How one entrepreneur in India is creating an IoT hackathon culture.
BANGALORE -- In every page and almost every article I read anywhere, the Internet of Things (IoT) dominates it all. CES is exploding with IoT. Semiconductor companies are banking on IoT. India, too, is not immune, so let me add some Indian flavor to the ubiquitous IoT.
Industry stalwart Satya Gupta has tweaked the hackathon and brought it to India. He explained his brainchild the IoT Ideathon to me during the 2015 VLSI Design Conference, going on now.
Gupta, who co-founded Concept2Silicon Systems, has more than 22 years of experience in semiconductors, covering design, CAD, systems, and embedded software. Earlier he co-founded Intel Microelectronics services, an ASIC organization within Intel, built engineering teams in both the US and India, and worked at Intel for 13 years in various engineering and executive management positions. He has received the prestigious IEEE Gordon Bell Award for high-performance computing for his work on breaking the teraflop barrier for the first time. Today he is busy working with startups in India in the IoT space. According to him there could be more than 500 startups right across India working on IoT.
“The IoT-Ideathon, is a unique onsite event for creative engineering minds to convert their ideas to prototypes in 60 hours. It’s based on the concept of hackathons, which are mostly software-based events that last for about 24 to 48 hours to make mobile apps and so on. If we were to make it hardware and product-centric, we realized that this couldn’t be done in 24 hours. Hence, we made it a three-day event held in conjunction with VLSI Design 2015, which starts on Monday [Jan. 5],” explained Gupta, who also is the co-chair for the event.
Typically the Indian ecosystem doesn’t have good support for IoT startups. Most venture capitalists are investing their money in e-commerce ventures or in later stages for startups. But in the case of IoT startups, it is quite easy for about three to five people to get together to pool in about $100,000 and get a prototype running in three to four months’ time.
“Moreover, IoT apps are [more] idea-centric than knowledge centric. You need not have five to ten years of experience to think of a successful IoT app. You just need a creative imagination, see the world around you in a different way, notice some pain points, and find some ways to solve them by using simple IoT apps."
There are several apps that are pretty frivolous in the Indian context. “But what we are looking for are apps which create a real impact, something that we desperately need in India. For instance, take water distribution. There are different numbers being quoted but overall there is at least about 50% wastage of water in India. If we have sensors, gateways, and a cloud connection, we will know exactly where water is leaking, and there could be some attempt to reduce this.”
Incidentally, Gupta is always being called upon by entrepreneurs for advice and mentoring through his personal contacts. “I don’t ask them to send me their business plans in an email, but I prefer to sit and talk to them for a couple of hours," he told EE Times. "The IoT Ideathon is a good way to create a platform. We are planning to have this as an annual event. There are bound to be many ideas that we haven't thought of, and this is a good way to create awareness and bring about a social change.”
The development platform and generic components like sensors will be provided by companies like Intel, ARM, and others. Any special component or sensor would also be provided at the Ideathon and the winners would get to showcase their products to leading VCs.
—Sufia Tippu covers India's electronics industry for EE Times.