Harikrishna R. is a co-founder and director of Klar Systems, where he designs and builds cool new gadgets, applications and platforms for the IoT era. Prior to Klar Systems, Harikrishna was with Texas Instruments for over 15 years where he helped design digital signal processors for multimedia applications.
Harikrishna holds two bachelor’s degrees, one in Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and the second in Computer Science and Engineering, both from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani.
Analytics India Magazine: Tell us something about your journey in the IoT industry.
Harikrishna R.: Up until two years ago, I worked for Texas Instruments, helping build digital signal processors, and I have long noticed the proliferation of connected devices, well before the term “IoT” came into widespread use. The turning point for me, though, was the launch of the Nest Thermostat in 2011. Here was a device that gave concrete shape to all the possibilities of IoT — control and automation, sure, but also machine learning and automated control — all wrapped up in a very pleasing package, with an intuitive interface. I was convinced that the time for mass adoption of IoT technology had come. So in 2014, together with two other friends, we started Klar Systems to build IoT platforms and devices.
AIM: Would you like to share your views on the Indian IoT Industry?
HR: Broadly, I notice three strands. The most exciting for me is the large number of companies building innovative gadgets, mostly in the consumer space. These companies are changing how products are designed and built — they use crowd-funding to raise money, rapid prototyping technologies such as 3D printing to create proofs-of-concept, and work in small cross-functional teams to quickly bring innovative new products to market.
There are also many companies that want to use IoT technology to solve large infrastructural problems in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and urban infrastructure management.
And finally, there are the large IT services companies who are gearing up for IoT-related business engagements. Most of them have one or more initiatives explicitly targeting this emerging vertical.
AIM: Would you like to share about how Klar Systems is contributing to the IoT industry?
HR: We are building a suite of innovative new gadgets for home automation. We have launched the first of these, zmote, just a few months ago. We are also simultaneously working to create platforms and frameworks for use in IoT. There are many aspects of this technology that are common across all IoT devices — things like device management, service discovery, security — and it makes sense to solve these at the platform level.
Finally, we are partnering with Jigsaw Academy to create a comprehensive introductory IoT course. I particularly enjoyed creating this since it gave me a chance to revisit the foundations of IoT technology and see how much has changed over just the last few years — how much simpler it has gotten to build fairly complex, yet robust, embedded systems and connect it to custom infrastructure in the cloud.
AIM: Would you like to highlight the benefits that IoT would bring to people and organizations in India?
HR: IoT is just the next logical evolutionary step in information technology. As such, I believe it will become the engine that powers the next phase of growth for the entire IT sector.
As a nation, I think IoT presents us with yet another opportunity to leapfrog the developed world in technology adoption just as happened with cellular telephony and mobile internet. IoT can help us use available resources more efficiently, improve our management of public infrastructure, and overall achieve a higher quality of life at a lower cost. And I think we are making very good progress — take for example the traction behind the Smart Cities project.
AIM: How important is data security with IoT growing rapidly?
HR: Given the number of connected devices we expect to have, and the breadth of how they will be deployed and used, it is hard to overemphasize the importance of security. Since many of these devices will have actuators that can alter things in the physical world, a security breach means more than just data loss. So it is very important that each of these devices are designed to be secure, their firmware is kept up-to-date, and the fallout of any possible breach is contained by redundant systems.
The good news is that the IoT industry is already keenly aware of the importance of security. Unlike in the early days of the internet, when security was often just an afterthought, in today’s world, security is given deep consideration even at the product design stage.
AIM: What are the most significant challenges you see in the IoT space?
HR: A lot of commentators see the lack of standards as the most significant challenge we face. Certainly this is an important aspect — easy interoperability between various devices and systems from different vendors can drive adoption, which in turn drives vendors to design for better interoperability, leading to a virtuous cycle. However, I don’t see this as a big blocking factor: standards can evolve naturally on top of open platforms, such as the web. Ecosystems may also develop around specific semi-open platforms. Take, for example, what happened with Apps built around Android and iOS platforms.
The second challenge I would highlight is regulation. This is very important in many areas like self-driving vehicles, delivery drones, use of the RF spectrum, payment systems built on blockchain technology, and so forth. We need to strike the right balance between too much and too little regulation to spark growth and adoption of IoT technologies.
Privacy is also a major issue. IoT can unlock a lot of valuable data about consumer behaviour. This can be used for a variety of purposes, many of which will ultimately benefit consumers. However, people are uncomfortable with their data being used in ways that they can’t control, rightly so in my opinion, and we need to evolve mechanisms that give people control over their own data.
Here’s the talk by Harikrishna at Cypher 2016