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Will IoT improve your eating habits?

Will IoT improve your eating habits?

29720_french_fries_inline_640_8“This extra-virgin olive oil is a fake!”

I recently came across an interesting article by Amy Webb on how Internet of X will change our lives as we know them now. Essentially, Webb’s theory is that soon, we’ll be able to analyze any product we consume or use – ranging from the chicken in our meal to the multi-vitamin we take – thereby giving us enough information to make informed choices.

The technology for doing most of it exists today – the sensors, spectrometers and gateways, in addition to big data and advanced analytics tools needed. However, someone has to securely store the massive amount of data that can potentially generated, and host advanced search technologies to query the data – question is, who will be paying for that?

Some of it can be paid for by product companies – an example Webb provides is researching the seasoning on your french fries at the restaurant to buy the seasoning to use at home. The seasoning manufacturer would be happy to provide the information in order to grow their sales – but that may not cover the expenses for hosting, access and security.

This brings to mind what we (I work for Harman Connected Services) are doing with a large agricultural company, as well as a different foray into precision farming with a large telecom company.

foodIn the first instance, from a crop grower technology perspective, we are working with measuring the NPK (Nitrogen, Phospate, Potassium) levels – which is one of the biggest focus area of nutrition management of crops.

Nutrition Management broadly addresses 3 areas:

  1. For the grower the cost of nutrition – Optimizing the spend on fertilizer, ensuring that just the needed amount of nutrition is purchased and applied.
  2. For the grower ensuring the the crop gets the required amount of nutrition. The need varies based on growth stage of the crop as well as external factors such as temperature, humidity, soil quality etc.
  3. From the regulatory authority perspective ensuring that seepage of nitrate from fields into neighboring lands (could be an organic field etc.) or water bodies is minimal.

The technologies used are available today – IoT sensors, big data, analytics – but stretching that to Webb’s example is easy. If the data of the food source data (similar to what is collected by us above) was made available by the grower, you could potentially see where your spinach was grown, and how much fertilizer was used to grow it. You could also see if there were any sustainable agriculture practices followed…the list goes on…

All this is very exciting, and businesses will eventually find a way to monetize the data so that it can be made available to the general public securely…just don’t carry a fake Gucci bag to your next cocktail party!

Beyond Uberization – auto industry turning into services business?

Beyond Uberization – auto industry turning into services business?

carI step out of my house to find my driver-less car from the ride-sharing service waiting for me, with my ride-sharing partners already seated and working. The indicator on my coffee mug tells me I have enough for the drive to the office – I fire up the console in front of me and log into my Office 365 account to finish up a sales proposal during the drive.

On the way back from the office, this cycle is repeated, except now the car has transmitted my arrival information to my home – to have it at the right temperature when I arrive with the lights on – and I have enough time to order groceries and shop for a gift on the car’s “marketplace”.

Too futuristic for you? If you have been following the developments in the auto industry, you would know that almost all of this is available today…

It was only about four months ago that I wrote about Uberization in auto sales – idea being that Tesla is leading the charge into changing the paradigm around auto sales to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.

A couple of weeks ago at the CES trade show, the auto industry was again at the forefront of change – with announcements ranging from enabling people to access their Microsoft Office suite in the car from Microsoft and Harman, to “mobility services” from Ford.

“Ford’s rollout of mobility services, mostly under the “FordPass” brand name, resulted from 18 months of evaluation into building an end-to-end customer experience around the new offerings. FordPass, which launches in April, will be free, whether or not users own a Ford vehicle. FordHubs, the name for its storefront centers—which bear resemblance to Tesla’s retail locations—will open later this year in New York, San Francisco, London, and Shanghai. In February, Ford plans to launch a shared-lease program in Austin, Texas, that will allow up to six friends or neighbors to share a single vehicle. And soon FordPass members can speak directly to a human being, from a team dubbed FordGuides, to book a space at a local parking garage or receive other services”.

Add to that GM’s recent $500 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft and purchase of SideCar‘s assets (SideCar was a ride sharing service which shut down last December) – the auto industry is truly thinking ahead, maybe because of necessity.

There are many factors leading to that thinking, but primarily, it is the increasing global realization that owning a car for everyday use may not be the most attractive option (of course, the purchase of a car for ego purposes cannot be discounted just yet). Even in the U.S., the number of households without a car grew from 8.7% in 2007 to 9.2% in 2012.

Consider this prediction from 2014:

The world will reach “Peak Car” — a point at which annual global sales growth will top out — in the next decade, several auto-industry analysts predict.

Researcher IHS Automotive, for one, sees annual sales cresting at 100 million within that time. Peak Car is at odds with the ambitious expansion plans of global automakers, which IHS says are gearing up to produce more than 120 million vehicles by 2016 — almost 50 percent more than last year’s worldwide sales mark of 82 million

So what is a major auto manufacturer (and its ecosystem of parts suppliers) to do?

An interesting article in MIT Technology Review talks about how auto manufacturers are taking tentative steps to become services businesses. In this age of “Everything as a Service”, a new term comes to mind for this – Mobility as a Service”.

Indeed, the article offers a prescient quote: “Uber showed the world that it can help people get where they want to go.”…(On another note, people following this thread maybe interested in a recent article in The New Yorker around how Uber and it’s Dubai-based competitor, Careem, have changed the lives of women in Saudi Arabia – which restricts driving by women)

The tune of the analysts has also changed in less than two years:

In November, Gartner, a technology market research firm, predicted that by 2020, 10 percent of today’s vehicle owners in urban markets will replace vehicle ownership with on-demand vehicle access. Thilo Koslowski, vice president and automotive practice leader at Gartner, believes companies like Uber and Lyft have an early-mover advantage in the short-term—but in the long run car companies could become legitimate players in mobility services made possible through car connectivity. He says their success won’t strictly be a matter of investment, but developing a culture and mind-set that extends beyond products.

So to answer the question above, in the short-term, companies like BMW are hoping to gain competitive advantage by impressing the ride-sharing users with the benefits of owning a BMW, but in the longer run, the Mobility as a Service and related offerings may become the primary way to financial success.

For more thoughts, follow me @RajBhandariDFW

Five predictions for Healthcare IT (Providers) in 2016

Five predictions for Healthcare IT (Providers) in 2016

Once again, a new year, and as a sales leader trying to skate to where the puck will be, here are some predictions scenario-3-1on where healthcare IT for providers is headed – based on trends, recent news and consensus from thought leaders: (of course, the normal caveats of a Presidential election year apply)

  1. Providers will get out of managing data centers: At least, the rate of data centers changing hands will increase. With the infrastructure being commoditized by major cloud vendors like Amazon, value-added services around migration, security and support of legacy applications through the cloud will be the diffrentiators. There will be new entrants in this area – for example, the recent acquisition and lease back of Mayo Clinic’s data center by Epic. I would not be surprised to see venture funds and pure play financing companies partnering with IT Outsourcing (ITO) companies to accelerate this play.
  2. Rise of consumerism leads to technology investments: The connected consumer is making their presence felt in healthcare as well – both increasing the amount of data being generated, as well as expectations of access to the data by the patient.  Increased inter-device connectivity because of stabilization of IoT standards and widespread usage of personal health devices/apps will generate data which has to be acquired, managed and analyzed securely – which following #1 above, provides more opportunities to technology vendors.
  3. Population Health Management (PHM) becomes mainstream – despite several flavors of population health being promoted for the last several years, a recent study cited only 25% of the providers using a vendor-provided PHM solution. The new focus of Personalized Medicine will be towards automated PHM solutions, leading to use of genomics data for preventative treatments.
  4. Changing payment methods create new needs for revenue recognition and distribution: As the movement towards Value Based Payments accelerates, payment per episode will needs new financial modeling and analysis by providers (for example the Bundled Payments for Care Improvements by CMS has four different methods of calculating payments). A renewed spotlight on Fraud, Waste and Abuse (FWA) in the payments process will yield new savings – leading to more investments in predictive analytics.
  5. Apps and APIs will create paradigm shifts: Automated apps to tap into the trasactional data in EHRs are already evolving, but the more exciting focus will be on Open APIs in healthcare. One of the requirements of Meaningful Use (MU) is that by 2018, patients should be able to access their health information through an API using an application of their choice. This will force the EHR vendors to be more interoperable and lead to a new set of application developers offering these services to the consumers securely.

For more of my thoughts, please follow me at @RajBhandariDFW

Marx, Monetization and M2M – where do we go from here?

Marx, Monetization and M2M – where do we go from here?

sharingA recent article in The Economist caught my eye – firstly because the tag line referred to digitization being a threat to the industrial leadership of Europe’s largest economy, and secondly because it brought to mind Karl Marx’s words from over 150 years ago.

The article, Does Deutschland do digital?” talks about how German manufacturing companies, long focused on engineering and precision, are now trying to transform themselves (slowly) into data and software companies. The trend is nothing new – here in the States, we have been seeing provocative headlines like “Domino’s Becomes A Tech Company That Happens To Make Pizza” for years. The premise is companies are using the latest advances in mobile, cloud, big data and analytics to improve their business models – and get more revenue from improved services.

marxSo what is so different in the Deutschland? Enter Karl Marx, who in Das Kapital talks about commodities being the fundamental units of capitalism. Commodities, according to Marx have two values – a “use value” – what it does in the way of satisfying needs and wants – and an “exchange value” – the relative value of the commodity in relation to another commodity.

The article talks about a German company founded in 1923 called Trumpf – who is now trying to re-establish itself as a software provider – “Trumpf’s roots in metalworking and other hardware stand in stark contrast to what it is trying to achieve next: building a new business purely based on software and data. Unveiled last month, its online offering, called Axoom, connects machines built by Trumpf and others, and uses the data it collects from them to help customers organise their production—for instance, to warn them when they are running out of material or to order it directly from the supplier. Much like smartphones, Axoom will be able to run “apps” from other providers, such as software to schedule workloads, or to predict when machines will need a spare part”.

But here, we are talking about information as a commodity which has an “exchange value”. When would sharing information between apps become a “loss of sovereignty”?

“Apple and Google are pressing carmakers to install the operating systems they have designed for cars’ entertainment systems, which in practice will suck up all sorts of other data about the car and its occupants. Carmakers are realising that to give up this territory would risk their “sovereignty over the data” generated by their vehicles, in the words of Wilko Stark, Daimler’s strategy chief. They could end up like Samsung, whose profits from smartphones are limited by the fact that it depends on Android, Google’s mobile operating system”.

So how do we get past the fear of sharing?

One way is by looking to bureaucracy – the “Open Data Initiative” of several governments has put a lot of data (albeit mostly mundane) in public domain – which can then be used by startups like Zillow to create apps which can monetize the inferences from this data. Other good examples cited in another article in the same issue of The Economist are around corruption – “Making data public can also fight corruption. Last year IMCO, a Mexican think-tank, found over 1,400 teachers apparently born on the same day in 1912, prompting a purge of the “ghosts” from payrolls. British and Nigerian officials have used property and company registers published by several governments to investigate money-laundering…”

The other way could be revenue sharing – where the platform company acts as a trusted broker for the monetized data – providing various participants their proportionate share of the revenue stream or utility. The first step, a la Google or Apple, would be to build the right platform for that industry sub-vertical, where companies would want to share data and use shared data (remember Marx’s “exchange value“?)

Take an example of Navistar – a manufacturer of commercial and defense vehicles, which has not been profitable since 2011, in addition to being sued for violation of the Clean Air act.

They use sensors, big data and analytics today to offer efficiency solutions to their customers: Navistar is analyzing data pulled from OnCommand Connection, a remote diagnostics system the company launched in 2013 to monitor performance of more than 150,000 trucks in Navistar’s fleet, including its own international brand, as well as Freightliner, Kenworth, Peterbilt and Volvo makes. The software builds 20 million records a day, measuring fuel economy, geolocations, idle times and potential failures, and recommends corrective measures. Such visibility enables fleet customers, who can monitor the metrics from smartphones or tablets, to schedule maintenance, reducing unplanned repairs and downtime by as much as 30 percent. For example, rather than changing oil based on time or miles logged, the diagnostics software will alert customers when new oil is required.”

This is exciting – but more exciting is the vision around “platform” of their CIO – “ Navistar will eventually build an online portal that integrates telematics data with additional GPS data and parts inventory information, allowing fleet owners to locate the nearest dealer service location where the necessary part is in stock, as well as service locations that have available technicians and bays. The company is also considering offering an analytics service that would enable smaller fleets to acquire operational data about their without ponying up the cash to build their own systems”.

This is where Navistar could be the trusted partner for partners like parts manufacturers or service locations – sharing revenues from the monetized data for the greater good of all the partners subscribed to the platform, while adding more data from partners to extend the exchange value.

I believe we just scratching the surface of new business models to come. As the Economist article states, “It is impossible to predict where the open-data revolution will lead. In 1983 Ronald Reagan made America’s GPS data open to the world after a Soviet missile brought down a South Korean airliner that had strayed into Soviet airspace. Back then, no one could have guessed that this would, one day, help drivers find their way, singles find love and distraught pet-owners find their runaway companions…”

For more of my musings, please visit RajBhandari.info

 

Help…my IOT device is not working or has been hacked…

Help…my IOT device is not working or has been hacked…

GartnerThat may the most common help desk call you may be hearing about in the near future…

We all know about the projected boom of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices and sensors, and how that is altering the business landscape for almost every industry (even though the analyst firm Gartner puts it at “Peak of Inflated Expectations”). Examples I am personally working with range from use of IoT from as simple as asset tracking to “intelligent farming/ranching” to “smart buildings” to smart coolers” to “connected health“. – which leads me to believe that IoT is here to stay…and will create a whole new ecosystem of service providers.

IoT has several well-documented limitations – solving those issues will create the IoT leaders of tomorrow .

As everything, from a lamp post to a cow get embedded with a device or sensor with an IP address, and as we move from IPv4 (with about 23 billion IP addresses) to IPv6 (with trillion+ potential addresses), unique identifiers may not be a problem (yet).

The bigger problems are around security and battery life on the sensors. 

Cattle-WatchFirst, the battery life – idea is to reduce the dependence on a field person to swap batteries in remote locations – the good news is that there are quite a few solutions available today, as well as under test. For example, I recently read about a technology, available today, which can harness WiFi networks for powering IoT sensors – “Freevolt harvests energy from RF frequency waves from radio masts and wireless networks, which bounce around the atmosphere. Everything from 2G to 5G networks and even your home Wi-Fi are all food for Freevolt, turning wasted energy into real power…”. Other examples include using rechargeable Li-Ion batteries in conjunction with solar panels for use in devices like parking meters or creating a mesh network using “smart collars” for cows. 

Another angle to this issue could be to reduce the power needed from a network perspective to the bare minimum – for example, Ericsson recently announced their Power Saving Mode “Power Saving Mode is an Ericsson Evolved Packet Core feature based on 3GPP (Release 12) for both GSM and LTE networks. Ericsson contends the feature is able to dramatically extend IoT device battery life up to ten years or more for common use cases and traffic profiles. The capability is defined for both LTE and GSM technologies and lets devices enter a new deep sleep mode – for hours or even days at a time – and only wake up when needed. ..”. Other advances include Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) and similar technologies.

As these technologies improve and the costs come down, it will add to the ubiquity of IoT devices and sensors.

ikettle_smart_kettleNow the security aspect – much has been written about the hacked Jeep Cherokee or the “not-so-Smart Kettle” – both these scenarios are real, and of great concern. This problem is compounded by the fact that most legacy industrial machine-to-machine protocols, as well as legacy applications in use today do not account for the sheer number of connections or the security advances of today.

“For years, manufacturers of medical devices depended on the ‘kindness of strangers’ assuming that devices would never be targeted by bad actors,” wrote John Halamka, the Chief Information Officer at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. “EKG machines, IV pumps, and radiology workstations are all computers, often running un-patched old operating systems, ancient Java virtual machines, and old web servers that no one should currently have deployed in production.”

I was reading an interesting viewpoint by Dr. David Bray, CIO of the FCC. His view is that we could learn from a public health type of scenario to improve security – like a mashup of cyber personal hygiene and cyber epidemiology“If we think of the Internet as a series of digital ecosystems where participants need to assume some responsibility for making sure they’re doing their best to keep their Internet devices clean and secure – the digital equivalent of washing their hands – then we can also imagine the need for cyber epidemiology when individual hygiene is insufficient in preventing a mass ‘outbreak’ or individual infection,”

Such a public health scenario may help to a certain extent, but the good news is that there is a bevy of startups tacking this problem from a hardware perspective. An example is a PowerGuard device being developed by a startup called Virta Labs“The PowerGuard device is limited to monitoring and could not block an infection. However, using it could greatly narrow the window of opportunity that an attacker would have to establish a foothold in a sensitive environment subsequent to compromising a device…The devices would also help spot changes in a device’s operation that may be unrelated to malicious activity, helping hospitals, manufacturing firms and the like identify hardware that is in need of servicing…”

To add to all this, there are the new crop of monitoring and services companies, waiting in the wings for the mass deployment…

So whether Gartner places IoT at “Peak of Inflated Expectations”: or “trough of Disillusionment”, I am bullish on the future with IoT and the ecosystem around it…

Marty McFly was right – Flying Cars are here…

Marty McFly was right – Flying Cars are here…

back-future-part-ii_3Well, sort of…

Thirty years after “Back to the Future Part II”, it is amazing to see that some of the predictions the movie made in the 80s are real today – including 3D, abundance of flat screen TVs and drones…but no flying cars yet…

However, the transportation industry is undergoing paradigm shifts in every facet – from supply chain to marketing to to sales to predicting driver behavior and using technology to improve it.

Much has been written about using IoT, big data and analytics throughout the supply chain to improve the productivity, logistics, forecasting and predict machine failure. Not surprisingly, it is the emerging area of Connected Vehicles – from Connected Cars to Connected Trucks to Connected Rail – which is igniting possibilities from an end-user, commerce and fleet management viewpoints.

Think about what GPS data, real-time road conditions, weather data, driver behavior history, combined with data from the sensors in the vehicle can do…plus newer technologies like vehicle connected infotainment and dynamic route mapping… Add to that the projection that half the new vehicles shipping by 2032will have robotic autonomous (driver less) capabilities – we are painting a future which obsoletes all the current norms around transportation and commerce.

connected carA lot of this technology is available today – and some of it is under testing. An interesting report talks about “multi-modal mobility” as the future – “With mounting traffic congestion increasingly resulting in lost time and economic value as well as environmental issues, especially in mega cities in developing regions, the focus of both public and private companies in the automotive and transportation industries is shifting to multimodal / intermodal transportation solutions. Traveler information systems providing real-time public transport timetable information, multimodal journey planners, and smartphone-based pedestrian guidance applications are geared at facilitating knowledge of and seamless access to a wide range of mobility solutions. This is prompting even car OEMs such as BMW and Ford to offer solutions beyond the narrow context of the vehicle itself, realizing their products will become part of an integrated intermodal system, offering a balanced range of mobility modes…”

The basic technologies remain the same, but are being continuously improved – automated data collection (via IoT or other data streams), storing the immense volume and variety of data in efficient stores (big data), advanced predictive modeling on this data, and presenting it in the right context and format back to the user.

And just in time for the October 21, 2015 date famously referenced in the movie, learn how a couple of companies – HortonwWorks and Harman (disclosure: I work for Harman) are taking connected cars to the next level at this webinar on Oct 22nd.

 

Precision Farming, or Can a Cow be a Sensor?

Precision Farming, or Can a Cow be a Sensor?

riverOver the weekend, I had a chance to read an excellent book called “A River Runs Again”, by Meera Subramanian. Written in the “sandals on the ground” journalistic style, Subramanian uses fluid prose to document her travels across India and her interviews with various people and entities.

However, this is not just another book, listing the environmental and social issues faced by a developing country. The difference in this book, which is divided into sections based on the Five Elements–  air, earth, water, fire, and ether – is the real life stories of positive change being brought about by organizations and individuals – from conversion back to organic farming to creating a vulture aviary to bring back the Parsi Sky Burial ecosystem…

Though not explicitly stated, these change agents are using technology as a growth enabler – which brings us to “smart farming”. There has been quite a bit of work done around ” smart farming” or “precision agriculture“. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) predicts that the global population will increase to 9.6 billion people by 2050 – and 70% more food needs to be produced to feed that population. Precision agriculture tries to use existing technology like GPS, sensors, big data, IoT and analytics to optimize the crop yields. Even the farm animals play a part, with embedded IoT sensors to reduce the carbon footprint. It does not imply automated farming by machines, but helping the farmer’s gut instinct with intelligent decisioning.

Graphic_Japanese_Farming_v5-01As the author of a report on smart farming states, “I would like to highlight the fact that the aim should not be ‘industrializing’ agriculture, but make agriculture more efficient, sustainable and of high quality. We should not look for revolutions. We should look for re-interpretation of the farming practices through use of data-centric technologies. And this re-interpretation should be placed also within a new vision of rural areas.”

There was another article recently which talks about venture funding for companies using advanced data collection and analytics in agriculture. A good example they give is that of a machine, which can “visually characterize each plant through real-time image capture and processing, use algorithms to determine which portions of the plant to keep and precisely eliminate the portions of the plants that are unwanted.

Their Zea product enables high-throughput, field-based phenotyping. Using computer vision, Zea counts plants, measures plant spacing, builds canopy height distributions and measures key physiological parameters — all based on imagery. In our minds, this is machine learning at its finest…”

The demand is there, and technology is available now. The piece which is missing is to make the technology accessible and affordable for those who need it the most…

 

3 ways for ISVs to take advantage of their customers’ reduced IT spend

3 ways for ISVs to take advantage of their customers’ reduced IT spend

Yes, you read it right – reduced IT spend

In case you missed it, there were a couple of conflicting reports released by the IT forecasting gurus Gartner and Forrester a few weeks ago.

According to Gartner, “Worldwide IT spending is on pace to total $3.5 trillion in 2015, a 5.5 percent decline from 2014. Analysts attribute the decline to the rising U.S. dollar. In constant-currency terms, the market is projected to grow 2.5 percent. In Gartner’s previous forecast in April, it had forecast IT spending to decline 1.3 percent in U.S. dollars and grow 3.1 percent in constant currency.”

They further add that the Enterprise Software category will see a decline of 1.2% year to year.

Forrester released their report around the same time, but had a differing view: “…spending on software, tech consulting and systems integration services, and tech staff will grow more rapidly in 2015 and 2016 than spending on tech outsourcing, telecom services, and especially computer and communications equipment. This mixture of strong and weak tech sectors, combined with a hot-and-cold US economy, will lead to moderate growth of 5% to 6% increases in tech budgets in 2015 and 2016. For CIOs, these trends will mean much more work with business partners in shaping and guiding the purchases of BT-related software and less scope devoted to the spending on IT where the CIO traditionally had sole or dominant domain…”

innovationOne other interesting trend has been the proliferation of Innovation Centers setup by corporations to understand the impact of emerging technologies on their business models. One recent article talks about 4 in 10 global corporations setting these up to “gain exposure to the latest technologies, vs. striving for a deeper understanding of customers’ needs”.

So what does all this mean for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), who have been supplying indispensable enterprise software for decades to global corporations? How can they keep their status as paid trusted advisers to their clients?

Here are some ideas which our ISV customers are using successfully to stay meaningful for their customers:

  1. Research your customers: Yes, some of your customers may be clamoring for a cloud-native version of your application, but first, you need to look at how your customers are using the application across the board, and think of offering a migration path based on your most critical customers. You may find some of your customers are perfectly happy with a maintained, supported current version vs. an abrupt change – which in turn can help them with a reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
  2. Research your customers’ data needs: Yes, IoT is here to stay and is supposed to be a $1.7 trillion market by 2020. But are your customers planning to add IoT sensors and data collection devices (or similar disruptive technologies) over the next five years? Does your application support the potential influx of this massive amount of data? As you can see from the graphic above, IoT is of interest to most global corporations – not for IT cost reduction, but for increased information about their customers, which factored with advanced analytics can provide better solutions for their customers. This potential bump in top line revenue can be used to offset the costs incurred for the additional IT spend.
  3. Embrace open source, cautiously: Yes, your application was written over fifteen years ago, and you want to have cloud-native APIs with the latest NoSQL database, but will your customers pay for the additional cost of refactoring your application? Potentially – if positioned right. One of the biggest benefits of refactoring a legacy application is the potential boost in performance. For example, if you create the new version of the application in layers, taking advantage of virtual operating system layer, a distributed data and storage layer, and cloud-native services such as provisioning, your customers could see a potential boost in performance, which can help them pay for the upgrade.

Adding to all this is the obvious – staying in touch with the advances in technology and offering solutions geared towards the changing IT landscape, while not discounting key areas like security, governance and disaster recovery – which can keep the ISVs still relevant.

More discussion here…

Behind the Curtain: Similarities between Bollywood and Technology Services

Behind the Curtain: Similarities between Bollywood and Technology Services

cropped-posterOn a lazy Saturday afternoon, browsing through my RSS feeds (do people still do that in this age of dynamic newsfeeds from every social media outlet?), I came across an article in LA Times, which talks about the Indian film industry moving beyond Bollywood. I was instantly intrigued, especially since the title was provocative, and I had been thinking about Bollywood and technology after attending a concert by the celebrated Indian music composer, AR Rahman recently (which was sponsored by my employer, Harman)

The article talks about two Indian movies, which have broken into the Top 10 at the U.S. box office this summer: “It is staggering that ‘Baahubali’ opened in just 170 locations in the U.S. andmade over $3 million in a weekend,” Rentrack analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “It was competing with movies that were in two to four thousand locations and yet made it to the top 10 in a sea of summer movies.”

The success of the films mirrors the surge of the Indian American population in the U.S. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of people of Indian ethnicity grew by nearly 70% between 2000 and 2010 to more than 2.8 million..”.

The article also referenced that the movie was partly successful because of the computer graphics being used at a massive scale. Now fully interested, I started doing more research, and came across two fascinating pieces of work.

BollywoodThe first was a study done on “Uncovering Randomness and Success in Society in 2014, which was featured in MIT Technology Review. In the study, the network scientists tried to do a Bollywood version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and found some interesting correlations.

“…And their network provides some fascinating insight into the nature of the Indian film industry and its links to broader Indian culture as well. It shows not only how combinations of actors have been particularly successful but also how the industry has waxed and waned in response to the broader economic and social conditions in the country at large…”

However, the key paragraph for me was :“…Instead, the best-connected actors turn out to be prominent supporting actors who can take on more projects in a given time period and therefore end up collaborating with a larger number of other actors. That’s similar to the Hollywood network, where prominent supporting actors such as William Hurt and Kevin Bacon are also better connected than superstars such as Tom Cruise and George Clooney…”

boothThe second piece of fascinating work I found by was a book called “Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios by Gregory D. Booth. India‘s prolific film industry, sometimes called Bollywood, produces over 3,000 films a year in multiple languages. Most of these films have music – be it for song and dance sequence actors spontaneously break into, or background scores. Booth traces the journey of making the music with classical instruments in Mumbai‘s studios, to the modern day trend of using samplers and synthesizers to produce music. However, the part which impressed me the most was the immense human and cultural change brought about by introducing technology to something which was considered pure. (A telling interview was with a oboe and English horn player called Indorkar, who is asked to play various notes on his instruments by Rahman – and was never called back by him, as he had him now on his sampler)

The book describes how these musicians worked as a family, in obscurity, to produce some of the most memorable music of the twentieth and twenty first century – a must read for any Bollywood fan…

So what does all this have to do with technology services? In both these cases, the importance of the supporting cast is highlighted – be it actors or musicians – which makes the film or music successful.

In today’s technology projects, with focus on agile processes, cloud infrastructure, always-on interconnected devices and globally distributed teams, we sometime forget that it is the supporting cast which makes the projects successful. We hear platitudes about teamwork everyday – but how many times have we paused to analyze how to make it better.

As Andrew Carnegie said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results…”