The widespread acceptance and adoption of Electric Vehicles is only possible if the charging infrastructure is smart, economical and convenient for daily living !
Parikshit Tyagi, our next pathbreaker, IoT Manager at Hero MotoCorp, works on challenges related to the problem of urban shared mobility using connected technologies.
Parikshit talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about being more inclined towards programming in core electronics, which led him to the field of Embedded systems.
For students, if you want to be a part of new processes, disruptive technologies and game changing product roadmaps, take up a career in Internet of Things !
Parikshit, tell us about your background?
I was born and brought up in ghaziabad, did my schooling from Delhi public school ghaziabad. I was part of the school volleyball team and participated in CBSE nationals. My dad is a business man and my mother is a homemaker.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I did my Engineering from University of Delhi in Electronics and post that I did PG Diploma in Internet of Things from CDAC-Acts, Pune.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional, and cool career?
From the beginning of my engineering, I was more inclined towards programming than core electronics (my engineering field). But thanks to electronics, I got introduced to Embedded systems, since the style of coding for these systems is really different from normal high level programming languages.
One major turning point in my engineering was my participation in an Innovation project which was initiated by Delhi University and was a year long project. Our team bagged an amount of 5 lakhs for this project. In this project, we worked on connected sensors with localised connected technology, and this is how I got introduced to the Internet of Things.
We committed some major blunders in the project and the project was not as successful as we had anticipated it to be, but this failure gave me the thrust to pursue mastery over IoT. At that time, getting a job in this domain was pretty difficult, so I decided to pursue further studies with this sort of specialisation.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
As I mentioned before, it was purely based on my interest and a year of failure which made me pursue this career, but one thing that I really learned from this project was networking. If you are an average guy with above average skills, it’s always easier to utilise your network to upgrade yourself and expose yourself to new opportunities.
IoT is an amalgamation of different technologies that are put together to create one single solution which solves one problem. Essentially, we all know that with IoT, everything has to be smart. But why are they smart now, not 15 years back?
With the disruption in VLSI technologies, people realised that putting more processing power in a small chip is easier today than it was 15 years back, again thanks to the drastic decrease in the size of transistors. Once people started understanding the power of high computational chips, the question was why not use them locally and make devices smarter and so this technology emerged.
I personally feel IoT is nothing but old wine in a new glass where embedded systems, sensor technologies, IP, Non-IP communication protocols are combined together to create a new technology which is IoT.
Speaking of my role, I started my career with a Gurgaon based startup named “Curielabs”, where we used to control HVAC systems through sensors and actuators. The whole idea was to control the HVAC system in such a way that buildings maintain a constant temperature.By using fuzzy logic at the backend, we saved around 8-10% of electricity.
My career change to Electric vehicles was something similar. In the initial days of my career, one gentleman reached out to me asking me if I was interested in working on connected EV charging stations. He further asked me to relocate to Bangalore. It took me some time to decide, but I knew that this was the right path, that is, working on two cutting edge technologies. This is what somebody dreams of [Money is also important :)], but back then everything was interest driven.
My next job was with EVQPoint solutions, where I clearly remember one of the founders showing me a product on paper and I helped them bring that product live, video for reference.
This is a portable and wall mounted, smart charging station with AC power, for Electric Vehicles for home charging, with mobile app and dashboard for access and controls. This provides the EV owner the convenience of charging solutions from the convenience of their home or office.
It was a great experience as we worked on it from scratch and I know the number of iterations that we went through with limited resources. This work helped in building the ability to implement end to end IoT implementation.
Post EVQPoint, I sailed with Bounce, where these people were trying to solve the problem of mobility from point A to point B by providing smart vehicles. This concept really disrupted the way of transportation for Bangalore city. People who live in Bangalore might be able to relate to this. My role here was to establish a protocol for Electric vehicle batteries such that the complete system becomes interoperable and communicates on a common protocol.
The biggest challenge here was how to make a system interoperable when OEMs have already developed something for the market. So we came up with the idea to use communication protocols that are hardware/microcontroller agnostic and can communicate via TCP/IP protocol. We did some minimum benchmarking of hardware to which most of the OEMs were conforming.
This way we were able to charge a battery of OEM A with the charger of OEM B, (Their R&D teams never interacted with each other) and would send common data to our servers via telematics.
How did you get your first break?
There is this very interesting website named angel.co, which I came to know about from my network. This website posts jobs for people who are willing to work in startups that are doing some real interesting stuff.
I applied through the website, even without thinking of the work location, and only about the domain. Before graduating from CDAC, I had three offers in hand (pay was not good though).
What were the challenges? How did you address them?
Money: Sometimes you really need to manage things with minimal money. I faced this problem when I was in bangalore.
How did I manage?
I started working as freelancer for some projects and post that, there was a time when i was earning 3x of my monthly salary just from freelancing work (It was seriously some money)
Guidance: The problem with latest technologies is, there are very less people to guide you and in fact most of the senior people are also adopting these technologies.
How did I manage?
Networking: I used to find people with particular skill sets where I needed help and shamelessly used to send out messages on linkedin. Out of 5 people, 1 person used to respond properly and my job was done.
Learning the skill to google the right thing: Honestly speaking, any and every thing that you seek is on google, it’s just the habit/practise to find the right thing or right resource that you need to complete the work.
Persistence: There would be “n” number of failures that you would face while doing your job, but again if you are persistent enough to not to let go, you would definitely find a solution that others are not able to.
Health: Most of the techies would always find this a challenge, keeping health as top priority is always important and health could be mental and physical.
How did I manage?
Learn to say No: When you are a junior, people will always try to leverage you for doing their work. Initially I also used to do their work, but gradually I learnt that sometimes saying No is far better because it saves your personal time.
Demarcation of Personal and professional life: You must draw a clear line between personal and professional life. Folks who are aiming to work in startups will face such problems.
Exercise: Working out for 15-20 mins is all it takes to be fit physically, similarly some activity which gives you mental peace must be a part of your personal life on a daily basis, be it gardening, meditation, even gaming :).
Where do you work now? What problems do you solve?
I am currently working in Hero Motocorp Ltd, as Technical Manager-IoT for Hero Hatch. We are trying to solve the problem of urban shared mobility using connected technology.
There are many real world connected tech examples that people use, but are not aware of. I will try to explain with two examples with different use cases.
Example 1: OLA/UBER : Yes, you might not be aware but this is a real IoT application that we use in real life, but how?
Okay, our cell phones are nothing but high computational embedded system which have different sensors attached to it. So whenever you book a cab, this app uses your location via GPRS to track the vehicle/user and in order to communicate to the internet, it uses GSM technology or WiFi to speak to the backend sitting in some cloud at some different place, now you see the magic?
Example 2: Smart Watches: I really like explaining people IoT using smart watches as they have gained popularity over the time. Most smart watches work on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) communication with mobile apps where you can see the analytics of the data captured by them via different sensors.
Apart from it, you are able to control a few mobile functionalities from them via BLE only. You see these are two things communicating with each other, a typical example of M2M communication in close proximity.
This job needs somebody who has sound knowledge of embedded systems, connectivity and cloud. These were some of the skills I acquired from my B.E and PG Diploma and some I learnt while working.
My typical work day usually does not follow a regular pattern, sometimes I am sitting at my home coding and sometimes I am out there meeting vendors or testing vehicles with the latest feature release.
What do you love about your work?
From the beginning of my career I wanted a job where I could create new processes, adopt latest technologies and decide product roadmaps. Here I am getting to do most of the things with the liberty of working as a product owner.
How does your work benefit society?
Since we are working in urban mobility, trying to solve problems for tier 1 to tier 3 cities, I guess with our solution launch, we are definitely going to revolutionise the means of transportation for these cities.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
In my first job, I remember that the tech team was facing this problem of firmware update over-the-air for their solution and somehow they were not able to set up the complete pipeline properly.
I took it as my first challenge and asked my CTO if I could work on it. He immediately nodded as other dev teams were occupied with some other work. Though it took me some time to figure out the solution, I gave them a prototype of FOTA (Firmware Over-The-Air), which went in production for 1k devices, i still remember how we used to update firmware of devices installed in Kolkata from Gurgaon, it was indeed a great experience.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
I guess today’s students are way smarter in figuring out what they want to do, but one thing that really changes the game is attitude towards any work. If you can keep that positive and constructive irrespective of circumstances, I am sure students would be able to achieve most of the things they want.
I, along with my team, aim to revolutionise the future of mobility through connected technologies. Once I am able to do that, then I will decide what to do next 🙂