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February 26, 2016

The Era Of Open Source Platforms Is Here

Posted by Ganapathy Subramanian (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:06 AM

The Era of Open Source Platforms Is Here

Today, the world of open source is witnessing major innovations, and at a considerably high pace. Intense focus from academia, Open Source communities (Hive, Spark, Apache, etc.) as well as industry leaders are making this possible, to a large extent. In addition, with service providers and other IT players adequately providing support on such open source components, enterprises are increasingly shifting their workloads to an open data architecture. Particularly, enterprises are making this move as data is becoming exponential - in terms of volume, variety and velocity - and license costs for proprietary data platforms are rising.

They are beginning to experience unprecedented cost-performance benefits with open-source technologies compared to proprietary systems. For instance, Spark, which uses in-memory capabilities of the underlying Hadoop with its own map reduce, is 100 times faster than a traditional Hadoop-based system.

Not without challenges

According to Gartner, "73% of companies surveyed have invested or were planning to invest in Big Data in 2014. Of these 65% are struggling to derive value from data". There are many reasons for this. Although Open Source innovations have increased, so has the number of programming paradigms associated with them. This means that with every new technology, there is a ramp up and ramp down of models already created, re-training of IT staff as well as management of newer versions. The support that comes along with skilled staff is also scarce. The governance requirements of enterprises and the need for monitoring mechanisms, increases the implementation time. While the enterprises are keen to derive actionable insights from their data as quickly as possible and consistently, such issues delay the returns for enterprises with open data architecture.

Any Big Data system must be able to include the most recent data into analysis. Can we pose our questions to the data that is recent, even real-time? How do we minimize the distance between the raw data and the business that is relevant to it? This actually depends on two aspects. One, how quickly you can push the data from your transactional system into your Big Data system. Two, once the data is available, how quickly you can transform it to the end models that answer all business questions.

Opening up to these challenges

At Infosys, we have tried to address many of the issues by investing in the Infosys Information Platform (IIP). It has a rich repertoire. With its single-click Installer, data ingestion framework and graphical data modelling tool, IIP provides out-of-the-box adapters to diverse data sources and an easy way to build new adapters when needed. Out-of-the-box integration with R studio makes it easy to leverage the power of clusters while modelling data. All this can be achieved without writing any open source code. So enterprises can focus on business outcomes without having to hire high-paid open source experts. They can even change the runtime paradigm in a non-disruptive manner, if they want to switch between various open source paradigms to take advantage of emerging innovations in the world of Open Source.

Proof of the pudding

IIP's list of successes has been growing rapidly. Just to cite two instances: Its predictive maintenance model reduced the number of machine breakdowns for a mining company, with significant improvements in its downstream supply chain operations. For a leading supermarket chain, IIP helped derive key business insights such as top 10 categories of products by profit and sales, hourly sales trends, and category-wise profit contribution margin and sales variance, in less than four weeks.

Only this week, IIP added another success story - actually a milestone. It is now available on Amazon Web Services Marketplace (AWS Marketplace), bringing with it all the speed, flexibility, and affordability of a cloud-based platform. America's top chocolatier, Hershey's, has already used IIP on AWS and derived benefits from revenue-generating insight faster than traditional analytics.

As a true-blue technologist, it is very exciting for me to see this era unfold - better than that, to participate in its making.

February 24, 2016

How Not To Be Disrupted by Digital

Posted by Krishnamurthy Shankar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:19 AM

How Not To Be Disrupted by Digital

The last telegram was sent out in India in July 2013, ending the service that was introduced more than 160 years ago. Frankly, I find myself wondering what took them so long. I, for one, don't remember the last time I sent a telegram. Yet, every morning - there are at least 100 emails waiting for me to read!

The telegram-to-email journey got me thinking about the realness of the irrevocable digitization around us, a phenomenon that is touching almost every aspect of our lives. How many apps do you have on your phone? When was the last time you held an analog camera, or spoke to a telephone operator for a long-distance call?

The way organizations are responding to this enormous change, even while being actors in effecting it (well, many of them), are interesting. The ubiquity of digital infrastructure is presenting endless opportunities for organizations to innovate and bring alive their ideas quicker than ever before. At the same time, digitization is also bringing the challenges of legacy systems, processes, and mindsets. How can an organization prepare to exist in a world that is constantly evolving and will continue to be in that 'steady state'?

People.

At the heart of any organization lies its people and this will not change, digital disruption notwithstanding. Only people, people with incredible passion and unfettered imagination, can help organizations to thrive in a world that will be vastly different from the one in which we live today. Difficult as it may be for us to envision today, automation of jobs will eliminate only the mundane, repetitive, algorithm-worthy jobs. Leaving people with the time and the space to explore newer pursuits, go after better efficiencies in a world amplified by technology, and solve larger problems. The Paleolithic technologies, the Neolithic revolution, the Industrial revolution - we have continued to improve. We are on the cusp of another revolution today - the human revolution - made possible by technology.

As an organization, we have taken the initial steps to prepare for this revolution - or succeed in it, if it has already started. Can't put a date to such movements, can we? A historian in the future will do so in retrospection, and after erudite study.

We are living it.

Encouraging our people to do more, be more. We are arming them with lessons on Design Thinking (79,000 Infosys employees have been Design-trained on the last count). We are encouraging them to think about creativity, and how to bring innovation to everything that they do. To every project. Our Zero Distance initiative, which is yet to complete one year, is already making waves in approximately 8,000 projects - that's 90% of the delivery organization.

Our CEO, Dr. Vishal Sikka, in a recent BBC World Service interview, talks about an "enlightened organization" that delivers the best products and services, based on what is available and relevant, driven by education and learning. He emphasizes that in a pervasively connected world, the challenge is not so much being better than competition, but being better than the threshold of relevance of the customer. Like I said, we are living it. And our CEO articulates our actions par excellence.

Power Of Ideas To Help India Be More

Posted by Sumit Virmani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:50 AM

"...miles to go before l sleep", Robert Frost's much quoted poetic description of the journey ahead seems a rather apt depiction of the path before India. Indeed, we have so much to do that needs to be done. For starters, how can we get the nearly 80% of India that's offline today, online? How can we find a way for India to lead the world in financial inclusion? What's the way to bridge the gender divide in the country? Is there a solution to ensure our education systems mould purposeful problem-finders instead of just problem-solvers? What about the dozens of questions posed by our growing young population and their growing aspirations?

Ideas - big, audacious, simple, smart, imaginative, forward-looking, doable - we need them all to find and solve challenges, such as these, that surround us.

And fortunately for us, we live in an era where ideas are more 'findable' than ever before. Digitization is ridding people of the drudgery of repetitive tasks with little imagination and creative content, essentially jobs that are mechanical, boring and better left to drones and robots. Automation and Artificial Intelligence are freeing our minds and spirit to do the things that we are meant to do - explore new frontiers, discover the greatest needs of our times, and apply ourselves to finding purposeful solutions to tackle these. At Infosys, our digital transformation work with some of the world's largest organizations, has repeatedly proven to us that all the infinite possibilities technology creates can be distilled into one goal - amplifying humanity. Every day we see how technology exponentially increases our individual and collective ability to put to use our innate abilities to find extraordinary ideas for extraordinary solutions.

But here's the thing about ideas. Just because an idea might change the world doesn't mean it actually will: Once an idea is generated, it must then be disseminated and shared in widespread and persistent ways, before it can be embraced and deliver on its potential. The challenge of spreading ideas is one that we have taken on this year. We want to figure out ways to not just find but spread ideas that can encourage businesses, entrepreneurs, and individuals to move the ball forward. We also want to especially encourage the emerging generation to be a generation of problem finders that bring to life all the big dreams we have for a better future. Big dreams that call for ideas worth sharing to be spread. Ideas that can help India be more.

To do exactly that, Infosys recently announced its strategic partnership with TED to launch the TEDx Anchor Program, a dynamic ideas exchange, designed to celebrate TEDx events around the world. TEDx events inspire communities to discuss big ideas on a wide range of subjects - education, health, science, design, technology, entertainment and more. Through this confluence with Infosys, TED will now provide dedicated support to TEDx organizers and bring high quality TEDx events to 14 cities across India.

As a marketer, bringing to life the promise of brand Infosys, and more so as an Indian, I am excited and hopeful about the doors that this partnership can open to help people around us pursue and benefit from ideas that can make the biggest difference, in areas that we urgently need to move forward together. Rabindranath Tagore once said, "Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it." And it is this capacity - to find and share ideas that bring solutions in a spirit of partnership and empathy, so that it benefits all stakeholders - that Infosys aspires to create. And our partnership with TED, to make all of this possible, is one more resolute step onward on the exciting journey that lies ahead for us.

February 23, 2016

Digitizing To Simplify and Innovate - How Robots Can Help

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 11:12 AM



Infosys Robotic Process Automation [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dMa8Zw2B6s]

Competitive pressures have intensified to the point where the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 has dropped to just 18 years today from more than 60 years in 1958. If that rate of change continues, 75 percent of the companies in today's S&P 500 will be gone and replaced by new ones by 2030.

How to remain on that list for more than just 18 years? The key is to leverage technology to compete and stay one step ahead in this rapidly changing landscape. The most stunning example of this radical change is the shake-up expected in the automobile and transportation sector. I suspect the evolution will continue to favor services businesses over products. For example, consider the rise of Über and Lyft that use technology to change the way transportation services are delivered. Add to that the potential of self-driving cars by Tesla and Google, managed and controlled with software upgrades. The Dutch tested a self-driving bus couple of weeks ago. To stay relevant (or survive), the automobile industry is looking at unique investments. General Motors invested US$ 500 million in Lyft, and FordPass is a wonderful display of a century-old auto company's foray into mobility services.

The digital world is now governed largely by software interventions. Over the past few years, companies have taken many routes to digitize the front ends of their businesses to create seamless customer interactions. For instance, enterprises are building great mobile apps that make it easier for customers to order clothing or open a bank account. To ensure greater success with such efforts, companies may want to consider ways to digitize their back-office as well to ensure seamless experiences for customers across all touch points and engagements.

Legacy systems and processes, however, are inhibiting 'digital ready' transformations. Disconnected enterprise systems harboring only partial profiles of customers have long been the bane of efforts to transform customer journeys from end to end. For many shortsighted companies, enhancing their front-end digital experiences to keep up with industry trends and satisfy customers' demands will only complicate further their back-end technology pictures.

Robotics (or specifically Robotic Process Automation) is a game-changer that can enable both the front office and back office to leverage robots. Enterprises can accomplish their integration without worrying about the legacy inhibition to do typical high-touch, low complexity processes with drastic efficiency and accuracy. Later, when coupled with quantitative and qualitative data around the actual bottlenecks encountered during robotic processing to enable quick wins, entire processes, the user experience, and communications can be reimagined and redesigned.

Take a front office example that showcases how RPA will pan out: A front office change of adding live chat to assist customers can also provide self-service options using pre-defined special characters. A Telecom & Recharge program will help customers recharge prepaid accounts in a step-by-step manner. In a Banking & Balance program, companies can help the user get her account balance, while in an Insurance & Plan program, you can help find the right insurance plan.

Then there are back-office examples: Invoice processing in a retailer's back office involves the validation of invoices, purchase orders, and shipment records before approving the payment to vendors. Although most of the matching is done in an invoice processing system, there are many invoices that require a lot of procedural and manual matching because of complexities in the business and errors in invoices. This matching process can be massive. By translating these manual steps into a logical flow, controlled by robotic software, end-to-end process automation can be achieved.

Another example would be healthcare insurance claims. Adjudication systems can be (and usually are) highly automated up until the process hits a two-claim review criteria that require a manual review step. Were the treatments appropriate, and a logical outcome of the facts and conditions shown in the medical record? Does the claim information provide any reason to believe the services provided were not accurately reported? By combining simple business judgement rules into robotic software, this step - and thus the entire adjudication workflow - can be completely automated.

The more I think about it, the clearer it is that the times ahead call on us to achieve a simultaneous dual objective: 1.) Simplify the existing technology and processes, and 2.) use the bandwidth to innovate to achieve purposeful growth without compromise. There's tremendous opportunity in both and we are only starting out.

February 19, 2016

A World Where Ideas Are All That Matter

Posted by Pravin Rao U. B. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 12:01 AM

Infosys in the strategic partner for global TEDx Anchor Program

Infosys in the strategic partner for global TEDx Anchor Program

Think about the history of mankind. Every forward step that man has ever taken in his journey on this planet - be it the invention of the wheel, the evolution of modern medicine, the building of the printing press - has all happened because of an idea. An idea that was born in the mind of one individual, but which didn't just stay there, because it was shared and brought to life by several others who improved on it to create new solutions and open up new opportunities.

Today, the power of shared ideas is more compelling than ever before.

As one leading economist puts it, "If the history of growth were a 24-hour clock, 99% would have come in the last 20 seconds." This is because we are on the cusp of a technology revolution unlike anything we have experienced before. And this is bringing us a respite from pointless, mechanical, repetitive tasks, which in turn, is giving us the freedom and creative leisure to do the things that only we humans are capable of. In other words, this wave of technologies, such as Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and Cognitive Computing, is presenting us with the opportunity to amplify our unique potential as human beings. At Infosys, we think of this as the dawn of a great human revolution...in a world where great ideas are all that matter.

I believe it is no coincidence that the Millennial generation - a product of the digital age and the prime actors in the human revolution - is driven by this desire to explore new ideas...to find and solve pressing problems of our times. Born into digital nativity, they are completely at ease with machines doing many of the tasks their predecessors did by hand. So their minds have been free to explore right from the outset. And now that they're filling the ranks of the workforce, these young people are demanding a chance to show they can do more than simply take and execute orders. We the corporate community, must together provide our youngsters with an environment where they can breathe life into their ideas. That means we must encourage entrepreneurial leanings and discourage fear of failure among our people. We must not only keep to a busy training schedule but more importantly, invest in building a culture of lifelong learning. This can be achieved in letter and spirit only if we work with one another, for one another.

And in that direction, Infosys takes another resolute step and supports TED's mission to spread ideas, by sponsoring the TEDx Anchor Program, in India, to accelerate the sharing of ideas that matter back here at home.

February 17, 2016

Startups Start Up Insurance

Posted by Pankaj Kulkarni (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:49 AM



Elevator Pitch: An simple way to pick insurance? [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwUlCzN4-Aw]

While the foundation of insurance and what it stands for - protection of life and belongings - cannot and has not changed, the way it is managed and provided, can and should. Driving this change are a new breed of startups that are doing some exciting things in this space. With the integration of technology in insurance, many new areas like online policy comparison and insurance on demand have opened up and are on the rise. Large insurance behemoths are often unable to make their way into these areas as they lack agility and resources, leaving a lacuna that must be filled. For startups, this gap is an opportunity to make their presence felt in a multi-trillion dollar industry.

But what gives startups in the insurance sector the edge to do this? Firstly, they have the flexibility that large insurers lack. With the right digital tools, startups can quickly adapt and accommodate changes as and when they are needed. Next, investors are realizing the potential of startups and are ready to invest big bucks. According to CB Insights, in 2010, US$ 2.12 billion was raised by companies looking to invest in insurance startups. Of this, US$ 1.39 billion was paid out since 2014. This shows that there is no dearth of funding for startups in the insurance space. Thirdly and most importantly, startups have the advantage of cutting-edge technology and digital tools at their disposal that enable them to conceptualize, develop and offer the products and services that customers want.

Some startups that have made the most of digitally-enabled tools are Liazon, Benefitter, Ever Quote, Stride, Elliptic, and CoverHound. Their digital prowess to adopt a smart and intuitive approach to insurance sets them apart from large insurers. They use digital tools to understand customers and match them with the right insurance plans, based on their need. CoverHound, for instance, interfaces with customers through their website, which has been optimized to allow shoppers to compare auto insurance from top brands. They make it easier for customers to find the right insurer based on location, insurance status and other factors. Elliptic is the world's first company to offer insurance for Blockchain assets, like Bitcoin. 

Since time immemorial, insurance policies have been sold by agents. This trend is set to change soon. The sales force comprising of agents is aging - with their average age being 59, according to a report by McKinsey. About 25% of the workforce in the insurance industry is likely to retire by 2018. To prepare for this future, many large insurance companies are investing in digitally adept startup insurance companies, who have the capability and flexibility to scale up with ease - thereby reducing the dependence on agents. And it's not just large insurance companies that are realizing the benefits of startups. A survey conducted recently by the Insurance Information Institute showed that close to 25% American consumers prefer to buy their insurance policies online.

There is another challenge that the insurance industry is facing today - demand from freelance or contract employees for an insurance plan that suits their need. These contract employers do not have an employer will pay for their insurance. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, freelancers and independent contractors are projected to grow from 42 million people to 65 million in the next five years. Insurance startups with a strong digital presence will be able to step in here and offer insurance assistance to 'on-demand' workers.

In a landscape where almost all industries are adopting digital, insurance cannot be left behind. The easiest, smartest and the most effective way to get on the digital bandwagon is to seriously look at startups who can make insurance smarter, faster and simpler and even a little fun.

February 12, 2016

Make Because You Can!

Posted by Vandana Sikka (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:24 AM

InfyMakers at the National Maker Faire in Washington, DC


InfyMakers at the National Maker Faire in Washington, DC

Have you ever seen a child play, build something with blocks, then tear it apart and build something new again? A child learns by exploring the unfamiliar, trying new things, curiously examining the world around, often from different perspectives. This innate desire to seek out new experiences, to tinker, explore, create, destroy and remake, is a defining trait of all children. Fast forward 10 years, the acquisition of language has in most cases replaced a child's natural learning through creative expression with language based inquiry. Most education systems emphasize the acquisition of knowledge through rote learning and textbooks, rather than curious, hands-on explorations. Another 10 years later, our students have successfully acquired considerable knowledge but somehow buried that natural desire to create, and by now most believe that making is a prerogative of the select few.

The ability to create, to make physical and digital artifacts, is critical to our future. The future is, and always has been, shaped by those who can make. Indeed, human evolution over the centuries has been driven by inventions produced by ordinary people. Groundbreaking inventions, like the first airplane, the personal computer, the bicycle, the automobile, the light bulb, the printing press, all evolved out of projects led by tinkerers. And every such invention gave birth to a whole new breed of innovators who wanted to build on, and improve the original. In just the last 10 years, we have seen great advances such as smartphones, electric and self-driving cars, new forms of delivering energy, sensors and more. All these efforts to improve human life and make things better were led by people just like us.

Have you ever looked at a toothpaste and struggled to take the last bit out? Annoying, right? Surely among us are many people who could redesign that. And many more who could reimagine a car, or make a new product to support farmers, teachers or the disabled or to help all of us learn something new? Making new things to make things better for all of us is not just the privilege of a chosen few; it is as much our responsibility to be a part of collectively shaping the future. We have to ask ourselves, do we want to spend our lives being just consumers of things that others make, or do we want to be creators? Steve Jobs once said: "... Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use".

To spark this spirit of creativity and inspire makers, we launched the inaugural Infy Maker Awards in the US through Infosys Foundation USA in September last year. We were truly amazed to see many unique and inspiring projects such as the Intelligent electric shoes, the robotic trash sorter, the Braille tutor and many others. And now we are thrilled to announce that Infy Makers is going global with its next launch in India this month. We look forward to celebrating makers across India and inspiring the next generation of makers and inventors across the world.

If you have an idea, now would be a great time to see it to completion. If you have it ready, bring it on and share it with us. And if you have not created in a while, let the child within you take over. Awaken that creative urge that is innate to all of us, feed your curiosity and immerse yourself into the wondrous world of making and of shaping the future. Let's make!

This blog post was originally published on Medium on February 11, 2016.

February 9, 2016

Gaining And Saving with V-Commerce

Posted by Dr. Ashutosh Saxena (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:01 AM



Tradesy CEO on how to cash in on your closet [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuVBB88IjS8]

During a trip to Mumbai three decades ago, I took the local train to Churchgate. When I arrived at Churchgate, I asked a taxi driver if he would take me to Cuffe Parade. He said yes, but went on to ask me: "Sharing or charter?" Upon seeing the blank expression on my face, he suggested that I opt for sharing: "You will be saving money in your pocket!" We waited for roughly five minutes, until three other passengers joined us. He dropped us at our respective destinations, me being the last, and charging us almost equal amounts. I hesitated, but then, out of sheer curiosity having experienced this interesting business model, asked him how much I would have paid him had I chosen the charter option. "More than double what you paid just now," he replied.

My taxi ride through Mumbai turned out to be a really a good deal. The driver earned twice as much, and I spent half of what I would have had I chosen the charter option. I was quite proud of myself as to my decision to follow the advice of the cab driver. However, what if the other three people in my taxi had been pickpockets and thieves? (Or just downright annoying people). What would I have done? In economics, there is a maxim known as the 'opportunity cost.' In this case, what the opportunity cost meant was this: Did the money I saved sharing the taxi outweigh the money I would have paid had I been late to an important meeting, or a victim of a pickpocket criminal? The question is THE question facing the new 'sharing economy.'

Yes, there were risks. The key here was that I decided to trust the cab driver. This happened in the 1980s and these scenarios may resurge today. There could be many more scenarios where we can share resources, infrastructure, and services in much more effective ways. We call this v-commerce. Though less traditional in form, v-commerce helps each other make better decisions about resources and wastes less. But how to gain that trust, especially when you have been the victim of a crime during a hellish cab ride? Could the answer be technology and harnessing the best of it?

Let's go back to the year 1995, when eBay was born. Since then, eBay's peer-to-peer model has influenced many similar models that are in motion today - think Craigslist, Zipcar, and Airbnb, which took off in 2007. Then in 2010, the phrase 'collaborative consumption' was championed by Rachel Botsman's in What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. There's been no looking back since.

So, what's 'collaborative consumption' (or 'peer-to-peer sharing' or 'v-commerce')? Well, there is no one answer. Some collaborative consumption models entail monetary trades, some are free services and some use credit. For example, this term can be used to refer to something like having extra power generated from your solar panels return to the grid to help power someone else's home. Do you sell the extra solar energy to the highest bidder or give it away because of your love for your community? So far, these 'sharing' enterprises have 'shared' with the highest bidder. Airbnb participants don't house the homeless for free - they make money off lodgers. Thus we can expand these collaborative and lucrative practices to include peer-to-peer lending, or even, micro-financing.

So, how can we make such collaboration more effective in today's world? Well, according to the annual Mobility Report by Ericsson, there are currently 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions in the world - with the number expected to reach 6.1 billion in the year 2020. So, if 6.1 billion people are enabled with technology (and they can put in some trust), 'peer-to-peer sharing' can only thrive. Look at these examples:

  • Skillshare: Here anyone can take online classes, watch learning videos and even take a class themselves
  • Tradesy: Have branded clothes in your closet? Sell them at here, while the company takes nine percent of profits
  • JustPark: A London start-up that matches people with parking spaces through website and mobile application
  • Leftover Swap: An app where you can find leftover food to share

Late last year, leaders across the world gathered in Paris to try and find a solution to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. We can all agree that finding a solution to global warming is not an easy one. Neither is trying to figure out the right way to address a collaborative economy. But creating a new economy, with higher standards and stronger values, is likely to start with the Internet community.  To challenge traditional industries, collaborative economy must scale up with smart apps (some of which need to be local, operating under the aegis of a bigger company). Not so easy- but not impossible either. If you ask me, nothing would make me happier than to see collaborative economy thrive, without the monetary aspect associated with it. That's an ideal world for you!

February 5, 2016

Why 'Smart' Farming Is Taking Off

Posted by Prasad Joshi (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:50 AM



ASEAN: Internet of things for smart farming [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPK5ZTwRaZE]

Here's a fact: Today, people live longer than before, thanks to medical advancements. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that earth's population will grow to 9.6 billion people by the year 2050. Therefore, food production must increase by 70% to meet the needs of this increasing populace. But, most farms are not equipped to meet this growing demand.

So, what ails them? For starters, there's a limited supply of fresh water for irrigation, diminishing arable land, slow productivity, and skyrocketing energy costs. Moreover, farmers are in constant short supply of farm laborers due to urbanization. Variability in the climate change, and the economic losses attributed to it, just add on to the already ailing industry.

The good news is that there's help at hand. Smart farming solutions, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), can give farmers insights needed to get more out of less. IoT-enabled solutions in smart or precision farming can equip fields with sensors to monitor and predict conditions, giving farmers more control over their operations. IoT coupled with GPS and Big Data can bring transformational change in the way agricultural operations and decision systems work today. IoT can bring the notion of connected farms to life by connecting various field operations, making the farm intelligent to sense and communicate climatic, environmental and other operational practices and risks. This is the first step in a responsive supply chain that helps grow greater quantities of healthier crops, while using fewer resources.

This about application of smart technologies when it comes to produce storage. A large-scale fruit farm in Arizona uses a smart tool to protect harvested fruit from frost during winter nights. Smartphones help them track and monitor critical low temperatures via weather stations. A sharp drop in temperature (less than the desired) triggers frost alerts, as well as location information to help identify the wind machines for activation to protect against frost. Thanks to this, during one severe freeze, the farm was able to minimize frost damage to only 20 percent. Neighboring fields reportedly lost 80 percent of their crops. Moreover, control technology helped a large walnut farm to manage the moisture level in its bins. Walnuts decay quickly when holding over eight percent moisture. Less than optimal drying can cause the walnuts to rot or mold.

Smart farming solutions can really make a difference in the wine industry. In addition to farming challenges, wineries also need to comply with strict regulations and quality control standards when supplying to international markets. We, at Infosys, have implemented solutions that track powdery mildew, monitor conditions in the vineyard that cause such diseases and use image analytics to point areas of infestation. Use of predictive models allows us to forecast the impact on wine yield from the vineyard.

A large number of countries are essentially agrarian societies. Smart farming solutions can optimize farming for many of them, but it needs government support to fully take off. Recently, the Malaysian government announced a national IoT plan with a target to increase farming productivity by 20% in the next five years. By 2020, agriculture is expected to contribute US$ 320 million to the Malaysian economy, with support from smart farming tools. With benefits such as these, can the rest of the world be far behind?

February 1, 2016

Google's AlphaGo Defeats China's Go - What does this imply about our future?

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:11 AM



Google DeepMind: Ground-breaking AlphaGo masters the game of Go [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUbqykXVx0A]

Many Westerners hold the belief that chess is the most complex game in the world. They don't know much about 'Go', an ancient Chinese board game. To even play it (not to speak of winning), an individual needs an incredibly complex brain that until now most scientists believed only human beings could possess.

But the world of Artificial Intelligence just got a tremendous boost a week ago when scientists at the Google DeepMind laboratory in London announced that it has created a computer armed with the most advanced Artificial Intelligence that beat the human European Go champion 5 games to 0. The results have just been published in the article 'Mastering the Game of Go with Deep Neural Networks and Tree Search' that appeared in the January 27, 2016 issue of Nature, the international weekly journal of science.

I know what some of you might be thinking: Deep Blue, the supercomputer created by IBM, defeated the human chess champion Gary Kasparov nearly 20 years ago, so this is old news. But far from it. Google DeepMind's creation, AlphaGo, is a much different machine and has taken the field of A.I. about a decade ahead of where experts thought it would be in 2016.

Each time Deep Blue was ready to move a piece on the chess board, it would use what's commonly known as a look-ahead search function that would calculate within seconds every single possible outcome of the game by moving any one piece. It's mind-boggling to think that Deep Blue could accomplish this feat every time it was its turn to make a move.

AlphaGo supersedes this. The game of Go is considered to be even more challenging than chess in terms of the sheer number of moves and board positions the player must evaluate. AlphaGo uses a collection of value networks that evaluate board positions as well as policy networks that select the moves. Scientists from DeepMind say that these networks are "neural," meaning they can be trained by learning to play a number of games that are supervised by humans and then allowed to play by itself, using what it learned in previous games. The big news is that AlphaGo does not use the look-ahead search function in its mastering of Go. Instead, it utilizes a new search algorithm that combines Monte Carlo game simulation with the A.I.-style value and policy networks.

2025 - This is the year, according to most experts, when machines with A.I. will be able to have independent thoughts, actions, and conversations with humans without any human supervision. With A.I. milestones such as AlphaGo, we may get there even sooner. Advances in A.I. is showing that A.I. can make "big picture" and take philosophical decisions. In the meantime, the debate rages on about whether A.I. will complement and benefit humanity in the future, or create a dystopia of sharp inequalities vis-à-vis wealth, knowledge, opportunities, skills, and impact on nature.

Frankly, I couldn't be more optimistic, because as A.I. takes over old, repetitive jobs, new ones that demand greater human skills will be created in the wake of this impending market disruption. Another equally important aspect is being able to balance nature's cycle of maintaining equilibrium, which will need human knowledge and creativity to help remodel skills to sustain nature holistically. True, it is not going to be an easy transition into a world that will be irrevocably digitized, probably even transformed by A.I. capabilities. We will first need to develop 'coping mechanisms' to adapt to this new environment, and upskill to new kinds of jobs gradually. Governments across the world will need to intervene with regulations and schemes to protect some jobs and skills, and even contain unbridled advancement in A.I., if any private organization pursues it without considering the benefit of larger society.

It is not a question of utopia or dystopia (that would be oversimplification), but an impending reality that is exciting and needs to be shaped by our collective conscience and future needs. At Infosys, we believe that the world is on the cusp of a human revolution, fuelled by unprecedented technological advancement, including A.I. This is also what drives our corporate philosophy ─ that technology will amplify human potential, enabling us to realize our creativity and unfetter our imagination, so we can be much more than what we believe we are capable of, and this will be made possible by continuous investment in education and lifelong learning.

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