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AiThority Interview With Anil Agrawal, CEO at CIMCON

Hi Anil, please tell us how you prepare yourself for the disruptive world of technology?

Today, technology is moving at an incredible speed and we need to be acutely aware of the advances being made in order to provide our customers, namely cities and utilities with the solutions they need to improve operations and resident life.

To stay ahead of the curve, our team engages in continuous research using a variety of methods including learning about new technology, product and company initiatives through Google searches, reading key technology publications, engaging with analysts, and attending and participating in a variety of conferences and forums such as MIT’s Media Lab.

What is CIMCON and how does it leverage Technology to benefit municipal users and the citizens they serve?

CIMCON is the global leader in smart city technologies. Our goal is to help cities in their smart city journey to easily deploy and centrally manage a wide variety of sensors, cameras and devices to improve resident quality of life.

Our NearSky platform uses the latest technology to enable a city to turn its existing streetlight infrastructure into a flexible, reliable and secure digital canopy that spans a city and serves as an Internet of Municipal Things™ (IoMT).

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From your vantage point, what have been the most impressive and important changes to smart Lighting and how has it changed the way you work? How have the technologies changed?

Looking back, I feel that we can really define the changes to smart lighting into three phases.  In the first phase, we talked about being “light agnostic”.  In this phase, our customers were mainly focused on installing more efficient lighting and worrying about whether installations would work as hoped.  The second phase would be defined as “network agnostic”, and we were focused on being able to work with any type of network that a city had implemented.  Today, I believe we are in the third and most exciting phase, namely, the “device agnostic” phase.

Using a platform such as CIMCON’s NearSky smart city platform, cities have the ability to place a wide variety of devices into their network and easily manage complex operations from a centralized location.

Over the past decade, we have gone from very simple technology that allowed cities to turn lights ON/OFF to truly complex technology that allows cities to easily manage their infrastructure.

Tell us a more about Just in Time Lighting and its impact on IoT adoption?

“Just in Time Lighting” was a concept that I adopted from “Just in Time Manufacturing” approximately ten years ago to describe how our smart lighting technology at the time could help cities reduce energy, maintenance, and repair costs while improving the quality of lighting services.

The goal of our platform both then and now is to provide the right amount of light when and where it is needed using adaptive dimming based on street activity to reduce energy wastage.

Energy that is not used is the greenest form of energy.

End-users are enticed by IoT’s capabilities. But, they are also hesitant about hacking and cyber threats. Do you think these fears are justified with IoT appliances and other connected devices?

Yes, I agree that these fears are justified, because anytime you have an IoT or connected device, you have connectivity right up to your enterprise systems.  This makes your systems vulnerable to hackers; however, this should not prevent you from moving forward with your business endeavors.

There are many mature technologies available that can help prevent hacking to protect and mitigate this risk.

We sell a lot to utilities and as you can imagine they are super focused on security and we have been able to demonstrate to them that we offer multiple levels of security that goes all the way to burning signatures in the hardware that would be nearly impossible to penetrate.

Coronavirus has resulted in a major slowdown of economies. How do you think technology can help to revitalize economies back to any semblance of normalcy?

If there is one lesson that the coronavirus has taught us it is that we need to be prepared and be fully able to manage assets remotely.  We need to ensure that all of our assets are digitally connected and can be operated and maintained from any location with appropriate authentication and security.

Think of the efficiencies that cities can gain across the board once all or most of their assets are remotely manageable.  They no longer need to spend millions of dollars in night patrols to identify failed streetlights, have staff spend endless hours pacifying angry citizens complaining of outages since now the system will tell you in real-time when an outage occurs that you can fix quickly. In short, you realize huge savings and at the same time offer a much better user experience.

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AI, Blockchain, low-code DevOps, and RPA techniques are making a huge impact on the current security tech markets. Where is the overall AI-ML market heading to in the next 4 years?

Over the next four years, we believe that there will be tremendous growth in AI-ML, specifically as it relates to the IoT marketplace.

As we all know all AI-ML models need a lot of data to train to become effective and IoT technology can provide large amounts of data in real-time right from the point of action.

Millions of sensors mounted to your body or machine or distributed through the city will provide the data that will make AI-ML models perform at the levels that will drive the benefits that we would expect from them.

Tell us more about the team you work with? What kind of skills and abilities does one need to be part of your smart city product development team?

CIMCON’s development team is very well versed in understanding both the latest technology and the needs of the customer and being able to easily bring the two together.  It is imperative that the development team shields customers from the complexity of technology and delivers products that are extremely simple to use.

Products today need to be intelligent and should be able to anticipate the needs of the customers and deliver an experience that they are so used to with tools they use in their normal day to day operations.  I, therefore, think that the job of the development team today is very challenging.

Apart from selling AI-as-a-service to customers, what other ways do you think businesses should leverage AI and Intelligent automation to sustain growth in Industrial IoT markets?

I think as Edge devices become more and more powerful, you can push AI-driven decision making right at the point of action.  Many industrial automation markets need control actions to be taken in real-time and the more distributed you can make your intelligence the better productivity and quality you can ensure for your customers.

Apart from AI, Lighting and IoT, which other technologies are you keenly following to sustain business goals?

Once you have a strong portfolio of products, you as a company start looking at what would it take to accelerate adoption.  In our smart city space, a big part of the cost is installing our product on top of the streetlight.

So, we are looking closely at how to use drones to install them to reduce the cost of installation.  We are analyzing the merits of augmented reality and how we could implement it to conduct field inspections, provide onsite installation support and help debug problems from a remote location.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft.

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Thank you, Anil! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

As founder and CEO, Anil Agrawal’s thirty years corporate management, sales and marketing, product development and entrepreneurial leadership have led CIMCON to be the recognized global leader in smart city technologies. He holds multiple US patents on wireless controls of street lights and smart city applications.

cimcon lighting logo

CIMCON Lighting is the world’s leading provider of software powered lighting controllers and Internet of Things (IoT) enabled Smart City lighting management solution. The company helps cities run smarter while reducing energy and maintenance costs. The company’s solution has been implemented in over 50 cities in 16 countries.

The company uses LED lighting to create a wireless sensor network and platform enabling cities to implement a variety of Smart City applications to manage outdoor lighting, monitor air quality, meter electric vehicle chargers, improve public safety and security, optimize parking, traffic and waste management to improve the quality of life for city residents.

There are over 315 million street lights worldwide and 42% of the street lights will be networked to make them “smart” over the course of the next decade. Global Internet of Things (IoT) investment in the street light market will cumulatively reach $69.5 billion over the next decade, according to a new study published by the Northeast Group.

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