The dinosaurs didn’t evolve…

I recently bought the latest issue (July) of Digit Magazine (India) for two reasons: It has a cover story on Big Data. The second reason is a little book titled “Fast Track” series that comes with the magazine. The July edition of Fast Track is themed on E-learning apps and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). It helpfully reviews all the popular MOOCs and some great e-learning apps, that you can download on your smartphone — for learning on the go.

And when I registered at Coursera and other MOOCs, I wondered why Indian Universities and colleges are not doing MOOCs. We have had distance learning and correspondence courses (such as IGNOU) for years, and MOOCs are the next level in self-learning. MOOCs such as Coursera offer a variety of university-linked courses, some with the official university certification.

Now I am also told that Indians staying in India are yet to cultivate that habit of self-learning, preferring to learn in a real classroom, with a real teacher, and a real blackboard.

But that notion is beginning to change. I am seeing certain private classes in my city (Mumbai) successfully implementing virtual learning systems. Now private classes and tutorial institutions are doing roaring business in India, taking advantage of the country’s sloppy education system. So if I can learn from the comfort of my bedroom and watch re-runs of a recorded classroom session — that beats rushing out to a late evening class, clashing with  crowds in public transport on the way.

Today’s generation is lucky to have the Internet, smart phones and e-learning apps, and tech that enables virtual classrooms. So I do hope that our youth take advantage of this, and keep learning.

It is shocking to read media reports about State Governments giving away laptops and tablets for free. And these are being misused by our youth. If state governments think they can boost literacy in their state by giving students free laptops, they are wasting their funds. Instead, use that money to build more schools and improve infrastructure. Increase the salaries of teachers (who are paid a pittance, or do not receive their salaries for months).

The free devices should come loaded with e-learning apps and subsidized e-learning services, so that our youth can immediately start learning. And do block all those unproductive sites.

I truly believe that if one stops learning, their value in an ever-changing industry starts to decline. And they would soon be extinct, outmoded, redundant and then jobless. If you ever reach that stage, you have only yourself to blame.

Because, like the Dinosaurs, you just didn’t evolve and survive.

(Yes I know, it was something else that made the dinosaurs extinct).

 

Report-2: 6th DSCI Best Practices meet — IT Act and its Amendments

India does not have a data protection law and data security is thought more of as a regulatory system. Our communication satellites are very vulnerable and can be zapped out by the enemy. There is a cost-benefit analysis to cybercrime. 

Bold statements like these made me sit up and pay close attention during the presentation by Dr. N.L Mitra, Senior Partner-Fox Mandal and Ex-Director, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

And what should our country do about all this?

Statement #1: India does not have a data protection law.

Well, the US has 2 data protection laws and the UK has two Evidence Acts; India has one.

Action: We must take proactive steps to secure our own data. Being reactive will not help. Progressive thinking in this direction is required.

Statement #2: Communication satellites can be shot down. 

Action: We need to stop worrying about it and start preparing for an incident like this. How do we protect our critical communications infrastructure? How do we respond to an attack?

This invoked a thought: Remember the ambitious “Star Wars” defense plan proposed by the Ronald Reagan government in 1983? It was officially labelled Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and it was a plan to blast nuclear tipped enemy missiles before they hit their intended ground-based or space lodged US targets. Can India create a missile shield to protect its space-based assets?

Statement #3: There is a cost-benefit analysis to cyber crime.

It’s a known fact that most people in India can get away with cyber crime and it is not easy to track down criminals. Even if they are caught, it would take at least 7 years to penalize someone, thanks to our sluggish legal system and courts. 

Action: An independent regulatory authority is required for . cyber crimes.

I’d like to add: It should be an autonomous body and there should be no interference from other national investigation agencies.

 

Here’s what Dr. Mitra recommended.

  • There is a need to develop a best practice code.
  • Need for business or industrial ethics.
  • More data certification officers are needed.
  • Private industry must engage with government.
  • NASSCOM needs to establish a research centre for Data Security.

 

Report-1: 6th DSCI Best Practices meet — IT Act and its Amendments

I’ve just returned to Mumbai after attending the 6th DSCI Best Practices meet in Bangalore (Twitter: @DSCI_connect). The event returns to its home base, Bangalore this year (it was held in Chennai last year). I say “home base” because Bangalore is regarded as the biggest chapter (300 members); a lot of contribution has come from this chapter. And from the good attendance it was obvious that Bangaloreans really missed the event last year. 

The event kicked off on 9th July with some very exclusive workshops (by-invitation only). I attended the workshop on the IT Act and its Amendments, conducted by DSCI and Fox Mandal. The latter is a 100 year old law firm and has been working closely with DSCI for over a year on policy making, and to address various concerns on Information Security.

Mr. Vinayak Godse, Director-Data Protection, DSCI opened the workshop. He pointed out that DCSI was involved in framing the IT Act 2008, particularly Section 43 A on Data Protection. 

Some points from Mr. Godse’s presentation:

  • The Internet is a medium of empowerment in society. It imparts values and rights, which are being challenged. How are the rights being governed today? (Recall various incidents about Indians being impeached and humiliated for liking political-related comments on social media).
  • The Internet is really about content (created by users and organizations).
  • It is a medium that enhances communication and helps in business and strategic transactions.
  • There is a legal requirements to enhance and uphold rights & values — and to protect entities who communicate via the Internet.

Mr. Godse also spoke about Artists & Entities — the latter are intermediaries who provide the platform. Intermediaries and body corporates need to be governed separately. And he discussed the various types of cyber crimes and what kind of impact they could have on society and the nation.

I had a passing thought that sent shivers down my spine: In an increasingly connected world, where anyone has access to a mass media publishing platform (social media networks and instant messaging apps, for instance), it’s really easy for mischief makers, anti-social and anti-national elements to spread rumors that could disrupt peace and harmony.

Are we doing enough to look out for these threats? How does the law, specifically the IT Act, check this?

Mr. Godse concluded by alluding to the fact that the IT Act is far from perfect, when it comes to data protection, privacy and freedom of expression. He said we need to look at equivalent IT Acts in other countries and learn from those acts.

More posts on this DSCI event follow soon. 

Stay tuned.

 

 

How Amazon will benefit with its Fire phone

Fire

Amazon Fire Phone

On reading the news about  Amazon’s Fire Phone and its 3D camera, a couple of thoughts flashed through my mind — like reverse image search and its potential. But the most interesting thought was the key function of the device, to search for products on Amazon’s online store, just by shooting a photo of something you want to buy.

First let’s discuss Amazon’s (late) entry into the highly competitive smartphone business. With giants like Samsung, Microsoft-Nokia and Sony, not to mention the numerous Chinese brands, what chance does Amazon have in the  smart phone market? It cannot score on pricing alone.

To answer that, one has to be reminded about the premise for Amazon tablets and wands. These hardware devices are like miniature Trojan horses – nice looking on the outside, low priced, with the real stuff on the inside. The real reason for Amazon to launch Kindle Fire tablets was to sell more e-books, music, movies and TV shows. The loss made from selling low-priced tablets would be offset by profits from content.

It will be the same with the Amazon Fire Phone.

Amazon wants you to use this smartphone to buy products from its online store. But haven’t we heard this before?

The real reason why people bought Apple’s iPhone and the iPod was iTunes and its amazing catalog of content. Steve Jobs went to great lengths to get all the music, movies and TV shows in one place, on the iTunes store — and he made it real simple (and quite affordable) for us to access this content. The other attraction was the App Store, though there were few apps when the first version of the iPhone was launched.

Well, with the Fire phone, Amazon wants to simplify the shopping experience, and make it less time-consuming. So if you want to buy, say the same pair of flip flops as you friend, just get a 3D picture of it with the Fire phone, and send it to the Amazon site.

At the back-end, the site will use reverse image search technology (or humans) to find a match and make suggestions. You will then need to select the product and confirm the purchase.

Very neat!

Speaking of reverse image search technology (using pictures to search pictures). It has been around for sometime, though I doubt many people use it to search images on search engines.

Google offers reverse image search and you can read more about this here: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en

And there are companies like TinEye Services that offer image recognition technology: http://services.tineye.com/

Amazon’s image recognition system is call FireFly.

So instead of typing keywords to search images, just upload an image that suggests what you are looking for — and the search engine will find similar images.

Great for high school projects!

 

 

CeBIT India reaches out to small and medium companies

I’m glad that CeBIT India is not just another conference with speakers and topics — it goes beyond that.

On attending a press conference in Bangalore this week, I learnt that CeBIT India wants to be a platform to promote industry, innovation, and Indian talent.

The story on the partnership between CeBIT India, IESA and MAIT appeared in many publications. Sujith John and Shilpa Phadnis of the Times of India wrote a very aspiration type story, ‘CeBIT hopes to bring tech biggies to Bangalore’. But yes, we will see speakers of that caliber at CeBIT India. It is my job to ensure that (with the support of my A-team).

Now coming to this week’s announcement about the partnership between MAIT and IESA.

CeBIT signed an MoU with IESA (Indian Electronics Semiconductor Association) and MAIT (Manufacturers Association of Information Technology) this week to promote the ESDM (Electronics System Design and Manufacturing) sector in India. And how exactly will it be doing this?

Well you see, both bodies have a number of members from companies of all sizes. Some of these companies are start-ups or so small, that they would not be able to fund themselves for individual partnership at CeBIT. But by coming in through MAIT or IESA, they are getting an opportunity to present themselves to the world, through the CeBIT platform — at a very low cost.

So essentially, they will be part of the MAIT or IESA pavilion at CeBIT — showcasing their innovation to international businesses that are visiting CeBIT. That’s a pure B2B opportunity!

Rahul Gupta, Chairman, SME Chapter, MAIT also heads a company called Smile Security and Surveillance Pvt. Ltd (http://SSSL.co.in). His company is participating at CeBIT through MAIT.

Gupta says: “I feel that this is a very big opportunity for a small SME company like me to showcase myself to the world — at a very special rate — through MAIT”.

I feel that CeBIT India needs to look at more such “clusters” and theme based pavilions to get more companies to come and participate in the Expo at CeBIT India (November 12 – 14, 2014, Bangalore International Exhibition Center).

http://www.cebit-india.com

 

I’m back on TechWow!

After a long Hiatus of almost two months, I am back to posting on this blog!

I am sorry to disappoint all my followers, but allow me to explain.

There has been an exciting career change for me — I just joined the CeBIT Team in India and now manage CeBIT Global Conferences India.

I am responsible for the Conference Program, conference architecture, speakers, topics, tracks etc.

That’s a lot of work to be done and the expectations are really high. So CeBIT India will be the largest project in my 20 year career!

Please visit http://www.cebit-india.com and also participate in our social media activities on Facebook, Twitter etc.

And if you want to visit CeBIT in India — or speak at CeBIT India, you will find all the details on the CeBIT India site.

We are opening the Call for Speakers next week, here: http://www.cebit-india.com/callforspeakers

Hope to see all my followers at CeBIT India — Nov 12 – 14, 2014 Bangalore International Exhibition Center

Warm regards

Brian Pereira

brian@hmf-india.com

 

 

 

Hi-resolution audio is here at last!

If you are an audiophile or music enthusiast, you “listen” to the music while others merely “hear” it. That means your aural senses are tuned to carefully discern between the ordinary and high resolution audio. While listening to a track on a music system, you’re likely to notice that the deep bass notes or the crisp highs are missing. And like me, you’ll invest in a lot of audio gear before being truly satisfied.

While there has been a lot of progress in display technology with HDTV, Ultra HD and now 4K technologies, I haven’t seen much happening on the audio front. What we have witnessed rather, is the integration of PC connectivity (wired and wireless) technologies with audio receivers — HDMI, USB, BlueTooth and Wi-Fi connectivity is now built into Pioneer, Harmon and Onkyo receivers, for instance. Even car audio systems have evolved a lot, and now include all these connectivity options, plus larger LCD screens.

But the hard disk component was always missing, or was rare in home audio systems. We also had to contend with hooking up our laptops and phones to home audio receivers via the headphone jack — or buy expensive media streamers that accommodated hard disks. You couldn’t plug your hard disk into older DVD players with USB ports because those ports didn’t supply power.

And we music enthusiasts were never happy listening to compressed MP3 songs — the fidelity was always missing, even at higher bit rates.

Sony introduces hi-resolution

500GB Hi-Res Music Player System

500GB Hi-Res Music Player System

So I was pleased to discover that Sony has launched hi-resolution audio.

The product range includes HDD audio player systems (with in-built receiver), USB DAC amplifier, receivers, hi-res speakers and premium speakers.

These products are also tied to online services such as HDtrack.com, ProStudio Masters, Super HiRez, Blue Coat Records, iTrax, and Native DSD Music. More on these later. First let’s try to understand the new format and then take a closer look at Sony’s products.

Hi-res format

The big claim is that the audio quality offered by hi-res audio surpasses CD or MP3. I cannot confirm that at this moment, as I am yet to review these systems. From what I’ve read so far, the new format is  “lossless digital”, meaning you’ll hear something that’s very close to the original; it would be like actually sitting in a recording studio or in a concert hall, watching a live performance. Back in 1982, they said the same thing for CDs too, but then audiophiles discovered that something was missing, and went back to vinyl.

There are various lossless formats and you would have heard about FLAC and Wave. But there are others like AFLAC, AIFF, DSD (DFF) and DSD (DSF).

The  new Sony systems are based on the DSD (Direct Stream Digital), a 1-bit professional format. DSD (DFF) is used in studios for recording and mastering super audio CDs. The DSD (DSF) format is the PC version that’s used to burn files on DVDs. I am betting that by next year, we will see the proliferation of this standard on PCs, and online music stores like iTunes will also offer music in this format (though it might take a bit longer with Apple).

Products

Sony Hi-Res Speakers

Sony Hi-Res Speakers

Now let’s take a tour of the various hi-res products on offer from Sony. You will soon see similar stuff from the likes of Pioneer, Panasonic, Toshiba, Harmon, Denon and others.

Sony’s new hi-res audio products include HDD Audio Player Systems, USB DAC Amplifiers, Receivers, hi-resolution speakers and premium headphones.

If you’ve read this far in my post, you are surely keen to know more about the Sony Hi-Res Audio products.  Here’s the official website.

Go get ‘em!

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