated, to make sure that the correct soil moisture levels are obtained. Raspberry Pi microcomputers can be used in scenarios where more power is required.

  1. Quick comparison of LoRaWAN with other similar technologies

    Given the limited range available when operated in the 433 MHz band, LoRaWAN tools for smart agriculture in India generally use the 865-867 MHz range. In contrast, Zigbee uses 2.4 MHz (IEEE 802.15.4) and RFM69 uses 433 MHz. The maximum data rate of a LoRa network is 22 kbps, which is considerably lower than that of RFM69 (300 kbps) and Zigbee (250 kbps). Given that conditions in agricultural lands are hardly likely to change at short notices, the low data throughput rates of LoRa suit perfectly. The line-of-sight (or, LOS) coverage distance of LoRaWAN varies in the 2.00 – 5.00 miles range (tools with higher LOS ranges in rural areas are also being launched) – which is higher than that of RFM69, but well below the level of Zigbee. As a rule of thumb, LoRa technology can be used for precision farming everywhere, provided that the irrigation system’s data transmission rate is less than 22 kbps. Cellular networks (GPRS/3G) have to be used in cases where the distance is more than 4500-5000 meters.

Note: All LoRa-based smart agriculture devices have to be carefully tested prior to release. A buggy farm automation system can give misleading information, leading up to serious damages.

  1. The Teks agritech system, powered by LoRa

    A couple of months back, we launched the first prototype of our breakthrough LoRa-based smart agriculture device. A single SIM needs to be used in the gateway (if multiple SIMs are needed per user, that might lead to serious management issues). The on-field sensors transfer high-accuracy, real-time data to the system nodes – and the latter then moves the central gateway (bidirectional data transfer). The gateway then sends the data to the server for processing and analysis, and the user (farmer) receives regular updates on his devices. We have gone with a single-channel gateway – with an eye on the cost and affordability factors, without compromising on the key capabilities of the system. The time-intervals for data readings can be selected by farmers (through the dedicated mobile app). The gateway can operate on LAN or wifi connectivity – and ensure superior management of water resources for irrigation (soil moisture is tracked, and irrigation notifications are sent to users). It also has additional capabilities for analyzing soil, temperature and atmospheric data – based on which accurate predictions are sent to the server, and the farmers are notified. As things stand now, the main purpose of our IoT agritech system is to minimize water wastage, ensure proper fertilizer application, and preserve soil quality.

Note: Every node of the Teks LoRa-based agritech tool is both low-power and low-cost. It can be charged through standard USB charging ports or with power banks.

   10. Smarter use of fertilizers with LoRa

On Indian soils, there is an inherent lack of adequate nitrogen content. To tackle that, nitrogen fertilizers in general, and urea in particular, are often used rather indiscriminately on fields. This practice can, and often does, prove counterproductive. A recent report revealed that these nitrogen fertilizers make up around 75% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from crop fields (for instance, nitrous oxide). Manual soil testing is often not adequate (particularly in larger farms) – and the LoRa sensors (which use low power and cover high ranges) offer real-time visibility and tracking options for soil conditions, so that fertilizers can be applied at the right times, and in the right quantities. Overfertilization and underfertilization are both rather alarmingly common in Indian agriculture – and switching over to smart farming practices can finally bring in a balance. In March 2018, wireless soil sensor manufacturer company Teralytic announced the integration of LoRa technology in its NPK (nitrogen, phosphate, potassium) sensor. The device has as many as 26 built-in sensors, and it runs on battery.

Note: Teralytic’s NPK soil sensor was launched at the 2018 World Agritech Innovation Summit.

     11. Role of AI and agricultural drones

In a benchmark move in 2016, the government of Andhra Pradesh entered into a collaboration with Microsoft and ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics) – for technology-based analysis of soil parameters, weather conditions, and other key stats. The entire system is operated on the basis of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and of course, secure cloud computing – and it sends text messages to the farmers (mentioning important information, like correct sowing times). It has been proven that crop-growers can increase annual yields by up to 30% with this AI-powered agritech system (the Microsoft Azure platform is used to examine 4 decades of data). Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are also extremely important in the overall smart agriculture setup, for an array of purposes – from crop spraying and field/soil monitoring (soil mapping), to planting and regular crop examinations. Research projects for using drones for smart farming in India are already underway.

Note: As the use of smart farmtech tools becomes more and more common, the importance of big data in agriculture will also rise. Already, the number of data points in a ‘connected farm’ is several times more than that in a farm half a decade back.

     12. Training the farmers is a challenge that has to be overcome

Precision agriculture needs data…and lots of it (we might just call it ‘data-driven agriculture’). While LPWAN-powered systems facilitate easy and prompt access of such data – and eases a lot of pain points by automating crop monitoring tasks and generating alerts – the farmers have to be thoroughly trained on how the tools and sensors and gateways are to be used for the best possible results. Any IoT agritech tool performs four major functions (visualization, data analysis, control and process monitoring) – and the end-users have to be made familiar with all of these capabilities. The fact that the young generation is not very keen on farming (i.e., in following the footsteps of their forefathers) is also a challenge. Typically, the younger lot is more conversant with technical stuff – and unless they start taking a more active role in smart farm management, things can be difficult. It’s one thing for the technology to be available – and quite another to have the on-field personnel to optimally utilize it.

Factoring in the rapid growth in global population, the UN FAO has forecasted that food production has to go up by a whopping 70% by 2050 (in comparison to 2016). What’s more – the average land size of an Indian farmer is a measly 1.15 hectares - which often does not allow for much in the way of scale economies.

To sum up, the Indian agricultural setup has more than its fair share of fragmentations and bottlenecks. However, progress is being made in the realm of smart agriculture in India – and the LoRa technology is right in the face of this revolution. The collaboration of SenRa with Skysens last December was chalked up to make low-cost, long-range IoT solutions easily available in India. The scenario is challenging yet promising – and LoRaWAN definitely has the potential of disrupting the Indian primary sector in a big way.

LoRaWAN In India: Developments, Opportunities & More

 

Tracking the growth of LoRa technology in India

 

 

According to reasonable estimates, the world will have close to 76 billion connected devices by the end of 2025. Internet of Things (IoT) has already started to make its presence felt in diverse fields – affecting and improving the lives and operations of both general customers (the random Joe-s) as well as governmental bodies. While North America, Greater China and Europe are, expectedly, the runaway leaders – India is moving ahead at a fast clip in this domain. A recent report pegged the annual IoT growth rate in India (for the 2017-2020 period) at ~41% – well over the worldwide growth rate.

As the IoT industry continues to mature and move beyond the experimentation phases, the importance of the LPWAN (low power wide area networks) market is increasingly coming into focus. By 2025, 1 out of every 9 smart devices is set to be connected with one or the other form of LPWAN technologies. There will be 190+ million LPWAN-connected devices in 2019 – and in another two years’ time, the global market value of this sector will touch the $24.5 billion mark. With proven benefits in a large number of fields – right from smart agriculture and home automation, to sensor-based weather forecasting, predictive maintenance, smart water metering and creation of smart cities – Semtech’s LoRa technology (LoRaWAN) is rapidly gaining in popularity and adoption across the globe. In India too, a lot of research work, developments and trials (along with heavy investments) are being made on this technology. Over here, we will do a roundup of the state of LoRa technology in India:

  1. What exactly is the LoRa technology?

    The LoRa technology refers to a long-range, low-power radio communication technology – typically used for systematic data transfer with low data throughput rates. While LoRa and LoRaWAN are often treated synonymously, the two are not one and the same. The former refers to the chirp-based spectrum (or, CSS)-powered physical layer, while the latter is the open-standard MAC layer protocol which serves as the platform for utilizing the built-in LoRa architecture. Put in another way, the physical layer (LoRa) powers the long range link in the architecture (i.e, the LoRa module is present in the physical layer), and LoRaWAN operates as the main network and communication protocol. The range of LoRaWAN networks is around 4-5 kilometers in urban settings, and can comfortably be more than 40 kilometers in rural areas (in semi-urban areas, the range should be around 15 km). On average, the battery life of LoRa systems can be as high as 8-9 years – thanks to the Adaptive Data Rate (ADR) system used in these networks. LoRa networks can function under water, have ~50 meters underground range, and can penetrate 6-7 walls of buildings in urban areas.

Note: By 2022, the worldwide IoT market will be worth northwards of $300 billion. India will account for around 20% of this market.

  1. The largest LoRa deployment in the world

    Taken together, North America, Europe and China make up almost 66% of the global IoT industry at present. India is set to become a major player in this field in the foreseeable future – with Tata Communications planning the ‘largest LoRa network deployment in the world’ over here. The deployment will be complete by the end of 2019, and over $100 million has been earmarked for investment over the next couple of years. As many as 38 important Indian cities will have dedicated IoT networks (powered by LPWAN). The Tata Telecommunications MOVE platform – with its capacity for seamless integration of multiple IoT applications – is also being worked upon. In India, Tata is eyeing 6 major tracks, including automated safety solutions and a range of utilities. Over the next few quarters, more and more enterprises will be switching over to IoT (in general) and LoRaWAN (in particular) tools – in a bid to reduce costs and maximize efficiency levels. The technology will be rolled out in tier 1, 2, 3, and 4 cities (initial field trials have been conducted at Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru) – and well over 400 million people will be brought under the purview of LoRa-based connections. Over 30 proofs-of-concept (PoC) have also been created on the network.

Note: The machine-to-machine (M2M) communications made possible by LoRa technology will be radically different from traditional voice and data networks.

  1. Competition and use cases in India

    The degree of competition in the LPWAN market in India will increase, with the entry of new players, new GSM service providers, and other technologies (say, NB-IoT). This is precisely where Tata Telecommunications enjoys a definite ‘first-mover advantage’, with an ecosystem of 45+ device partners. On average, most tech entrepreneurs and startups have also been willing to give LoRaWAN a try, which is very encouraging. Of course, the biggest driver of the rising demand for LoRa networking in India is the multitude of use cases in which it can be applied – right from smart lighting and smart irrigation (hugely important in a country like India), to personal safety, gas and water metering, smart asset management, and real-time customer servicing/smart feedback. IoT will also provide an effective channel for employers to track the health metrics of workers round the clock. For long-range communications, SIM cards are mostly used till now. In future, that will change as well.

Note: In 2016, about 4 out of 10 smart devices were SIM-connected. The corresponding figure will drop to less than 2% by the end of 2020.

  1. Using the 865 MHz – 868MHz frequency band

    The LoRa system network is built in a ‘star-of-stars topology’ (and not the regular mesh network) – and the technology uses sub-1GHz unlicensed spectrums for direct sequence communication. While both the 433-434 MHz range and the 865-867 MHz are allowed in India, the former typically has low range – and is generally used only for making internet-enabled gaming applications. For more serious business/productivity tools, the 865-867 MHz is made use of by IoT developers. There is a point of confusion over here – since European Union (EU) allows the entire 863 – 870 MHz frequency range as licence free, but in India, 867 MHz is the final unlicensed band. However, a large number of the channels in the 868 MHz LoRa band (there are 8 channels overall, between 865.2 MHz and 868 MHz) are also license-free, providing the developers with that much more leeway. The proprietary Teks agritech tool uses the 866 MHz band.

Note: In the Americas, the 902-908 MHz frequency bands are used (915 MHz is the most common). Europe uses both 870-876 MHz and 915-921 MHz bands. Lower bands are, of course, also used in both places.

  1. Challenges for LoRa technology in India

    The advantages of LoRaWAN over cellular technologies are pretty much well-documented. It facilitates communication between base stations and smart sensors over longer ranges – and what’s more, a much lower number of base stations/gateways have to be set up (bringing down the overall expenses). There is also no dearth of requirements/use cases where the technology can be deployed. That said, there also exist several challenges that can potentially stand in the widespread usage of LoRa technology in India. For starters, the price points are still on the higher side – and scale/volume benefits can become available only if the biggest players (enterprises and OEMs) join the ecosystem. Making the target consumers aware of the benefits of LPWAN technologies, and the requirements/problems they can address, is also a significant task. Also, studies have confirmed that the 865-867 MHz in India might very well run out of capacity fairly soon – with IoT deployments constantly on the rise. TRAI has already recommended a 1 MHz addition in this band (along with a 6 MHz addition in the 915-935 MHz band). These will take the LoRa-based IoT system in India well and truly to the next level.

Note: In India, more than 100 smart cities have been planned. LoRa is well on its way towards becoming mainstream in the country.

  1. Corporate collaborations driving LoRa growth

    At last year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), HP started its collaborations with Tata Communications for the first-of-its-kind LoRaWAN network system in India. The network would affect the lives of more than 2000 communities in the country – with deployments covering domains like fleet management, smart buildings & predictive maintenance, healthcare, campus management, security, and others. High-end LoRa support is embedded in the HPE Universal IoT Platform. For the smart cities program in India, Tata is also working with Semtech Corporation. French IoT provider Kerlink has also signed in with Tata Communications, with an Indian subsidiary office at Chennai (Kerlink base stations will be present in the LoRaWAN network). Senet, the LPWAN provider which announced managed services for IoT in June 2017, has forged a partnership with SenRa Tech – with the latter using Senet’s MNSI (managed network services for IoT). Several other players are also joining hands to bolster the LoRaWAN systems for the Indian environments. Going forward, these collaborations will be mighty important.

Note: Started in March 2015, the LoRa Alliance has grown rapidly over the years – and currently has well over 500 members.

  1. Key elements in the LoRaWAN protocol

    As already stated above, LoRaWAN is the media access control (MAC) protocol layer of the technology. Since it is powered by the ALOHA communication scheme, the connected devices can ‘wake’ at pre-specified intervals, for receiving/transferring data and checking downlinks (instead of staying ‘always on’). This ensures minimal energy consumption as well as communication latency. There are 3 device classes included in the protocol: the bidirectional Class A devices come with 2 shortlink windows and a single, scheduled uplink transmission window, the Class B devices have extra downlink windows & are fairly efficient with controlled downlink, and the Class C devices have continuous receiving windows, and typically consume much more power than the other two categories. Data transfer rates are controlled by the ADR system, and the node-to-gateway rates can support distances ranging from 0.3 km to 50 km. The ‘network capacity’ refers to the availability and capability of receiving messages/data from many nodes simultaneously. ADR, along with the multi-channel transmitters, enhance this capacity. The various internal technology trade-offs ensure that the technology remains highly scalable. Security is yet another issue that LoRa technology handles well – thanks to the AES-128 encryption standards used in the network. Data packets are sent by the connected devices, which are then decoded by the network server, and new packets are created for sending to the devices again.

Note: The data rate of a LoRaWAN protocol can vary from 290 bps to 50 kbps. The link budget and the data packet size is 154 dB.

  1. How does LoRa stack up against the other LPWAN technologies?

    The SS chirp-based LoRa technology compares favourably against most other LPWAN tools – making the former an ideal fit for powering IoT in India. The battery life, for instance, is much higher compared to NB-IoT (8 years vs 1-2 years, on average), and even Sigfox. While all the technologies are scalable, the data rates of LoRaWAN (min. 290 bps) are lower than that supported by LTE-M (min. 200 kbps), but higher than that of Sigfox (min. 100 bps). LoRa also stands marginally ahead in terms of link budget (154 dB vs 151 dB (NB-IoT) or 146 dB (Sigfox, LTE-M)). The excellent interference immunity is one of LoRaWAN’s biggest advantages (for the other LPWAN standards, interference is a big issue) – as are the mobility and localization capabilities. The power efficiencies of the different technologies are similarly high. LTE-M, however, blows LoRaWAN out of the park when it comes to range – with the former covering >30km (2G) and >180km (3G,4G), compared to the 2-5 km urban coverage of the latter. Depending on the specific use cases, the range of Sigfox can also be slightly higher than that of LoRa.

Note: Several other 3GPP standards (e.g., EC-GSM) and LPWAN technologies (e.g., RPMA, Weightless-N) are, at present, being commercially deployed. LoRa, however, is streets ahead of the others when it comes to usage in India.

  1. Looking at the IEEE standards

    LoRaWan follows the 802.15.4g IEEE standard (unlike, say, Zigbee, which uses 802.15.4). Apart from general smart outdoor applications based on LoRa, this standard also supports a range of low-rate wireless personal networks. The system requirements of smart metering utilities are addressed, along with the low data rate instances. This IEEE standard also has additional PHYs defined on it. Reports have confirmed that the 433-434 MHz frequency band can provide a maximum bandwidth of 10 mW, and is hence best suited for creating smart indoor applications. Like any other sub-GHz communication standard, the installation, deployment and maintenance cost of LoRa systems are relatively low. In smart grid applications (an automated metering mechanism, for instance), sub-GHz standards are ideal.

Note: Data rates between 6.25 kbps and 300 kbps are supported by the IEEE 802.15.4u standard.

    10. IoT awareness in India is still low

In a recent survey covering 12 Indian cities, nearly 70% of the respondents expressed their willingness to switch over to ‘connected technology’ (read: IoT) – to allay their FOLO (‘fear of lights on’ at home). Apart from the greater conveniences of automated homes, many people also opined in favour of IoT as an effective tool for traffic management, maintaining healthcare records and various other use cases. In fact, three-fourth of the respondents were also willing to invest on the technology. However, there is a definite knowledge-gap when it comes to proper awareness about IoT per se. Nearly 35% respondents felt that the concept of ‘internet of things’ was associated exclusively with smartphones. More alarmingly, only 1 out of every 10 people felt that IoT could make a difference in the quality (QoS) of public services. A measly 14.6% people from the survey were found to be fully aware of the nature and the various applications/benefits of the technology. For LoRa-based IoT to truly take roots in India, the awareness levels have to be considerably boosted – and therein lies a big challenge.

Note: The biggest expectation of Indian consumers from IoT implementation is the betterment of personal healthcare. That is followed by pollution reduction, lower traffic congestions, and smarter personal safety.

     11. Need for LoRaWAN testing

From heavy battery consumption, to glitches in the underlying radio technology – a lot of factors can prevent a LoRa network to perform optimally. Generally, such ‘bugs’ can pull up expenses – adversely affecting the viability of the concerned system. This brings us to the importance of thorough testing of LoRaWAN systems prior to deployment. The radio-frequency (RF) transmission quality has to be checked carefully – since non-regular receipts of data packets can cause higher-than-average battery drainage. The effect of each of the operations of a LoRa device on the latter’s battery also has to be analyzed. There are country-specific RF regulations (for instance, FCC Part 15.247 has to be complied with in the US) – and IoT app developers in India have to closely abide by the laid-down regulations. Moreover, the sensitivity of the receiver component has to be checked, to make sure that the RF reception powers are at desired levels. Semtech offers test software, and devices under test (DUT) should be working on them. The IoT market in India is at a nascent stage – and there are hardly any room for errors.

Note: Bluetooth, DASH7 and Sigfox are some other popular communication technologies.

     12. The main components of LoRa networks

Broadly speaking, a LoRaWAN system has 3 major components. First up, there is the ‘network server’, which receives data packets from devices, duplicates/decodes them, and generates the packets to be returned. Next is the ‘gateway’, which uses an IP interface (with either 3G or Ethernet) to route data packets from the devices to the server (multiple gateways can be present in a single LoRa deployment). Finally, there are the ‘end-devices’ (in essence, the sensors), which use the LoRa technology for sending packets. Among the parameters required for personalizing the LoRa framework, ‘code rate’, ‘bandwidth’ and ‘spreading factor’ are the most important. The chirp rate of the system solely depends on the bandwidth of the system.

Note: For making the end-device customized, a series of MAC commands can be used. Some common LoRa MAC commands are ‘DutyCycleReq’, ‘LinkCheckReq’ and ‘LinkADRReq’.

IoT is not, contrary to what many think, a particularly new thing in India. The country already has a 40%+ share in the global IoT market – and the 2020-2025 CAGR will be around 55%. The lack of high-speed wireless data connectivity in the country (particularly in the rural areas) is an issue – but the foundations for IoT and LPWAN growth are already in place. A couple of months back, Nordic Automation Systems (NAS) and SenRa joined hands to develop smart street lights and smart metering solutions in India. We can easily expect many more such innovative LoRa-powered IoT solutions to debut in the near future. LoRa will change people’s lives in India, that’s for sure!