Smart Cities project will take at least a decade to reach fruition, says MediaTek's Kuldeep Malik

For MediaTek, smartphone chipsets are only a part of the equation.


MediaTek had been a bit quiet in the second half of 2015, but in the six months that have gone by this year, we have seen a lot of phones with the Helio chipsets inside them. Its mid-range chipset, the Helio P10 has been seen on a lot of phones this year such as Meizu m3 Note, Yu Yunicorn and more. The higher end Helio X20 chipset is expected to be seen on more phones through out 2016.

But for MediaTek, smartphone chipsets are only a part of the equation.

It's not just smartphone chipsets
MediaTek is heavily invested in making chips for other use cases as well - smart TVs as well as the Internet of Things. MediaTek had announced its IoT platform – LinkIt – couple of years ago. Apart from this, MediaTek is also looking at the Smart City space and is actively working with the Indian government on multiple projects. We spoke with Kuldeep Malik, country head for Corporate Sales International, MediaTek India, on the non-smartphone aspect of the Taiwanese chipmaker.

According to Malik, MediaTek is closely associated with its partners who have been working with the government to bring to fruition some key projects for the Digital India initiative. He said that some of MediaTek’s close partners have won government tenders, which allows them to ship products based on the MediaTek platform across multiple product lines.

Smart Cities project will take at least a decade to reach fruition, says MediaTeks Kuldeep Malik

Kuldeep Malik, Country Head, Corporate Sales International, MediaTek India

As far as the LinkIt Internet of Things platform goes, Malik said that MediaTek is quite bullish about it. Thanks to its LinkIt platform, MediaTek has been engaged with both professional developers and hobbyists to help in using the platform for IoT as well as Smart Cities projects.

“MediaTek Labs also collaborated with The Startup Centre, CAMTech, V-Serv, Zone Startups (an incubator) to set up product development clinics, where developers can arrive at a working prototype by the end of 2.5 days with intent to take it to the next stages of product development. Prototypes developed were spread across verticals like healthcare, industrial, automotive, wearables, retail and many others. Each of these clinics had about 50 participating developers,” said Malik.

The LinkIt ONE platform is the most popular among the developer and maker community in India says Malik. It houses the MediaTek MT2502 (Aster) chipset, and it works with MediaTek’s Wi-fi and GNSS companion chipsets as well. This is enabling developers to design and prototype wearables and IoT devices using hardware and APIs that are similar to those that are offered on Arduino boards.

The Internet of Things and Smart Cities
Some examples of Wearables and IoT products based on MediaTek LinkIt include Tinitell from Sweden (which is a wrist phone for kids) and Hug Innovations from India (Hug Smartwatch, the world’s first gesture-controlled smartwatch).

MediaTek has been quite active with its IoT projects in Taiwan. A large factor which helps is of course the ICT infrastructure in Taiwan. India, on the other hand, with its vast geography and spotty connectivity surely poses some issues. We asked Malik to elaborate on the challenges that India presents when it comes to implementation of Smart City projects involving IoT.

Hug Smartwatch

Hug Smartwatch

“Firstly, the Smart City could take almost a decade to reach fruition and this requires persistence and commitment on the part of the government as well as the citizens. In order to meet the desired deadline, clearances need to be issued at the earliest. Secondly, due to the advancements in technology, the industry is undergoing constant changes with newer technologies coming into the foray and hence the government needs to be on top of the game if they want to succeed,” said Malik.

Training and educating a skilled workforce to implement the Smart City projects at scale is another challenge thinks Malik. But one of the major issues facing the IoT industries at the moment is the lack of any sort of standardisation in technology. There are different vendors working on different projects, and also technology firms are building their own solutions to target a particular requirement.

“This can breed fragmentation that may require further upgrade quite soon, which may work for a few cities and may not for others. In order to successfully roll-out the Smart Cities project, this is also an aspect the government needs to work towards,” said Malik.

Having said that, Malik says that India has been quite receptive towards IoT adoption, thanks to the Digital India and Smart Cities initiative. According to him start-ups will play a key role in this eco-system. MediaTek itself is involved in areas such as machine to machine (M2M) communications, wearables, connected homes in India.

TiniTell

Tinitell watch for kids works on MediaTek's wearable platform

Chipsets for Smart Homes
Malik feels that advances in technology will bring prices down and smart home appliances will become more mainstream. “MediaTek offers various solutions to cater to this category, like the MT7688, MT7681, MT7687 and MT7697. The MT7688 is Linux-based, supports 802.11n Wi-fi connectivity and is the industry’s lowest power consumption SoC of its kind. The MT7681 has the smallest package size, and is designed for easy embedding into small and simple home appliances such as smart lighting, door locks and plugs. The MT7687 and MT7697 are based on ARM Cortex-M4 architecture, and can be used for the creation of high-performance, low-powered connected appliances,” said Malik.

Similarly, MediaTek’s M2M solutions such as MT6260, MT6261 are enabling smart metering, fleet management, remote monitoring, security and smart agriculture. “These solutions are equipped with basic features that can be used in many ways to connect devices, depending on individual requirement. So, say for instance, using sensors from our solution, a company can gather information about occupied and open parking spaces to make parking in cities a more efficient process. Its application transmits real-time data about parking spots, enabling users to see where parking spaces are open and how many,” said Malik.

IoT and India
But coming back to India, it is known more for its software and services prowess, than the hardware development chops. Wearable and IoTs by their very nature being hardware devices, certainly pose a challenge.

“For startups focused on software it depends if they are focused on horizontal technology (IoT Platforms) or industry solutions. The challenge for the first is to attract a great number of industry application developers to use their development tools environment and partner with M2M/IoT Service Providers (mainly Network Operators) that provide secure and robust connectivity services and can bundle IoT services with other digital services to make end users accept to pay for the bundle. The challenge for the second is that they need to either focus on building a somewhat vertically integrated “product” or focus on being an embedded background player providing services or technology for established brands,” said Malik.

Speaking about future trends in this space, Malik said that we should expect significant growth in semiconductor demand driven by the industrial and automotive markets, integration of more semiconductor features on a single chip, and the advent of utility/basic smart phone that will lead to rapid growth of semiconductor sales, especially in semiconductor economies, presenting both opportunities and challenges to semiconductor players.

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