Sunday, September 24, 2023

“We Design Keeping in Mind Manufacturing Cost as a Key Parameter”

Think like a micro, get it working!' goes the idea behind TL Micro Automation, a company that offers embedded design services. Siddharth Unny, director, TL Micro Automation, speaks to Abhimanyu Rathore of EFY for the Design in India series.

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Q. What kind of work do you do in the automotive domain?
A. We offer design consultancy for tier-1 and tier-2 companies. This is mainly in the control units sector, while we are also capable of infotainment designs.

An Internet of Things perspective…

Q. How do you see the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon? Do you see it driving business growth for India’s independent design houses (IDHs) or is it more of a marketing gimmick?
A. I think IoT is in its early days. But it is a sector that has huge potential, maybe one or two years down the line, and hence, no design house can ignore this sector. Government initiatives like smart city projects are giving a boost to the IoT.

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In the private sector, what is required is funding of hardware start-ups or product start-ups. This is not happening much. So, lot of IoT enthusiasts are developing prototypes. But without funding, products will not happen.

The role of design houses will increase in this space only if people get the necessary funding required to convert a prototype into a product.

Q. Is this a priority area for your firm for future growth too?
A. Yes. We feel IoT will be very important in the next two years. We are already working with product idea owners to help develop prototypes. Product development in this space will happen soon.

Q. What kind of projects is your team working on, in the IoT arena?
A. For IoT, we are focussing on retail and hospitality sectors. This is based on our analysis of the market. We feel start-ups in these sectors are likely to get funding faster than other sectors. So we are working with product owners on developing hardware capable of data collection, as well as smart apps that provide value. We are also working on smart display solutions to showcase retail products and enhance the shopping experience.

Another interesting product we are working on is the smart button. It is a wireless-connected button for retail and hospitality sectors. It links to an Android app or an iOS app and connects to the backend via Bluetooth, with a proprietary wireless mesh. It is mainly built for call-waiter applications and has a feedback to trigger consecutive actions. It will go in as part of the package in places like restaurants and there is an idea to integrate it with the Aadhaar system, using biometrics.

Q. What do you think of the various standards that are currently ruling the IoT domain?
A. Today, there are too many standards that one just chooses to go with the most heard or most used one, not having the time to go through the details of everything available. Europe is the biggest player in this field and the challenge is more in getting a device certified. It would really be great to have an exclusive standard for India, one that pertains to the low-cost manufacturing angle here.

Q. How would you approach the security aspect?
A. We prefer to go with our own protocols for our wireless solutions. We would even recommend this for your close-knit network, till the gateway. This would not just strengthen your safety, but also give you the flexibility to design your system within your constraints and optimise to the maximum.

A marketing perspective…

Q. Who all have you partnered with for technologies and components?
A. We partner mainly with reliable vendors for our components. This is very important, because our products are dependent on timely supply of good components. One bad chip and the cost implications are enormous for our end-customer. So, reliable component vendors are very critical. We also partner with industrial designers and graphics artists for product development in the consumer space, where looks and form are as important as function.

Q. Do you target Indian customers or only global?
A. We mainly target Indian customers, although sometimes our design ends up being part of a global collaboration.

Q. Can you tell us about the kind of work you do for your clients?
A. We have worked on projects involving control of industrial equipment, mining vehicles and wireless control of heavy equipment for our international clients. Coming to the Indian market, we have developed products in the sectors of cement, steel, automotive, locomotive, energy, logistics, lighting, retail and hospitality. Some products have been for control of equipment, while others have been for collection of data and HMI units with rich graphics. Wireless has been used extensively in these products and solutions.

Q. What is your marketing strategy to reach global clients?
A. We focus primarily on Indian clients. We work with global clients only through our Indian partners. This is because the global projects we tend to work on are large-scale projects involving mechanical design, enterprise software, manufacturing of equipment etc, apart from electronics. So, we work in collaboration with others.


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