First, it was the Finance Minister seeking inputs from fintech startups before Union Budget 2020, now it is the Indian army adding another feather in the cap of startup ecosystem. The army has invited ten startup innovators to describe high-technology products that military could use.
At the fifth annual Army Technology Seminar (ARTECH 2019) in Delhi on Monday (December 23), the startups described products ranging from a humanoid robot that mimicked the actions of a human controller in a holographic suit, a thermal jacket made of fabric infused with graphene ink that generates heat on application of electric power to encrypted blockchain-based communications technology with multiple applications, such as Block Vote that lets soldiers on the border exercise their ballot in secret.
“136 of our over 150 problem statements issued over the last three years (in previous ARTECHs) have been responded to by academia and industry, army’s deputy chief, Lieutenant General SS Hasabnis was quoted as saying by Business Standard.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat released a “Compendium of Problem Definition Statements” which listed out specific technology challenges faced by the army. The army has asked startups to develop products which can resolve those challenges.
Additionally, Hasabnis also said that the 15 challenges the army has put out under the “Innovations for Defence Excellence” (iDEX) scheme have received an overwhelming 164 responses. Forty-four startups, which won the challenge, are provided with funding to develop the products presented by them. Last month, defence ministry had said that it aims to fund 250 startups and achieve 50 tangible innovations in the next five years and it is seeking the sanction of INR 500 Cr for the same, says the media report.
“I’m honoured to announce that 32 ‘Make 2’ projects, 16 ‘Technology Development’ projects and 13 ‘Army Technology Board’ projects have been initiated to take these solutions offered to fruition,” he added. Through the Make-2 procurement category, industry or individuals can make suo moto proposals to the army.
The Indian army is an early adopter of advanced technologies. For instance, after looking at ways to improve internet connectivity for soldiers posted in remote areas, recently, the Digital Communications Commission (DCC), a decision-making authority under the aegis of the department of telecommunications, approved the use of very small aperture terminal (VSAT) for soldiers in far-flung places.
VSAT is a two-way satellite ground station which is used in military and naval applications to improve communication in remote locations. VSAT, which transmits and receives data from satellites, is less than three meters tall and is capable of sending and receiving both narrow and broadband data to satellites in real-time. Multiple phones in a certain radius around the hub can be connected using these signals.