How good ideas evolve
The four quadrants that you see here are adapted from Steven Johnson's book titled Where Good Ideas Come From. We have in fact done a review of this book many months ago on IEDF but I thought there's one aspect of innovation that deserves more attention and explanation. Johnson tries to analyze innovations with respect to the surrounding ecosystem and the models in which individuals and companies operate. The result is the four quadrants.
Broadly, someone who invents or innovates is either doing it individually in the proverbial garage or attic; or she is part of a bigger research group that has access to funds and resources. The other axis of analysis is about the motive: are the inventors interested in profiting from their creations or are they open to sharing them with everyone else in the ecosystem. This is what the four quadrants are all about. Let's now look at some specifics.
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.
Idea, challenges and solutions
"Why would anyone want to write programs for Arduino in Indian languages?" you may ask. Well, there's a story behind that.
Many years ago, while attending a training program in robotics using Arduino, conducted by Simple Labs, Chennai, I got to talking with the founder of Simple Labs who had spent many years working extensively with schools across rural Tamil Nadu. One of the problems that he told me that he faced in Tamil Nadu was that of students from Tamil medium schools having trouble programming Arduino boards in English.
Sensors, devices, platforms and start-ups
Earlier this evening I attended an event focused on healthcare. The event was part of the Technology & Innovation Leadership Talk Series that's regular organized by the IET, Bangalore Chapter. Apart from listening to two experts, the event was also a chance to network with fellow engineers, students and entrepreneurs. Both the speakers delivered concise and useful presentations. Let's start with the obvious.
The cost of healthcare is on the rise. India's mostly rural population either can't afford the system or simply unable to access it. Adopting a Western system for the Indian economy is not going to work in the long run. We have forgotten a lot of our traditional systems of cure and well being. Healthcare is being run as a profit-making system, run by a nexus of technology vendors, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and insurance companies, so much so that it's sometimes more appropriate to call it the "health-scare" system. Our education system is in shambles and this has resulted in a lack of qualified doctors.
From the Mini Maker Faire 2015
I was there at the Bengaluru Mini Maker Faire yesterday at Taj Vivanta, Yeswantpur. As I entered, I noticed a buzz all around. There was chatter in the corridors. The concourse was milling with tech enthusiasts. There were curious questions and explanations to how things work. In short, it was just what I expected of a maker fair.
If I have to classify the stalls into two broad categories I would say this: one was commercial from the world of apps and gadgets; the other was hobby from the world of art, ideas and passion. I am not saying that commercial products and services lack passion. It's just that they are locked behind corporate walls and not visible to the public. Some marketing guy presents what's on offer. With hobbyists, the presentation is quite different. The creator is on the scene. She explains to you passionately how the idea occurred. We are excited to see the messy prototype. The prototype works. We are inspired and perhaps convinced that we too can build something like this.
I had mixed feelings going into the fair. I expected the usual run-of-the-mill stuff: home automation that is nothing more than switching on/off lights; staid blinking of LEDs; Raspberry Pi attached with a bunch of sensors without an application to bring them together. Thankfully, none of these were present. I guess the organizers have done a good job of prefiltering the exhibits through online public vote.
Thoughts from Nandan and Chamath
If you're running a start-up or thinking of doing so in the near future, you might want to get some insights and thoughts on the Indian start-up ecosystem and the dynamics of building a great company. What better way that to hear of it than from two successful entrepreneurs: one from the old world before web and apps came to us, Nandan Nilekani, who built Infosys; the other from the new world built on web, mobile and cloud technologies, Chamath Palihapitiya, who was responsible for growing Facebook from a few million to a billion users.
Things are changing pretty fast in the Indian start-up scene. New start-ups are cropping up by the hundreds, not just dozens. Funds are plenty. Many if not most students graduating out of college are looking first to start out on their own and only otherwise "settle down" via the campus placement route. But in this fast moving environment it's sometimes not clear who's winning and who's going to lose in the long term.
A Roundup of Maker Fest 2015, Ahmedabad, Jan 10-11
It is not very often that one gets to feel the winds of profound change that may be imminent on the world. Being at the Maker Fest 2015 was one such experience for me. The Maker Fest 2015 was the Indian edition of the global Maker Faire. Organized by the Motwani Jadeja Family Foundation on 10th and 11th Jan 2015 at GIDC grounds, Ahmedabad, this event brought together makers from around the country to showcase their work.
As it turned out, the event became a tremendous melting pot of ideas and interactions between students, start-up companies, professionals, educationalists, bloggers, policy makers and even young children. The energetic positive vibe of the place was contagious.
The event started with a well-delivered opening address by noted speaker Ms. Lakhsmi Pratury who emphasized the three Cs that all makers must remember at all times: Creativity, Community and Compassion.
The usual suspects plus many newcomers
Back in January, 24/7 Wall Street revealed the 10 most innovative companies, with an approach no smarter than counting the number of patents granted in 2013. IBM topped the list with 6,809 patents, Samsung coming in second with 4,675 patents. The other big and familiar names on the list were Qualcomm, Canon, Sony, LG, Panasonic, Toshiba and Microsoft.
We will not debate what make a company innovative or what's the best way to measure innovation. What is clear is that those who get the most patents are the big guys who have a diversified product portfolio, plenty of customers and good cash flow to pump into R&D.