Alok Bardiya on IoT as a strategic growth driver for Tata Communications

Alok Bardiya on IoT as a strategic growth driver for Tata Communications
Alok Bardiya, head-Internet of Things (Business Unit), Tata Communications  |  Photo Credit: Tata Communications

The Internet of Things (IoT) has emerged as one of the key offerings at Tata Communications, with the company forging new partnerships such as the one with Micron Technology to create a global cellular-enabled connectivity solution.

The Mumbai based telecommunications company also acquired a 58.1% stake in embedded-SIM (eSIM) technology provider, Oasis Smart SIM Europe in late December last year.  Saint Germain en Laye, France based Oasis will be integrated with the company’s IoT solution platform for businesses, Tata Communications MOVE.

The Move platform saw the number of SIMs orders increase from 868,000 in December 2019 to 1.35 million in December 2020. 

IoT is classified under the company’s innovation services category, which currently accounts for 23.6% of its total revenues. The innovation segment has become an important contributor in its overall data services portfolio.

Growth and innovation services, traditional services, rentals and subsidiaries together, as of December 2020, account for 84% of the total gross revenue. Three years ago, in September 2017, data services contributed 66% to the overall revenue of Tata Communications. 

“Mobility and IoT will be the future growth drivers for us as we continue to scale our offerings and look at new use cases,” managing director and CEO, AS Lakshminarayanan said during a recent earnings call.

In its recently announced third quarter 2021 results, while voice business at Tata Communications declined by 16.6% year-on-year (y-o-y) owing to lower traffic, its data business grew by 3.8% YoY and compensated for the decline in the voice business, according to Lakshminarayanan. 

Tata Communications is focused on end-to-end IoT offerings, from hardware, sensor on the device, network, platform and the application of analytics, according to Alok Bardiya, head-Internet of Things (Business Unit), Tata Communications, who spoke to TechCircle.

“While our innovation portfolio that includes IoT and mobility had been affected by Covid-related slowdown in Q1, we have seen strong signs of recovery, with robust growth in this portfolio across all products,” Bardiya told TechCircle

In India, Tata Communications saw IoT customers increase from 31 in 2019 to 43 in 2020. The cumulative number of IoT devices rose from 202,014 in December 2019 to 335,953 in December 2020, an increase of 66.3%. As of December 2020, India contributes to 54% of the company’s overall  data revenue by geography.

The new normal at workplaces has also accelerated demand for IoT based solutions. For example, Tata Communications has built connected worker solutions, called the Safety Watch and the Safepass Card. “They are helping enhance employee productivity through accurate measurements, identify suspicious Covid-19 cases while ensuring adherence to social distancing norms through overcrowding alerts and zoning,” Bardiya told TechCircle.

The solution tracks and locates employees across locations and monitors health parameters such as heart rate, skin temperature and immobility.  

According to Bardiya, the connected worker solution was recently deployed by a multinational manufacturing organisation, which used 3000 safety wearables and 75,000 Safepass Cards across 20 locations. “This large-scale deployment has helped prevent more than 20 critical incidents thus far,” Bardiya added.

FMCG, metal and mining, oil and gas, and the pharmaceutical sectors are other areas that have seen an increase in demand for the connected solutions. 

Another area where IoT is helping enterprises is in asset management, with the devices aiding in remote assistance for backend operations, as well as tracking widely distributed assets.

The sensors on the asset tracking solution (ATS) are linked to Tata Communications’ low power wide area (LPWA) network, which collects and translates data into actionable insights. Deployments include for ride sharing companies, and power companies to monitor assets in their plants.

IoT solutions are also being used for incident prevention and utility management in areas such as environment monitoring, energy management and savings, among other. The solutions include utility meters for electricity, humidity/temperature sensors and smoke monitors.

According to Bardiya, the development of smart cities could accelerate IoT growth. The company has developed end-to-end smart cities solutions focused on three areas- integrated infrastructure, collaboration solutions and sustainable smart city solutions.   

In terms of the future, Bardiya told TechCircle that Tata Communications is building the foundations in India for the largest LoRaWAN network, which is a low power wide area networking protocol. The deployment is expected to span 2000 communities and over 400 million people.

“Our strength is our IoT technologies which is on a low bandwidth side. We provide long range of network even in hard-to-reach areas such as large remote campuses, factories, and warehouses,” says Bardiya.

The LoRaWAN network has already been deployed in 45 cities, with more cities planned for the implementation over the next two years. Additionally, the network would also be expanded into areas such as special economic zones and highways.

Indian IoT market is expected to touch $15 billion by 2021, according to a  June 2020 report by Bengaluru based consulting firm Zinnov. Smart manufacturing, connected assets, connected products, connected logistics and connected workers are segments that will likely see growth in the near future. 

Globally, the IoT market is led by the United States, North Asia, and Western Europe, with regions in the Middle East and Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America catching up. 

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