Ishan Malhotra, a high-school student in Jaipur, has invented an IoT device, the first of its kind, which can be used by farmers to remote-control water pumps with a simple phone call.
Ishan Malhotra, a 17-year-old boy from Delhi, has created a revolutionary device that helps farmers operate water pumps from anywhere with the help of their mobile phones or even landline connections.
Pluto, as the device is called, was invented by Ishan—who is a 12th grade student at the Jayshree Periwal International School, Jaipur—when he was in the 10th standard.
The idea for Pluto occurred to Ishan when he was visiting his grandmother’s old house in Sirsa, a small town in Haryana. “I spent ample time with the locals there and they told me about some of the problems they face on a daily basis,” Ishan tells Guardian 20. “They told me that every day, a farmer or any of his family members have to wake up early in the morning, having to walk to their fields just to turn on a water pump. I was flabbergasted when I heard this. I thought about the energy, the time that was being wasted on a daily basis. That was the moment when I realised that something needs to be done to help the rural farming community.”
Pluto is an IoT (Internet of Things) device that is activated with a SIM card. Once the SIM is inserted, Pluto can be linked up with the water pump’s switchboard. All one needs to do now is to make a call on Pluto’s SIM number. The device picks up the call in two rings, after which the user has to dial 1111 on the keypad to turn the water pump on. To turn the pump off, one needs to dial 2222.
Ishan has successfully manufactured and distributed over 500 Pluto devices to farmers to date, at a subsidised price of Rs 750 (Plut0’s MRP is Rs 2,000 approximately). The manufacturing process is supported by a crowdfunding campaign, run on Impactguru.com.
Ishan faced multiple challenges during the research and development phases of Pluto.
“Initially, I struggled a lot with the technical aspects. I had to ﬁnd capacitors that didn’t blow up with varying amounts of power and a mobile connection that works even in the remotest areas. As some pumps in the village are triple-phased and others are single or double-phased, we had to deliberate on which types of components we’d use, types of relays etc. We solved these problems with a lot of hit and trial. In the end, not only were we able to ﬁnd a concrete solution but we also learned a lot in this process,” he said.
Reaching out to the farmers and convincing them to use Pluto wasn’t easy either. Ishan said, “Some villages had pumps that didn’t have a proper switchboard. So we had to cut the wire and make one to connect Pluto. At some places, the farmers were reluctant to adapt to a newer technology. Different locations posed different problems.”
To gain the farmers’ trust in Rajasthan’s Nevta village, Ishan had to first install Pluto at the Sarpanch’s house. “As people saw the Sarpanch use it, they too started believing in the product. The language barrier was another problem because of which we weren’t able to explain the basics of Pluto. We had to take the help of local electricians and the youth in the village to help us advertise and get our project to the villagers,” Ishan said.
It took him about 7-8 months to build the first device. He elaborated, “During that time, I was learning about newer concepts and how to implement them at the same time. After the first piece was made with all the codes and hardware ready, making more Pluto devices wasn’t time-consuming. As I live in a hostel now, I’m not able to physically build the Pluto hardware. But yes, definitely, I keep working on improving the code and features when I think of something new. Right now, as I have entered the 12th grade, I can’t spend a lot of time on Pluto. So I am only able to spend 5-6 hours on it in a week.”
In the future, Ishan intends to popularise Pluto across North India. He also plans to hire a team of campaigners that would go from one village to another, educating farmers about the benefits
Ishan said, “I have a dream to make this device available to all the farmers of our country. I have already distributed Pluto to several farmers in different regions at a subsidised price of Rs 750. Through ImpactGuru, I have received over a lakh in funds so far. I plan to increase the number of Pluto boxes and empower a large number of farmers with the fund.”
He also plans to programme seven new regional languages into Pluto, to make the device more accessible to locals. Ishan is working on more upgrades, including a feature that will give farmers weekly updates on weather conditions in their village, as well as advance notifications on power cuts.