IoT at the peak of inflated expectations: Thilak Kumar, Wind River

Saheli Sen Gupta March 21, 2016
IoT at the peak of inflated expectations: Thilak Kumar, Wind River

Touted as one of the most hyped technologies of 2015, IoT has created a buzz in the IT industry. Thilak Kumar, Head FAE APAC, Wind River, guides us through the rise of IoT.

A 35-year-old company which started out as an embedded system software company, Wind River was acquired by Intel in 2009 but still operates as an independent subsidiary. Recently, the company has been facilitating several interesting IoT solutions, including a Connected Battlefield and Combat Cloud with the aerospace and defense sector.

Thilak Kumar, Head FAE APAC at Wind River speaks about how the connected battlefield works, how IoT will shine in the healthcare industry and what the future holds for this technology. Edited excerpts:

Has Wind River always focused on Internet of Things?

Primarily, our focused vertical markets includes aerospace and defense, networking and telecom, healthcare, and automotive. Considering the fact that we have been the market leaders for embedded operating systems for over three decades, we are currently present in devices that run across all these market segments - from aerospace defense to networking and then industrial and medical to automotive.

Moving to IoT was a natural progression to connect to those devices because we are already there as an operating system embedded in those devices. We made the logical transition from just using these EDGE devices to bringing back data from them by connecting to the cloud. 

By virtue of being the largest real time OS company globally, we have been designed into around two billion devices including radars, satellites and missile launchers in the aerospace defense market, routers and switches in the networking and telecom market, and vehicle instrument clusters in the automotive market. 

Because of our lineage and our connection with Intel, we bring together a platform which is a combination of hardware and software along with services that can help customers adopt and customize at will.

How are IoT and Wind River positioned to facilitate a connected battlefield?

The idea or the problem that we are trying to solve is what is referred to as a 'limited situational awareness'. Today, when the soldiers are out on the battlefield, there's very limited information that's available in the headquarters in terms of what the situation around the soldier is. In a connected battlefield, one can leverage the vehicles, manned and unmanned, on the battlefield to receive critical data using sensors and cameras. Using analytics, this data could be used to provide valuable information to commanders for a network centric warfare.

In the larger context, IoT can change the fundamental business model and enable one to move from a device centric business model to a more service centric model.

Aerospace and defense would be a big beneficiary from the IoT technology currently being commercialized and brought to a level of maturity that can be easily adopted and deployed. While the market is beginning to build solutions and platforms, it will take a little more time to completely build a connected battlefield.

What differentiates Wind River's offerings in this area? How does Wind River address privacy and security concerns in the IoT space?

Large global device manufacturers are using our platform as a means to connect multiple disparate devices, like MRIs and scanners inside a hospital, and use the software that runs on this platform to bring together data from multiple devices. This platform is our biggest differentiator in the market, along with a rich third party ecosystem of partnerships that we've built over the past three years. This helps us deliver tailor-made solutions quickly--IoT is a new market and is beginning to gain adoption without prior references, which makes every solution new.

Privacy and security become the two faces of the same coin, depending upon the market that the solution is addressing. In a consumer market, it is more of a privacy concern, whereas in an industrial market, it is a discussion on security instead. The third differentiator of our IoT solution addresses this very issue by providing a four dimensional security framework.

If you look at the overall components of an IoT system, consisting of devices, gateways and the cloud, we provide security at all three levels. Apart from root based trust, which is at the time of design itself, we work with McAfee -- a sister company of Intel -- to provide total security for our gateway products as well as cloud solutions.

IoT has been dubbed as one of the most hyped technologies in the past year with not many use cases in the industry. What do you think the future will bring into this space?

A lot of people believe that IoT is at the peak of inflated expectations right now, but it is becoming more and more realistic as people are beginning to understand and leverage the technology to create some value. Today, the hype exists because everyone wants to be in IoT but it will only start making sense when people start realizing real value of it. It has to either be capable of generating new revenue streams or it has to be able to bring down their operational costs.

Also read: Zooming into IoT’s disparity between hype and reality in India

Currently, most people are at the prototype or pilot phase and only when its real value is realized will they really start deploying this technology. The biggest beneficiary out of IoT solutions will be the healthcare industry, including remote healthcare management, especially in areas where medical aid is not readily available.

Do you think India's present networking system is strong enough to pull off IoT?

Let's say a solution is completely dependent upon cellular technologies, then it's ubiquitous in the country today. As cellular technology can be found at every possible corner of the country, it is definitely possible to leverage it to implement several different solutions, depending on the kind of use cases. In the tier-2 and tier-3 cities, where network penetration is still a challenge, the question is much higher than just the implementation of IoT.

We are also very closely involved with the Digital India campaign and believe that it will smoothen out quite a few of these obstacles in terms of enabling broadband connectivity in tier-2 and tier-3 cities as well as mobile connectivity.

What is Wind River's roadmap going ahead when it comes to IoT?

The way we look at IoT is a convergence of OT and IT -- Operational Technology and Information Technology. Traditionally, we have been operating in the OT space and it's not a big challenge for us at all.

Our roadmap is well poised to offer some of these cloud based solutions and the whole idea is to make sure that the development of IoT solutions is made as simple as possible for any class of developers. We expect people from the IT side to interact with the OT world and making the interaction as seamless as possible.

What are the in-depth benefits of an IoT solution?

For a business, IoT solutions can help in making and saving money as well as in compliance. It can help with real time analytics and predictive maintenance. In the larger context, it can change the fundamental business model and enable one to move from a device centric business model to a more service centric model.

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