A major part of the Lok Sabha Elections is now completed with just a few phases, the all-important counting and the results pending. It wouldn’t be an election though, without its share of controversy. Just like in many of the state polls and the last General Elections there are a number of reports of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) tampering even though the Election Commission of India has always maintained the integrity of these two pillars of modern Indian elections.
Even as it has stood up to defend its procedures and practices, the EC has had to deal with episodes such as EVMs and VVPATs being found in hotels, homes or even on roads. These anomalies are not easily explained away or cannot be called isolated incidents. It also greatly reduces the credibility of the largest democratic elections in the world.
To eradicate any notion of tampering, the ECI has instructed vehicles transporting EVMs and VVPATs to be mandatorily equipped with IoT devices that have a GPS chip for location tracking. One company which is already supporting the ECI get the task off the ground is Letstrack. The UK-headquartered startup’s IoT with an in-built GPS tracker is helping the ECI monitor EVMs and VVPATs around the country.
The ECI has set up a control room to keep a track of the GPS locations of all the vehicles transporting EVM machines and can easily pinpoint anomalies in their route or stops. Further, the speed of the vehicle is also used as an indicator for whether it’s under duress from external elements, or engine troubles.
CEO Vikram Kumar told Inc42 that Letstrack devices have been installed in vehicles carrying EVMs and VVPATs across India. The states of Punjab and Haryana alone have around 9000 vehicles, he added. But the scale of the task is several magnitudes higher; India has over 10.3 Lakh polling booths scattered across its varied landscape. Tracking each and every one is a massive task, which is where the Letstrack solution comes in. This is especially crucial as EVMs do not have any in-built GPS mechanism. Overall the company has fixed its proprietary devices in about 25K vehicles which are ferrying EVM and VVPAT around the country, which is just about 20% of the vehicles being used by the EC.
Letstrack’s device connects to the engine and the electronic system of the car, and can also remotely disable the vehicle if the monitoring team notices anything out of the ordinary or if the driver takes an unscheduled route.
In remote areas, where there may be no internet connectivity, the device can store data for two days in an offline state and is ready to transmit this as soon as the IoT device gets the telecom reception back, Rachitta Juneja, CMO of Letstrack told Inc42.
With the GPS tracking solutions, the ECI is also reducing the number of polling stations in the telecom shadow zone i.e. where there is no cell connectivity for an extended period of time.
Letstrack Makes Rapid Strides In India
The company claims that its IoT devices cannot be hacked or tampered, and neither does it have Bluetooth functionality. Additionally, the company claims that the date can’t be transferred to any other device.
Founded by Kumar, the company claims to be able to track everything that moves, from vehicles to human beings to pets using a range of sensors inside its IoT devices. It also has a presence in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and plans to expand to 50 more countries by 2020. In order to penetrate deeper into the Indian market, the startup had raised $1.7 Mn in April in a Seed funding round from a US-based investor, James Arthur at a valuation of $17 Mn.
In India, Letstrack’s growth has rocketed by 600% in 2018. The company has invested about $2 Mn to expand its offline retail presence in India last year. Having started with 5 employees in July-August last year, Letstrack now has 120 employees in a year.
Just a three-year-old company, this is the first time that Letstrack is working with the Indian government in its election effort. Besides its IoT-based tracker for fleet operators, Letstrack also has a consumer-facing app-to-app and app-to-web mobility platform, where users can track each other’s whereabouts (after the requisite consent) for free.