M. V. Narasimha Rao, Executive Director, Grama Vikas is not a farmer but he has more than four decades of experience working closely with farmers trying to learn and understand their farming practices. Over the years, he has witnessed a gradual deterioration in groundwater levels, soil health, and farmer appetite to try new things.
“Farmers are forced not to think. They just follow what everyone else in the village is doing. If someone is growing tomatoes then everyone will grow tomatoes. This happens every year.” Although Mr.Rao is upset with farmers not reflecting on their past and learning to adapt to the present, his real issue is with markets not supporting farmers when their crop fails or when there is a glut in production.
Doddiganahalli is a medium size village located in Mulbagal taluk of Kolar district, Karnataka. Successive failed monsoons and lack of water conservation systems in the village led to the drying up of open wells and drove the ground water beyond 1000 feet below the ground. The villagers were mostly dependent on supply from a borewell more than a kilometre away, pumped to a common point close to them.
Quicksand is working with the Open IoT Studio at the Mozilla Foundation to explore alternate narratives for the Internet of Things.
How Open or Closed is the IoT Currently?
The narrative of IoT is currently dominated by discourses set by large for-profit organisations. These discourses tend to revolve around closed systems where the touch points for casual users are usually appliances. Even in such cases as the Google Cloud Platform, which are technically open source, the channels of innovation and usage tend to be very narrow.
For example, at present the narrative around the Internet of Things is closely linked with the narrative of Big Data. The Google Cloud Platform, which on the surface appears to be a fairly open set of tools, including a developer hardware kit, is in fact a fairly closed narrative around sensors streaming data through Google Cloud servers. Therefore, while the systems may have diverse and scattered inputs, the data collected is channeled into a narrow utility zone of monitoring and only through the Google Cloud pipeline.
Even this, however, is a fringe component of the IoT ecosystem as it exists today. For most people, interactions with IoT systems will begin (and perhaps end) with mainstream appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, televisions, ovens, automobiles etc. An average user perhaps will understand IoT in her home as the communication paradigm between these appliances. The idea seems to be that these appliances will be able to communicate with each other and with a larger system architecture.
This seems to be not only a benign but also a fairly decentralised system where each household forms a contained whole capable of intelligently making the lives of their owners more convenient. However there are large systems and protocols in this ecosystem that are definitely not decentralised and perhaps not so benign either.
For an average user these systems and protocols may be invisible. However, they are apparent to any kind of careful consideration. A fitness device for example, is a closed electronic system collecting user data and communicating with proprietary servers while giving the user a narrow window into the data collected through an interface. Not only are these devices closed systems built with proprietary technologies but they often communicate with centralised server architectures that are proprietary as well.