Takeaways from a Singapore-India FinTech event at Bangalore
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:
- Beyond Payments
- Government Policy
- Skilled Manpower
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.
Payments made easy
It was in December 2016 that the BHIM app was launched by our Prime Minister. BHIM couldn't have asked for better timing. It came at the heels of demonetization when all of India was focusing on cashless payments. Cash was in short supply and alternative means of payments were in demand. About two months later, YourStory carried a story about 27-year old Nikhil Kumar who had apparently built the BHIM app in just three weeks. A few days ago Nikhil Kumar spoke at a small gathering of enthusiasts at Thought Factory, Bangalore. I attended mostly to know about UPI and BHIM but also partly out of curiosity to see the man behind the app.
I am yet to install the BHIM app on my smartphone. While I'm not a Luddite who stands against the advance and adoption of technology, I'm certainly not an early adopter. Since I know the engineering side of things, experience tells me that early releases are prone to contain bugs. Particularly in today's world of MVP releases and lean/agile processes, no one waits for a well-tested product. First releases will certainly contain problems when test-driven methodologies are not followed; or test automation has been sidelined due to more pressing delivery deadlines. So I haven't been using BHIM but I certainly wanted to know what it was.
The use of pulsed RADAR for range and speed measurement
In college you study so many interesting subjects that it's really a pity that you don't have the opportunity to pursue most of them. You have only one life. You have to choose one discipline to focus on. In fact, to contribute most as an engineer, you have to concentrate on the important problems of your chosen discipline. But when you are starting your career, choosing a discipline is not easy. Often students will look at job availability, growth opportunities, pay scales, and so on. This is good strategy for the average student. But if you've proven yourself as among the best, it's more important to make this choice based on your passion. The question is really not to ask which is a good job but rather what you are passionate about. With passion, and a willingness to learn and work smart, you can be good at any job you choose.
I have always been a communications engineer but most of my career has been about software protocols for wireless communication systems. I never got a chance to work on RADAR, which we may consider as the grand daddy of intelligent wireless communication systems. While radio broadcasting came earlier, it did not have the intelligence that RADAR brought. With RADAR, one could sense the world around without having a line of sight. RADAR was extensively used during the Second World War. Some even attribute the victory of the Allies more to RADAR than the atomic bomb. RADAR in turn contributed to the development of many other technologies in areas of astronomy, medical technology and meteorology. Today RADAR has branched into Electronic Warfare (EW) and to win the battle in the domain of EM waves is as important as winning it with physical assets.
Frequency band, range, throughput, devices and more
With lot of people increasingly getting connected to the internet, wireless routers are becoming more popular. These routers use Wi-Fi to setup a Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) to allow your devices to connect to the router wirelessly. The router is then connected to the internet through the ISP (Internet Service Provider). The advantage is that multiple devices can be connected and you do not need wires to be drawn from your device to the router.
On the manual of a wireless router there will be descriptions such as "up to 300 mbps throughput" or "supports 802.11 b/g/n". What does all this mean and will it really impact the speed at which the end device (like PC or tablet or smartphone) accesses internet? Does having a router with latest specifications guarantee faster data speed and what are the factors that impact this? These are some of the things we will explore in this blog.
Engineering challenges and achievements
The world's longest tunnel at 57.1 km was opened in Switzerland two days ago and the event was celebrated at the swissnex India in Bangalore last evening. The tunnel is a feat of engineering, taking 17 years to complete. It connects the north and south of Europe by cutting through the Alps. Known as the Gotthard Base Tunnel, it starts at Erstfeld in the North and ends at Bodio in the South.
This is by no means the first tunnel to go through the Alps. In the 13th century, a bridge was built in the Gotthard pass. Over the centuries this evolved to a road but a proper road tunnel was not made till 1708. That tunnel was only 65 meters long. A subsequent road tunnel was built in 1980. A 15 km rail tunnel came a century earlier in 1882 and it is still in use. This tunnel sits at an altitude of 1150 m above sea level whereas the Gotthard Base Tunnel is at 550 m above sea level. It shortens journey times, allows more trains to go through every day and allows heavier freight trains to go through.
The Calldorado SDK
I have been a web app developer for many years now. Although I downloaded the Android SDK way back in 2007 when Android was first released to the developer community, I had other priorities and getting into mobile app development took a backseat. With the world going mobile, especially in developing countries where most folks' first access to the Internet is via the mobile, lots of web developers are migrating to mobile apps, particularly on Android and iOS. But do they make enough money?
Published in July 2015, a report from Developer Economics revealed some interesting facts. If $500 a month is the poverty line, more than half of the developers are making less. Only 10% of developers use m-commerce as their revenue model whereas 46% rely on advertising. Mobile commerce from native apps are overtaking the same from mobile web. While cloud services are lucrative, IoT is bringing in the least revenue.
Moving from Hype to Reality
Two years ago, there were lots of animated discussions and brainstorming sessions about what the Internet of Things means and what it could bring. Though IoT itself was not a new term, it became a hot topic in 2014. Gartner rightly pointed out that IoT would reach its peak of expectations during that year. Surprisingly, Gartner predicted that it would remain at its peak the following year. Now that 2015 has gone by, let's take stock of where we are with IoT.
It was Cisco that predicted that by 2020 we will have 50 billion connected devices. Others in the industry have more recently arrived at the figure of 25 billion. Bloomberg reported that IoT is supposed to bring a business value of 19 trillion dollars, a number that again comes from Cisco. Those in the industry doubt this, given that the entire U.S. economy's GDP is 18 trillion dollars. Yet, interest in IoT has not in any sense diminished over the past year. IoT technologies are evolving rapidly. New applications are being thought of almost everyday. Trials are taking place in many sectors. IoT may not have grown as spectacularly as was once expected but 2015 has certainly been a good year.