STMicroelectronics recently partnered with Velankani Electronics for the design and development of the Bengaluru-based firm's Prysm smart metres under the Make in India programme. POWER TODAY caught up with Sapna Mongia, Head, Smart Grids and Metering, South Asia, Power & Discrete, STMicroelectronics in New Delhi over a one-on-one to get a deeper perspective.
Do you think that the Indian market has matured? Is it now ready to embrace the portfolio of smart products being offered by players like STMicroelectronics?
I would rather say that the market is growing. It is on a learning curve where the users understand the different products, and the ways in which they can be connected. People get educated on how sensing takes place, how microcontrollers work, and how the Internet of Things (IoT) is used in different applications, improving daily life. With this increase in awareness and training, suitable applications are being created - from sports aids that monitor athletic performance to traffic lights that switch appropriately to keep traffic flowing smoothly. Such smart applications of technology are helping in bringing about a transformation in the Indian market.
Are you saying that we are steadily getting there?
Yes, we are getting there and also making advances with each passing year. We are learning new solutions and implementing them. A number of prospective customers who approach us show interest in implementing new and innovative technologies in the smallest of solutions developed by them. We create pilots for them and they, in turn, demonstrate customised use cases for the Indian environment to their end-customers.
A key factor enabling the rapid expansion and acceptance of smart products is the enormous progress STMicroelectronics and other semiconductor companies have made with their technologies. These advances, in turn, enable the design of 'new smart products' that are powerful, compact, energy-efficient, secure, and affordable to provide new capabilities on a large scale and have unleashed the vast creative potential.
What do you consider as the most promising segment to service in India?
STMicroelectronics has focused on smart driving and IoT. These are our main pillars. And then we have sub-segments such as smart homes, smart grids and metering, automotive components, and the IoT. These are the four segments we are currently active in, and our prime focus is smart metering and smart grids.
How are you participating in the development of smart electric grids for the smart city, India?
We are working with system integrators who essentially provide solutions to smart cities. They will be using solutions developed by our manufacturers. We not only promote our customised solutions to them but also help them partner with our manufacturers so that they can integrate the solutions based on our chipsets. It is like providing indirect development support.
Do you have any partnerships with local technology providers to develop end-to-end solutions?
Yes, we work with system integrators and our top key customers, who are also leaders in the field. Together with them, we develop solutions for the larger market.
What are the three things that excite you the most in the present market?
We are excited that there is space for all technologies and manufacturers in India, since it is a huge market. We are also excited about the results of the smart grid pilot projects that have worked out very well and are continuously following up on the progress being made there. We are very happy to see the steps being taken by the government. We are moving in the direction where technology is being implemented to rollout smart systems in different areas.
What would it take for India to adopt smart metering in a big way?
Since the government plans to take electricity to all homes in the country, smart metering will play a critical role. Utilities will truly benefit, since they will help reduce transmission and distribution (T&D) losses by giving more control over the supply of electricity. Also, more electricity will be made available for distribution through the implementation of smart metering technologies.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
We have partnered with Velankani Electronics for the manufacture of products that qualify under the government's Make in India programme in the design and development of smart metres based on our STCOMET chipset. We have also introduced a new device called ST8500, which is a new modular power line communication (PLC) modem chipset for smart metering. The ST8500 is a fully programmable PLC modem system on chip (SoC), which is capable of running any PLC protocol in the frequency band of up to 500 kHz and comes in an ultra-compact 7+7 mm quad-flat no-leads (QFN) package.
We would like to partner with more players like Velankani to build an ecosystem and help in the development of more end-to-end solutions under Make in India. Many start-ups approach us as we are a solutions provider. We give our chipsets and solutions to not only our existing, leading customers, but also start-ups, as we believe in providing equal support to everyone.
As one of the global leaders in semiconductors serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, STMicroelectronics is encouraged by how pilot projects in smart grids and metres by government agencies have helped expand the rollout of smart systems in several areas across India.
- Manish Pant
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