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Monday, September 26, 2016

Global Innovation Index is a wake-up call for India


With all the economies of the world realising the potential of entrepreneurship, creating an enabling environment should be on top of their priority list. But is it? To help policymakers to assess progress and track innovation trends, the Global Innovation Index (GII) was set up in 2007, as a “tool-for-action” for decision-makers. Their annual report/rankings are worth looking at, to know where we (India) stand in relation to other countries, and the numbers are not looking great.
Taking into account 81 indicators such as political environment, regulatory environment, business environment, human capital and research, infrastructure, ecological sustainability, market sophistication, business sophistication, knowledge and technological output etc; the report has been co-published by INSEAD, WIPO, and Cornell University in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), du and Huawei.
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) site states, “It provides a rich series of metrics that benchmark the innovation capabilities and performance of 143 countries. As firms and governments show growing interest in identifying and energizing creative individuals and teams to harness future growth, this year’s GII explores the critical role of the human factor in innovation.”
“Countries that have made visible efforts to maintain or enhance the quality of their human resources through education and life-long learning include the Republic of Korea, Finland and the UK (among high income countries) and China, Argentina and Hungary (among middle-income countries).”
At the GII launch, Australia’s Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane stated: “Reports like the GII provide direction on how we can boost our innovative outcomes giving us a deeper understanding of the many factors that drive innovation.”
WIPO Director General, Francis Gurry added, It is a “comprehensive map of the capacity of countries to innovate and thus compete on the world stage.”
WIPO has a succinct synopsis of the GII rankings. “For the fourth consecutive year, Switzerland topped the GII’s rankings, followed by the United Kingdom and Sweden. For the first time, Luxembourg entered the top 10, ranking ninth. Among the top 20 rankings there is a very high degree of stability” noted Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director of INSEAD and co-author of the report.
“The top 25 countries consistently score high across most of the Index’s 81 indicators, have well-linked innovation ecosystems and demonstrate strong capabilities in areas such as innovation infrastructure (including information and communications technologies), business sophistication (including innovation linkages, knowledge workers, and knowledge absorption); and innovation outputs (such as creative goods and services and online creativity).”
While a persistent divide exists between and within income groups over the speed of innovation, some middle-income countries like China and Malaysia are likely to break through to the Top 25 list in the near future.  In the same vein - of the 33 sub-Saharan countries in the rankings, 17 have shown major improvement.
Cornell University’s Soumitra Dutta, who has co-authored this report stated that the results “indicate important trends for the future. They show which economies are learning faster and where probably a lot of future growth in the economy and other interesting innovative ideas will emerge in the future.”
BRICS countries are not all performing on par. Or rather, India is doing dismally. It skipped 10 places to be in the 76th position. The other four did better. Brazil moved up by 3 places to reach 61st rank, the Russian Federation by 13 places to reach 49th, China by 6 places to reach 29th and South Africa by 5 places to reach 53rd position. More reason for Indian policymakers, innovators, and businesses to take the GII ranking seriously. Other countries are leading the march when it comes to making their country a magnet for innovative talent. In fact, Morocco is one of few countries that has succeeded in bringing back their talented brain-power.
WIPO’s site states, “Recent studies show that around 75 percent of migrant inventors from low- and middle-income countries reside in the US, with China and India standing out as the two largest middle-income countries of origin, followed by Russia, Turkey, Iran, Romania and Mexico.”
So what is India doing to bring back its innovative people, and make it attractive for the ones who have stuck it out here and are making a go of things? Answers would be truly welcome because the numbers are not exactly rosy.
Here are a few takeaways for some of the criteria I’ve mentioned earlier:
  • On political stability and absence of violence/terrorism: India ranks at 126. Below countries like Niger, Botswana, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Burkina Faso, Bosnia and a lot of others, who surprisingly are way ahead of us. The five toppers were: Finland, Norway, Switzerland, New Zealand and Sweden.
  • On regulatory environment: We rank 83. Again behind Niger, Kazakhstan, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Uganda, Rwanda! These are not even ‘usual suspect’ kind of countries like Singapore, New Zealand, Denmark, Netherlands and Hong Kong, who have topped this benchmark.
  • On business environment: India ranks 128. We lag behind Ukraine, Tajikistan, Ecuador, Algeria, Malawi, Mali, Burundi, Serbia, Uganda, China and Pakistan among many others. The top five are: Singapore, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong and Norway.
  • Human capital and research: India is at 96. Ghana, Albania, Vietnam, Brunei, Mongolia, Lesotho, Algeria, Uruguay, Serbia, Montenegro and a bunch of other interesting countries are higher up on the list than us. The five toppers are: Finland, Singapore, Korea, UAE and Israel.
  • Infrastructure: India is at 87, behind Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Dominican Republic, Botswana, Tunisia, Slovenia, Peru etc. The top five were: Hong Kong, Singapore, Norway, Sweden and Korea.
  • Ecological sustainability: India is at 106. Behind Malawi, Swaziland, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Gambia, Namibia etc. The top five were: Hong Kong, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Czech Republic!
  • Market sophistication: India ranks 50. With Lithuania, Bosnia, Moldova, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Estonia, Albania etc above us on this list. The top five countries were: USA, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada.

    - Business sophistication: India is at 93. We are way behind Niger, Bhutan, Ghana, Nepal, Vietnam, Bulgaria among others. The top five were: Singapore, Luxembourg, Israel, Ireland and Barbados!

    - Knowledge and technological output: India is ranked at 50. Behind Serbia, Slovakia, Croatia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Belarus, Estonia. In this regard, Hong Kong is also placed at a low 45 (below all of the above-mentioned countries). The top five were: Switzerland, China, Sweden, USA and the UK.
China/Hong Kong and Singapore have kept the flag flying high for the Asian continent. Some of India’s smaller neighbours have done better than us. We only top in the Central and Southern Asia regions, where we have beaten Kazakhstan and Bhutan. Otherwise, the only other country we seemed to have done better than is - Sri Lanka! With this country having endured civil war for so long, and only just finding their economic and political feet, even they might do better in future GII rankings. Do Indian decision-makers need anything more to prod them to wake up, than these insulting facts?

Monday, September 05, 2016

Why Asthamatics Will Love Ecomappers – A Pollution Mapping Kit?

The word ‘pollution’ is on everyone’s lips and minds. But Dhiraj Gehlot admits that ­”we really wanted to do something about it, instead of complaining. We thought if we tell people about the pollution levels in their locality, they will start taking steps to reduce it, to save themselves”. He is Chief Project Innovator at RiiDL and a student at the KJ Somaiya College of Engineering, and he has come up with Ecomappers – a product that is related to pollution mapping and effective solutions for the same.
Dhiraj explained to Networked India, “We have designed a pollution mapping kit. We display data of parameters like CO, NO2, dust, noise, temperature and humidity, real-­time on our website, which has a Google maps interface. The kit is so well designed that it can be mounted above the street light, traffic light, in a housing society and/or in a home for personal use.”
The kit collects the data from the sensors and uploads the values on Google, rated on a scale of 1 to 10 on the basis of data and standards defined by the Pollution Control Board. We can compare two different areas on the basis of data collected – say pollution levels of Mumbai and New York.”
Along with mapping, Dhiraj’s team is also providing solutions like meshed window nets to purify air, fresh air mask, vertical vegetation and other such solutions to reduce pollution levels. He says they are gathering details of plants, which are more helpful in clearing dust and pollution from the air. With this information, they will come up with an algorithm that will suggest the right number of trees that need to be planted to keep the pollution level to a minimum.
He has faced challenges when designing this product. One major problem was financing. He said, “We bootstrapped the initial capital by pitching this idea at various competitions and with the prize money, we developed our first prototype. Calibration of sensors was another major issue we faced. But we somehow got meters (like noise, temperature and humidity meters from the environment department of colleges) and used them, to calibrate our sensors.”
The end result is that, the kit he has developed makes people aware about pollution and empowers them with solutions to avoid the pollution. For instance, an asthmatic person can plan his/her travel time and route to any destination, depending on the level of air pollution. He said, “Our mobile app provides details of pollution parameters like carbon monoxide, dust, etc. in a pictorial format, which is easy to understand. There are solutions which people can buy on our app and website.” See how the kit works here.
Even government organisations, like the state government Pollution Control Boards require data from his kits, for analysing the pollution level at ground level. He is obviously meeting a timely need because as Dhiraj says, “Currently there are no kits in India, which can be mounted on street lights. Also, real-time pollution data of (CO, Radiation, NOX, SOX, dust, noise, temperature, and humidity) can be logged using a single kit.”
Real estate developers and city planners can use the kit to understand the amount of pollution and compare their townships, by giving them ratings. This will encourage real estate developers to build green buildings.
He has successfully implemented a second prototype and will be soon launching a new website and mobile app for users. All-in-all, he is pleased with the recognition and awards he has received for his work, which proves that he is on the right track and is “doing good for the improvement of our society.”

Monday, August 15, 2016

Throw Trash Into This Bin & Get Free Wi-Fi!

At the NH7 Music Festival last year, the music flowed and the crowds rocked to it. When they took a break from all that grooving and went to get refreshments, little did they know, a freebie would be available to them – free Wi-Fi – and at a dustbin, at that! This was so people were encouraged to use that dustbin and not litter the venue.
This bright spark of an idea belongs to Raj Desai and Pratik Agarwal – the Thinkscream duo. Thinkscream’s “aim is to ensure that people in India and around the world, have access to, and take advantage of all the available new age technology.” To ensure this happens, they built innovative products, like the TS Connect for Multiplexes and TS Connect for High Crowd Density events.

The NH7 Music Festival was exactly the sort of “High Crowd Density event” that both of them love, to showcase their innovative use of technology. They seem to have hit the right spot with this idea because they were sponsored by MTS. Their other satisfied clients are: Cinemax, Red Bull, and Tata Teleservices among others.
Apart from Wi-Fi, they are into radio frequency identification technology (RFID) as well, since they want to “ensure that this near frequency communication technology helps upgrade various business verticals and solves a number of pain points.”

Raj told Networked India, “We have always been intrigued by human behaviour, and how we can effectively use basic incentives, to modify it a bit. When we wanted to set up Wi-Fi at Weekender (the NH7 event) with brandmovers and MTS, we wanted to provide something more than just vanilla Wi-Fi. That’s when we thought that incentivising people to keep their areas clean would be a good idea.”
He admits that getting corporations on board is a big challenge. He says,
People in India are yet to realise how effective little modifications in process, systems, and their designs can be, to bring about large scale change.”
However, he has watched people respond positively to their ideas. He added, “Right from OrderOffWi-Fi for Cinemas to Wi-Fi at music festivals or the Wi-Fi trash bin; it feels amazing when people come and congratulate you for the idea, and more importantly use the product. In fact, we were amused when we saw people queuing up to use the Wi-Fi trash bin.”
He and Pratik are open to ideas and suggestions from others too. In fact, if people show up at their offices with beverages, food, music, and/or movies, they are more than welcome!
Written for Ericsson.

CINI’s GPower App Empowers Vulnerable Adolescent Girls

If you have often seen children being exploited and your heart goes out to them; then ever wondered if NGOs like CRY, World Vision, and Childline are enough to handle all these neglected and unwanted waifs? Both girls and boys are taken out of school and made to work and earn money. Their childhoods are snatched away prematurely and they are forced to become adults before their time.
Child In Need Institute (CINI) understood this because they have seen it happen time and again, especially with girl children, who are forced to get married and have children early, even when they are not physically, emotionally, and mentally ready to start families.
To help and monitor vulnerable children – and they mostly seem to belong to the female gender – CINI has developed an app called GPower (Girl Power). GPower was launched as a joint venture between Accenture and CINI last year, after a survey was done on the condition of educational programmes among girls in South 24 Parganas and Murshidabad districts. It has helped save over 200 girls spread across 20 villages, from either being trafficked or being a child marriage victim, reported NDTV.
CINI’s Assistant Director, Dr Indrani Bhattacharya told Networked India, “The girls in GPower are caught in the vicious cycle of vulnerabilities, like school dropout, early marriage, early pregnancy, child labour and trafficking. It starts from birth and they are trapped in a society with socio-cultural and harmful practices, gender-norms and contrasting stages of development, that leaves them powerless to make essential life-choices.”
Saving these girls’ lives through a digital innovation (like the app) with real-time alarm and alerts, and through strengthening the community-based safety net in the family and village itself, could save a society. This is what inspired CINI’s birth.”
Via GPower, community facilitators (CFs) record and monitor the vulnerability of adolescent girls. It also identifies the girls at higher risk ahead of time, to enable timely intervention and tracks the delivery of appropriate services to avoid potentially untoward incidents.
This enables errors to be minimised and streamlines the collection of valuable information, such as details about a girl’s education, protection, health and nutrition. Information from the mobile device is then uploaded to the cloud, and a server-based software uses this to compute a vulnerability index for each girl, in real-time. This, in turn, allows for real-time data analysis.
These insights create a continuous information flow that not only allows tracking of individual cases of vulnerability, but also reveals trends and allows forecast of results. The app-as-a-solution also has links across the government agencies that “provide support for adolescent girls; giving the facilitator a ready view into the services across the four pillars that should be leveraged for each individual to reduce her vulnerability index”, Bhattacharya explained.
She added. “Aggregated data delivers status reports to the facilitator on the uptake of services. These status reports can also be used to uncover issues with specific services and service providers, and support more effective service delivery.”
“At the implementation level, GPower is helping monitor the effectiveness
 of CFs by measuring their performance and setting benchmarks. Based on this evaluation, necessary training can be provided to CFs to improve their skills, and motivate them to do their jobs better.”
While CINI has had to convince (and often browbeat) parents to let their girls continue to study; most parents have given in and let it happen. They have also not married their girls off too young. And this gives them immense satisfaction, as one of their ‘vulnerable victims’ is now well on her way to becoming an empowered teacher!
This child had been rescued by CINI and re-admitted to school. Bhattacharya recalls, “The panchayat head helped her to get admission without any cost. She is studying in class VII and now she is saying that “Ami abar swapno dekha shuru korechi ar ami bhobissate ekjon teacher hote chai.” (“I have started to see my dream again and I want to be a teacher in future.”)
Written for Ericsson's blog.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Greeno’s Rainbow Farm Assist Apps Smoothens Farmers’ Lives

Selva Kumar and Thirukumar Mumoorthy come from farming families and have seen the vagaries of nature take a toll on their parents’ livelihood. They were lucky to have got an engineering degree, considering how many people can’t afford to let their children finish school. Knowing this, Selva and Thiru wanted to help make farmers’ lives much easier, by making vital information about markets, weather, water and other such pertinent news available at their fingertips.
Greeno is the result. The name is a combination of the words ‘green’ and ‘innovation’. They started this venture in 2012, after 10 years of working in the IT industry, with Rs 1 lakh of their own money invested in it. The cool ‘app-as-a service’ that they have developed is a series of apps, under the Rainbow Farm Assist family. Ironically, while the app was meant to assist, as the name suggests, farmers didn’t exactly take to it willingly. Selva told Networked India,
Due to poor adoption of the Rainbow Farm Assist, we were forced to go door to door to promote the user experience to the farmers. We were treated as thieves who are coming in the day time to check the (harvest) target! This initiative ended up there and we were forced to find an alternative (i.e) working with farmer associations.”
“Our first customer was Kalingarayan Farmers Club, where 30,000 acres of land is cultivated by 1,000 farms. Their leadership team listened to our idea keenly but trashed us, as they believed that most of the government’s data is obsolete and not of any use to them. They suggested that we develop a messaging platform that would reach all farmers, and then we started developing the apps.” So, they developed the Rainbow Message, Rainbow Sell, Rainbow Market, and Rainbow Groups.
The Rainbow Message app allows the user to organise their contacts and send text messages in English or any local language. It can also send 30 second voice messages that helps farmers to get information on the weather, the market price, fertiliser vendors, dam water level and also the ability to track crop life-cycle.
The initial version was built with multi-lingual voice input. It offers bulk and unlimited messaging and works even with a basic internet connection. It also lets farmers document and digitize profiles and best practices, as well as connects them with various stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
According to a document shared with Networked India, the Rainbow Sell app connects farmers with street vendors, as well as small stores and shops to reach the end consumer. It can be customised to suit the farmer’s needs and is available in the local language. Other features include:
  • Hide/show the details of their choice  
  • Vendor can enter details in their local language  
  • Shows status of a buy order (Pending/Delivered)  
  • Vendor can give a discount for a particular commodity
Rainbow Market app lets users buy agricultural produce and groceries, if they are available nearby. It also helps connect with local vendors, street vendors, shops, mom & pop stores and even farmers, directly. All organic food is also listed for consumers to select and buy.
Other features include:   
  • Find a local vendor or even a farmer who wants to sell directly from his/her field   
  • Track order status
  • Sort commodities by price   
And then the Rainbow Groups app lets a farmer maintain data and documents online. Rainbow Groups can help to manage: 
  • Farmer Federation & Farmer Club news
  • Individual farmer’s profile   
  • Land & crop details   
  • Banking information and documents  
Their apps have brought succor to farmers’ existence and the fact that they have benefited from technology, makes the Greeno team tick. Their services are used by: Farmers via the (Farmer Federation, JLG, SHG, Farmer Producer Companies, as well as individual farmers), Veterinary Doctors, Food Buyers, and Resource Institutions supporting farmers.
One such customer using their app has praised Greeno. Jayaraman is a spokesman for Vashista Farmers Producer Company, which is based in Salem. He said, “Team Rainbow Agri did an excellent and professional job. Their team was very responsive, worked with our team very closely and contributed significantly, to help us to create Farmer Producer Companies, Online Free Stores (Mobile App) and with the marketing. The team is very committed and always delivers on time, as promised. We would not hesitate to engage with Rainbow Agri, for any of our future projects related to their areas of expertise.”
What more needs to be said? A very satisfied customer says it best, after all.
Written for Ericsson's blog.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

MSSRF Gives Fishermen A Cool App


MS SwaminathanAs someone who loves her seafood, the fact that the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is doing some amazing work with fisher folk, (along with other communities which are the backbone of our agricultural community), was more than just pleasant news. It warmed the cockles of my stomach as well as my heart! MSSRF was established in 1988, as a not-for-profit trust, with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that the Founder, Professor MS Swaminathan, received in 1987. He has also authored books like: ‘In Search of Biohappiness: Biodiversity and Food, Health and Livelihood Security’, ‘Agricultural Growth and Human Welfare’, and ‘Groves of Beauty and Plenty’ among others.

The Foundation has programmes going around the country, which range across interests as diverse as coastal system research, biodiversity, bio-technology, eco-technology, and food security. The Foundation states on its website that
MSSRF follows a pro-nature, pro-poor, pro-women and pro-sustainable on-farm and non-farm livelihoods through appropriate eco-technology and knowledge empowerment.”
The Founder and the altruistic spirit behind these initiatives (and research), MS. Swaminathan, told Networked India about some of his programmes. One of them is ‘plant clinics’. He explained, “We have what is called a Plant Clinic Programme for diagnosis of diseases and pests in crops, and we give prescriptions to farmers; (it’s like a clinic for human beings). This is conducted by a set of trained, progressive farmers in the presence of agri-experts. This programme is going on currently in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra.”
There is much more happening though. They even have a mobile app for fishermen called Fisher Friend Mobile App (FFMA)! What got Swaminathan started was empathy for people who work to put food on our table, without the benefit of technology, even as the self-same technology is helping other – more affluent – people’s lives.
Swaminathan explained, “Fishermen are vulnerable with regard to their livelihoods when they are out at sea, due to uncertainty of weather and other critical situations during the monsoon period. Their livelihood depends on the daily fish catch and its value in the market against the amount spent for diesel and boat maintenance. Also, given the competitive situation, as the number of motor boats and trawler owners has increased after the tsunami, due to the support provided by the Government and international organisations.”
“In the absence of information on fish agglomeration in the sea, they have to spend more fuel and time in getting a good catch, which is uncertain. In addition they are at risk if the boat or motor engine is at fault, wherein they are stranded for many days before anyone rescues them.”
It is for these reasons, the “MSSRF has been supporting fisher-folk in the coastal villages of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, and Andhra Pradesh by providing dynamic information on the Potential Fishing Zone, Ocean State Forecast, Weather, Emergency contacts, Government Schemes, and Disaster alerts, since the beginning of this ICT programme, at the Foundation, in 1998.”
MSSRF website

He added, “There has been a needs assessment and feed meeting with the fisher-folk on a regular basis. In one such meeting in 2006, the fisher-folk expressed a desire to get this information on their mobile phones as short messages than through the public address system. At the same time, Qualcomm attended MSSRF’s annual ICT Convention in Delhi in 2007 and MSSRF shared these demands. Qualcomm came forward to support MSSRF in developing the BREW Application in 2007.”
“FFMA has fulfilled all these risks and gives the Potential Fishing Zone, Ocean State Forecast, weather, and disaster alerts in advance, for them to take informed decisions, to not only make their navigation risk-free and easy but also to get a good catch with minimum time and fuel spent.”
The FFMA is an Android based app that works on any smartphone that has enough memory to install it. It has to have version 4 operating system (OS) or higher, and have GPS capability and 3G/Wi-Fi enabled, to be able to access Google Maps to figure out the Potential Fishing Zone of the day and other information. The app is available in English, Tamil, and Telugu languages and fishermen are given mobile phones along with training on how to use the app. (See a video here.)
Data feeds for parameters like the Potential Fishing Zone, wave height, wind speed and direction, weather information, government schemes available for fishermen’s families has been created on this app. Also, details have been added of the fish species available at each landing centre and their price. The app also provides disaster and International Boundary Line (IBL) alerts. This feature works when a user selects his/her state; then in the background the IBL service kicks in, which continuously monitors the user’s location, as per the current position’s coordinates.
What’s more, emergency contact numbers of all the stakeholders in a fisherman’s life are entered every day, by the MSSRF’s Village Resource Centres (VRCs) from the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, and Andhra Pradesh. This data is fed on to a website that was developed specifically for this purpose, which is hosted in the MSSRF server, which in turn, is accessible to the VRCs. The data is provided by the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), Hyderabad, under the aegis of the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
FFMA User Details
Total number of states covered: Tamil Nadu, Puducherry (Pondicherry), and Andhra Pradesh
Total number of districts covered: 27
Total number of screen views: 3,48,357
Total Users: 3,250
FFMA has helped fishermen immensely over the years. With many of them getting better prices for their catch because of information that the app gives them. They are no longer dependent on middlemen looking to fleece them. This itself has improved their situation financially. It has also cut down on the time, these men stay out at sea. MSSRF has stated that “they used to spend 10-14 days to get a catch of 4 -5 tonnes of fish, which has now increased to 15 tonnes, that is valued at Rs 25 lakhs, while the number of days has reduced to four for the same amount of catch.”
FFMA app3With data like weather and wave height made available to them in advance, they are able to protect themselves and their boats too. One of the fishermen swears by this feature since he almost got swept away despite being an experienced fisherman. He then checked the app and realised he should have stayed on shore that day.
Balakrishnan, a trawler owner, based in Veerampattinam, Puducherry recalled, “After going far out at sea, we experienced high waves. There I checked the FFMA data and came to know about the high wave alert information. The data clearly mentioned that ‘Up to 50 kms from the shore, the waves’ height would be around 7 to 8 feet height and the wind speed also about 37 to 40 kms.’ At the end, it was advised not to venture into the sea.”
“I realised my mistake and for the very first time, questioned my own experience in the profession. Then, without any delay, I sailed back to the shore and saved our lives and the boat without any loss. From then onwards, I started checking the FFMA data cautiously every day before venturing into the sea. The Ocean State Forecast (OSF) information is 100% accurate.”
FFMA is truly a value add app, from the MSSRF stable, as many of its very satisfied users will assert.
Written for Ericsson's blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

NetPlug Is Aiding ‘Davids To Compete With Goliaths’ In The IoT Space

Why is everyone in the IT space getting breathless about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT)? Here’s why. By 2020, IoT will be a $19 trillion industry with 50 billion connected devices, according to this statement made by John Chambers, Cisco CEO & Chairman, to Bloomberg.

So, Inventrom is definitely looking to ride this gravy train and this is how they are doing it. They do R&D with other enterprises’ IoT hardware at no cost because NetPlug (their patented hardware architecture) works across devices and systems – be it an electrical appliance or industrial machinery.

This is possible due to their patented technologies like ‘Lib Discovery Protocol’ and ‘Signature Return Algorithm’ developed by Inventrom. Also, social media apps developed for NetPlug can work across systems. This ensures that the minimum time needed, today, to develop IoT products is about 2-3 hours. The next version will reduce this time to a few minutes!


Inventrom’s Founder & Project Lead, Pranav Pai Vernekar told Networked India, “We saw that one of the issues for making IoT enabled products is the huge cost and qualified manpower involved in the R&D. As a result, most of the Internet controlled products in the market today are developed by multinational giants with huge R&D budgets or tech-savvy startups.”
“But what about small-scale manufacturers in Taiwan or Brazil or even Dharavi in Mumbai? Most of these companies have neither the domain knowledge nor the budgets to make their products IoT-ready. Now, this means that as time goes by the smaller players will fail to compete with larger ones. Thus making the rich more rich and keeping the poor poor.”


Inventrom’s team even has an answer to this question: ‘What if my Internet stops working?’ Apparently, NetPlug’s technology automatically shifts to the local network, thus ensuring a seamless experience for the user.
Pranav recalls, “The first product we worked on was an Industrial Load Carrying Robot named MinionBot. We received a lot of interest in the product but the project failed as we were not good at mechanical engineering. However, one part of the robot that worked smoothly was controlling it over the Internet. We decided to focus on the strengths and extend the capability of Internet control to other products. This strategy has worked for us wonderfully. We now believe that one of the most important parts of starting up is focusing on strengths.”
Their business model is ‘pay-as-you-go’ and the current price of a NetPlug unit is $115. They might be looking at charging users $10 per year as uasge fees. However, control over local network will be free. Pranav explained,
With this business model, even a small-scale player like SD Electrical (annual turnover of approximately $35,000) are able to compete with giants like Phillips (approximate turnover of $25 billion) on developing IoT lighting. When we see these Davids compete with the Goliaths and winning, it gives us maximum satisfaction.”
Also, there is the possibility of charging an additional fee for analytics. Their customers can keep tabs on exactly how and when their products are used, and the users’ habits.
This information could be of huge help to them (and their customers) as they are looking to acquire business in the Consumer Electronics, Electrical Appliances, Industrial Machinery, and Defence Machinery industries. They already have clients like Automatic Dosa Makers, IoT Security Systems etc who are developing IoT systems without any capital investment of their own.
Pranav added, “We are also in talks with DRDO to make their bomb disposing robots, IoT enabled. With this, an expert from any part of the world can control the robot. This will directly contribute to saving lives.”
The fact that NetPlug has been well-received, is proven by the fact that they have won many accolades such as the IoT Tech 10 award by Intel and IBM for being one of the best IoT products by a startup. In July, this year, NetPlug was declared as the winner at DST – Lockheed Martin India Innovation Growth Program 2015 for being amongst the best innovations in India. The NetPlug mobile app has also won at the ‘Innovative App/Software Competition’ held as part of the Digital India Week.
What’s more, NetPlug is going places too. The team went (Sept 24) to the US to visit Silicon Valley, as part of the India Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP), where they plan to expand their market for NetPlug.

Written for Ericsson's blog Networked India.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mycarevault: The One-Stop Patient Engagement Service

mycarevault_1In 2009, Sathish Babu Ratakonda was working for the Royal Army of Oman, when he suffered a life-threatening allergic response called anaphylactic shock. He had swelling and hives all over his body, low blood pressure, and dilated blood vessels. He couldn’t talk and his colleagues were not aware of his health conditions. 

As he recovered from it, his thoughts turned to how much worse it could be without a complete medical record of patients being available. That’s where and when, he decided to develop a solution for addressing this need.




But he also realised that medical records maintained in silos could make situations worse, so he decided to create movable medical records – i.e. they are available wherever the patients are living or being treated. This is called a ‘Health Information Exchange’.
Sathish told Networked India,
Our project mycarevault is a Health Information Exchange for health data, and is the backbone for the entire Indian healthcare system. It has Electronic Health Records (EHR) for healthcare providers and entities and Personal Health Records (PHR) of the patients.”
He explained, “mycarevault EHRs will be available almost for free to doctors and healthcare facilities, who are authorized to work in India and PHRs will also be distributed, again, almost free, for patients in India. PHRs when integrated with EHRs can help doctors to understand a patient’s complication with a holistic approach, and patients can participate in the care.”


“Mycarevault comes with scheduling inter-operability, Unified Health Data Semantics (UHDS) ™, and Nationwide e-Health Architecture (NeHA) ™. UHDS is a medical linguistic tool, which helps interpret the medical language between two IT systems. UHDS has around 1.3 million medical concepts, which are related to daily use in the clinical practice. NeHA architecture is an inter-operable middleware framework, which can help different IT systems communicate with each other and interpret the messages.”

In India, approximately 97% of health-related technologies are adopted, but those adopted systems cannot talk to each other, due to a huge number of factors. One of them being ‘health language’ barriers. Sathish acknowledged that, “the most challenging part for me is finding a solution for creating a unified health language to communicate with other IT systems, so the health data can flow freely between IT systems.” And he seems to have overcome this because he has completed “two years of research and one year of alpha and beta testing in a government setup, at a remote place.”
He says, “I feel very satisfied, when patients walk in with our medical UUID cards, and get care faster than they expected and get testing done in no time. In the beta stage, we have issued 20,000 RFID enabled medical UUID cards to patients and served nearly 1.8 lakh patients.”
Written for Ericsson's blog - Networked India.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Brain Chair: Helps Gain Lost Mobility With Your Brain Waves

The ‘project’ he is referring to is a ‘Brain Chair’, which is a wheelchair that disabled people can move around at will, by just blinking! He and his team started work on this in June last year, and made the low cost wheelchair. He explained,
By the time we were done with the chair, we started our work on brain waves. This was a bit difficult at first – understanding all the medical terms related to brain waves, but we got used to it. Simultaneously we had also started working on the algorithm to detect brain waves and write code for the same.”
He added, “We faced some glitches in the software, which we got rid of in due course by making constant changes to our code. The next big thing was to actually make the wheelchair move with brain waves. We did the sensor interfacing to our code and connected all the circuitry required to move the wheelchair, and after a week of hard work voila… the wheelchair was actually moving just with the help of brain waves.”
Soham has got great feedback from patients about this wheelchair. Not to mention positive suppBrain Chair teamort from doctors too. This has “further motivated me to make this project into a product. The most satisfying moment is the smile and surprise on people’s faces, when they see the wheelchair actually moving, with just their brain waves”, he added.
He and his team of two –  Sunny Modi and Priyank Satra – are all in the final year of their engineering course at the KJ Somaiya College of Engineering in Mumbai. They represented India at Maker Faire in May this year and won three editor choice award tags for their innovative product, which was proudly advertised by their college on their Facebook page.
They sure are making waves of a different kind as well!
Written for Ericsson's blog.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Smart Helmet That Protects Bikers From Themselves


Smart helmetAre you sick of how two-wheeler riders flout traffic lights and endanger themselves and others around them? Not to mention the road rage we have to endure, when pedestrians point it out to them? Don’t you wish they end up on their face some day, for doing it? Well, some IIT guys have figured that this may happen at some point, if it hasn’t already, so they are looking to raise funding for a ‘smart’ helmet, which will protect reckless riders from themselves.

Rishabh Babeley, Naman Singhal, and Shubham Jaiswal are the brains behind ‘Helmatron’, which is a helmet that a rider has to wear to start his bike. Else, without it, the bike won’t start. Its other features include being able to 
restrict drunk riding, since it has an alcohol sensor installed in it, which monitors the alcohol content on their breath. This feature alone should make people riding two-wheelers safe for the rest of us too! Their profile on applyifi also stated that

It has a GPS-GSM feature which will call an ambulance immediately and send an SMS alert to selected contacts, in case the rider meets with an accident.”
It also has bluetooth encryption technology which will curb vehicle thefts substantially. The team is working “on a peltier cooling assembly” which is going to be fitted in the helmet to make it cooler and comfortable too. Then they are thinking of installing a touch navigation system, to assist the rider in reaching his destination in the most efficient way.
HelmatronHelmatron is a product that can improve the mortality rate in India, which has overtaken China, and now has the worst road traffic accident rate worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO,) in its first ever Global Status Report on Road Safety stated that there is one death every four minutes due to a road accident in India. Also 16 children die on Indian roads daily and 70% of road accidents in India, occur due to drunk driving. Also, six motorcycles are stolen every hour here.
Being well aware of the above statistics, the Helmatron team is looking to develop a fully functional prototype and develop the necessary infrastructure with funding, they are expecting to raise, to the tune of $25,000 and a following round of $3 million. Their revenue model includes getting a patent and earning from copyrights. They plan to use any financing they get, on developing the first 50 helmets, to kick-start the business.
They just might have a winning idea here, as their research has shown that this is a $1-2 billion market globally, and there is potential for 15% growth. If all goes well, they plan to achieve revenues of $10-$25 million, with 80 lakh customers wearing their helmets, in three years.
Written for Ericsson's blog.