Friday, December 23, 2011

Minimizing cellphone radiation impact

Newspapers and online reports have been see-sawing when it came to concluding on whether mobile radiation is harmful to the human body or not. Every successive report concluded contrary to the previous one.

However now with the Indian government mandating that all mobile phones should carry a radiation tag, it is but an implicit admission that the government believes in the threat that mobile radiation poses to the masses.
Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR) and Radio Frequency (RF) waves are two sources of radiation from mobile devices. While exposure to EMR radiation can be minimized by usage of hands free devices, RF radiation is more pervasive. Current international norms prescribe an upper limit of 1.6 watts/kg. Termed SAR – Specific Absorption Rate, a measurement for the rate at which body tissue absorbs RF radiation, the new government mandate requires all new mobile phones sold in India to
  1. Mention the SAR for the handset in the mobile phone and accompanying manual
  2. Provide hands free sets along with the mobile phones compulsorily.


It is commendable that the government is bringing in some regulation into the massive mobile phones market; especially regulation that will have a direct bearing on the health of millions of Indians for whom mobile communication has altered lifestyles like nothing before.  This is so also in light of the fact that advanced economies like USA have had problems converting something as simple as this into law – Read the tussle between San Francisco and CTIA (Cellular Telephone Industries Association)

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Skype comes with Facebook integration

Arranging for a school reunion can be an uphill task. However with technology, a lot of it has been simplified.

Everyone is on Facebook and getting the message across is quick and simple. Publishing an event on Facebook and creating an event page to generate the necessary conversations and hence the build up to the event is naturally taken care of. Top of mind recall is ensured when members “Like” or “Share” comments. Photo sharing, file sharing are all enabled.

One thing that came up was the request by section of buddies who could not attend in person but nonetheless wanted to interact with the rest of the gang who had gathered at the venue. We decided to go with video chat session to enable this and were pleasantly surprised that Skype, the tool we choose now allows you to integrate with Facebook friends. Perfect complement to our event organization tools on the same site.

Now this should get you back to using Skype if you had shifted briefly to other tools, including Google+ Hangouts.

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Blogger and Google+ unite

Google has decided to unite Blogger and Google+ profiles. When I logged into my Blogger profile today, I had a message at the top of the page asking me if I wish to combine my Blogger profile with Google+. This would enable Google+ to automatically pick up my updates on the blogger blogs and broadcast them to my circles. However, 30 days into this option, my blogger profile would get deleted and the Google+ profile would become the de-facto profile for Blogger too.

While I signed up to see the effect of this union, I am not yet sure if I would crave for a separate blogger profile…Only time will tell

What has been your experience?
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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Karnataka CM goes Live

In a first in India, Karnataka CM Mr. Sadananda Gowda has installed cameras at both his office and home workplace which will stream live video to the web viewable from this link.

The facility would be extended to the offices of ministers in a phased manner as many of his Cabinet colleagues had shown interest in adopting the technology to bring in transparency. Presently, people can only watch the video of his offices. The plan is to make audio and video available over smart phones too.


Currently being one way, the initiative intended to promote transparency will only be a live darshan of the politicians. While commendable, this is not going to serve any meaningful purpose. The next versions would have to be to promote live video enabled chats through this system to address citizen concerns. Fixed slots in a week would enable people join the chat from their homes, look at responses posted to other people’s queries, raise questions, get assurances, etc. I would even like to see the BangaloreOne centers across the city to double up as the hotspots from where people without access to the Internet or the ones on the move should be able to join in one of these frequent sessions. Steps like these would redefine transparency.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Smart cities have smart apps following them

With Bengaluru getting the Namma Metro service enabled and luxury Volvo buses riding the streets, smart apps for the smart devices carried by Bangaloreans are opening up.

Programmers and free lance coders are busy churning out  Apple/Android market places apps that seek to help the citizens know their infrastructure and connectivity options. A total of 249 apps turn up on the Android marketplace just for Bangalore.

Namma Metro and Bangalore Metro navigator are two popular ones that have recorded close to 500 downloads till date. There are apps for the bus transit system too. Bangalore City Transit along with four others are seeing traction.
      
While the initial version of apps are pretty much statIc renderings of publicly available information, it does seem to have served the purpose of opening up the eyes of the administration officials. They have started realizing the power of the dissemination that these apps possess and are looking at co-building apps in the future along with these free-lancers. The intention is also to have future versions of the apps become more interactive and user friendly.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mobile Charging as a Service

Today’s Hindu had a news item that amazed me. The mobile revolution has engulfed everybody in its throes. So much so that even people in the slums of big cities have felt the transforming power of a mobile phone touch them.

However, what they have not been able to get is the access to the power lines to charge their mobiles. Harish Hande, a Magsaysay award winner and solar expert says that he has seen “pay-and-charge-your-mobile” facilities in operation in slums. A full charge up of the mobile costs about Rs. 5. Charging 8 times on a average over a month means, slum dwellers set aside Rs. 40 every month to keep their mobiles operational.

While I salute the person who identified this not so evident need and created a small business around it, we need to seriously contemplate on the state of things where people do not have access to basic stuff of civilized world like power lines.


Source: The Hindu


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Friday, November 04, 2011

Online presence for SMBs a click away

Choose your ".in" domain name, create your website using easy self help online tools and get the website hosted - all for free upto 1 year - A Google initiative to get the SMB segment in India carve out an online presence too. All an entrepreneur needs to do is log into http://www.indiagetonline.in/

While this news announced late last year should cheer up the SMB segment, the underlying attempt by Google is to inspire an online presence for Indian SMBs. Ad-revenue will be Google's take away, for SMBs, the growth of Indian internet should be all the more reason to get onboard.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aadhar UIDAI Project Clearing Myths

Aadhar mass enrollment drive is in full swing at pockets across the country. Associated with it is also a whole set of myths and rumors that are doing the rounds leading to chaos at the enrollment centers. The last I heard from my native in central Karnataka was that of people queuing up at the Aadhar centre (as if there is no tomorrow)  at 2:00 in the afternoon for an enrollment session the next day. Along with it the rationing by the government peon who selects the first 50 and asks the remaining to try the next day. Throw in fist fights, proxy queuing and  abuses and it does not paint a rosy picture.

When I asked why this mad rush, the people told me everything except the facts...Some gathered below are
  1. This will replace the ration card.
  2. After first 2000 people, rest will not be given Aadhar numbers till next year.
  3. You will not be allowed to vote in the election.
  4. Banks will close your savings account if you do not give them Aadhar number.
  5. You can't file taxes with PAN alone; you will need Aadhar.
Everything so far from the truth....

Here below is an attempt at separating the facts from fiction. I have drawn this from the official UIDAI site
Aadhar is …
Aadhar is NOT…
A number (12 digits)
Another card
For every individual, including infants
One per family
Enables identification
For establishing citizenship
Is only for Indians
Collects demographic and biometric data (10 fingerprints and iris scan) to establish uniqueness
Collects profiling information such as case, religion, language
Voluntary
Mandatory / Compulsory
For every resident irrespective of existing documentation
Only for individuals having some identification
One individual à One ID
Individual can obtain multiple IDs
UIDAI will establish a universal identification structure that can be used by banks, passport office, ration card, etc
Going to replace all other IDs
UIDAI will only give a “YES” or “NO” response for any query from banks/passport/etc regarding identification
UIDAI will share all collected information with all public institutions


 
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Blue Sky Thinking - Aakash Tablet

Aakash an Android-based tablet designed and developed by DataWind has been unveiled by the Indian government as a low cost but full functioning device in order to attempt to bridge the digital divide.

Manufactured in India, Aakash is primarily to serve as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content. The actual price of Akash tablet is 2250 ($45), but Govt will be subsidizing the student tablets and provide it at rate of  1750 ($35)
Now I hear a lot of head shaking by naysayers who point out the "unworthy" hardware specs, the lack of access to the open Android App marketplace for now, no ability to access GPRS/3G Internet, etc. The point being missed out is 2
  1. Strength of the specs is relative to the audience the device is intended for - If the device has been intended as a entry level tablet for millions of not so well to do Indian students with an attempt to allow them access to the world's digital knowledge at their fingertips at a fraction of the cost of what other market devices are priced at, then it is an objective very well met.
  2. There is always a first; copycats with all kinds of features and add-ons will follow suite - A ground  breaking device like Aakash (it has broken ground not on the technology front, but on the social front) will always have hiccups before field usage data regarding the tablet will flow back into the industry for other players to improve and enter the low cost market. And what better market to test such a device than India?

 What do you think? Is Aakash a worthwhile attempt?

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Monday, October 17, 2011

4G rollout on the heels of 3G

Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries today announced plans to launch a 4G based highspeed braodband wireless services across the country in 2012.

Now you may be wondering what 4G is all about. We had 2G for a long time, then 3G was promised for a long time and we got it just a few days back and now 4G is already beckoning. While 4G is the evolutionary next step, what it effectively does is make blur the differences between regular phone networks and data packet networks. Here's a mini primer..
  1. 4G will rollout an all IP based hi-speed mobile broadband.
  2. Dedicated line connections between two people conversing will be a thing of the past. Everything will be data packet based.
  3. High speed ultra broadband will be available on a wireless mode to mobiles, tablets and all forms of smart devices.
  4. 3 technologies form the core of 4G backbone: Mobile WiMax, HSPA+ and LTE (Long Term Evolution)
  5. Max speed in 3G networks that has been acheived is 28Mbits/sec for downloads. 4G networks will usher in a 1Gbit/sec speeds and 100Mbits/sec will become a routine.
  6. Since every device in a 4G network has a IP, there will be a seamless handover as the user moves across cells
  
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Monday, October 10, 2011

One Nation - One Number - One Rate

Come January and you might be able to

  1. Enjoy same rate calling across the country.....Roaming charges will be dead.
  2. You will be able to retain the same mobile number across the country i.e MNP will be made possible across telecom circles and not just operators withing same circle as is the case now.
  3. Browse and surf the internet at blazing fast speeds.
As per the new draft telecom policy introduced by Union Telecom minister Kapil Sibal, all this should be finalized by December 2011. There are also a few service provider initiatives aimed at market consolidation.

While these would usher in happy times for consumers, it would also mean a mini social revolution.

  • For starters, imagine living with one number you might want to carefully choose when you get your first mobile connection. You need not change it for life !!
  • If that is true, I am sure the next big craze that will catch up is to take in a number that reflects your name, surname, place, etc. Say, my number could be +91-xxxxx-84529 (84529 corresponds to VIJAY on the mobile keypad)
  • A person's verified mobile number might also be accepted identity proof if proper regulations are framed.
  • Mobile payments may be ushered in faster with banks tying in your credit history to your mobile number.
  • Rules might be ushered in by the government making it hard to get more than 1 mobile number assigned to 1 person.
  • How about "Work from Home" or even "Work from Home Town" becoming a reality with flat calling charges and blazing fast internet available?
  • How about Indian Facebook users jumping ship to Google+ just to enjoy the Community Video chat facility that is now possible due to faster internet speeds?
  • Piracy of CDs drops but illegal online sharing of media content rises?


Time will tell what predictions will come true....What more of such things can you think of?

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Moving back to Silicon City of India

My blogs have seen no updates for the last 1 month. Don't worry...I am not shutting them down yet. Not anywhere in the near future.

I have shifted my base from Chennai to Bangalore and hence the lack of updates in the midst of my transit and settling down.

A lot of interesting things have transpired on field that I will blog about in the days to come. Keep waiting for the updates to start flowing soon....Keep reading and commenting !!
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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Tech upgrade for Indian politicians

A not so usual piece of news caught  my eye over the weekend. A report that stated that the Indian government had initiated lessons to the parliament members on how to use tablets computers to increase productivity.

It said, “Each of the 790 lawmakers, many of whom are elderly, has been granted 50,000 rupees ($1,000) to invest in one of the devices in an attempt to tackle India's infamously laborious red tape

image

In the backdrop of the anti corruption drive that is sweeping the country, this move should do a world of good to our politicians. Hope we see reduced paperwork to get laws passed in the parliament for starters

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Angry Anna Fights Corruption

I was waiting for some game around the Anna Hazare led protests to make a splash. What came out was beyond even my imagination. An Angry Birds inspired Angry Anna Game…Conceptualized by Geek Mentors, a Noida based gaming group, the game has 4 levels only and is more to help inspire people to take up the cause.

angry_anna

Let me stop ranting and let you experience the game at AngryAnna.com

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Commercialism piggybacking on Anti Corruption movement?

I was a little perplexed when an odd looking ad jumped at me while browsing the Times of India website. It was a Google ad where an online retailer InkFruit was promoting a brand of T-shirt by latching onto the frenzy generated by the Anti Corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. For a moment I was aghast that somebody could be so brazenly commercial.

InkFruit - JokePal LokPal Bill Tees1

I followed the link and what I found had me divided in opinion. The advertised T-Shirt was a mockery of the Government’s version of the LokPal Bill. On the front the Tee proclaims that it is a “Bad Joke, Pal”. On the rear the Tee actually lists educates the reader on a few highlights of the government’s version of LokPal.

InkFruit - JokePal LokPal Bill Tees

So what is InkFruit upto? Taking part in the social cause in a innovative way or is it a quick money minting scheme. Not everything seems to be black and white. What do you feel?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

College Students turn Wikipedia contributors

College of Engineering, Pune and Wikipedia announced recently that they are entering into a partnership where 843 students from the college would be trained by the Wikipedia India team and would in turn contribute to the crowd sourced encyclopedia movement that is Wikipedia.

As part of this initiative, mechanical, electrical, electronics and telecommunication, production, computer, information technology, and mathematics branch students would undergo a 6 month course following which they would need to contribute to the website. They would be given internal marks for these assignments.

WikiMedia, the arm of Wikipedia that is spearheading such initiatives in US and India plans to rope in 3 other colleges in Pune under the aegis of this program namely Symbiosis School of Economics, SNDT Women’s University and Modern College of Engineering.

I think this augurs well for Wikipedia where India specific information is low on content and quality. A lot of common India specific searches do not list Wikipedia among the top 10/20 results. While crowdsourcing is good, a lot of times crowd sourcing also is a time consuming event. Focused efforts over six months by student groups like this would propel Wikipedia quickly up the value chain for information seekers.

To give the reader an idea of areas where Wikipedia falls short, here are two queries I ran on Google. One search was on “Kannada literature personalities” where the Wikipedia entry came 5th and the other search was on “top b schools in India” where Wikipedia did not figure in the first result page at all.

wikipedia listed results for India - Part 1

wikipedia listed results for India - Part 2

Aspects like these are what the Wikipedia team plans to change and also as these students join main stream society they would be torch bearers for movements like Wikipedia. An interesting way by Wikipedia to cover a country as diverse as India and also to create a pool of WIki contributors

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

IBM’s Lessons for Indian IT Majors

Mark Dean, the Chief Technology Officer for IBM’s Middle East and Africa operations writes a piece that beautifully captures some succinct points that also serve as handy lessons that would augur well for the IT/ITES companies in India

Be Decisive when it comes to change: If you are at the vanguard of an emerging technology trend that seeks to displace your existing bread and butter business, you should seriously contemplate moving over to the new business; all the more so if your current revenue earning business is already a red ocean with lots of competition cutting into your profit margins.

IBM did this when they decided consciously to exit the PC business and sell of the entire division to Lenovo. Though this came for much criticism then, it gave IBM legroom to focus resources on newer areas.

Constant Transformation: IBM has been synonymous with change and it is characterized by its survival across multiple upheavals along its evolution. Be it the switch from Mainframe to PC business or the switch from being a systems integrator to taking on global IT services for customers or the exit from the PC business – IBM has been constantly reinventing itself.

Something that will be of immense interest to a lot of Indian IT majors like TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Patni, Mindtree, Cognizant, etc., for whom the need to diversify their revenue sources, focus on non-linear growth, move up the value chain are all big ticket challenges they need to solve to reinvent themselves

Elevate the Game: IBM’s Smarter Planet is a strategy that it adopted 3 years back and all their efforts are towards solving the larger challenges of mankind on the planet. It motivates the employees given that whatever they do is directly impacting the quality of life on the planet.

This positioning itself elevates IBM to a different level compared to peers. It is as though they have invented a blue ocean out of nowhere.

Be on the lookout for the next big thing: IBM with its Smarter Planet drive has focused on a few technologies that it is putting its bet on. Big Data crunching, Machine to Machine (M2M) are a few that are being closely researched on by the technology behemoth. Again cloud computing, miniaturization, cognitive computing are all emerging areas that should be on the radar of Indian IT companies not just from the perspective of immediate customer needs, but also to help themselves drive to become the vanguard in these nascent spaces.

History is replete with examples where eventually such vanguard positions helped companies make the switch. A missed opportunity was the app ecosystem around smart devices. The wave of change came so suddenly that companies had missed the opportunity even before they could contemplate studying it further. iPhone appstore, Android marketplace or the Google Chrome webstore is teeming with startups or individuals who have populated these stores with apps.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

6 Top Google Chrome Apps for Kids

Google Chrome is my personal favorite displacing Firefox since August of last year. While the slick minimalistic interface was a turn on, what really has got me tied down is the Google Chrome WebStore. The apps available for productivity benefits, fun, lifestyle are all great, my strongest recommendation would be the Kids related apps.

I am sure a lot of readers of this blog will have kids/nephews/nieces between 2 and 10 years of age. Google Chrome opens up a whole new world for kids right from the comfort of the browser. I strongly suggest you open up this new world to them.

6 of my favorite (or should I say, my daughter’s favorite’s ) are
Chrome_webstore_kids


Rubbish BooksA kids book site that allows for the pages to be flipped as though in a real book. With 3 characters namely Patrick, Aarty and Kevin being central, each story is told vividly via brightly colored pictures and bold fonts that kids will find it easy to read. 
rubbish_books
I read out the sentence in English to my daughter and then translate the sentence to her in a language and context she can relate to to the picture being shown on the page. The best part of all – she loves the page flipping effect that she insists on doing herself using the mouse.


Coloris: A cool coloring site that teaches kids the art of colors as well as the art of handling the mouse.
coloris
While the emphasis is not on making clean brush strokes, it is more on assigning a color to each segmented zone in a outlined picture. The app also allows parents or elders to post the colored picture to Facebook or other photo sites.


In the Nick of Rhyme: A cool app that teaches kids the fun in identifying words that rhyme.
in_the_nick_of_rhyme
A superman like character drops in dramatically and asks a kid what he has lost. The kid mentions an object and suggests it might be on the roof. The superman character then goes to fetch it and discovers that there is no object as mentioned by the kid. He then decides to bring back the object that rhymes with the object the kid mentioned. The app then prompts us to select the rhyming object….
My kid still loves it for the dramatic drop effects of the superman, The rhyming concept is something that will take some time before my 2 year old starts appreciating it.


Kidoz TV: Another cool YouTube powered app that aggregates the best of kid content from across YouTube and provides a safe video streaming session.
kidozTV
An absolute must to keep a kid occupied for several hours.


Kid Mode for Chrome: A favorite of my daughter. This is like the window to a whole lot of kids websites liked up under one common interface. You do not need to bookmark or remember a whole lot of kids websites.
KidMode_for_Chrome
The Kid Mode comes bundled and pre-configured to deliver the best and popular kids games, flash content, puzzles, etc. through its all encompassing interface.


Sesame Street: Sounds around the Town: A noisy app but a delightful one. Kids get to see different noise generating sources like animals, man made objects, etc. passing by the street. Kids get the moving characters to stop and make some noise every time they press on the keyboard.
sounds_around_town
My daughter loves it so much that her computer session starts and ends with this app

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

India–A Geek Nation Unfurling

A chance stumbling of an interesting piece of non-fiction from a Indian origin British author Angela Saini got me interested. Titled “Geek Nation – How Indian Science is Taking Over The World”, the book focuses on theme of India on the path to achieving technological supremacy over the next few decades.

The author has meticulously gathered nuggets of information during the course of personal travel across India, meetings with scientists, researchers across the nation that has left her convinced that India is on a fast track to becoming a Geek Nation. She also corroborates her findings with regular reports that we hear - bastions of technology like IT where India is the go-to destination, cutting edge research, top notch educational institutes, the amount of doctors and engineers the country’s colleges churn out each year, the geeky Indian kids who form an essential part of any class in nations like USA and UK

Recommend you to read an interview of the author here conducted by FastCompany

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Can Indian IT/ITES digest the US Govt. Credit Rating Downgrade?

Quite a debate provoking question I should say, given the passion with which a few colleagues of mine were enlisting points supporting both sides. One thing is certain, It is an epochal event that will have a say on all aspects that adorn the sidelines of progress.

Short Term Impact: I would say none or minimal, purely because the credit rating downgrade is for the US government and not of a particular corporation or a segment of industries. A lot of US companies are doing well and have cash heavy chests. (Read Apple has more cash than US government and Microsoft has higher credit rating than U.S. government). The second report also mentions 3 other companies namely Exxon Mobile, Johnson & Johnson, Automatic Data Processing (ADP) with AAA credit rating. Their spending will continue without any short term slamming on the brakes. This augurs well for the Indian IT/ITES industry.

Long Term Impact: This will depend to a large extent on how the 2nd generation economic reforms are pushed through in India. If the government chooses to take advantage of the prevailing global economic situation and unleash the 2nd generation of economic reforms quickly, FDI and FII might be tempted to reallocate their portfolio of funds in favor of India. This will also drive up IT/ITES activity by creating strong domestic as well as non-US demand. Today, the USA is the biggest consumer of IT/ITES services from India. This will have to balance out with demand coming from other areas too. Government itself can fuel this in a huge wave via the e-governance wave that can usher in more IT/ITES centric projects like Aadhar (Biometric Identity System for citizens).

The other side of the story is what the US government might do in wake of this development. While the pressure to internally create jobs has been fierce on the Obama administration, the market forces seem bent on looking in the opposite direction. There will be no quick pill for ailing Uncle Sam, but if the government starts a drive to set right the fundamentals, we might see a resurgent US over the next 2-3 decades with core R&D work still being retained in-house (in complete contrast to what I claimed in the post India’s 2nd moment of reckoning…) and Indian IT/ITES companies having to pursue other channels to move up the value chain and expand business

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