Mac OS X El Capitan installed today – What a breeze

October 1, 2015

I installed Mac OS X El Capitan today (released globally on September 30, 2015) October 1, 2015 (IST 8 PM)

It was such a breeze

The Spotlight feature and the San Francisco font are the ones tat strike me (First impressions)

More as I get to play around

Future of IT in India

September 28, 2015

Future of IT

 

The question “What is the future of IT?” has assumed significance today; this is particularly pertinent in India; as IT industry has arguably created the largest number of jobs in the organized sector in the past fifteen years. With the slowing down of job creation in this sector, there is even more curiosity. Let me first assure the readers that the future of IT continues to remain bright and job creation will continue in this sector for at least another decade. This is due to the following four key factors

  1. IT will continue to transform industry after industry
  2. Apps will be the main delivery vehicle for IT application delivery
  3. IT will organize the unorganized sectors, particularly in India
  4. Indians are starting to solve India’s problems

Let me elaborate the four factors

  1. IT will continue to transform industry after industry

We have already witnessed the way multi-function printers transformed the office automation industry; digital cameras changed the face of photography; e-mail, Web and mobile phones changed airline ticketing; and, the World Wide Web transforming the way banking and publishing industry function today. At the core of all these transformation is “digitization”. While the foregoing examples illustrate the transformation of an industry, the next stage is the transformation of entire business processes across several industries and the resultant benefits to consumers. Naturally, IT application development will continue to be in demand leading to top-line growth of IT companies and the resultant job creation opportunities.

Example: With more than 100,000 employees undertaking 2.5+ Lakhs travels in a year leading to 75 Lakhs bills, the in-house travel department in Wipro was an “efficient” organization of 700 professionals. With an in-house App that captures all the bills across transportation (airline, train, taxi), hospitality (hotels, restaurants) and services (Visa, toll) industries, the resultant “digitization” could lead to a super-efficient travel department with just twenty employees!

  1. Apps will be the main delivery vehicle for IT application delivery

Application delivery, maintenance and upgrades have remained the mainstay of the outsourced IT services industry that benefits countries like India. Such services are built around Web-based client (typically running on Desktop / Laptop PC). With the widespread availability of smartphones and mobile networks and the location-based services that utilize GPS and GIS, Apps can identify the user and the location leading to a far-better application delivery than what a simple Web-based application can provide. Coupled with superior interfaces including touch, local scripts and voice that are possible with today’s powerful smartphones that are always connected and mostly “personal” devices, services can be targeted to specific consumers leading to a superior user interaction. Also, Apps-based delivery can be regularly improved with “over the air” update that makes such improvements hassle-free to the end customer. Since Apps development is accessible to people with varied skills (not needing an CS Undergraduate degree or MCA), there is a potential for much-larger job creation; much of the new jobs creation might happen in the next generation nimble start-ups and not limited to the biggie IT services companies.

Example: FlipKart is generating 75% of its traffic from Mobile App; MakeMyTrip and GoIndigo find 50% of their travel booking happens over their App. ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank find that much of their online banking transactions happen over Mobile Apps. Myntra shifts completely to Mobile App in May 2015; FlipKart is planning a similar move.

  1. IT will organize the unorganized sectors, particularly in India

The first generation of e-commerce companies like Amazon focussed on the “first mile” – consumers finding goods and services providers and ordering them on 24×7 basis with the convenience of their homes. Over the years, the backend supply chains improved dramatically. Users could get convenience of ordering, enormous of choice of goods and services, better prices and even near immediate supply, thanks to improvements across the supply chain. Along the way, companies like Amazon in USA and FlipKart in India could get the benefit of such dramatic improvements to even SME sector; in the process, organizing the unorganized sectors. It is impacting retail, travel, hospitality, healthcare and many other sectors.

Example: Uber started in San Francisco, USA and over the years disrupting the taxi-haling experience across the world. Ola and TaxiForSure in India are extending it to Auto-rickshaws too. In the process, personal transport industry is getting organized from individual divers to small-sized taxi operators (with 1 to 100 taxis) to mammoth-size operation involving tens of thousands of taxis spread across 100+ cities. With mobile payment maturing, AADHAR getting more acceptance and biometric authentication built into entry-level smartphones, companies like Ola with fundamentally change the way next generation will view car ownership.

 

  1. Indians are starting to solve India’s problems

 

The generation of Indians who went to United States and other countries in the West for higher studies in the 60’s and 70’s contributed to the development of Science & Technology that largely solved problems of the West. The generation of IT entrepreneurs of the 80’s and the last two decades created Indian IT Services companies, which largely benefited the corporations and consumers in the West. In the past five years, a whole new generation of companies are using IT to solve India’s problems – urban transport (RedBus for organizing bus transit, Ola and TaxiForSure for organizing taxi / auto-rickshaws), retail (Myntra, FlipKart), Healthcare (Portea, DoctorC, Practo), hospitality (Oyo Rooms, HolidayIQ), payment systems (PayTM), food delivery in train (TravelKhana, ) etc., and even India-specific opportunities (OnlinePanditji, OnlinePrasad, Bharat Matrimony).

To me this is perhaps the best part of IT; the future of IT is to transform India; and in that sense, IT is fulfilling the promise Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapayee talked of in 1999 – IT being “India’s Tomorrow”!

Professor Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan is the Director of IIIT-Bangalore. These are his personal views. He can be reached at ss@iiitb.ac.in

Appeared in September 28, 2015 Special Issue of New Indian Express

Apple event on September 9, 2015 – the most important take away

September 12, 2015

On September 9, 2015 Apple held its special event. Many product announcements were made, the notable being, iPad Pro and newer versions of iPhone 6S (and 6 Plus S), and Apple TV. But to me the most important one is the fact that the very first Demo in the event was made by Microsoft, showing off its MS Office made for iPad Pro; it was followed by Adobe Demo.

Microsoft and Adobe had their finest software products running on Apple hardware for ages. In between things were different; iPhone being a huge success while Microsoft Mobile being a huge failure and Adobe Flash getting bad mouthing by Apple rather publicly.

With Microsoft and Adobe embracing Apple hardware in the open, the users are much better off.

For the past one year the best experience I have is the e-mail reading experience; Gmail from Google on iPhone from Apple using Microsoft Outlook (Accompli).

What users finally want is such brilliant combinations; hopefully we are getting there!

 

Analytics – a personal perspective

January 17, 2015

To me analytics has been around for long

In the 70’s

Airlines were “computerised” way back; I flew in 1976 from Madras to Chicago using a “computerised” ticket!

Out of the Airline computerisation came “planned overbooking” – Airlines found a “pattern” – last minute cancellation peaking on weekends but near zero on Monday morning

Simply the weekend effect and Monday morning catch up; thanks to data stored on tapes they could estimate with near 100% confidence, possible “cancellations” and introduced “planned overbooking”

It helped Airlines and passengers – but not scaleable – at best 20 Airlines in USA and may be 200 in the globe (at least then)

in the 80’s

Any Data mining book would give the example of another “pattern” – men in 20’s & 30’s picking up Diapers AND Beer cans on Friday evenings; by putting them together they could increase sales

Something that can be scaled to thousands of stores

In the 90’s

ATM switches could see a pattern of “unlawful” ATM withdrawals; by people who “stole” ATM PINs from unsuspecting customers

This was scaleable to millions as ATM base was nearly a million

 

Starting 90’s

data mining software could “discover” pattern; for example,

using software “IIMB student store data” could throw out a pattern; 89% of purchases happened in 2 days!

Everyone knew that most students purchased their items (tooth paste or pencils) for the full 3 month term;

the discovery was the extent 89% it is better to ask some stores to put a “window” twice a year rather than running a store all thru the year!

That is “discovery” and the area was called Knowledge Discovery; even today KDDI is the Conference for data mining!

 

What is possible today is to use Analytics to “disrupt” an industry c

For example, an industry called taxi hailing is getting disrupted right before our eyes; our own TaxiForSure is doing in for Autos in Bangalore since yesterday!

Uber started it in SFO 5,6 years back

Thanks to GPS, Smart phones, Google Maps, you can bridge the “information asymmetry

For example 90% of the time a cab / auto driver has a customer within 100 feet, but the driver does not know;

Similarly, 90% of the time there is a taxi / auto within 100 feet but the customer does not know!

 

If this asymmetry can be “managed”, we can reduce the number of taxi / auto on the road by 30%

 

We can do similar exercise for buses, ambulances, fire engines,… as well as doctors and hospitals, patients and nurses, … the list can go on

 

That I think is the real power of Analytics

 

(My Pep talk on the Inauguration of 3rd “Analytics Program” (Continuing Education Program) @ IIIT-Bangalore on January 17, 2015)

Information systems have the potential to “transform” business

March 9, 2014

It is important for B School students focussing on IT (Computing & Information Systems) to think “out of box” and go beyond minor improvements  (Though they are important); here are three cases where IT changed the very face of the industry!

 

1 OTIS Elevators thru its OTIS ONLINE in mid 80’s, could predict elevator failure and alert the mechanic in time before the failure was noticed by the end customer; in the process, creating “elevators that never fail”

2 Southwest Airlines could look at the very core of every business process, and, realize that the Airline ticket post full computerisation was just online copy of the record; and, with wide connectivity to end customers, thanks to Internet. by mid 90’s, one can go “ticket-less” and save money; by offering to share the benefit of cost savings, Southwest enabled majority flyers flying “ticket-less” with online tickets instead of paper tickets. By 2010, ALL Airlines moved this way and 100% electronic ticket became a reality

3 Core Banking in India changed the very notion of banking (going to a Bank Branch); in the process, Indian Banks could grow phenomenally in the period 2000-2014; all banks could offer “any branch” banking, multiple channels (Branch, Phone, Net, ATM and Mobile banking), once again changing the very face of Banking in India

(Inaugural Talk at BizEx (Business Excellence) Conference of Christ University (Mysore Road Campus) on March 8, 2014)

WhatsApp getting acquired by Facebook for a huge sum

February 21, 2014

What does it reflect?

There is a place for Simple Messaging (SMS till Whats App came on the scene)

People hate Ads, rather, love “no ads”

55 people can run a service with 450 million uses, the power of cloud!

5 years, 55 staff company can command $ 19 billion value!

HP Slate VoiceTab – First impressions

February 14, 2014

HP was kind enough to get me a new Phablet (Phone cum Tablet) – HP Slate VoiceTab. Unlike Tablets like iPad Mini, Amazon Kindle, the unit has 3G calling, making it a very useful product.

This was announced recently. It is getting launched in India today, and initially for sale in India only. When I opened the box and turned it on, I was very pleased; the phone welcomes you with Suswagatam (Welcome) in Devanagari!

The phablet is really light, though it does in no way appear flimsy. It is a really a large phone (6″ diagonally) with two SIM cards, something that the Indian users are keen. Also the phone opens very easily, for changing the battery and inserting / removing SIM cards, another important need in India. It takes ordinary and micro SIM card. I could connect to Wi-Fi, sign in with Google account and my GMail, Google Calendar and Google contacts were there, real fast. I am yet to install more Apps, but my first impression is really good.

HP is a global leader in consumer PC. I had used generations of HP Personal devices; Windows 3 Tablet in 1998; and,  Jornada  & iPaq Personal Information Manager (PIM) devices from HP in the last decade. Getting into Phablet initially, I do hope HP will start manufacturing both smart phones and Tablets in the near future. HP engineering is legendary; HP has a great service footprint across the length & breadth of the country (thanks to HP printers). If they succeed in this market, they will be hugely successful, which I hope they will be, soon. As a long time HP fan, I want HP to succeed!

Mangalyaan (India’s maiden Mars Mission) all set

December 1, 2013

Today (December 1, 2013) around 1 AM the final manoeuvre was successfully accomplished by ISRO scientists so that the space station can move off the route of circling Earth and sent on its very long (680 million km) journey to be concluded in the next 300 days

It is a moment of joy all engineers in India. ISRO with shoe-string budget (compared to NASA budget) is able to achieve a lot

It once again shows the power of focus; one hopes the powers that be (Governments) allow Scientific departments with sufficient freedom to pursue excellence. Space and Nuclear power have shown; the rest should follow (Electronics, Steel, Power, Water, Airports / Airlines, Oil & Gas, Rail, Road, Mines, Construction, Chemicals, Pharmaceuticals, Food processing engineers, if given freedom will create wonders right here!)

Network 3.0

November 28, 2013

In the first two decades (50’s to 60’s) we were busy connecting components of a computer; there was clearly no network!

In the next two decades (70’s to 80’s) we were busy connecting  computers in the form of a Network (LAN & WAN), what I call Network 1.0

In the next two decades (90’s and the past decade) we were busy connecting computers and people through the connected computers (Internet, WWW and e-mail, in the beginning and Facebook & Twitter in the recent years), what I call Network 2.0

In the current decade and the next decade we will be busy connecting things with people through the network of computers, what I call Network 3.0

Let me elaborate

There is a lot of talk today about the Internet of Things, that talks of networking many sensors, devices (Glucose meters), vehicles (cars), equipment (elevator, washing machine) in the form of Sensor networks

To me networking the things alone is not interesting until the human beings are part of the network. Let me use some examples to illustrate

1 In the past few years Indian users are pleasantly surprised to get an SMS alert when a cheque that they sent for payment got encashed; no need for them to login to their account and check the transaction (which is better than going to Bank branch). Suddenly, they found that the Net is monitoring their activities without they having to monitor. Bank computerisation is not new, particularly in the International scene, but such SMS alerts are new! Similar is the case when a flight is delayed or your Wait-listed ticket on Indian Railways has moved to “Confirmed” status, if you book the tickets through an intermediary like MakeMytrip. Here the thing that talks to the users is a “cheque” or a “ticket” transaction.

2 With barcoded tags tracking luggage pieces in Airports, it is perfectly possible for users to get notified thru SMS when Inter-line (between two flights or two Airlines) transfer takes place, particularly in an inter-continental flight; the infrastructure is there, but the systems are not integrated enough to make it possible. Such networking of things “relieves” the users of constantly monitoring (some time leading to worrying) about things. Here the things are static objects like “luggage bags

3 A still more interesting situation that makes immense sense is for the “network of things” to include devices, equipment, complex machinery that are dynamic in nature. Take for example, the case of HP printer; for many years one has to know about “out of paper” or “paper jam” only the hard way; later printers got equipped with display one could get a “message display”; later, the printer status could be shown on PC screen. A more tricky situation is the “ink cartridge status”; suddenly on a day that one wants an urgent print out, the ink would have gone dry, causing sufficient inconvenience. Later, software to monitor the “Ink cartridge status” let users check once in a while (say every Sunday) the status; but these days the printers have become much smarter; they constantly monitor the ink status and “flash a message” and “alert” the user when the “ink level” is “20% or 10%”! In fact a similar service is available on “battery level” of wireless keyboard and mouse on Apple iMac. Extending the idea, one can have systems that monitor your car, elevator, plane, pacemaker etc. Using the notion of “geo-fencing” that lets one check the proximity of an object with a specific location, thanks to GPS equipped smartphone, one can track the location of a patient, visitor, object or a device. The applications are endless

What would mean for a country like India?

We misuse human beings to do very routine things like traffic control, surveillance, cleaning sewer pipes, meter reading etc. All these can be done much better and the human beings can be relieved to attend to work that can be more meaningful to them and to improve the quality of life for others. For example, automatic switching on and off electric poles would relieve the chore for several hundreds of corporation employees who can be deployed to take care of citizens needing care (children, elderly or physically challenged). That is where I see the potential of Network 3.o to transform India

 

China continues with No 1 position in Top 500 Supercomputers list

November 19, 2013

Announced twice a year – June in USA and November in Germany – from 1993 onwards, Super 500 List has a list of the 500 fastest computers in the world.

In the list announced on November 18, 2013, China’s Tianhe-2 with a peak performance of 33.9 Peta-flops is on the top

India had a couple of entries (with C-DAC setting the trend in 1991 and Tata Eka reaching up to 4th position in 2007), but lost out recently.

US has 252, while China has 66 entries of the total 500, while India has just 11 in the current list!