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Day after day, digitalisation is increasing all across the world and people are quick to adopt to it. Among other things, Covid-19 proved that digital solutions are in fact, the future.

On one hand, the pandemic gave a huge push to the IT industry and to the adoption of technology while on the other, it also taught the public that they have to rely on automation in an event of emergency.

The Internet of things (IoT) enables physical objects to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks through the use of sensors, processing ability, software and other technologies.

Technology weaponisation: Pakistan needs homegrown solutions

While the concept of internet of things was invented in the early 1990s, the technology was pushed out on a large-scale by mid-2010s. From 2014-2019, it gained rapid traction as tech equipment companies, particularly Apple, Samsung Google and Amazon, braced to introduce and popularise IoT enabled products.

Prior to mid-2010, the most common 'internet of things' applications were Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. After that, digital home assistants, smartwatches, wireless earphones, tracking devices, doorbells, locks and even room cleaning equipment grabbed the market share in IoT ecosystem.

When Covid-19 struck the world in 2020, IoT acted as a revolution in the healthcare segment as smartwatches were updated by companies to act as oxymeters. Few smartphones also had the same capabilities. This proved to be handy for Covid patients because medical oxymeters were short in supply.

In addition to this, IoT-enabled/linked devices/applications were also used to curb the spread of Covid-19 through early diagnosis. Watching IoT breach the medical and healthcare segment, tech firms accelerated the working on this side of technology and modern ones can now efficiently monitor cardiovascular health, predict heart attacks and alert medical institutions.

Metaverse: a new world of opportunities and challenges

Furthermore, modern devices can also calculate the amount of calories burned per day and create a healthy lifestyle for consumers.

Similarly, many other advancements were made in the IoT enabled devices post-Covid and the segment is expected to touch new peaks in the coming years.

In 2022, smart home technology company Plume reported that the global average number of connected devices per home stood at 17.1. This means that an average family has 17 IoT devices, the most common ones being smartphones, smartwatches and laptops.

Few reports have estimated the number of active IoT devices to surpass 29 billion in 2030.

Pakistan's situation

Pakistan is seemingly lagging behind in the entire IoT ecosystem.

Although the public was quick to adopt smartwatches to connect to their phones, rarely any household has a digital home assistant, door bells or lockers. A huge chunk of public does not even utilise the IoT enabled smartwatches to their full potential. Most people even forego using smartwatches for healthcare and exercise purposes.

On the other hand, many people are still unaware of Amazon Alexa and Google Home. A smart home remains a far fetched dream as people are yet to understand the concept of homeowners controlling appliances remotely. IoT depends on chip programming and Pakistan has no ecosystem for that.

Chip manufacturing remains an ambition for the country. Since it needs immense amount of capital and an average semi-conductor (chip) takes 6 to 12 to be manufactured, it seems unlikely that Pakistan will have set up its fabrication plants anytime soon.

This leaves the country dependent on foreign digital merchandise and chip of every single IoT product in the country is imported. Foreign firms such as Samsung are making IoT enabled products in Pakistan but since the raw material is imported, they are costly and far beyond the reach of a huge chunk of the public.

The people who utilise IoT products for personal or professional use have to spend a lot of money on them. In addition to this, some devices that have sim card and that requires a PTA verification that adds to the expenses.

These are some major barriers in way of IoT penetration in Pakistan.

The neighbouring nation India has a vibrant IoT ecosystem with global semiconductor giants announcing to set up fab plants in the country. India also made its first semiconductor chip last year.

This will give a huge boost to the country’s IoT ecosystem. Suspension of trade with the neighbour owing to unstable bilateral relation once again puts Pakistan at the losing end.

Bangladesh has 3 semiconductor companies that provides mainstream chip design services.

Compared to the region, Pakistan is surely lagging behind in IoT. The government needs to focus on this area or it will cause a huge disadvantage to Pakistan as it is also a part of the fifth generation warfare.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Omar Qureshi

The writer is a Senior Sub Editor at Business Recorder (Digital)


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