MakerMonday with Chakshu Saharan

Passionate about bringing IoT to developing countries, we speak to Chakshu about her startup Ignius and what she’s been making

With so much excitable buzz around IoT, it’s easy to get carried away creating, making and playing without thinking about how connected technologies might be used to improve lives in countries where resource is scarce. We caught up with Chakshu to talk about the Internet of People, why it’s better to make anything than nothing and what she’s been working on at Ignius.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background. 

A: There are three of us on the team, I’m the Founder and look after the product vision for Ignius. I’m passionate about bringing the advantages of connected technologies to address some of the most compelling ‘use cases’ for IoT primarily in developing countries and for underserved demographics. Before starting Ignius, I spent a number of years working as a management consultant.

Q: What’s the story behindIgnius- why did you set it up?

A: We have a dream, to use the power of IoT and connected devices to address some of the biggest challenges in countries where the need is greater but resources fewer. We believe that IoT technology with robust service design can be a game changer in addressing some of the most obvious yet burning issues globally.  

Q: What are you making at the moment?

A: We’re building a product for developing markets which brings help to vulnerable people by using IoT and easily available communication platforms. We’ve developed a prototype for a pilot in Asia.

Q: Why do you think it’s so important for companies to embrace IoT?

A: The rise of IoT has been sometimes described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We believe IoT would be as mainstream in the near future as the internet and mobile technology is today. Companies would need to carefully consider where IoT sits with relation to their products and services. IoT will be a new catalyst in how businesses and brands could interact with customers and markets in the future. Finally, IoT in isolation is not the answer – it would need to link with the bigger picture and the vision and strategy of the company.

Q: What role do you think IoT plays in protecting people?

A: Protection for us is all about user wellbeing. We feel that IoT can be a catalyst in impacting the wellbeing of its users and this includes both devices being used at home and personal wearables. For example, IoT in smart homes and cities is not only keeping people safe from crimes, but also aiding independent living for the aging population whilst maintaining or even enhancing their wellbeing by providing need-dependent care. If we look at wearables, the use of biometric and quantified-self technologies are already detecting early warning signs on the wearer’s state of health. The next logical step would be to enhance connectivity among different IoT solutions and products that can help people communicate their state (whether health or emergency) in real-time for better user outcomes.

Q: You talk about the Internet of People, what do you mean by that?

A: We came up with this expression to encapsulate the idea that we’re looking to make IoT accessible to people who might not expect to be early adopters of new technology. It’s our attempt to ‘democratise’ IoT, take it to the masses, it’s about connecting for a purpose rather than merely make machines talk to machines.  So our mission at Ignius is to make genuinely useful IoT products available and accessible to people across the world. That is what we mean by ‘Internet of People’

Q: There are a lot of frivolous products being made - nicknamed the Internet of Useless Things - why do think it’s important for us to be making meaningful products?

A: I think there’s a lot of focus on developing products for the sake of development and looking for a market is almost an afterthought. It’s hard to not be impressed with these products without actually understanding what need they are addressing or what problem they are solving. Without this approach, products cannot create a mass market appeal. However, having said that, sometimes these products help in developing technologies which can be applied to other devices that have stronger use-cases. It’s better for a piece of technology to have been created than not.

Q: What’s next for Ignius?

A: Our focus for the rest of the year is to conduct market tests on our prototype and build the first generation product for launch. Watch this space.