Thoughts

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Gartner’s 10 strategic predictions for 2017 and beyond, makes me unwillingly delve into imagining what the future holds.

As John leaves work and heads to the building lobby, his car is already waiting for him. Self-driving cars are almost mainstream. He just indicates to his car, “Drive me home”. After arriving home, which is already cooled/heated to his preference, he picks up the freshly brewed pot of coffee to pour himself a cup. As he walks into the living room, he says “Play HBO” and the TV turns on with HBO channel playing. Deeply engrossed in the movie, John is suddenly reminded by his virtual assistant (AWS Echo) reminding him about a dinner party scheduled for later in the evening. He tells his virtual assistant to buy some flowers and a good bottle of wine. Using virtual reality, he is immediately present in the virtual mall and able to hand pick these items. As he does a virtual checkout, these selected items are being delivered by a drone to his home in another half an hour and John is all set for the party.

In some time technology will make all of this a reality. Some of it is already a reality though. Let us now look at the technology underlying all of this. At the fundamental level we have Internet of Everything. All devices are connected to the grid all the time. This allowed John’s car to estimate and share his arrival time with devices at home. This in turn allowed his air conditioner to set the appropriate temperature level and coffee maker to brew his preferred coffee beforehand. Almost all the interactions are voice based rather than some clicks on a screen. Devices with audio input will be trained to be activated only on specific person’s voice (biometric audio-based authentication is implicit). Even the acting of purchasing something is not happening on the mobile application anymore. Most of the shopping will be using virtual reality channel and the experience will be most gratifying. No more running to the local store for last minute errands. Deliveries happen by drone in the most efficient manner possible.

Virtual stores of the future will have no physical stores nor warehouses, instead they will rely on JIT inventory from the suppliers directly. Goods will be shipped from the supplier directly to the consumers based on orders received by the virtual stores. The virtual store will completely change shopping experience for its consumers using virtual reality. It will allow consumers to touch and feel objects prior to purchasing theses. Credit transactions will happen transparently in the background based on bio-metric approval from the consumer. The virtual reality googles will perform an IRIS scan to authenticate the consumer and digitally sign the transaction and approve it. Block chain will be used by merchants to maintain these financial transactions in an authentic, non-repudiate-able fashion.

All devices in the home will be connected and share analytics metrics with manufacturers. For example – the air-conditioning/heating unit will share detailed metrics on performance of the compressor, power consumption trends, etc. with its manufacturer. This allows the manufacturer to leverage this data to perform analytics to predict outages and faults well in advance. This in turn ensures that the service technician (possibly a robot) does a home visit before the device breaks down. Preventive maintenance will help continuity and prevent outages. Consumers alongside businesses will help benefit tremendously from this.

Overall life style and experience will change dramatically. People will leverage fitness bands/trackers and share data with their healthcare provider as well as Health Insurance Company. This will enable the healthcare provider to proactively track health of an individual (again through analytics) to detect issues before these arise. Also, insurance companies will base the premium based on the healthiness level of an individual alongside life style patterns. The latter will include diet / food habits (from your virtual store grocery shopping), exercise regime (fitness tracker), etc.

With everything integrated – security is the key. With IoT devices, it is imperative that security is baked in at multiple levels.

 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_IOT-Security.jpg

 

Let us look at these in more detail below:

 

Device security – The device needs to protect itself from attackers and hackers. This includes (but is not limited) to the following: hardening the device at OS level, securing confidential information on the device (data at rest on the device), firewalling the device, etc.

 

Authentication – Each entity (device, cloud service, edge node/gateway, etc.) needs to authenticate itself to the corresponding entity. If there are default username/passwords in the device, then it needs to enforce password reset on initial power-on (along with factory reset option). Ideally the device should not use static password for authentication. In our earlier post on OTP – based device authentication for improved security we have discussed a novel approach which helps address the challenges faced by IOT device manufacturers today.

 

You can read more about OTP – based device authentication for improved security by clicking here.

 

Network communication channel security – Today there are various communication channels at play, for example – devices communicating with their respective cloud service providers, devices communicating with fog/edge computing services/devices, devices interacting with other devices, etc. It is important that each communication channel is secured and there exists trust between the communicating endpoints. The channel can be secured using TLS as appropriate.

 

Cloud service security – The cloud service provides the backbone for services provided. The attack vector surface needs to be minimal and hardened / firewalled for DDoS attacks. Data from the devices is collected at the cloud service end and needs to be secured (data at rest). This data need not be visible to the cloud service provider as well (depending on the nature of the data and service provided). Provider needs to ensure that appropriate backup and disaster recovery plans are in place. Also, the provider needs to present their business continuity plan to its subscribers. Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) provides good guidance to cloud service providers.

 

Privacy – This relates more to data sharing across disparate service providers. With IoT, devices will end-up communicating with devices / services from other providers. How much information can be shared across service providers with user content needs to be carved out explicitly? Service providers will need to incentivize users to allow sharing information with other providers. The user needs to benefit from the sharing eventually to allow it.

 

To summarize security is a key aspect for success of IoT.

 

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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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This blog is about the growing skill gap which is providing some hard-hitting Students and employers are unhappy with what the education providers dish out, but providers believe they do a swell job! Budding engineers learn the best while working under pressure and by doing things, but education providers ignore both these avenues of learning in most curricula. And then the bitter truth! – while we know that job-related training has more impact, social as well as professional pecking orders place vocational training below academic training!

These three well-known facts of life, borne out by this article, have been traditionally addressed by landmark companies very well. They have “invest”ed in training significantly. However, under cost and time-to-market pressures, lately companies have started looking at this investment as “cost” and are expecting a finished product (a productive engineer) right out of college.

GS Lab has recognized that that’s where the trouble starts and prefers to use alternate education methods to avoid this pitfall: we encourage people to sign up for massively online open courses a.k.a. MOOCs, produce a lot of do-it-yourself (DIY) content, and provide a company-wide peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing platform.

Even when the Internet was not around (i.e., when I was attending college), I learnt the most – not in classrooms - but using DIY and P2P in the physical world. These tried-and-trusted techniques take time to produce results, but they reap rich dividends once the people pipe is full. GS Lab has committed to take this route and is at a stage where there are many high calibre people at each level. kpoint supports these basic human behaviors at work everywhere.

We must constantly remind ourselves that experts and good teachers (those who not only share but also motivate) will never lose their value and encourage employees to pursue a http://www.businessinsider.com/the-growing-skills-gap-explained-2012-12nd teach expertise. We prefer to keep our “saw” sharp through DIY and P2P eco-systems.

After dealing with recruitment shortages and lack of quality for a while, we are convinced that it is best to take charge and solve your own problem!

Here’s wishing all of you a merry Christmas and a very happy and productive 2013 !

Regards,
Shridhar Shukla

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There is a myth in the Indian software industry that development stream is superior than QA. Many fresh engineering graduates from reputed colleges & universities and even the experienced engineers are falling pray to this misconception. If one gives a deep thought to the overall expectations then there is not much room for such a differentiation.

At the core we all are engineers and believe to earn engineering degrees to solve the problems ( primarily ) specific to computer science or applications. Any such problem has many dimensions like the problem statement, the beneficiaries or end users, and the use cases. Without thorough understanding of these different aspects at depth, the creation of the effective solution is next to impossible. Also, one has to pay close attention to various details of the solution like technology choices, data flow, security, ease of use and enterprise software features like performance, scalability, debug ability and serviceability . Furthermore, personal qualities like understanding the big picture, expanding the single line requirement into detailed analysis, and assimilating the GSLab’s 10 commandments are crucial for success. All of these are beyond development ( so called coding ) or QA, it is system engineering ! Every engineer should thrive to attain this level of competency.

Dev and QA both have to work in each other's areas. Developer has to do the unit testing and integration testing, and on the other hand, QA has to carry out the test automation development besides the manual QA. In general QA is a lot more complex than development. Developers tend to make many assumptions while writing the code, which needs to be validated by QA.  QA needs to think of all the possible usage scenarios ( many of which are not only difficult but practically impossible to simulate ) to test the product. Do you know that 40% of 750 million user base of Facebook is active at any given point of time ? Thus the product success is directly proportional to the effectiveness of QA. QA being a release gate, without the QA certification the product cannot be released ( ask the Cisco folks how often the releases are postponed due to insufficient QA coverage ! ).

In my personal opinion all engineers benefit from spending some time in QA. I personally have improved my engineering abilities by doing QA. It not only gave me a better overall understanding of the product, but it gave me invaluable insights into the user experience, and gave me a perspective of what it’s like to be in QA.

At GSLab, development and QA engineers are treated with equal respect and are provided similar opportunities for growth. So don’t worry about your role at GSLab. Either as developer or QA, it is the problem solving attitude which matters.

- Mahesh

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GS Lab completes 9 years today!Hearty congratulations to all of you on the occasion.

In Chinese culture nine is considered a good number because it sounds the same as the word "long-lasting".We should all be proud in building GS Lab into a thriving and long-lasting organization.  Let's look at some of the actions over the past twelve months. 

We exceeded our FY12 target with a healthy run-rate to set up FY13 well.  We grew most of our customers and added seven long-term ones.

We had our first spin-off product
kPoint – get some marquee customers firmly established, hired experienced specialists, launched a beta site in the US and are getting ready to launch there.  We released a unique tool called skreen.me, started Tech Forum, and increased sharing through tech talks, open hours, and Chatter. 

We came up with a unique and appealing positioning and articulated it crisply on our web site.  We morphed the Security practice into the Id Management practice.  We got the Mobile Development practice to a critical mass.  We focused better on our initiatives like mobile, big data, and virtualization. 

We improved our career path definition and strengthened critical shared services like recruiting, talent management, and IT.  We deployed a number of tools for internal efficiencies. 

On the facilities front, we managed to stay together by getting the sixth floor, set up a physical US office, increased travel to customers, and strengthened Corporate Services by getting specialists.   

Going forward, we will strengthen all the good things we have started and market GS Lab more for tighter relationships as well as to get more customers and colleagues.  There will be special emphasis on sharpening our technical edge.

So, again, congratulations to everyone involved on this milestone, all the best and enjoy our birthday!

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