SanDisk was acquired by Western Digital Corporation (WDC) 2 years ago. The combined company is now one of the largest companies serving the needs of the storage industry in the digital era. Besides hard drives that WDC is well known for, one of the leading products that they now offer are flash-based devices for storing digital data. They make a variety of flash products for the retail market, like USB, camera cards amongst other products. WDC also provides a flash based product for embedded storage, that is flash memory that goes on to the embedded or IoT products like automotive or industrial-grade systems. On the same lines, they met Netradyne about a year ago. As Netradyne was developing their product for the automotive or IoT type of application, WDC found that there is a need to store video data that requires high reliability and extended endurance to temperature changes in their environment, this is where the SanDisk embedded memory came in handy and that’s the product that Vivek Tyagi, Director for India business development, SanDisk brand Commercial sales and Support at Western Digital Corporation and Teja Gudena, Vice President, Netradyne have discussed in the below interview, with Dibyoshnata Talukdar, Sub-Editor, ELE Times.
Dibyoshnata: With advancement in technologies, what are some of the changes and innovations in the memory market in India? How do you see the industry today?
Vivek Tyagi: Post-merger, Western Digital Corporation is operating in a very large and diverse market. Storage is used in a variety of ways. If we look at the retail or consumer market, it’s very large and growing in double-digit percentage. On the other hand, there is the external data storage market for enterprises which is about 318 million dollars’ worth and is growing at about 7-8% CAGR according to reports by IDC and Gartner. However, in connection to Netradyne, we are currently only looking at embedded storage. Embedded storage is something that goes into any equipment like a smartphone, telematics device, IoT device etc. For example, a well-known company called Counterpoint Research quoted that India’s embedded storage market for smartphones is doubling from 32GB in smartphones in 2017 to 60GB in 2018. We are operating in all these verticals of the storage industry and even though each of these verticals may belong to different industries, but they all have a common need for storing their data.
Dibyoshnata: Which are the primary verticals in the storage device industry in India?
Vivek Tyagi: There are a couple of them. First is our retail business, where we sell consumer specific data storage devices. It amounts to a significant usage of flash storage and is moving very rapidly. The second market is smartphone segment. If you look at flash storage per se, as a user of smartphones, one of the attributes that you are always looking for is the storage available on the phone. So that’s again an area where we see a significant consumption of flash storage. The data centre market and IoT or embedded applications are some of the other markets where we see a lot of scope and that constitute of devices that transpire going automotive, industrial, connected home etc.
Dibyoshnata: Does WDC only cater to hardware-based memory or are there solutions for cloud storage also?
Vivek Tyagi: Our company focuses on data centres segment because consumers today are mostly using their personal storage devices. Netradyne uses storage at the edge. But there is a lot of data being pushed to the cloud. So we do provide storage solutions or storage media for the cloud service providers or companies in the private or public cloud space as well. This is a significant part of WDC’s business worldwide and in India.
Dibyoshnata: If you could give some insights on how Netradyne is co-working with Western Digital?
Teja Gudena: From the technology point of view, we are purely an artificial intelligence company with over two years of experience in this space. We are working on a driver safety and driver behaviour monitoring system, using real-time algorithms. It’s a part of autonomous driving technology. Basically, we are building complete intelligence on to the device. The device, named Driveri, is an after-market device for the automotive sector and is installed in commercial vehicles. This device has four HD cameras and sensors like GPS, inertial etc. So, for every video which is captured on this device, both inside and outside, the device has the capability to run deep learning algorithms in real time and identifies any untoward incident which it uploads to the cloud and notifies the fleet manager.
For example, if the driver is behaving distracted, feeling sleepy, our algorithms will be able to detect it immediately using inward cameras. From outside cameras, it can detect, if the driver is violating signals or if he/she is lane jumping etc. The algorithms have the capability to notify the fleet manager or the cloud as we have a complete backend cloud solution as well.
If you see the whole application, most of the intelligence and probing is running on the device which means we need heavy storage for maintaining the processing capability of the device. We are using 64GB to 128GB SanDisk SD cards for storage. The reason why we are mainly focusing on 64 and 128 GB together with the WDC team is because only WDC has automotive grade devices. Having a reliable storage on this device in an automotive application is extremely important because all the data is stored locally. Connectivity to the cloud and transfer to the cloud happens only when there is any specific event detected by the algorithms and the AI that running on the device. You have all the data that is being accumulated on the device, and of course, the more data you have it takes a longer duration to backup.
For example, sometimes customers want to watch the recording of an incident that happened 4 days ago, they can log in to the device remotely from the cloud and access the storage from this SD card. It explains the importance of storage on the device. So, we are working closely with SanDisk because they are the only ones in the market providing auto grade reliability. If you use normal SD cards, there is a lot of memory corruption and loss of data issues, especially when you build business models that run around data storage.
Dibyoshnata: Considering the poor infrastructure in India, does Netradyne’s technology solutions focus on the Indian customers as well?
Teja Gudena: The technology that we have developed is universal in nature. It is all about giving the right training for the data in the localized market. So currently we are focusing in US & Indian market. In USA, we have a good number of commercial customers. We already have 15 commercial fleet customers and another 25 fleet customers are at advanced stages of trial. It is challenging to teach algorithm to the machine in the Indian market with the Indian driving conditions, but it is not impossible. Therefore, we are working with fleet companies, share- passenger companies and OEMs in India. Continuous trials and teaching of the algorithm in the Indian local market is taking place and it will ultimately fetch better performance in terms of reducing traffic violation and road accidents as well as others issues.
In short, we are at the stage of advance trial and we are actively expanding our customer base in India. Most of our Indian customers are showing interest in advanced driving assistance system.
Dibyoshnata: What data analysis service do you provide to stakeholders?
Vivek Tyagi: We don’t analyse the customer’s data because it is their proprietary data. Basically, we provide reliable and efficient data storage devices to them. Our products are often designed, tested and developed for various applications so that they provide optimum performance to the customers. For example, the device used by the autonomous vehicle in North America might have to undergo harsh temperature from -40- 80 degree Celsius. Our flash memory used in these vehicles is capable of operating in such harsh environments. So, most of our efforts are around providing data storage services to customers in different conditions. However, we don’t provide any analytics service.
Dibyoshnata: There is a tremendous rise in demand for memory card and price shoot due to a shortage of card in the market, so what could be the reason behind it?
Vivek Tyagi: It is a fundamental principle of Economics when demand is higher the price also increases, and every industry undergoes this phenomenon.
However, the reason could be the huge volume of data that is being generated today. In past, there were no high-resolution cameras or smartphones with multiple applications and therefore there was low demand. But nowadays, the use of cloud and storage has increased due to a new trend. Similarly, from the perspective of enterprise, they did not use to store the data for long periods of time but nowadays they store all that data so as to take critical & effective decision in later phases or whenever necessary. Enterprises store the useful information or data and then run analytics to create a meaningful pattern so as to improve their business operation. Infact individuals also store the data for back- up or as archives. In the same way, nearly 2 billion smartphones are sold annually across the world and researchers have revealed that internal memory of these smartphones is being doubled every year. Thus, the need for storage is increasing worldwide.