Application Services provides a platform for IT Development and Maintenance professionals to discuss and gain insights into best practices, process innovations and emerging technologies that will shape the future of this profession.

« September 2016 | Main | November 2016 »

October 13, 2016

The art of choosing the right product for business transformation

Author: Ravi Narayan Vishnubhotla, Senior Technology Architect

As part of the future-state architecture of IT transformation, certain business requirements need specialized IT applications. These could mandate newer technology systems or migrating from legacy technology platforms. As part of buy versus build evaluation, products that can address such requirements need to be identified.

However, just because there is a product, it cannot be purchased and implemented without determining the technology, cost, and business impact. Hence, an evaluation process needs to be conducted to compare the various products, features, costs, technologies, and business requirements; and also to understand how they compare against an in-house solution.

  1. Why do I need a product for business transformation? Can I just develop it in-house?

These questions seem pretty straightforward, but answers are not that simple. In short, the answer is 'yes', but it should be noted that any development requires expenses that must be approved. Once these estimates are submitted to the IT governance board and in-house architecture group, the following questions will be asked by peers: What is the basis of estimation?  What is the estimation model?  Did you comparison with other IT systems or products?  How much configuration and customization is needed?

To address these questions, it would be best to conduct a product / solution evaluation, especially for medium to large implementations to gain answers to some the above questions. The end result may be the selection of a product or a customized solution, but the approach taken will assure the IT governance board, business decision makers, and the vendor that the decision was right.

This approach, based on my experience,  is most suited for medium to large sized implementations. However, it can vary depending on businesses, markets, or requirements.

2.  What is the life cycle or the process?

The following diagrams illustrate the six-step life cycle to achieve comprehensive product evaluation:

Figure 1 - 6 steps to comprehensively evaluate products

Figure 2 - Details of steps to comprehensively evaluate products

3.  Any general guidelines?

The following provides key guidelines to follow while evaluating products:

  • Business needs must be incorporated during analysis, as they incorporate end user requirements 
  • It is mandatory to analyze product and implementation vendors to avoid buyer's remorse
  • Make sure to conduct this analysis only for medium to large technical implementations, as the effort and time is considerable and unnecessary for smaller ones
  • Avoid "Checklist Syndrome" (Definition - Process of determining best selection by an Y/N on features and not how well the feature is developed), and while comparing features with requirements, determine the level of the functionality and maturity
  • Consider cloud-based solutions (software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, etc. ) as they provide the capability to scale
  • Product implementation should have minimum customization

4. Examples of functionalities were products evaluation is needed?

  • Workflow / Case management
  • Document / Content management
  • Client communication management and printing
  • Accounting package
  • EAI - Enterprise Application Integration (message bus / queueing)
  • Batch scheduling and file automation
  • Customer relationship management
  • Application monitoring and instrumentation

Conclusion
The steps defined here are based on my experience of working with various clients. The process or approach can vary and will be different depending on the organization and industry. This is not a one-size-fits-all methodology, but should give you a fair idea as to what it takes to achieve product evaluation from an IT perspective.

Related blog: IT Transformation is Business Transformation! Why? How?

October 4, 2016

Indoor Localization

Author: Varun Singla, Technical Test Lead

Location these days carry a lot of importance in indoors as well as outdoors. Outdoor localization, these days is, widely used in many applications with the help of versatile sensors and technologies like GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope etc.

People have been exploiting these technologies in various applications like vehicle tracking, booking the cabs, sending locations through apps like WhatsApp etc. Realizing the importance of outdoor localization, locating humans indoors is also very interesting and important. An Indoor location is as important as outdoor, as it carries a lot of value commercially and for various organizations like IT companies, Shopping Malls etc. Timely advertisements and offers can be displayed on users' smartphones while based on his/her location in the shopping mall to increase the sale. Various organizations are interested in resource management and infrastructure management for maximum utilization.

Locating the user precisely in an indoor environment, that where he exactly is, on which floor and on which location, is the Indoor Localization.
This can be achieved through variety of methods:                 

  • Device-Based
  • Device-Free

Fig. 1. An illustration of device-based and device-free indoor localization systems [1]

Figure 1 illustrates the device free and device based indoor localization systems. Device based systems are those where the user has to carry a device with him/her whereas in the device free systems user need not to carry any devices with them. In this blog I will discuss about one Wi-Fi based device based.

Device Based Method
Most common device based methods these days exploit the smartphones of the users as each and every individual carries the smartphones and it does not add to any extra costs. Figure 2[1] below shows the reality of smartphones, and the sensors available in today's smartphones. There are a wide variety of sensors available in the phones, which are capable of doing almost anything. All kind of modalities (e.g., WiFi, cellular, FM radio, Bluetooth, microphone, inertial sensors, etc.) can be used separately or integrally for localization purposes.

Fig. 2. Candidate sensing modalities on smartphones for indoor localization

Wi-Fi based method
In Wi-Fi based techniques the existing infrastructure is used as can be seen in Figure 3. First of all, the entire building is divided into the landmarks. Maybe each cubicle can be a landmark on each floor, which means number of landmarks can be equal to the number of cubicles. Similarly, each table can be a unique landmark in a food court.

After this all the landmarks are fingerprinted, with the RSSI values reported by different Access Points from the smartphones. An example can be taken from Figure 3: Let's assume to take the fingerprints at that landmark where the phone is. As can be seen, this phone is reported by three different APs (AP1, AP2 and AP3). Suppose the signal strength of AP1 to this Phone is say X, and from AP2 is X-1 and from AP3 is X+1. Then the finger prints at this landmark will be:

Location loc:

Access Points

RSSI Values

AP1

X

AP2

X-1

AP3

X+1


A database of fingerprints is then developed. When users move around in real time in the organization, this database is consulted every time to figure out which database fingerprints closely match to the reported RSSI values. Accordingly, the location of a person is determined in the real time.

How it can be used in an organization like Infosys
This technique can be used to manage the resources of the company. Heat maps of an organization can be generated, with which it can be estimated which conference rooms, meeting rooms, etc are occupied, or which cubicles are occupied and which are empty.

Fig. 3. An overview of WiFi-based indoor localization systems

One more interesting application of this technique is to manage the staff. An example to this is: if access points be installed in wash rooms or nearby areas, then it can be reflected through heat maps, that which washrooms are more occupied. This information can be exploited by the cleaning staff, or their manager to decide, where more cleaning people are used and where less. This can lead to more efficient use of resources and staff within the organization.

Other Methods:

There are various other methods which can be used for indoor localization other than using Wi-Fi. These solutions include:

  • Bluetooth based solutions
  • Acoustics
  • Wi-Fi + Acoustics
  • Cellular
  • Inertial Sensors

Wi-Fi based solutions are easy to deploy as most of the leading organizations these days are equipped with Wi-Fi Access points and achieve these type of solutions, one does not need to spend on any additional infrastructure. So the solution can be achieved in the existing infrastructure which almost no additional hardware costs.

References
Xiao, Jiang, et al. "A Survey on Wireless Indoor Localization from the Device Perspective." ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) 49.2 (2016): 25.





Subscribe to this blog's feed

Follow us on

Blogger Profiles

Infosys on Twitter


Categories