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
An opinion on the diversity of cloud services
I've just returned from AWS Summit held at Taj Vivanta, Bangalore. It was a busy day of multiple back-to-back sessions interspersed with networking over tea, coffee and lunch. The venue was packed. The sessions were heavy, at least for someone like me who has never used AWS in any big way. I was familiar with some of the terms before coming to this event but I was surprised how much more there is to the AWS platform. They say that as a developer you can focus on developing your application while the cloud takes care of everything else: deployment, configuration, scaling, security, access control, monitoring, etc. While this is certainly true in the long term, as developers we need to put in upfront investment in terms of time and effort to understand the plethora of services that a particular cloud platform provides.
They say there are 90+ services in AWS. It's bad enough that developers need to aware of all these different services at their disposal. It's worse when you consider that making the choice of the right set of services for your application isn't trivial. This is particularly hard for folks used to only on-premise software built in monolithic fashion. We have to be really clear what we mean by the word "monolithic", which is usually not properly explained in such summits.
Measure, analyze and optimize app experience
I come mostly from a web app background. I haven't done much work in the mobile apps except for dabbling with some sample code in React Native. Mobile has come a long way. Yes, it's built on the foundations of web app development but today it has a life and roadmap of its own. I was therefore glad to attend today's event organized by Flurry, which is a platform for mobile analytics. Flurry was founded in 2005 and acquired by Yahoo in 2014. The event this afternoon was attended by entrepreneurs, developers and marketing executives. There was so much information packed into one afternoon that I'm sure everyone took away something useful from it, even if they were experienced in the mobile space.
The format was a mix of panel discussions and focused talks. It was nice to see representation from a spectrum of Indian start-ups. It happens sometimes that events organized by US or European companies feature speakers who know quite well their US or European markets but nothing much about the Indian market. Today's event was quite different. With speakers and moderators from Paytm, Flipkart, CouponDunia, Wooplr, Bounty, YourStory and more, it was clearly and rightly focused on the Indian market. There were of course guys from Flurry, Truecaller and Branch Metrics who gave lot of additional insights.
The future of real-time apps
This afternoon I got to attend an event organized by Kranky Geek at 91Springboard, Bangalore. The topic of the day was WebRTC, an API and protocol that enables real-time communications without the pain of installing plugins, configuring devices or worrying about security. The event was nicely structured: an overview, a detailed explanation of a typical call setup and its API calls, a live coding demo, a look at multiparty complexities, and finally an insight into how a startup PiOctave is using WebRTC in its IoT product.
Real-time communications has always been a challenge on the web, although I must point out that the birth of UDP/IP/VoIP owes a lot to Network Voice Protocol (NVP) of the 1970s, perhaps the first real-time protocol of the Internet. The problem was that back then we were handicapped by low bandwidths and modem speeds. This is not much of a problem these days but true many-to-many media streaming is hampered by the architecture of the web. WebRTC is trying to overcome that.
Plus an exciting quiz on IoT
I am pleased to cover once again our quarterly IoT Project Day event, an event for demos and talks. More importantly, it's an event for exchanging knowledge, inspiring others and networking with peers. As usual, we are happy to have it at Microsoft, Bangalore, and we thank them for opening up their venue for this purpose.
Today's event was a mix of electronics, sensing applications and analytics. Because, in the world of IoT, one thing without the others is not all that useful. Collecting data is not useful if you don't analyze it at some point. Electronics is not useful if you don't drive it with intelligent firmware. Gadgets are not useful if you don't think about wireless connectivity. Finally, you need to use the right sensors to gather real-world data that suits your application.
A melting pot of ideas and conversations
Makerfest 2017 was held from January 6-8 2017 at the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Ahmedabad, just a short distance away from the venue for the last two years. Unlike the serpentine layout of maker stalls in the 2016 edition, the Makerfest in 2017 went back to the layout similar to 2015, with maker stalls located along criss-crossing walkways and a central stage for the talks and panel discussions. Nestled under a bright multi-coloured canopy, this was a perfect melting pot of ideas and conversations, where new thoughts and connections inevitably got forged.
As always there was a wide range of maker projects on display. Along with the regular candidates like 3-D printing, IoT, drones, mobile applications, virtual reality and so on, there were also projects and exhibits from the good old offline world. A student from NID showcased his work on creating digital archives for artisans. Shradha Jain, an NID alumni, caught the audience's imagination with her knowledge and passion for board games from around the world. There was an exhibit which demonstrated electricity generation using gravity. There were also at least two projects that dealt with new innovative methods of constructing buildings and houses and at least two that demonstrated upcycling of materials like old tyres and rejected PVC sheets into objects of daily use.
A perfect way to sign off 2016
This morning we had yet another edition of our quarterly IoT Project Day. This is where we share ideas on IoT, give demos of interesting stuff we've done, or simply talk about useful tools and technologies. The event was hosted by Microsoft as usual, at their Embassy Golf Links location near Domlur. We thank Microsoft for supporting us for the entire year. The event was anchored by Anu Selvam, one of our regular members and a Nokia engineer.
Audience was a mix of students, working folks and IoT enthusiasts. Two students came all the way from Salem. One sure way to get into IoT in a serious way is to attend such community events on a regular basis and get inspired by what others are doing. Don't let your ideas hibernate. Start making something simple and ideas will evolve into working models.
We had four talks/demos at this event. Each speaker had so many interesting things to share that perhaps at the next event we should have only three speakers. This will give us more time for Q&A and in-depth treatment of the topics covered.
An enabler for a cornucopia of services
More than a billion Indians have an Aadhaar card but except for a handful of educated folks, not many understand the power that's behind Aadhaar. In the early days, the word on the street was that Aadhaar was supposed to be the system through which subsidies could be doled out to those who needed them. More recently, people have voiced concerns that with all the data collected and stored by Aadhaar, the government could misuse the same and perhaps violate the individual's privacy.
To many, Aadhaar is a card with a 12-digit number. The uninitiated carefully laminate the colour printouts they receive and flash it around whenever they need to show proof of identity or address. When asked if this is the original, they emphatically say yes even though you could go online and print out a valid copy anytime. So what exactly is Aadhaar?