Ajit Bhale

Ajit Bhale

Chief Revenue Officer at GS Lab

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The impact of technology evolution encompasses advances in sensor technologies, connectivity, analytics and cloud environments that will expand the impact of data on enterprise performance management and pose challenges for system integrations for most companies.

As industries are transitioning from analog to digitalized PLCs and SCADA, they would have to leverage sensor-based data to optimize control and design their assets and processes – both in real time and over time for faster decision making as well as embedding software in traditional industrial equipment.

Developing and deploying these systems securely and reliably represents one of the biggest challenges.

Going far beyond the current definition of networks, the most complicated and powerful network yet is now being built. In it, devices embedded in power lines, waterlines, assembly-lines, household appliances, industrial equipment, and vehicles will increasingly communicate with one another without the need for any human involvement.

The reach of these integration capabilities will go far beyond infrastructure and manufacturing. Today, for example, clinicians diagnose health conditions through a lengthy assessment. But simply matching historical pathological patterns, lifestyle patterns and matching those to live diagnostics collections systems provides for a more accurate diagnostic approach to serious ailments or early-warning signal. To make the most of such opportunities, health-care companies must figure out how to integrate systems far beyond the hospital. Much like in-memory big data analyses, this presents a problem of data collection closer to the source of the data. 

You may wonder collecting and transmitting data from several industrial machines and devices is not a new concept. Since the early 80s, data from industrial assets has been captured, stored, monitored and analysed to help improve key business impacts. In this era of digitization, as the industrial sensors and devices create hybrid data environments, systems integration will propagate more data from more locations, in more formats and from more systems than ever before. Data management and governance challenges that have pervaded operations for decades will now become a pressing reality. Strategies to manage the volume and variety of data, would need to be administered now to harness the opportunity IoT and BigData promises.

Despite of the above stated challenges, some strategies incorporated in core operations can help increase the odds to success:

  • Multiple Protocols

As the number of sensors and devices grow, increase in the number of data acquisition ‘protocols’ are creating a greater need for new ‘interfaces’ for device networking and integration within the existing data ecosystems.

  • Data Variety

As devices and sensors are deployed to fill the existing information gaps and operationalize assets outside the traditional enterprise boundaries, centralizing data management systems must be able to integrate disparate data types in order to create a unified view of operations and align them with the business objectives.

  • New Data Silos

Systems built with a purpose produce data silos that create barriers to using data for multiple purposes, by multiple stakeholders. Without foresight connected devices solutions presents the new silo – undermining the intent to construct architectures that incorporate connected devices to build broader, interactive data ecosystems.

As discussed above, for more than 30 years industries across the globe have been leveraging sensor-based data to gain visibilities into operations, support continuous improvement as well as optimize overall enterprise performance.  As advances in the technology make it cost-effective to deploy connected solutions, industries would need to develop a strategic approach for integrating sensor data with pre-existing data environments. These advancements would traverse towards creating a seamless, extensible data ecosystem with the need for cooperation between multiple vendors, partners and system integrators.


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For long, Yoga for a balanced lifestyle and Ayurveda, a formidable contender in the alternative medicine space, have been the leading spiritual products manufactured out of India. These were well supported by educational and professional institutions and a large number of voluntary participatory groups, which gave them the early momentum and a form of an industry ecosystem.

 

While India moved straight from the spiritual revolution to the agriculture and onto the information revolution (Toffler), it had a stop-start run with the industrial (manufacturing) revolution. Even though India is a formidable manufacturer - leading in many sectors including automobile, petroleum, steel, textile, pharmaceutical, chemical and defense industries, which are traditionally huge job creators, it has not been able to sustain this development across the distinct geographies of India. Pockets of India benefited from this economic development and local job creation, but the vast majority of the country was left wanting on both fronts. Perhaps, as a result, an estimated 50% of north India is expected to continue migration down to central India and further down to South India where most of the economically developed pockets happen to be.

 

The information revolution that started in India from the early to mid-nineties changed this paradigm. India was well equipped for this, thanks to:

  • being in a convenient time-zone,
  • timely government interventions with partial Rupee convertibility,
  • liberalization, and the resultant freeing up of investments in the telecom sector, which led to opening of new communication channels
  • abundant availability of English-speaking workforce

All these helped India to catapult to the center of the round-the-clock software development services model, which gave a time-to-market advantage to those overseas clients who needed to deliver products fast. This model, software services out of India, is today considered the norm. Anything tech outfits globally could not, or did not want to do in their own home countries, India has come to become a chosen hub to outsource, or locate their offices. That gave rise to an excellent career opportunity to the Indian knowledge workers who ever aspired to do well in their life. So talent was not a problem and jobs were pouring and still are. Salaries have been rising, corresponding with new demands for skills, and so are the standards of living of the workforce across the country, including the interiors. All this has helped to create a sense of confidence and has led to a sophisticated exposure to the western and eastern world.

 

And yet, product management hasn’t had the share of this pie that you would expect it to. This is largely because the product market does not focus on the local economy. When product development is focused on a target market in close proximity, the development is fed by product management, which keeps a close market-watch, collecting intelligence and feedback. Access to the local market to validate acceptance of the product idea and sharp product management acumen is central to the success of the product. Yet when outsourcing evolved, engineering in the home country (where the product was conceived) became the eyes, ears and brains that decided the core engineering, and the offshore engineers often did not have a chance to contribute to critical product decisions. The side effect of this is that international market often questions India’s ability to make products out of India. Once you are embedded as a part inside a sub-tier of an engineering team of the customer – whether knowingly or many times unknowingly – engineers receive filtered information, restricting their view and finally their contribution remain largely defined and task based. This has a direct impact on what can possibly help the product succeed and meet its target demographic or what choices of technology, feature or market forces can make it go belly up. Exposure to failure is a key contributor to creativity and subsequently to productivity. NASSCOM’s 10000 startups initiative is reigniting the heat in emerging India, and tapping its hunger to be creative and productive. The new government’s initiative, ‘Make in India’ is counting on producing world-class products out of India. And initiatives such as internet.org. a joint collaboration between Microsoft, Facebook and other technology vendors is expected to fuel the talent of rural India unlike ever before.

 

Making products in India is possible, and is very real.

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Let’s face it. Workplaces are becoming increasingly distributed, often geographically spread in different parts of the world. Day-to-day work related interaction among colleagues is the one area impacted most by this. If communication channels are poor and insufficient, the fabric of interaction appears to weaken, resulting in inefficient and unproductive organizations. Developing effective communication channels is at the core of building productive work environments.

 

Organizations must be equipped with ways to bring staff together to discuss important work matters, consult colleagues and importantly, make decisions. Audio conferencing has been solving this problem quite effectively, right since fixed-line PSTN networks were prevalent, and is still going strong. Wainhouse Research estimates that in 2014, 100 million people worldwide have used over 100 billion minutes of audio conferencing.

 

For long, audio conferencing based on traditional phone lines (PSTN) was considered to be the lifeline that connected people at different work locations. You could bring purposeful discussions, interactions, brainstorming, thought-leadership and collective problem solving together on a phone bridge which allowed everyone to dial in toll-free or even allowed people to be dialed out, without having to worry about who pays for the call. Adoption grew as people in various roles embraced this technology. Over the years, the need to share and collaborate has grown, and with richer information in different formats. Product teams need to run scrum meetings to track development, sales needs to engage prospects through presentations, operations teams across geographies need to evaluate efficiencies, finance needs to appraise investor of quarterly results and  management needs a crisis control war-room.

 

In parallel, cell phones and internet telephony (VOIP) have rapidly changed the business landscape, and users now prefer to bring their own devices with them (BYOD). The choice to access conferencing solutions is now primarily on-demand. Cell phones and laptops equipped with softphones using VOIP make it convenient to connect to conferences while on the move. Internet and wireless technologies offer advantages that traditional PSTN based audio conferencing solutions cannot match. Cell phones have nationwide fixed cost plans that override the advantage of toll-free PSTN based dial-in features. VOIP provides you a further upside; that of getting quality, over the top (OTT) transmission of voice over internet lines that are capable transmitting much more than just voice. After all who needs to talk without context and how much context can you set without having a reference to the content (subject)? Users can join in using a device of their choice, enabling organizations to involve a remote workforce conveniently.

 

In these ways, audio conferencing has given way to a much more integrated collaborative experience. It turns an exclusive group communication solution into a flexible peer-peer (1-1) communication that can further extend into a richer group communication (1-n) experience, along with context sharing. These solutions help speed up organizational decision making and action. Wainhouse Research forecasts that integrated audio and web conferencing (audio, screen, chat, document sharing) with have a compound annual growth rate of 27% over the next five years.

 

Increased acceptance of BYOD has given rise to BYOA (Bring Your Own Applications) when users are not happy with applications provided by the organization. If communication and collaboration solutions offered by the organization do not meet the need to stay connected effectively for day-to-day work, employees will embrace BYOA but this poses a problem, particularly to IT, as unauthorized applications penetrate the organization unaudited.  This also means organizations face a severe data and IP security threat because data is transported over public channels and applications that IT cannot control.

 

For these reasons, keeping your organization’s authorized conferencing application ahead of the curve and with APIs for integration with their workflows should be a top priority – or users will look elsewhere for better solutions.

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It used to serve all text and now it serves streaming rich content. YouTube is streaming 6 billion hours of video each month. Netflix has 40 million paying streaming video subscribers, about 30 million of which are in the US. A typical non-streamer consumes about 4.5 GB a month vs 212 GB that a typical streamer consumes.And a whopping 72% out of that (about 100 hours of videos a month) constitutes streaming content which is about 11 times higher than the content a typical user consumes!

Connected devices, smart phones, smart TVs, tablets, set-top-boxes are converging for daily communication needs at homes and at workplaces. It’s the streaming apps that are leading the highest consumption of internet bandwidth today.  

YouTube, Netflix and Twitch.tv lead the chart on data downstream whereas Facebook and interestingly Snapchat (and not WhatsApp) lead the chart for upstream traffic usage. Live, WebEx, Go-to-meeting are not behind in the enterprise space. Clearly user facing apps are on the surge with every phone device estimated to run at least 20 handheld apps. The browsers are adapting to support newer standards such as HTML5 and WebRTC. Applications are adapting to focus on API integrate-able apps that leverage the cloud.  

So what does it mean for technological challenges?  

The WebRTC is commoditizing streaming media distribution over standard HTTP protocol and the collaboration experience is simpler to implement or consume than ever before. However, the streaming media intelligence lies mainly in the formulation of media packets, sizing, encoding, and mixing them while serving and ensuring dynamic bandwidth considerations are taken into account. It also lies in the ability to pierce through stored media so you can look through the content and reach the content of interest with quick and easy text searching meta-data that comprises the media bundle. With the attention of internet users dwindling rapidly, if the media platform is able to create content that can be kapsuled, indexed and bookmarked, then it is of immense benefit, with a high likelihood that users will consume it. With a mobile work-force, remote work is dominant at workplaces. Recording of live capture and replay on demand is crucial from geographic sharing and regulatory compliance reasons.  

Secondly, for building high quality video streamer applications many important considerations come into play. Emphasis on the right ones will be based on end-use scenario and also on concurrent creation or consumption scenario. The important considerations that drive streaming solution architecture include:

  • Live video vs. VOD
  • Solving the video distribution challenges (via CDN routing)
  • Approaches to effective streaming (e.g. efficient progressive streaming)
  • Monitoring streaming applications and media servers
  • Optimizations for quickly recovering from network congestion and packet loss
  • Persistent connections – to minimize the number of round trips
  • On-the-fly compression techniques
  • Providing full support for a collaborative experience
  • Enabling an ad hoc peer-to-peer sharing experience
  • Analyzing the consumption patterns and providing hooks for adapting streaming services to user needs
  • Social vs. enterprise experience creation  

Clearly there are a slew of domain specific considerations when building streaming solution. Most enterprises are geographically dispersed. Their work functions rely heavily upon effective information architecture and video-on-demand will be their dominant need. Rapidly emerging streaming technologies and connected-ness will drive applications to leverage the high speed internet to create, store and disseminate content/ information creatively for anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Mobile networks now represent about 50 percent video traffic. Content personalization, content search distribution is managed via preferences and type of networks (WAN vs Wi-FI) and content is loaded based on the best available high-speed networks. Most certainly this calls for building communication technologies that support the future needs of effective presence and serve users on the move well.

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