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AiThority Interview With Karen Ravindranath, Director, WebNMS

AiThority Interview With Karen Ravindranath, Director, WebNMS

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What is your experience about the journey into IoT? What inspired you to join Zoho’s IoT Division?

WebNMS is the flagship brand of Zoho. WebNMS was a leading provider of telecom network management software for about 2 decades and forayed into Enterprise IoT in 2008 when the industry itself was in a nascent stage. In fact, WebNMS is one of the pioneers in offering a wide gamut of Enterprise IoT solutions. The transition from managing telecom nodes and network infrastructure to managing ‘things’ over the network was functionally eventual. The product offering evolved with technology.

I have been with Zoho for almost 18 years now and was leading IoT platform development before presiding over the entire team as Director.

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Which IoT technologies and models do you currently work with? What is your goal in developing the IoT domain?

WebNMS offers highly scalable, integrated IoT Platform and solution for niche verticals like Energy, asset monitoring and fleet and logistics. The goal is to empower SMBs and enterprise customers to achieve IoT driven digital transformation in a simplistic way.

Many IoT projects were stalled during the initial stages due to a lack of clarity and complexity in the IoT frameworks. WebNMS identified those deployment challenges faced by the solution providers/ service professionals and built an integrated full stack platform that is easy to adapt and scale. The goal was to un-complicate IoT adoptions.  The crucial value proposition of the WebNMS platform is its end to end IoT Application enablement. The platform caters right from data acquisition to end-user analytics and data security. In short, WebNMS is the most effective platform to build, deploy and go to market quickly with IoT solutions for SIs, instrumentation hardware manufacturers and IoT developers.

How has the IoT industry evolved in the last two years?

The transformation has been radical. Enterprise deployments have long shifted from being in the POC stage to actual deployments now. Having been one of the pioneers of IoT Platforms we’ve seen the industry transcend various stages of the hype cycle and right now in a fast growth zone. Enterprise IoT adoptions across industries are growing at a CAGR of 28%, a number greater than what it was two years ago. However, there needs to be a clearer strategy in the service provider and solution provider markets. Solution providers should focus on customer challenges and quickly build solutions that garner ROI within considerable time. Instead of building IoT platform/product from the scratch, SIs and developers will have to tap into the potential of industry-focused platforms that were built ground up to serve the purpose of reducing lead-times, cost, and effort. Quick and successful digital transformation projects can happen only when POCs can seamlessly turn into fully functional and scalable real-world deployments and this is possible only with the adoption of mature and highly robust IoT platforms.

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How do you see the convergence of Data Science, AI, and ML with IoT?

IoT is all about data. The purpose doesn’t resolve with connected things without extracting real value from them. The real purpose of IoT is to achieve continuous improvements and this where IoT conjures with technologies like Data science, ML and AI. Getting the data, using them to study and improve processes and have intelligent automation through Artificial Intelligence should be the ultimate goal of digital transformation journeys.

IoT has a lot of scopes and can be used to resolve the bigger challenges faced in enterprises that could be detrimental to the momentum of the business. Data garnered from continuous proactive monitoring can be used to upgrade operations and parts of the business that call for improvisations. It’s almost like having an internal analyst and consultant to help you run informed business operations.

What impact does IoT-as-a-Service, have on the industries, especially for the automotive industry and other OEM industries?

IoT-as-a-Service is gaining momentum as it addresses some key challenges or inhibitions in prolific IoT adoption namely higher Capex, visibility into the ROI, the overhead of managing hardware, infrastructure and software of an IoT deployment, etc.

However, IoTaaS is effective in certain industry verticals like automotive and OEMs where IoT is adapted into their smart product line and the infrastructure and software aspect is also managed by the OEM as an MSP (managed service provider).

However, for brownfield IoT deployments where devices are retrofitted for example in the IIoT (Industrial IoT) space, the IoTaaS adoption is still slow due to the inherent challenges in connecting the hitherto unconnected and the diverse set of devices and varied requirements.

Therefore there is no “one way” to achieve IoT driven operations across various segments. It would be an amalgamation of technologies for the service providers and eventually, the success will lie in abstracting away the complexity and providing one comprehensive solution for the customer.

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How does the IoT infrastructure benefit customers and what are its prospects? Which industries are you currently focusing on?

WebNMS aims to be the ultimate Digital Transformation partner to enterprises. With tightly bound capabilities like energy management, asset monitoring, and fleet management tied into a single stack platform, WebNMS can be a great platform to achieve integrated operations in organizations. Apart from Enterprise applications, we aim to empower hardware manufacturers, OEMs and control instrument players with software competency. The hardware players can leverage the IoT software potential of our platform by integrating it, becoming smart and going to market within quick turnaround time. We have enabled quite a few OEMs to achieve IoTaaS offerings.

How do you manage to drive the team spirit for an IoT-driven world, in the tech-heavy marketing industry?

Tech Marketing is in the era of reigning glory. This actually has ended up in information huddled clutter across the online as well as offline media. Differentiation plays a key role to stand apart. Differentiation not just in marketing but in the actual product itself. We, at WebNMS, have a strong philosophy of making our products customer focused. Advanced technology is one thing, but at the end of the day, it’s the user who is using the product. It’s the user who gets to interact with the fruit of our technology-driven products. We wanted to simplify the IoT platform market. WebNMS IoT Platform aims to make things easy for the SIs to implement solutions rapidly and also offer end customers visually strong intuitive GUIs and proactive solutions.

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What are your predictions on the role of IoT in various industries from the year 2019-2020?

IoT has moved from being in the hype cycle to a place where it can demonstrate a clear value proposition to the customer. From a phase where IoT was mostly proof of concepts in many organizations, now the trend is moving to definite projects and implementation. Digital Twins, Edge Computing and connectivity consolidation will be the top three value drivers of industry IoT Platforms. Moreover, IoT data will catalyze the trend of implementing ‘connected business’ across the enterprise. The data from operations will be integrated with enterprise applications data to empower powerful insight driven business operations. With the advent of 5G and consolidated connectivity, there will be a stark rise in the number of successful IoT implementations this year.

How do you collaborate with your potential customers already working with IoT?

We collaborate with various players from the IoT ecosystem. We help our customers connect the dots and make sense of all the data extracted from operations in case they already have a monitoring system/SCADA in place. WebNMS IoT Platform can integrate with any existing system. The solutions are implemented by our solution partners/ engineering solution providers who can quickly install, make customizations and start running the IoT solutions for the end customers. Being device agnostic and heterogeneous with seamless integration capabilities makes us the best fit for unifying IoT solutions across enterprises both in a green field and brownfield deployments.

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What is your perspective on IoT integrating with other intelligent technologies like AR/VR and robotics?

WebNMS has always been technology research focussed, the reason we started building and perfecting the IoT Platform when we foresaw the opportunity.   There is a dedicated research team for initiating projects based on Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. The aim is to present collaborative solutions to enterprise customers that extend beyond monitoring and tracking. AR and VR will be the augmented value addition that drives insight based automation, new customer experiences, and transformative business outcomes.

How does IoT deliver economic benefits as well as social goodwill?

IoT can be a catalyst for both economic benefits as well as social benefits. For enterprises, it ushers in economic benefit. However, for the consumers of the service, connected things enhance visibility and traceability, better services and service assurance and higher levels of safety thereby increasing social goodwill.

What are the major challenges faced by intelligent IoT technology companies in making business results more accessible to local communities? How do you overcome these challenges?

As mentioned earlier, we are trying taking up the challenge of simplifying IoT and its ecosystem for our partners and customers thereby enabling intelligent and innovative IoT Solutions where partners focus on delivering value. The innovative and integrated platform is deployment ready with in-built capabilities that address key enterprise operations challenges, this diminishes half the burden of figuring out to put together pieces of IoT puzzle. WebNMS works in close association with solution providers, SIs and device manufacturers to create an ecosystem of seamless and hassle-free IoT deployments and management for the customer.

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Thank you, Karen! That was fun and I hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Karen Ravindranath is the Director at WebNMS.

WebNMS , the telecom division of Zoho Corp is the leading provider of EMS/NMS framework and M2M solutions with deployments in most of the tier-1 carriers in the world. The WebNMS being an extensible framework enables network equipment providers and service providers dabbling in multiple domains and technology to quickly build high scalability EMS/NMS solutions with exhaustive functionality and high performance.

WebNMS enables network equipment providers and service providers to cost-effectively build highly customizable EMS solutions that can dramatically cut development times while meeting carrier-grade network requirements.

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