Mumbai’s Dharavi – one of the largest slums in the world – has used Internet of Things (IoT) technology to connect shops and improve the buying experience.
The project, which is part of Google’s IoT Technology Research Award pilot, has been carried out by researchers from Swansea University, UK, and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay.
The teams have connected 30 shops in Dharavi’s markets to Google’s open-source ‘physical web’ via 100 beacons, according to the Mumbai Mirror. The aim is to give shoppers an improved experience by helping them make a more informed choice on products.
A new take on the traditional marketplace
Typically, this marketplace has been a place of bartering and haggling for an agreed price on goods, however now customers using smartphones will receive a notification via bluetooth whenever they are close to one of these beacon-ready shops.
The notification enables them to peruse an online marketplace of all products available at that shop, using an interactive interface. In theory, this allows buyers to have a comprehensive overview of all of the products that the shops in Dharavi have to offer, ensuring they can make a better informed decision.
This project will make use of Google’s beacon platform, which includes Google’s own bluetooth low-energy beacon, the Eddystone. These beacons are the basis for what is called the Physical Web – ‘an approach designed to allow any smart device to interact with real world objects and not have to download an app first’. By installing these beacons, objects are able to provide timely, contextual information about their surroundings via Bluetooth signals.
The researchers believe hope this technology will boost customer-seller relations and attract more buyers to the marketplace.
“In the greater scheme of things, this will bring a change in the way Dharavi is perceived,” they said.
IoT for everyone
A student at IIT Bombay, Chinmay Parab, spoke to the Mumbai Mirror about the potential of IoT to change the Dharavi marketplace. “Most new technologies, at inception, are exclusive and cater to only those who can afford the technology,” he said.
“This technology of ‘Internet of Things’ will provide the population in the resource-constrained environment of Dharavi an exposure to vast possibilities. Shops which are part of the deployment are given a poster that asks people to turn on bluetooth to experience the physical web.”
The Google IoT Research Award gives students access to 100 Beacon devices designed to allow any smart device to interact with real-world objects – in this case, shops in Dharavi – without having to download specific applications. More information on Google’s IoT offerings can be found here.