INDIAN ENGINEERING DESIGN FORUM

Connect. Collaborate. Innovate.
14
August
2017

The Manual of Technical Communication

Book Review

The Manual of Technical Communication

Authors: Students of University of Alabama in Huntsville
Publisher: UAH Business and Technical Writing Program, 2014

There's one aspect of being an engineer that's often overlooked by engineers. Engineers focus on solving problems, building systems, writing code, designing models, and so on. They enjoy this sort of work but what they don't enjoy is to communicate. Perhaps this is because they lack the essential skills to do this right. Most university degrees in engineering include at least one module on technical communication but students take this module out of necessity rather than motivation. It's important for young engineers and students alike to realize that technical communication is the "x-factor" that could make them stand out from the crowd. This book written and edited by students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is a practical guide and a good starting point for all engineers.

Why is technical communication so important? An engineer's work cannot see the light of day unless she can explain her design decisions to her peers; or rationalize the budget and cost considerations of a project; or describe clearly the idea that's in her mind; or convince her boss why something needs to be done differently; or make a presentation to potential clients; or write an email that summarizes what was discussed at a lunch meeting. If as engineers we are unable to put across our ideas clearly, we will probably not reach our full potential and put to risk the projects we work on and our careers in the process.

29
July
2017

IoT Project Day: Ideas, Reference Boards and Prototypes

Plus an exciting quiz on IoT

IoT Project Day: Ideas, Reference Boards and Prototypes

IoT Project Day is our quarterly event. It's an event for exchanging knowledge, inspiring others and networking with peers. It really doesn't matter how trivial the project, we give chance to everyone to showcase what they have built, get feedback, learn and iterate. By having college students and industry folks on the same platform, students become aware of industry trends and project opportunities. As usual, we are happy to have it at Microsoft, Bangalore, and we thank them for opening up their venue for this purpose. We also thank all presenters who gave demos and withstood the barrage of tough questions from the audience!

In today's event, a couple of students gave demo of an Arduino-based prototype. We had two industry folks presenting technical overviews of their products and their relevance to IoT. We had a short IoT quiz that brought out the latest developments in the world of IoT. Vikas and I presented some ideas for projects: interested folks can write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to know more and collaborate. As they say, there's no better way to learn than by doing!

6
July
2017

Building My Own Development PC

Achieving Meteor 2-second rebuild time for £830

Building My Own Development PC

This was my purely hardware solution to the problem of slow Meteor build times.

When I decided to get into development I was adamant that I wasn’t going to run out and buy the latest and greatest in hardware until I actually knew how to code and knew what my requirements were in the long term.

So I went out and bought a used 15" Acer laptop for £150. It had the following spec:

  • Memory: 6GB RAM
  • Processor: Intel Pentium CPU 6200 @ 2.13GHz (Dual Core)
  • OS: Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS 32-bit
  • Storage: 153.5GB HDD

With this setup, I saw rebuild times of 15-30 seconds (including the browser refresh) of a side project using Meteor 1.4, React and a Mongo-db instance with around 1500 records. I found these times to be excruciatingly slow when it came to making multiple changes to my code and waiting to see the results. You can see the initial version of the project I was working on here.

1
July
2017

Communicating Science and Technology

Learnings from ScienceComm'17 India

Communicating Science and Technology

Yesterday I attended a conference organized by Swissnex India that was hosted at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) at IISc campus in Bangalore. Although the event was focused on science, the theme applies just as well to technology. Being an engineer, I write more about technology than science per se. Nowadays, the boundary between science and technology is fuzzy and the lag between research and commercial application is also shrinking.

The premise is that science is not just for scientists. Everything that's discovered and later applied comes back to affect society and the common man. Genetically modified foods, cancer research, climate change, species extinction and artificial intelligence are just some areas of science that people need to know about, discuss and debate. But science and technology is not written in simple language. Use of technical jargon and dense writing are common traits of scientific writing. It may be understood by the scientific fraternity but not the common man. Worse still, if written by journalists who don't understand science very well, facts can be misrepresented, misquoted and misunderstood. How then can we simplify science for all?

29
June
2017

The Four Stages of a Developer

Development is more than just writing code

The Four Stages of a Developer

Technology is changing so fast that it's becoming hard to keep track of what's new or where it's going. It's typical for a developer to invest a few weeks learning a framework, a productivity tool or a new language, only to be told to her annoyance that there's something better and shinier that has came out just two days ago. Often there's no clear-cut comparison to suggest that one choice of technology stack is better than another. Developer skill-sets, community support, open libraries, documentation, cost, and application requirements are some factors that influence that choice. The problem has become so acute that some developers spend days or even weeks researching and get indecisive. Wouldn't it be nice to have a place that introduces technology to beginners?

When I say "beginner" I don't mean in the sense of someone in college or just starting his career. You could have years of experience in one technology and still be a beginner in Data Science, Big Data, Virtual Reality, IoT or any of dozens of new technologies that are coming up. I've found from personal experience that often initiations are in the form of Getting Started Guides, Setup & Installation Guides or Hello World examples. This fails because it's telling folks how to use something rather than explaining what it is or why it's relevant.

19
June
2017

FinTech in India: Three Things to Note

Takeaways from a Singapore-India FinTech event at Bangalore

FinTech in India: Three Things to Note

I have to start with a disclaimer that I'm no expert in the area of FinTech. What I'm going to share here are some things I picked up at an event today where experts discussed FinTech in very specific terms. The event brought together the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and FinTech Valley Vizag, along with Bangalore start-ups and corporate delegates. MAS is partnering with the Andhra Pradesh government on a number of tech initiatives and FinTech is one of them. While Singapore is becoming the FinTech hub in Asia, Vizag is making bold moves to become the FinTech hub of India.

Three things stood out for me at the event:

  1. Beyond Payments
  2. Government Policy
  3. Skilled Manpower

2
June
2017

Why, How and What of Custom SoCs

An opinion

Why, How and What of Custom SoCs

Ever watched the Ted talk by Simon Sinek, How great leaders inspire actions? Not yet? Then I encourage you watch this 20-minute talk. This video covers the most fundamental thing that most companies fail to address: connecting with customers! Often companies focus on their products, going into details about the technical features, price, engineering innovation, etc. However, they fail to address the basic thing that is needed for a successful sale: Why they are offering the product? Answering this question bridges the gap between product and market. Revenue is an outcome, not the sole purpose of a company’s existence.

Let us take an example of a conventional sales pitch for the embedded computing platform: System on Module (SoM).

“We offer SoM that has a SoC, memory, power circuitry, Operating System, and BSPs, all integrated on a small form-factor board that offers you a platform for building your next embedded product”.

Sounds exciting? Well, it depends. However, it does not generate a great interest. Now, how about the following as a sales pitch?

18
May
2017

Power and Misuse: The Case Against Aadhaar

An opinion

Power and Misuse: The Case Against Aadhaar
Image source: Kumar, M., 2013, ‘Digital Privacy, Internet Surveillance, and The PRISM – Enemies of the Internet’, The Hacker News; Security in a Serious Way.

The world we have built around us is due to human ingenuity as well as engineering skills. Tools play an important role in this. It's not an exaggeration to say that most engineers think about the tools at their disposal before starting to give form to their ideas. To sculpt something, you need first good chisel and hammer. To build a bridge, you need precision measuring instruments. To dig a tunnel, you need a boring machine. In today's digital economy, you need connected servers, software platforms and algorithms.

Tools improve both efficiency and effectiveness. The problem with the use of tools is the intent. A knife can be used to cut fruit or to kill your neighbour. A cook and an arsonist use fire in very different ways. Now imagine what will happen when a powerful tool is created with bad intent but the public is told that it is for their good. Aadhaar seems to be in this category.

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