By Vinay Solanki
The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating its buzz all over the world with companies and researchers predicting billions of devices to be connected by 2020. Programs like Digital India and the Smart Cities Mission show that India is not lagging behind. While focusing on the cities is important for India to grow, I think we also need to focus on the challenges faced by Indian villages. In fact, as per the 2011 census, about 70% of India still lives in villages.
Problems faced by the villagers usually go unnoticed. Further, technological solutions designed in the context of cities, aggravate the problem.
One of my friends wrote an article on “The Rural Problem Statements” listing a many of these challenges. Here, I will try to propose some IoT-based solutions for these problem statements. Since the internet is a pre-requisite for making the IoT solution viable, my basic assumption is that villages have some form of internet connectivity. I have classified my solutions under the following four categories: Home, Food, People and Conservation.
- Gas Leakages
- Life Hazards
Villages face the challenge of loss of life due to lack of proper infrastructure and connectivity to major hospitals during emergencies. For example, in the case of a fire or water hazard, people realise the dangers too late. Hence, smoke sensors should come in handy to alert homeowners if a fire breaks out. Moisture sensors can also play a key role in monitoring the life of brick walls. They can warn occupants ahead of time if the walls have become too weak to withstand the load.
- Intrusion Detection
A door alarm can be built using NodeMCU ESP8266 with a magnetic strip. It will be useful for keeping homes safe from intrusion while the owner is away. This is important in villages as villagers mostly have single family homes with no guard or safety perimeter around it. This solution is extendable to windows as well. A sample source code is available for download here.
Making farms smarter
Landlords, traders, and villagers usually store their food in containers, sacks, drums or bags. These stores are kept in homes or in warehouses for long durations. Common problems include infestation by insects, attacks by rodents and damage due to temperature or moisture. A simple solution is using a moisture sensor that can measure and alert when the threshold is breached. KFRI is researching on creating an integrated Food Quality Control system for transportation and storage by monitoring the temperature. Likewise, a solution can be designed to check if a particular container or bag is leaking and inform the owner before the damage spreads.
- Precision Farming
IoT in agriculture has become one of the fastest growing fields. Sensors designed to watch moisture, soil quality and weather can benefit the farmers. Several solutions have been designed to optimise the usage of water for irrigation. Also, there are innovations to control the consumption of fuel in tractors. Sensors which are connected to animals to report contagious diseases are especially very beneficial. Also, real-time reporting of farming data can help to fine tune the time of harvesting. We can work towards creating ‘future farms’, such as the one pictured below, if the Government can design a workable direct technology transfer scheme.
- Livestock Monitoring
Livestock monitoring deals with animal husbandry and cost savings. Using a combination of sensors and wireless IoT applications, one can track the health, well-being, and location of the cattle. This data helps to identify sick animals, locate animals and in-turn can also lower labour costs. Symphony Link is one possible solution. Another solution is a wireless retrofitted bolus in the cow’s stomach, which can communicate via Bluetooth to an ear-tag.
- Crop Water Management
Proper water management can boost crop productivity. With sensors attached to water gates, water will not be wasted as farmers will be able to control the gates through apps on their smartphones. Furthermore, farmers will be able to calculate the rainfall in the current year and then decide the amount of irrigation required for the crops.
Personal care devices
A lot of wearable tracking devices are available these days to track children, elderly and loved ones. There are a plethora of solutions coming up in the field of personal safety. Similar devices can be used to leverage the assignments of delivery trucks.
A Health ATM allows you to know about your health and check the key body parameters such as blood count, BMI, etc. in a cheap and quick manner.
Conservation of resources
India, along with rest of the world, is worrying about the availability of fresh water in the future. Furthermore, saving electricity is of prime importance for India. This includes exploring new and renewable sources of energy.
- Water Tank Automation
A simple solution to track the timing of water inflow and operating the water pump can be made. The pump will turn off when the tank is full, thereby saving water from overflowing. Amazon is selling one such device.
- Electrical Appliances
IoT-based solutions allow you to control appliances in your home including fans, geysers, air conditioners, etc. Since villages often face a shortage of electricity, an affordable solution can be built coupled with machine learning. This will allow the villagers to use the appliances efficiently.
I will conclude by saying that Indian villages face a plethora of challenges and hence, present many opportunities to makers, developers, designers and soution-builders to address these needs.