Sustainability in the Digital World: Do’s and Don’ts

By Sairam Bollapragada

While the entire humankind is going ga-ga over the word Digital, there still seems to be much struggle around organizations in creating a Digital transformation blueprint/value and adopting the same quickly.

This note is an attempt to bring to table salient features of becoming Digital relevant in true spirit and deeds. Let us take the points, one after the other:

  1. Goals and Objectives: An Organization should ask itself if they have a dossier which explains to all its employees what Digital means to their business. It is not mandatory that all aspects of Digital should mean something to you. Pick the relevant ones which are critical to your business and get started on the transformational journey.

 

Organizations should get aligned to their clients (both current and potential) on how they can leverage your Digital capabilities to strike a chord with the digital needs of their clients as well. Hence the sales teams should understand the needs and current capability. In fact they should be the first agents of the change to bring to table the digital market needs and hence what we need to nourish as capability.

 

The upskilling is the next most important action. Since the entire demand is moving towards Digital, your upskilling plays a strategic role. The two cannot be misaligned considering even the short term requirements.

 

  1. Adaptability: Your strength to react to the changes in market demand is very critical if you need to be seen as the early adopters in the market . Understanding the market conditions and demand fast, acting to invest in a skilled workforce faster and be the first implementers is essence – which all sums up to reflect on how Agile you are as an organization. You may have to ruthlessly clear the clutter or legacy clingers who can become a challenge to the road to transformation. This will also help your perception in the market and make your sales teams to approach the market with that much more confidence. Unless you up your risk antennas, the conviction will be missing in your commitments. The challenges are greatest learning tools which prepare you to handle bigger commitments. Hence create a risk taking culture that thrives on innovation and experiments.

 

  1. Change Management needs to be carefully crafted out of a network of sources which should become your strongest source of drivers in enhancing your objectives of Digital transformation. Change. When inevitable has to bring in objectivity to avoid chaos. In the Digital space, it pays you richly through both internal and external partnerships. Co-creation is a critical component of this Change process. Please refer my earlier blog: https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/digital-transformation-looking-outside-for-a-change-agent/

 

  1. Congenial Work Environ: The culture of clinging and hugging often seen as threat to change, is led by folks who don’t want things to change as it reflects their insecure mind-set. Millennials must be provided a platform to bring in fresh ideas through their out of box creative minds. They don’t carry any baggage and hence you can almost always expect a fresh bag of ideas. Once you encourage such an environment, ideas will flow automatically. Let the owners of execution incubate these ideas and convert them into compelling propositions for their clientele. The more fresh ideas you take to clients, the more your probability as being perceived as a leader in the space. Remember perception management is also very critical across the ecospace. Strategic initiatives cannot be allowed to be held ransom to the feudal mind sets of folks obsessed with large teams. The question then to them is – how would you embrace the upcoming digital twins in your workforce.

 

  1. Focussed Teamwork aligned to Objectives: In the services business of annuity, we seem to understand a lot about value creation. We try and demonstrate through our PIPs (productivity improvements), CoD (Cost Of Delivery), etc. However, with the advent of Digital and Automation, the client’s expectations have gone exponentially wild compelling all service providers to think radically different. Hence the above point 4 holds that much more water. Most persons facing the client needs to come across as your digital brand ambassadors (if not all). The approaches you position to the clients should prove your thought leadership. Often the rift between what is sold and what is delivered leaves a bad taste with the clients. This is a true reflection of what lack of orchestration within the teams. Hence your need to align all the teams to speak one language of offerings-capabilities-capacities to establish credibility.

 

Last but not the least, every Digital customer is looking for uniqueness in the solution being delivered. So please be very cautious before you replay a plethora of offerings while you showcase your might.

Smart Living beyond Smart Cities – Emotion Tracking

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

If we time traveled a few years back and someone told us we would start wearing a chunky, black band on our wrist to monitor how many steps we take, our pulse and few other health stats, we might have been coming straight out of a hi-fi science fiction movie. We are there today and it’s a reality. Couple of years back Pew Trust published a report which found that 69% of adults track themselves. And, 21% use technology to do it. According to Statista, the fitness wearable’s market is expected to have a value of$19 billion USD by 2018.

emotion track

There has been no one definition of stress that everyone accepts, but still everyone acknowledges that we live in stress, one of the thoughts that ran past my mind which triggered to write this blog, can smart cities help stress free living  using technology like Google mind-reading. Maybe we can monitor the thought process and understand patterns of wary thoughts….in old age it is more the feeling of insecurity which causes the stress than anything else. Remember, when we were kids and living in joint family environment any emotion was easily caught by our parents, siblings, cousins, uncles/aunties if not any for sure by grandparents and very soon it was put to rest or given a directional correctness and we used to very soon come back to our normal self. In today’s so called modern day setup where kids live in a nuclear family often brought up either in a day care or under the supervision of a nanny, with both parents working and relatives living in different cities completely disconnected in the so called connected world…

Going beyond families, the corporates and the business are going thru a very different dimension of disruption and want to understand the customers better, what makes the customer more satisfied with their products, with their advertisements and campaigns that will trigger a right emotion to reach the product on the shelf.

Further beyond corporates and families, the healthcare practitioners have clearly understood and articulated often the impact of external forces on our bodies and mind and the way our mind and body reacts to it automatically. This automatic response developed in our ancient ancestors and exists in our genes today as a way to protect us from predators and other threats. Faced with danger, the body kicks into gear, flooding the body with hormones that elevate  palpitations, increase your blood pressure, boost your energy and prepare you to deal with the problem. These days, you’re probably not facing the same threats but similar one. But you probably do confront multiple challenges every day, such as meeting deadlines, paying bills and juggling childcare that make your body react the same way. As a result, your body’s natural alarm system — the “fight or flight” response — may be stuck. That can have serious consequences on your health.

As per the reports published by American Psychological Association 75% of people experience some or the other kind of stress daily, Approximately 1 out of 65 people may experience panic attack , 80% of workers feel stress on the job and nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress.  Alarmingly 91% of adult Australians feel stress in at least one important area of their lives, An estimated 442,000 individuals in Britain, report to experience stress and visit a professional counsellor for help, Approximately 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK due to stress factors. Geo political factors are causing a lot of stress in the MENA area and Indian medical association has reported 3 out of 4 people who visit the doctors today have aliments related to stress leading to 40% heart troubles, 44% sleep related disorders and various lifestyle diseases. India is the diabetes capital of the world.

A wearable called Feel takes the collected data and produces visualization on your phone. You can take a look at your whole day in the form of a graph and see when stress levels were peaking and what your mood was at different times. This emotion tracker also gives suggestions about what to do to reduce stress and make yourself happier, as well as provide breathing and meditation exercises to help you calm, down. You can also set long-term emotional well-being goals and receive personalized tips to be healthier and promote positivity.

Technology like feel could adapt to human emotions, using sensors, computer vision and algorithms to correctly identify the likely emotions displayed by individuals… for marketers the emotion tracking technology can enable them to predict how well their marketing assets will do. It enables them to stop campaigns and gives the knowledge to know if a given asset is even good enough to air.

Some IoT devices beyond “Feel” already available in the market can be readily used leveraging BigData for analytics and IoT Platforms to customize applications and right sizing to meet the needs are…

XOX Server and Cloud used by ad-makers or movie makers XOX servers that allow show designers and producers access to the audience’s intimate data. This is processed locally and available through an industry standard API.

The XOX Sensory Wristband system includes specially designed ergonomic wristbands that are worn on the upper wrist. Intimate data is read via a number of wearable biometric sensors.

EyeRis is a Deep learning based vision technology enables everyday devices to understand how we feel, who we are and how we perceive the environment around us. This comes with an emotionally Intelligent vision technology adds a crucial dimension to devices Contextual Awareness to support a better Ambient Intelligence. EmoVu software embeds into the environment passively to accurately identify users, understand their emotions and personalize their individual experiences via intelligent adaptive interfaces

nViso technology can be used both online and offline, it’s a cloud based system which requires no software to be installed – all that is needed is a web browser and a webcam.. 3D Facial Imaging captures and interprets emotions as they are occur, making direct measurement of emotional response easy to implement and highly scalable.

Lightwave, which calls itself an “applied neuroscience platform,” is one of several companies furiously at work creating a new field called emotional economy, focused on sensing and analyzing consumers’ mental states. This is a young start-up but a pioneering bioanalytics technology company, is in the business of tracking how we feel in these micro-moments

Apple in January 2016 bought a San Diego start-up called Emotient, which uses facial-tracking technology to identify people’s feelings while Nelisen bought Boston-based Innerscope, which combines facial-cue recognition with Lightwave-style wearables data

Affectiva is yet another company Capture people’s emotion reactions on mobile devices in real-time, using Afdex to uncover the emotional power of advertisements and media content and promoting a very new dimension of EaaS … (Emotion as a Service) offering.

Emotion tracking combined with sensor analytics is a leading trend today, quite successful with some demos and PoCs and very less practical implementation or case studies to demonstrate readily the large scale acceptance in the commercial market although there are wide verity of use cases available. The push towards Smart cities opens up a commercial opportunity for one and all involved in the pyramid to explore this wonderful feature of Emotional Tracking IoT with analytics to be integrated in every element of smart living beyond smart cites …

Smart Living… the Energy Factor!

Smart Living… the Energy Factor!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

The highest consumption rate in today’s world is of fossil fuel. The twentieth century saw a rapid 20x increase in the use of fossil. The consumption of these fossil fuels continues at a high rate which means once we have used up all of them, we need to rely on alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind and hydro power to meet our daily needs. This sounds quite scary, but yes, this is the truth. As per a research report compiled by IEA (International Energy Agency) average energy use in the last three decades grew at 10% per person per year globally.

Statistics show developing nations consume more energy compared to the developed ones while the world overall grew by 39%.

ECR

 (Data from International Energy Agency)

Industrial users (agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and construction) consume about 37%, Personal and commercial transportation consumes 20%, Residential consumption at 11%, commercial consumption stands at 5%, The other 27% of the world’s energy is lost in energy transmission and generation…

The concept of getting more awareness in developing nation is though a bigger challenge but will catapult them to become a nation better planned when developed and refrain from being in an irreversible position where you cannot change things.

There has been a veritable explosion in the number of electronics, appliances, and other miscellaneous devices plugged into, or permanently connected to the outlets in our homes that are consuming electricity every moment. The NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council) conducted a study and found that 23% of power consumption in the average household (roughly about a quarter of your electricity bill), is paid for no good reason but for the idle load electricity which is consumed by various appliances like Computers, Digital equipment’s, electrical outlets and others… in sleep mode. The rush towards the new age innovation and connected devices to an extent where a home refrigerator can now play music and pop up a twitter feed on its display is consuming energy more than what it is actually meant for, Alas… the engineering, some devices actually can be designed such that the energy consumption is minimum and that’s is what we believe Smart equipment are all about…!

India, a country with a population of 1.27 billion and GDP of nearly 6 Trillion has 60% of its power generated by Coal, the electricity demand growth stands at 10% to 12% per annum. Power deficits range between 4.3% to 5.4% and a percentage electrification of 67.2% across the country.   India has an installed capacity of ~350000 MW out of which 12.75% is renewable energy generation capacity. India operated with two power exchanges IEX and PXIL. India has also grand plans on going smart in the power sector in all three areas Generation, Transmission and Distribution.

A study indicates that some power vendors are still working in the old inefficient ways and these power plants typically only turn about 30% of the energy input into usable electricity. We are losing up to 70% of the energy in the fuel at the start of the process and the end user like us in our homes and offices are leaving open the energy sucking vampires in standby mode and charges connected one end to the power plugs dangling unconnected to any device at the other, we should take conscious attempt to drain energy vampires by unplugging electronics and appliances we seldom use.

How can we leverage Technology?

Home automation technology is becoming as synonymous with sustainability as it is with convenience. Incorporating smart home technology into a new or existing structure makes it easier to reduce energy consumption. Easy monitoring of their power, heat and hot water usage helps households and workplaces get to grips with their energy consumption habits. Experience shows that it is possible to save around 20% of energy consumption simply by changing user behavior.  With the advent of Internet of Things and convergence towards Smart City initiative user comfort along with energy efficiency focuses on correct operation of building automation devices and systems. The communicating and connected devices can help us integrate energy-saving smart lighting controls, power controllers that turn appliances off automatically and programmable climate control systems.

  •  The energy vampires can be eliminated by use of Smart Strip – a device that automatically detects when you have turned an item off and completely cuts power to a device so it stops drawing electricity and provides surge protection saving 23% of our power bills.
  •  19% of global electricity generation is taken for lighting. Sensors which are capable to detect motion can be great help. LEDs today are using 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Research shows LED efficiency is expected to double from the current 125-135 lumens per watt to 230 lumens per watt in the next few years.
  •  Thermal conditions at homes or offices helped with programmable thermostats allow us to set the temperature automatically. Motion sensors in the rooms to start and stop the heating and cooling systems and decrease the amount energy consumption to an extent of 7%
  •  The emergence in solar power technology and India focusing on use of 20,000 MW of solar power by 2020 is a golden opportunity to leverage this technology at homes, we already are using solar water heaters and can extend this technology at homes for our lighting and other needs too.
  •  There is an emergence of Ultra Efficient heat pump systems, for example a fuel-fired, multi-function residential heat pump that can reduce primary energy consumption by 30% while a low-cost gas heat pump is designed to reduce heating costs by 30% to 45% compared to conventional gas furnaces and boilers.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory and General Electric are developing a new type of clothes dryer that uses a heat pump cycle to generate hot air needed for drying.
  •  The real smart technology focusing on energy consumption is the invention of Smart refrigerator, a revolutionary new type of refrigerator that uses magnets to create cold, instead of vapor compression technology with water-based cooling fluid which is 70% more energy efficient.
  •  While we are very much using our common sense today to open the windows and use the sunlight instead of drawing heavy curtains to them and light up the home, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pella Windows are working on new highly insulated windows that use sensors and microprocessors to automatically adjust shading based on the amount of available sunlight and the time of day to ensure proper lighting and comfort, saving consumers energy and money.
  • Another mechanism that is driven thru the emerging technology is a system could use the GPS function of a smartphone to automatically put a home in away mode when a person leaves a property. Some companies collect and analyse energy usage data, whether it’s two-way power meters or smart thermostats, to tailor heating and cooling settings to specific buildings, on the other hand Cloud-based services can lower energy bills further. Utilities, for example, can reduce power usage during peak times through smart thermostats.

Technology indeed provides us means and ways to become smart in leveraging the same and the key is sustenance at least cost and being smart at saving our reserves for the future generations adding to it a saving on our power bills to not less than 50%, we’ll also push towards a more sustainable, convenient living situation.

It’s all about making smart energy choices in a smart city opting to live in a smart home filled with smart equipment’s and be a smart human making smart choices

 

Smart Living … beyond smart cities (Part 1)

Smart Living … beyond smart cities (Part 1)

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. This demand of space and time killing the nature in the name of development has led to many adverse impacts.  India may be lagging behind China on several economic indicators but when it comes to environmental degradation, the country has definitely outsmarted its giant neighbour.

Of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India. Air pollution slashes life expectancy by 3.2 years for the 660 million Indians who live in cities. The Ganga and Yamuna are ranked among the world’s 10 most polluted rivers. A three-year analysis of the water quality in 290 rivers by the Central Pollution Control Board said about 66% of the stretches monitored had high organic pollution. It means 8,400 km of these rivers are badly polluted and not fit for supporting aquatic life. India’s cities are in crisis. They are clogged with traffic, choked with pollution, blighted by concrete flyovers, overcrowded, suffer from power and water shortages, are prone to flooding and can at times be almost unbearable to live in.

Smart cities call for smart solutions in an age when carbon emissions and respect for the environment have come to the fore. And very often it is the low-energy, simpler forms of technology that can provide the answers. Writing in 1973, the philosopher and social commentator Ivan Illich stated the following:

“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories… Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well… In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule [the car] enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.”

Much modern urban planning is car-centric. But where is the need for the car if work, school or healthcare facilities are close by. Less need for ugly flyovers or six lane highways that rip up communities in their path. Getting from A to B would not require a race against the clock on the highway that cuts through a series of localities that are never to be visited, never to be regarded as anything but an inconvenience to be passed through en route to big-mac nirvana, multiplex overload or shopping-mall hedonism. The main factor that keeps cycling rates low in many cities is that most people are not comfortable sharing space in streets with fast-moving cars and trucks. Most modern cities are designed for cars. Thus, an intelligent city planner while planning a smart city should assume that cycling, walking and public transport would be the main forms of transport while trying to figure out how to accommodate inefficient, polluting and dangerous modes like private car use.

A humanistic, people-friendly city is first and foremost an accessible city, where mobility is possible for all. Traffic congestion represents a major economic problem because of the many working hours lost each day from sitting in traffic jams and soaring petrol costs. So what’s the solution? The good old bicycle! A growing number of cities around the world are eager to become bicycle cities, as part of a wider strategy to raise their green profile. The key to enabling high levels of cycling is having the right infrastructure, including cycle paths and bicycle parking, but also a number of communication campaigns to promote cycling, educate children and target groups who do not normally cycle.

Currently, 31% of India’s population lives in cities; these cities also generate 63% of the nation’s economic activity. These numbers are rapidly increasing, with almost half of India’s population projected to live in its cities by 2030. Smart Cities focus on the most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve quality of life for residents today and in the future. With this in mind, planners would create so-called separated cycle facilities “a combination of cycle tracks at the sidewalk level and/or protected bike lanes in the roadways”, Infrastructure, however, is not just about bike lanes associated with that in a smart city there will be opportunity to leverage technology to enable many facets of cycling.

There is already a lot of advancement in the area of Cycle Locks that are connected to your hand held devices that inform you of any possible tampering. Using Bluetooth Low-Energy, Wi-Fi, and an accelerometer, the lock pairs itself with a smartphone to be contextually aware.

Innovation in the Cycle industry has brought in various ways to track your wellness, the cyclist now is able to know the distance driving, calories burnt, heart rate, pulse and few other key statistics, also the cycles are smart enough to store your data on cloud and monitor the improvement in health parameters. There are advanced studies that show how this data help the medical and Para medical faculties in helping one overcome lifestyle disorders of diabetes and blood pressure

Another classic innovation is the Copenhagen Wheel that allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, road conditions in real-time. Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.

Smart pedal and smart chain / belt are two other innovations that leverage the IoT and facilitate bicycle rides for longer distances. If one has to travel from home to office say 20Kms the modern cycle leveraging the technology has made it in par if not as fast as a car to cover the distance of 20Kms at the rate of 60Kmph. So you can reach the destination in 20mins overcoming all traffic

Smart Cycles are great energy savers, the capacitors and auto charge elements of the bicycle are generating energy that can be used back home for daily chores, heating, lighting and many other day to day activities.

What is required by the planners today is to ensure when Smart Cities are built there should be enough infrastructure for Cycling and Pedestrians and this alone will contribute help improve the living conditions, directly impacting fuel costs and wellness of the person on cycle.

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

Digital Workforce: Next Gen Engineers as Assets

By Sairam Bollapragada

The IT industry service providers are right now struggling with means and mechanisms to transform the existing workforce to adopt and adapt the Digital skills. As they keep stepping deeper and deeper, the journey seems to be getting more difficult and complex. The lateral folks resting on their laurels for long are finding it difficult to put their arms around the new technology and software engineering changes demanded as the industry as a whole seems to be suffering from inertia, built over more than a decade.

The technological advances in the past 2-3 years have been going at a phenomenal pace. The platforms, packages, penetration of Social Media, Mobile apps, transformation to Cloud, Analytics being used as a primary R&D tool for almost all domains, and latest being the IoT – all have brought in compulsive factors in each of the industrial domain. It now looks like no industry will survive without embracing technology.

Many of the technologies/platforms that we hear today in the IT industry never existed 8-10 years ago like Raspberry Pi, Xively, Thingworx, Mahout, Apache KafKa, IBM Bluemix, Osmosis, etc – and to add further to the pace, what we see today maybe just the 40% of what we will see in the next 5 years!!  The bright minds would be needed in every organization to drive the adoption and delivery of solutions using these technologies.

The Next wave of engineers who will come out by 2017-18  hold the key. When I speak to them on the transformations and new developments today, they seem to understand most of the emerging areas, thinking like professionals who are ready to learn, execute and conquer the new technological frontiers beckoning them. Many with right support of the campuses are ideating like never before. Many are taking on the mantle of becoming entrepreneurs and donning a techno-commercial hat. They are able to talk, like the typical maverick innovative thinkers. Though many would think that’s not what we want, I would contest that this is what is needed now. If we cannot think out of the box, the conventional approach will spell a disaster.

The IT Organizations (especially those in service industry) are running aggressive internal transformation programs, some in a focused and some on discretionary ways, but the attention and absorption being quite low, the grip on the handle is a suspect. Hence the infusion of the new blood to mix and rejuvenate the read-to-learn experienced folks will create the new organizations which will sustain the next five years, if not the decade.

The young engineering students pursuing technology to graduate in 2017-18 will have bigger challenge to close the gaps between what was taught in earlier part of the curriculum and what is being rolled out in the current curriculum. The following will come true in the next few years:

  1. There will be unprecedented collaboration between industries and academia to create unique products on mass scale. Both will come together to create a more vibrant workforce for facing the upcoming market competition and demands.
  2. Project works or internships may start assuming more significance as IoT areas would require more hands on than being limited to a theoretical exercise. Industries would demand longer duration of projects/internships. It would extend from 6-12 months than the current 3-4 months. The top students would get paid heavily by the Indian outfits.
  3. More internal labs and incubation centers would find places alongside customer CoEs, co-created between service providers, academia, product vendors and customers. All would focus to create innovative market disruptors and hence may unleash a fierce but healthy competition between the internal lines of business. Perhaps a mini Technology office within each delivery unit will be a need for the next 4-5 years.
  1. With the above, more patents are expected to be created and the IP creation will become a buzzword to swear by, more aggressively.
  1. Cloud, Mobility and Analytics will no longer be niche areas and every IT professional has to understand about few of these areas to decent levels of depth. Hence each delivery unit will need to have architects in these areas embedded into their organization.

With this being the futuristic scenario, the existing workforce will have quite a bit to bite and chew. The organizations struggling to wriggle out of the historical structures (especially ones where personality based organization structures have been a trend) would need to be dismantled. Every organization would need to re-incarnate themselves with a heavy focus on the next generation engineers playing a heavy role in the transformation. The quality of engineers will be focus and the pay packs are slated to surge up. Hence the intake may be limited to those who can walk the talk.

New roles or positions pertaining to IoT like IoT Node Experts, IoT Middleware Experts, Things Mobile Experts, Things Ux experts, Things Domain experts, IoT Security experts, IoT Account managers, etc will be soon found marking themselves high amongst the recruiters. Many may move to crowd-sourcing than outsourcing.

The screening of academia and staff will also play a vital role in the job offers as everybody would strive to get the best to stay ahead of the curve. Mediocrity will no longer be an option.

The same would apply to the existing workforce. Every experienced professional would find himself under the heat to learn the new technologies, new terminologies, and new methods of planning, estimation and governance. Those who don’t welcome the change with open arms and mind would find themselves fading away too soon. The timeframes for the reaction and change would be too short.

The loading of entry level technically strong guys will create a healthy competition to learn and excel. This will lead to refresh in the organizations both technically and the amalgamation will constitute new organization, just not the structures.

Hence the organizations would need to create leaders who are solid technically, have demonstrated technology management skills, and can lead the organization into the next wave. The organizations would depend on these visionaries to create this amalgamated organization between the old and new breed, to deliver the best of the hybrid race to ride the digital tiger.

Will Smart Cities set off reverse migration?

By Sairam Bollapragada

The lure of emerging technologies, IoT, SMAC resulting in ‘smartening’ everything in a Smart City concept is catching a lot of attention. A typical scenario in India and perhaps in some other countries is that the smart city is planned or promised to provide all one can think of from the perspective of greater convenience, bettered facilities, and a better quality-of-life.

Earlier, when the poorer cousins of cities were devoid of earning opportunities, people rushed to cities in a bid to earn livelihood. Hordes of people would take a train to bigger developed/developing cities and the skilled population in towns started thinning to leave the towns under-developed, if not pushing them backward. The migration created a lot of divide between haves and have-nots. Thus, there emerged the social parameters of ‘earn-abilities’ and ‘learn-abilities’.

The smart city concept has compelled the state agencies, policy makers and country planners to think on which kind of smaller cities or towns can be quickly transformed into a place for getting the best of the benefits to its citizens. The cities, with the expanse of irreversible growth in infrastructure, transportation, tall buildings, depleted oxygen levels, tiring network of roadways, increasing number of vehicles, and many things supposedly defining the so called ‘Developed City”.

What people would slowly start seeing in the next decade or so, will be a reverse trend due to the same reasons for which they migrated. Roads are great but traffic snarls came in, too many people and social circle but the stigma has pricked, better buying power but the divide has increased, better education but stiffer competition and hence the upward cost of education, more buildings and losing touch with the greens, and many such things which once lured many. People in cities (big ones especially) feel the pinch of polluted air, environment, crowd, lesser interfaces with nature, increased carbon emissions, unclean and non-potable water (remember in the school we used to drink from the tap directly!), increased usage of plastics, and many such things.

The smart cities today, if well planned laced with the same facilities which once brought so many to bigger cousins, would attract population to come back to the roots. This time the wait is worth; the transformation to a smart city from a town will open up many opportunities.

The same facility with all advantages of nature, time for hobbies, wonderful work-life balance, healthier way to live, shorter traffic times, better standards of living, better education and better skilling to prepare smarter workforce, better housing facilities, innovative utilities for a smart living, better plans for optimum movement of people and goods to create a smart mobility, better plans for higher employment with more investments towards a smart economy, sustainable development, natural resource utilization like water and energy – all creating smart environment for a citizen to become part of such a balanced and content life. Not to forget – the evils of such growth will still be around – be it price rise of real estate, people flocking, opportunistic deals, etc.

However, the policy makers can quickly create policies around prevention of the same. The legislations should create a vision for the smart city with a potential future blueprint like, say, a 20-year vision keeping in view livability and environment management with tagged sources of funding for such innovative transformations. The options for delivering to the purpose, especially on the infrastructure side, will depend and include a lot of PPP models and unsolicited proposals from citizen forums/associations/societies etc., including smaller infra packages bundled into private sector development of residential and commercial hubs. Connected communities will empower and encourage more local economy. The Corporate Social Responsibility will need to play a larger role in the development of these smart cities and corporate biggies should be provided with business opportunities to establish their work places from these cities, opening employment opportunities to citizens and hence giving an economic boost to the area.

The independent entrepreneur class should be encouraged to heavily participate in the PPP models as well. The encouragement can be mostly in terms of tax holidays, infra provisioning, etc. All these initiatives will provide to better average buying power of the citizens and hence the economy uptrend. The ease of doing business will be a critical success factor offering by the policy makers to ensure smooth commissioning of new business.

Major IT companies should already plan for positioning their work packages in these tier II cities for better profitability creating local jobs. It would be a win-win for both the company and the state. The movement of jobs (and not folks) from major cities to these smart destinations would need to be very meticulously planned towards strategic business benefits. On an average, such cities promise to provide better profit-after-tax (PAT) of at least 40%, lower attrition rates (<5%), better customer satisfaction levels (CSATs>4.6) and promise to growth. The psychology of IT fraternity will move from that of clinging to complex major cities to ‘let’s embrace smart’.

Technology will be an enticing factor in smart cities, especially for the technocrats, who can find such place more interesting to reside if the planners create strong knowledge hubs around various areas, create smart communities to brainstorm and solve the most recurring issues collaboratively. Such smart and healthy communities will also increase the awareness amongst the citizens on how inclusive participation with the government agencies will create synergies.

The smart cities are expected to become environmental CoEs. Resource efficiencies (especially the natural ones) identified, tracked and reported through connected devices and sensors are expected to drive behavioral patterns through analytics and communication channels.

It is expected that the carbon footprint would reduce as more people would accept pooling or sharing and be encouraged to use public transportation reducing the owned cars numbers. The older cars ( >15+ years) can be faded from usage through policy regulations to help further. The encouragement of work from home in a connected city will lead to lesser carbon emissions, less pollution and something every employee will appreciate with the employer.

Smart information via transparency on social channels will bring in peer pressure for everybody to be aligned and citizens would be compelled to be aware.

Senior citizens would prefer smart cities while living alone would need leveraged confidence levels from connected devices like wearables and connected healthcare communications. In order to include them in this game, awareness programs for the not-so-technology-delighted senior population, must be held creatively. A well-connected neighborhood and societies will provide a level of comfort between all citizens and build a stronger society like a larger joint-family!

Energy transmission through Smart Grids will create optimized power consumption. Smart utilities will help retain unused power so that the power purchase driven by demand through the agencies can be only as per consumption and this will help in paying for what is optimally used only.

Smart building and office offering the right level of facilities usage to increase work productivity, less downtime with increased resource efficiencies will also help sustain the resources.

Each citizen will be expected to become smarter by being connected – they can report incidents, fires, traffic jams, any suspicious activities, water leakages, electricity theft, emergency response required events, and many more – in all each citizen will be a smart city manager in a way since all these exchange of information will lead to maintaining the balance between cost and standards of life.

The policy makers in Vienna, for example, have committed to publish all spend reports, while local police publish the real-time crime data. Getting citizen involvement is also one of the USPs where feedback on urban planning and city services are taken for improving facilities. Apps like EveryBlock in Chicago and CitySourced in several UK cities enable residents to report problems from potholes to broken street lights to crime anytime anywhere.

We may be setting new standards of responsive city services where citizens feel they have better sense of belonging and stake in them.

The tremendous pressure put currently on the cities due to ever increasing demand on the infrastructure and facilities, is already taking a toll.  With increased density of traffic, as an example, a person spends 25%-30% of his productive day on roads. In the next one decade, it could be seen that the reverse migration will become a reality, especially in countries like India.

Smart is not about big, smart is about intelligent technology for better lifestyles from cost and standards point-of-view. Who would not want to live in Smart & Green Cities at reduced cost of living!!

IoT Security is everybody’s business!! – Part 1

By Sairam Bollapragada

With the Digital wave, the structure of the IT organizations, especially those racing to embrace new technologies and IoT is poised for a paradigm shift. Every brilliant side of technological revolution comes with a darker patch as well. With so much of data slated to being generated via connected devices, the Cyber Security can no longer be the forte of IT folks ONLY.

While technology brings in convenience, it also comes at a cost (read flip side).

In the recent past in India, we have started seeing mobile wallets increasingly being used for payments and other financial transactions to another device or account. The connected wallets also create opportunities for hackers to break in and creatively lay their hands on the information pertaining to transactions, account details, the payee details, their numbers, the payment patterns, sources of funds, and many such confidential data which one would not like to divulge.

Cyber security, will don a new hat with the advent of new technology and devices working in tandem. Trying to stop break-ins will need a lot more intelligence and smart techniques to be devised. The provisioning of security to these mushrooming applications and connected devises will need to be really understood well so that people know they are secure while transacting with gates to personal data. The approach itself requires comprehensive techniques.

The mobile channels will provision more incentives with increase in volumes of both devices and transactions. The global reach of the mobiles have opened standard techniques for the hackers across the global hacking communities. Ubiquity and connectivity are vulnerable and enables folks to get to mobile devices. The incentives are more for mobiles which use financial transactions, undoubtedly. It may not be hard for hackers to know which user uses which number to carry out financial transactions.

The richer the features of the mobile, the more it becomes a target for the hackers.  The concern about the privacy invasion by advertisers is rising steeply with these smarter devices. In 2010-11 Wall Street conducted a test for 101 Android/iOS applications and found that more than half sent device information, 47 shared location data, and 5% users –  personal information to advertisers without the consent of the users.

More than 1000 malware target mobile devices globally. An instance of worm attack can infect mobiles rapidly to the tune of millions of handsets.  As mobiles are getting more advanced so are the worms accomplishing more sophistication – raising their quality of attack as well.  As technology carriers are improving the device capability, the blue-tooth and Wi-Fi is also becoming airborne contaminators. Some viruses dial international numbers while the subscriber is sleeping.

The mobile computing increases the data loss as well. With the connected devices expected to transmit data across applications and other devices, the hackers would try means and ways to create opportunities in the chaos. Mobile banking has also brought in rogue applications which are smartly working their way to gather financial information from devices through even legitimate applications topped with these malware at app stores.

Over all this, it is said that more than 37% of the service providers do not have any threat intelligence programs.

Impacting Scenarios

As hackers take control of the connected devices, the very capability for which the IoT was brought in (efficiency, productivity, ease, etc) will be compromised.  It is scary to even think what if the folks are unable to stop machines, controlled by connected devices for convenience- large ones at that. IT security itself will not stand ground here.  The extended knowledge across applied industrial controls and production processes would become mandatory to put the checks and balances in place. (What if one is not able to stop a blast furnace in steel plants?…)

Water Management:  Anything which is scarce and essential comes under the cloud of threat and catches attention for disruptive opportunities. Water management through connected devices is becoming a lucrative offering from many vendors ensuring appropriate water quality, controlled water supply, water treatment, metering and other features. Water consumption, like electricity is also vulnerable where automatic vaults and control mechanisms for pressure and flow are devised to be controlled through technology. A loss of control would create wastage of water across and lead to a water crisis.

Patients Health Records (PHR)

The PHRs of patients are too personal a data to be privy to. These personal health records reveal several confidential parameters of personal health profile of an individual with historic ailments, health issues in the recent past, blood group info, and many more data which can lead to people either playing with or destroying the data for obvious reasons or holding the same for ransom. Very dangerous but true, not because we need to be scared, but the awareness of such a threat is missing till the first casualty occurs.

The Nuclear plants, used for positive reasons, like generating power can be a huge source of risk – if they were to lose hold over the control process of nuclear reactors.  If IoT based controllers were deployed in these plants for the purpose of analytics and other accompanying research advantages, there should be exhaustive sets of checks and audits built in – plus multiple approvals at multiple governance decision points to ensure disasters would be at least minimized.

Likewise, hacking connected or smart cars can lead to road disasters.  This includes the hacking of smart traffic management – feature of smart cities. Insurance transactions can be blocked and claims disabled or diverted, where insurance segments are moving from statistics to individual fact-based policies.

Cloud is another source of vulnerability. The plethora of data being stored on cloud will require tighter secured solutions, and hence the cloud data security will only become more crucial.

It is said that M2M communications will themselves generate about $900 billion in revenues by 2020.

Dependency on the connected devices for various aspects of the futuristic work-style like improved real-time decision making, better design of solutions, reliability on the so-generated data analytics (what about data quality?), driving future product conceptualization, fleet management,  and many others could be a challenge if the systems malfunction due to malware or cyber-attacks.

The above are potential scenarios where the flip side of technology, if misused, can create disasters and can cause unimaginable disruption. However, it is not too late to create a strategic security blueprint and get the awareness levels in the public embracing these newer emerging solutions in future.

We will discuss the potential next steps on what we should do, what the state agencies should do and what the general users should know in the sequel to this blog shortly. Till then happy reading….

The caging of SMAC/IoT

By Sairam Bollapragada

It was an interesting conversation with one of the industry experienced business colleagues the other day before when this topic of standard service offerings in Digital/SMAC/IoT space was brought up.

It was more to do with the perspective as a business leader where an equal responsibility for this LoB in the organization was emphasized on. The need to create a slew of service offerings to potential clients was getting discussed and the compulsion of pushing hard to get that done on a priority so that business could kick-off quickly.

He also went on to tell me that they looking at hiring an experienced practice/delivery manager (sorry what was that?) who would have delivered a few projects in these areas. On  how he expected this role to be technology + sales + delivery + Architect + Solutioning – all rolled into one.  This was a tipping point when I put forth my views and would like to share the same with all.

SMAC/IoT today is still at a partially nascent stage as just because we have seen a few implementations does not vouch for the maturity of the area. The area will be considered mature or standardized  from software engineering standpoint when we have standardized ‘templated’ ways to :

  1. conduct due-diligence on the ask,
  2. estimation techniques to arrive at the engineering efforts – (which can be quite fragmented due to various components constituting the solution),
  3. arrive at delivery components,
  4. team constitution needed in permutations/combinations to deliver the solution,
  5. testing techniques to be adapted and many more

Assuming one size fits all cannot be more disastrous than in this case.

If we were to take smart city as an example, the entire concept is made up of so many disparate components that still need integration at some point in time to either complete a business process or from governance standpoint. Let us take two components of the smart city – say Smart Care and Retail services. They are from the Healthcare and Retail vertical lines. While Healthcare in itself comes with a huge array of offerings from various healthcare vendors, Retail would also vary in the offerings to the clients (both onsite and online) with various economies of scales and profitability driving their best deals.

In both the above cases, the SMAC/Digital space can help with data analytics, fraud analytics, mobile shopping experience, shoppers behavior analytics, faster or rather real-time claims settlement mechanisms, policy products preferred patterns, targeted customer shopping experience, and the list goes on.

The common areas could be around citizen demographics, the database, the preferences in a particular area, the subscription patterns, customer attrition analytics, etc.

What can be standardized is the interfaces between devices, the data storage mechanisms, PaaS offerings for a service, etc. The other satellite components would need to be glued to create a complete offering. Each offering would then need to be stitched in a specific manner as per the business needs of the customer.  While some of the technology stack can be baselined, what cannot be totally baselined, is the offering types and flavours as each client wants to be different.

The notion clients carry is how can I embrace the next wave of technology and still be ‘Different’. Nobody wants to be a copy-cat unless playing a large catch up game. In the era where we will see more hyper-personalization of products and  offerings, the need to be different is in itself a need which will demand that your plain vanilla offering (if you were to build one) must come stacked with top-up variations which will create several extrapolated offerings in it.

In the world where the competition is growing ferocious by the moment, everybody is in the mood to create the best and fastest and be the first-to-customer, else be ready to get wiped out.

Hence the realization that the rules of the game have changed drastically!!  Digital technologies must drive us to create the experiences driven by what people want – not what we want them to have anymore. They want to create different experiences with the technology and they want to create the best experience which will create a psychological branding!!

Every offering has to be customer-centric and different. While this is so, the critical part of how much and how long also assumes lot of significance..

Engineering efforts for creating these solutions cannot be straight forward affair and we would need to create a conscious mechanism of capturing the requirements meticulously while also suggesting innovative ideas reflecting our thought leadership. The emerging technologies will challenge us with each new tool to develop or enhance a solution. This is like an ever changing foundation which will challenge us to be on our toes and baselining estimates does not seem to be any easier in the near vicinity till we standardize some of the solution components.

Added to all this will be huge demand on security around all these billions of connected devices, openly connected APIs, etc.

In addition, the methodologies for developing these solutions will add additional efforts, leave alone governance. Today it may be limited to a great extend to the IoT Labs and academics, but for a client who is insights-driven, it will need to move beyond that in a matching pace.

At the same time, proactively exploiting these trends can open new horizons in terms of business models, careers, products, services and lifestyle preferences – that are difficult to visualize leave conceptualize by even the most digitally-savvy industry experts.

Hence the efforts to cage the SMAC/IoT engagements into standard offerings, cost, estimation models, at present looks to be an area which needs lot of work if an organization were to offer solutions – else they will only be offering a product each time they try to sell a solution.

So how does one create unique solutions and how does one build collaterals enough to engage new clients? How does one build the basis to capture further requirements? How do clients understand what to buy from whom? How do we size the efforts? How do we compartmentalize various components and create a break down structure to make solutions more a mix and stitch phenomenon? How can we categorize components to make usability in lieu? Many questions that need constant thinking and perseverance to create and build new solutions….