A small selection across domains
There's so much happening in the space of Virtual Reality (VR), that it's becoming hard to keep track. The ecosystem has progressed sufficiently that content creation is becoming a serious focus. Those with intent and resources are in the race to create engaging quality content. Headsets are now available by the dozens and at a range price points. VR is by no means a mainstream technology yet but it's getting there.
Here's a selection of VR companies and content that have been in the news lately. This selection is of course just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. Some of these are accessible with nothing more than a smartphone, a downloadable app and a cheap VR headset. Often the app itself is free. Often content is also free, which is expected of any new content distribution platform keen on attracting users. Where devices and content are at a premium, they're for the early adopters willing to splurge north of $2000. Thanks to them, innovation continues to happen and technology continuously nudges past its limits.
Visualization and Analysis
This post is partly about learning how Indian start-ups were funded during the first half of this year. It's also about experimenting with data visualization. For the data, I was fortunate to find some open data, thanks to the work of Trak.in. Interested readers can go to the source and download the data. For visualization, I used a tool called BIME Analytics. It requires some time to master but I think I'm getting the hang of it.
Before we delve into the details, I have to make some cautionary remarks. No data is perfect. In particular, it's not clear how Trak.in obtained or verified the data. Was it data submitted online by users? How were users authenticated? Did they interview investors or scrutinize their investment documents? Secondly, a total of 545 projects were funded from January to June 2016. Of these, 235 were funded for undisclosed amounts: 165 via seed funding and 70 via private equity. Since 43% of the dataset has incomplete data, readers must keep this in mind while interpreting the following visualizations.
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.
Every inventor's idea of heaven
Bangalore has a number of co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators. Although there are some IoT accelerators that have come up recently, they are not makerspaces. Although there are couple of makerspaces or hardware labs, they are not incubators. Wouldn't it be nice if start-ups could have a space that's a bit of both? Wouldn't it be nice to have an office space that's co-located with tools and equipment that an inventor needs to quickly churn out a prototype?
That's exactly what IKP-EDEN has done. Located at Koramangala, almost opposite to Forum Mall, this place takes its inspiration from TechShops and FabLabs in the U.S. Spread over four levels, the place has the tools to cater for the basic needs of an inventor: wood working, metal working, rapid prototyping via 3D printing, power tools, injection moulding, electronics prototyping, test and measurement equipment.
A Selection from India Electronics Week 2016
What's an IoT company? Companies that have been around for three decades or more are suddenly calling themselves IoT companies just because their products have embedded firmware, some sensors or wireless connectivity and control. Since IoT is a buzz word, everyone wants a piece of the action. IoT was featured prominently at the recent India Electronics Week 2016 that concluded day before yesterday in Bangalore. While there was a conference component, I did not attend more than a couple of talks. Hence this post reflects more about what was on the exhibition floor and what I saw.
There were companies offering design and system integration services. Other had actual products including hardware. Home automation had its place. Meta Appliances is an example. I saw a few wearables. One was for pet activity tracking and location monitoring named Wagr. The other was Portuspine that helps with better posture and lesser back pain. Kratos uses intrared and BLE on a watch to enable gesture-based control of devices in the home. All were good ideas but not novel. Their hardware devices too lacked the image of a polished market ready product.
Another company imports and integrates baby warmers (from Brazil) into a complete healthcare solution for prematurely born babies. IISc showcased their concept of Astronome, a network of LEO satellites to provide Internet connectivity to rural areas. It is expected to be operational by 2020. Perhaps Astronome will succeed where Motorola's Iridium failed. There were others in the business of looking at data and running analytics on it. Some traditional ones were trying to position their M2M solutions as IoT solutions without knowing the difference between the two. I leave it to the reader to decide the worth of these companies.
Deciding on the best framework for your website
The beginning of the year is the best time to think about your next web project. The first thought that strikes us when we embark upon a web portal development project is which framework to use. Should we use Drupal or WordPress or Joomla! or any of the rest? I have worn those shoes a multitude of times. Today while my company has an arsenal of more than ten high-traffic web portals, I ponder as to what drove me to endorse Joomla! as our principal architect.
In the not so distant past in 2008, Drupal was the buzzword. It had a lot of opportunities for developers to build tools around it. Being an engineer and having worked under some of the best technical brains, I was naturally inclined to choose such a challenging framework. But such advantages come at a cost -- a steep learning curve! And furthermore, if you are a start-up, it means training your ever-changing team members (attrition), which is time consuming and costly.
Some things we have done and are proud of
Quite often I come across a start-up's website that starts by saying that "they are here to change the world." No doubt it is good and admirable to set high goals for oneself but at IEDF we have a different approach. We believe that the world can take care of itself once its shafts, gears and pulleys are sorted out.
IEDF exists to help engineers on an individual basis. Engineers can then go out there and change the world. We act as facilitators, enablers and connectors. It is really not about how many members we have on our website or how many followers on social channels. It is about making a positive difference to the career growth and aspirations of our member engineers, one engineer at a time. This is needed today more than ever. There is a great demand for talented engineers but engineering has always been an unglamorous career option for many.
Failure is just another word for learning
How does it feel to fail? Most hate the feeling of failure. It can sting, it can be embarrassing and it can make you look like an amateur, a wannabe and a talker. We try to hide our failures or dismiss them as something that was only an attempt, something we didn't have our hearts in. Perhaps there is some truth in that. Part of the negativity may be to do with the uncharitable attitudes we ourselves have towards those who fail. Failure isn't pleasant, whether it's in work or personal life.
In recent years, the narrative of the start-up scene with respect to failure has gradually shifted for both investors and entrepreneurs alike. Having a failure or two under your belt is almost a badge of honour, something that takes on a more positive hue from which you learn and grow. If you failed in a venture then there was a reason for that. If you care to admit that reason to yourself then it serves as a personal allegory, an experience you can draw on and hopefully not repeat. Learning from your failures requires that capacity for reflection.