Opinion

India’s transformation in the era of distributed intelligence

Prakash Mallya | Updated on September 02, 2021

Critical sectors including agriculture, education, healthcare, power, and retail are already seeing emerging use cases that can increase efficiencies and solve key challenges

Computing is at the threshold of a new era – the era of distributed intelligence. With the surge in usage of new devices by consumers and businesses, the data they generate has grown exponentially. There are millions of such active devices including computers, smartphones, IoT devices, sensors, and more, generating data that can yield insights to fuel innovation.

According to the IDC Annual DataSphere report, 64.2 zettabytes of data was created in 2020 and that staggering amount will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 per cent from 2020 to 2025. Emerging technologies like AI and 5G will lead to exponential data generation that will require immediate computation to enable faster decision-making. Distributed intelligence takes computing back to the source of the data via edge computing.

India’s strengths in the new era of computing

Edge computing enables faster processing to deliver rich consumer experiences and opens opportunities to generate business insights that can lead to new products, services, and efficiencies. This technology is already being adopted across various industries and enterprises are simplifying deployments through agile IT solutions like Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN).

India has advantages in key areas to enable several effective and scalable applications. One critical factor is the data itself. With India's large population, the amount of data being generated and processed in the cloud and on devices across the country is unmatched. The data generated by this ecosystem can be used to provide detailed user insights for further growth and development.

The country's population density also means that solutions must be scalable and resilient. This influences how technology solutions are designed for India, specifically in ways that ease their adaptation for and deployment in any country. The proliferation of AI and the upcoming 5G rollout further strengthens the country's capabilities to deploy edge computing scenarios. India's existing strengths in software, an emerging hardware ecosystem, the advantage of an innovative start-up community, and abundance of talent all lend themselves to its potential in identifying a variety of use cases and developing and implementing solutions at scale.

In addition, the Indian government is actively involved in seeding new innovation, with supportive policies such as the National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence by NITI Aayog and the Emerging Technologies division in the Ministry of Electronics & Informative Technology. Owing in part to policies like these in countries around the world, as per the Worldwide Edge Spending Guide from IDC,, the worldwide edge computing market will reach $250.6 billion in 2024.

Identifying innovative use cases

Critical sectors in India, including agriculture, education, healthcare, power, and retail, among others, are already seeing emerging use cases that can increase efficiencies and solve key challenges.

For example, per the Economic survey for 2020-21, India has transmission and distribution losses of over 20 per cent in the power sector. India's Ministry of Power launched its Smart Meter National Programme, which put distributed intelligence to use and enabled distributors to achieve 95 per cent billing efficiency during the lockdown using smart meters. Once the solution is deployed, it will help the power sector minimize its transmission and distribution losses within a few years.

In the retail segment, while customers have started to return to retail stores, they are still concerned about safety. To tackle this issue, Amazon launched its Smart Storess program in India, turning retail stores into “digital storefronts” that allow smart and contactless product selections and payments. With distributed intelligence, the retail segment can look at flexible price adjustments, intelligent product recommendations, cashier-less payments, along with consumer insights to help deliver enhanced in-store experiences.

Agriculture as an industry continues to struggle with factors such as weather unpredictability and lack of crop diversification for better yields. By deploying smart agriculture-as-a-service solutions, the sector is using smart sensors and other devices to generate data and develop insights on factors like weather and soil conditions. These insights can then be used to manage the agriculture process from seeding to harvesting.

The pandemic's impact was particularly visible in the healthcare and education sectors. Distributed intelligence presented solutions with healthcare systems that offer contactless continuous remote monitoring of patients in hospitals or homes. Patient data can be processed via edge computing to detect health deterioration and generate early warnings for timely medical intervention. In the education sector, as the pandemic forced the closure of schools and colleges, several solutions emerged to change how students learn inside and outside the classroom. Distributed intelligence applications offered online services for students to use existing devices for learning with education mediums ranging from videos and flashcards to virtual reality enhanced by edge computing.

Edge computing technologies can be developed to identify consumers' requirements and offer hyper-personalized products and services. They can also generate insights to automate repetitive tasks, boost productivity, identify missed opportunities, and reduce costs. India’s potential for innovative applications of scalable edge computing solutions and its hardware ecosystem and software strengths set the country apart from the rest of the world. With various sectors aggressively adopting and deploying these technology solutions, India is poised for significant growth in this era of distributed intelligence.

The author is VP and MD – Sales, Marketing and Communications Group, Intel India.

Published on September 02, 2021

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