Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Self Parking Slippers and Chairs – Remarkable

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

I came across this interesting article about self parking slippers in the newspaper today. My curiosity level went up when I realized it was from Nissan as a good friend of mine, Tony, is deeply involved in the thick of actions in technology there.

When I pinged him on this, he directed me to a post he had made on this topic a few days back, which led me to wealth of information on this topic, which is remarkable.

Self Parking Slippers

Self Parking Slippers

Nissan had taken this initiative to showcase to people about their ProAssist technology.  When you watch this video about the self parking slippers, you will be fascinated by it.

As I continued to watch this, I got to learn about ProPilot Chair, which shows how the same technology was used in a proof of concept for self parking chairs to make queueing system easy so that people do not have to stand up and sit down in a queue as they move ahead.

Due to their connected videos on this topic, I got a chance to learn about the self parking slippers, chairs, cushions, tables and even mats, a proof of concept done by Nissan to show case the technology behind their self parking cars.

The simplicity with which Nissan has explained the robustness of their ProAssist technology is remarkable, as it helps people relate to their day to day experiences and can imagine how exactly the same technology is available in the Self Parking vehicles coming from Nissan. Hats off to Tony and team at Nissan for this amazing way of explaining to the common man. This is a classic example of how you explain serious technology to common folks. This is an important lesson to learn from, for everyone involved in creating new technology to solve real world needs.

Alexa is Amazing

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

I got my Alexa device as soon as they made it available in India. I played around with it as a user initially, but soon the technology kid in me took over and started developing skills.

A few things I learnt, which I did not know before about Alexa are:

  1. There is a history of all the commands we give Alexa. Wait, this is not the usual history with text, it also stores the exact audio recording of the voice command given to Alexa. This is scary – when you realise that they have proof of every interaction you ever had with Alexa 🙂
  2. I can now listen to my books on Kindle using Alexa. Earlier I used to buy books on Audible for more than 15USD. Now, it is less than 5USD, delivered to my phone, plus read to me by Alexa 😉
  3. There is a whole new world of Visual User Interface / Visual User Experience (VUI/VUX) which has to mature as it has been least explored so far.
  4. They have separated the skills by region. This means, when I build a skill for India, it will not be available for consumption in US or Europe. I am not sure if this is a good move, but it is an interesting move. I guess it will keep content geography centric and provider more accurate results.

A few topics where I am still pondering over the long term business strategy are:

  1. Without the ability to have the same Alexa voice skills in my phone, I am limited to using Alexa in the house (may be, like some of my friends, I should also get a Alexa Dot for every room.)
  2. Without the ability to communicate using a picture or a video, I am limited to voice based interactions only. May be the future versions of Alexa will come with a camera (or better if Alexa phone is launched!!)

I am comparing Alexa with Hey Siri and OK Google (and to certain extent Watson too) to see how they will compete in the long run.

Will publish some skills on Alexa, that I hope will be useful for everyone.

Meanwhile, I am still thinking of making life easy for any one to extend their existing conventional services (such as websites) to be extended to work with these voice enabled systems.

Due to this level of fascination I have with these products, hence the title – Alexa is amazing – because it simply is.

Computer Science Graduate Course – Recommended Curriculum for 2018

Friday, January 26th, 2018

During my professional career in India in the past five years, I have spent numerous hours looking for the ideal, well-rounded candidate with a Computer Science background, knowing very well that expecting perfection is meaningless and close to perfection is good enough. As this led to numerous hours of disappointment, I tried going to the root cause of the issue. We were looking for candidates coming out of colleges to be industry ready.

With over 90% of the candidates failing to meet even the basic requirements, I started wondering if we can help the educational institutions with details on what is expected by the industry from the students when they graduate. This blog post is a result of that effort.

If I was approached to define the course curriculum for a Computer Science graduate, here are about a dozen courses that I would recommend during the two year period. We have to keep in mind that in each of the courses, the part with examples (such as Watson, Siri, AWS etc) is bound to change within six months to a year due to the rapid advancements in technology, but the core fundamental concepts remain valid.

Will be happy to know about your views on this.

Business Fundamentals:

  • Why: Why You Exist? (Before explaining what or how)
  • What: What Business Problem Are You Trying To Solve?
  • How: How Do You Intend Solving It?
  • Soft Skills (Communication, Commitment, Delivery, GetItDone)
  • Platform Business (Netflix / Amazon / Apple / Facebook / Google)
  • Connection Economy
  • Accounting (CashFlow, P&L, Balance Sheet, ARR)

Programming Fundamentals:

  • Principles of Programming Languages
  • SDLC
  • Source Code Repository
  • Automated Deployment Process (Docker, Jenkins)


Masters of Scale – Podcasts by Reid Hoffman

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Got a chance to hear a podcast called Masters of Scale by Reid Hoffman, who was one of the founders of LinkedIn.

Reid interviews founders who have managed to scale their business in an amazing way. 

I heard a few of the podcasts and am quite impressed with the wealth of information that these founders provide based on their experience during their journey.

I would highly recommend this podcast to any one who is working hard to make a difference in this world and would like to learn the art of scaling up from leaders like Mark Zuckerberg (FB), Brian Chesky (AirBnB), Reid Hastings (Netflix) etc.

My personal favourite so far is the one with Brian Chesky from AirBnB where he explains the 11 star experience that he suggests handcrafting with the users. I also like the way Brian switches between focusing on one consumer and scaling it up in a large manner – and then again switching back and forth between the two based on the need of the hour.

I intend to write a separate blog post about each episode. Hope it is useful to budding entrepreneurs.

Technology Firms Disrupting Their Models?

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

In the past I used to always compare the business model used by the technology companies of yesteryears ie. before 1990 (IBM, HP, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle etc) with those of the new entrants ie. after 1990 (Google, Amazon, Apple, Ebay, Yahoo etc) and notice these key differences:

  • Asset lite: The investments made were purely in technology
  • Ad lite: Very rarely we used to see sales people from these organisations advertising their products

Now I am beginning to compare these firms with the big ones that have emerged after 2000 (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Uber etc)

The following incidents are very interesting to note:

  • Amazon bought the Whole Foods chain in the US. This concept of buying brick and mortar businesses to compliment the online business is a big deviation from their past strategy (though they have tried opening a few bookstores in the past.)
  • Uber has placed an order for 24,000 driverless cars from Volvo. This deviates from their previous statements that Uber does not own any car but just the technology behind the platform.

This makes me ponder about why the technology companies are disrupting themselves.

Amazon might have to do this – as now they are competing directly with Walmart. Walmart is on an acquisition spree (they bought and have one more chance to conquer the ecommerce space. Meanwhile, another side benefit for Amazon could be the Amazon Locker. Each outlet of Whole Foods will now become home to Amazon Locker.

What is a computer? Latest iPad Pro Ad

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Apple has now come up with a new approach to push iPad as the standard technology device that replaces the computer.

By doing so, they are directly competing with the mobile devices who have been pitted to replace computers for a long time. There have been many reasons used against the mobile devices such as:

  • The size is so small that we cannot do real designs using a mobile phone
  • Real multi tasking is not possible

Apple has capitalised on these and started projecting iPad Pro as the ideal device to replace the computer.

It is a classic positioning and if they have called the shots right, they will kill the computer market, but at the same time giving a big boost to other competitors like Microsoft Surface etc.

For those who are interested in knowing more about the product specifications etc, the video below should be quite useful.


Amazon Fire Stick Is Data Hungry

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Amazon Fire TV Stick is one of the IOT (Internet of Things) enabled devices that have become quite popular in the recent times. I consider it a classic example of disruption using technology.

Got a chance to order an Amazon Fire TV Stick on Amazon and was pleasantly surprised to receive it ahead of time.

The installation of Amazon Fire TV Stick was quite smooth but the most interesting revelation came after the setup was completed.

Just to give a context, my typical video usage consumption before receiving the Amazon Fire TV Stick was from the following mediums:
– Netflix
– Amazon prime
– Cable tv
– Apple Tv
– TED talk videos
– YouTube videos
– WhatsApp videos
– Facebook videos
– LinkedIn videos

Amazon Fire TV Stick allows you to access almost all of these and many more.

Earlier I used to watch YouTube videos on the internet and that behaviour was known only to Google.  Now when I watch a YouTube video via the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon also knows my usage behaviour and the power of that will enable it to provide much more targeted information to match my taste.

The same applies to the Netflix programmes we watch at home. Amazon Fire TV stick has the data and it is just a matter of hours before which they will know exactly the age and tastes of each person in my household.

I doubt if I will need Apple TV at all as Amazon Fire TV Stick provides everything that comes in Apple TV.

Cable TV is also out of the window as Hotstar takes care of the live telecasts and my favorite programs such as Game of Thrones.

WhatsApp, Facebook and Linked in are the few  mediums not impacted by the Amazon Fire TV Stick coming into my life. Not sure how long that will last.

This kind of disruption is what is happening because of such IOT enabled devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick. If you are planning to disrupt any market, it would be a good exercise to study the way Amazon Fire TV Stick has been implemented.

Amazon Locker – An Interesting Initiative

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Amazon has been experimenting a new concept called Amazon Locker, where you could choose an Amazon Locker near you as the delivery address, and go and pick up the items from there.

Amazon Locker


This attempt clearly shows how Amazon is trying to focus on improving the experience at each touch point involved in the eCommerce buying process.

As expected, Amazon has tied up with a few stores in the US, and have also expanded the service to other countries such as the UK.

Amazon Locker

While it will be interesting to see how this evolves over a period of time, if you think of the possibilities of the variations in India, they are endless. Some of them are:

  • An ecommerce giant tying up with India Post, Railways, petrol bunks, retail stores, village level entrepreneurs etc
  • A distribution company setting up their own brand outlets similar to Amazon Locker

It will be interesting to watch this space over a period of time.


Audible – Remarkable

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Spent some time earlier this week on understanding ‘Audible’ book types, the recent innovation from Amazon, which allows users to download books using ‘Audible’ book type and it plays on Android/iPhone devices.


As they also gave two books for free to be downloaded with new sign ups, I took this opportunity to download and listened to ‘One Simple Idea’ by Stephen Key and ‘Linchpin’ by Seth Godin.

Initially it looked like any other app, but as I started using Audible, I fell in love with it. Here are some reasons why:


Enemy at the Online Gates

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

In the past two weeks, our MPMLA website has been attacked repeatedly by a hacker and he has been quite successful in many of the battles so far.

I feel I now have a better understanding of how this hacker thinks. I feel like I am in the movie Enemy at the Gates – online version! While I think I am Vasili, I would not be surprised if he also thinks he is Vasili.

Not sure if the hacker also thinks he is Vasili :-)

Who is Vasili?

He is from a different time zone – but both of us now know our computer usage patterns and are awake at the time when the other person is in front of a machine. I can understand his frustration levels when I find out his tricks and I am also sure that he understands the way I would feel when I see him attack successfully time and again. At times I wonder how would it be if he comes in front of me and introduces himself or may be I should do that giving him the element of surprise!

Every time he defaces the website, I clean it up – and then try to remove all traces of his presence. Every time I feel I have captured all his access points, he comes back again with vengeance – this time with a bigger attack. The difficulty level of the attacks have increased after every round.

Happy to know this hacker through his actions, as he appears to be a very smart one – unlike many wannabies who get hold of sample code from some website and think they are hackers! He has taught me some golden rules by his action:

  • What we have with us is precious – many of us do not realize it until it is lost.
  • Stay Hungry – Stay Foolish (This is famous after Steve Jobs mentioned it – I knew it earlier in Tamil as ‘Kattravai Kai Mann Alavu – Kallathavai Ulagalavu’ by Avvaiyar – which means what you know is like a handful of sand, while what you do not know is of the size of the world).

While this hacker could have won many battles so far, I am prepared for a long war – which gives the adrenalin rush that pushes both of us to go to the extremes – he is doing his best to take me out, while I am trying to get rid of him. Now it makes me understand what would have gone in Vasili’s mind!

Going by the assumption that both of us have all the tools and expertise necessary to succeed, two simple rules will decide the winner:

  • Consistency in the passion towards achieving the goal
  • Consistency in the time spent on doing the work that helps accomplish the goal

May the better one win!