27 June 2017 11:41:09 IST

Automated border patrolling: A CRON dream that’s about 5 years away

Start-up completes pilot project with the Border Security Force

Defence-focussed IoT start-up CRON Systems believes that fully automated border security is only about five years away. It has completed a pilot project with India’s Border Security Force and is preparing for its first supply orders over the next few months.

Against odds

Tushar Chhabra, co-founder and CEO, CRON Systems, says that even if the government had provided support or incentives for innovations in defence available earlier, not many start-ups were ready to take advantage. This also affected how much angel funding was available for innovations in the sector.

Fortunately for CRON, it found an early believer in YourNest, an early-stage investment firm. More recently, CRON partnered with Israeli company Automotive Robotic Industry Ltd (ARI) for integrated border security solutions.

A more fundamental problem – skill shortage among engineers in key technology areas – faces technology start-ups hoping to serve the defence industry. So while CRON’s employee count in India is 38, its founders see value in basing R&D work elsewhere.

“When we look at forward-looking technologies, people with experience in India are out of touch with what is happening in the world. We definitely want to keep our production and assembly in India… (but) our research and development will have to be in California. This will increase the burn for us, but it’s something we’re expecting,” says Chhabra.

Game-changing tech

CRON sees IoT applications in defence achieving what no one had imagined. Reduction of the number of lives that are lost at borders across the world and potential returns on investment for what may now be seen as expensive products will make fully automated border patrol a “game-changer”.

“Most of the products designed around the international market are ineffective in the Indian scenario and fail to solve our problems. Spending millions to get international organisations interested in solving our problems will wipe out the probability of us having our own industry,” says Chhabra.

Along with its partner ARI, CRON is working on projects like a “completely autonomous laser wall” at Germany’s Munich airport. The company is likely to partner with a major defence truck manufacturer. While its products and solutions find wider scope, its R&D centre in California will focus on envisioning what the company will be working on five years from now.

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)