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July 28, 2017

Are Autonomous Vehicles Going Places Anytime Soon?

Posted by Dr. G. V. V. Ravi Kumar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:33 AM

Are Autonomous Vehicles Going Places Anytime Soon?

(This blog post has been written with inputs from Saraswathi Thippaiah, Principal Consultant - Advanced Engineering & Sreekanta Guptha BP, Principal Consultant - Advanced Engineering, Infosys)

In the foreseeable future, autonomous vehicles (AV) - drones and self-driving cars- will be the major mode of transportation, and facilitate access to a number of allied services. For instance, imagine receiving your products within minutes of placing the order. The AV industry is expected to grow to $126.8 billion by 2027.

Autonomous vehicles drive with the aid of the Internet or a wireless network, using in-vehicle technologies such as sensors, radar, LIDAR (light radar), lasers, cameras, and GPS, to steer, navigate and brake. Data generated or accessed by the AVs is usually stored on a cloud platform. As technology gets smarter, autonomous vehicles will play an increasingly important role in industries such as logistics, where they will simplify fleet management, optimize delivery routes and enable asset tracking. One will also find AVs in industries such as mining, retail, healthcare, and hospitality.

Technology is making autonomous vehicles safer

While we have come close to perfecting the hardware of cars - for efficiency, speed, and safety - the software to power them with no human intervention is still evolving. Self-driving cars are yet to become intelligent and responsive to their environment, and ensure safety of passengers. Working on this challenge is Lvl5, a mapping and localization startup that has developed a way to convert enormous amounts of video footage into high-definition 3D maps of road conditions. These maps will be constantly refreshed to reflect the latest road conditions, providing self-driving cars with the information they need to detect and plan their route safely.

While drones and self-driving cars have been developed to sense the presence of humans and other vehicles, they have hit a bump in the road when it comes to detecting large animals like kangaroos, moose, deer, and others. For instance, in the US, 200 people die each year in animal-related accidents. This led Volvo Cars to study the behavior of different animals and develop an animal detection and collision avoidance system.

Human drivers are responsible for 94% of car accidents worldwide, and in the U.S. 35,200 people lost their lives in 2015. To address this situation, Nauto, a Silicon Valley startup is developing software for self-driving vehicles to collect data on driver behavior and is using computer vision and deep learning techniques to improve driver performance and safety. This data is especially relevant as manned vehicles will share the road with AVs for at least another couple of decades, and both will have to learn each other's behavior to ensure safety.

Will AVs be on the road sooner than later?

Autonomous vehicles recently received a shot in the arm when on July 19, 2017, US lawmakers voted to allow automakers to introduce 100,000 vehicles on the road. However, the assumption is that a licensed driver will be at the wheel and the vehicle will have inbuilt fail-safe features.

While aspiring car owners are excited about the possibilities of AVs (including drones) and self-driving cars, truckers are concerned about their jobs. I think Level 4 and 5 AVs - where in driver attention is either not required to ensure safety, or the driver is redundant - are still very much in the distant future. Some predict as much as a couple of decades away. Much data, technology and testing is needed before AVs are built to be responsive to their constantly changing external environment in real-time. For instance, how to respond to debris on the road, changing traffic rules, read blurred road signs, a sudden flat tire, a brake failure, or bad weather. These are events a human driver would be able to respond to intuitively. Level 1, 2 and 3 AVs, which offer varying degrees of driver assistance, are likely to be on the road soon.

The Infosys engineering services is actively engaged in making AVs a reality in the near future, by developing solutions that can be immediately used by our customers.

We also incubate, develop and mature advanced engineering technologies to renew our existing service lines and create new next-gen ones. Our areas of focus include Robotics and Autonomous Vehicles, Industrial IoT, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality and Additive Manufacturing. All these technologies are evolving continuously and converging towards the Fourth Industrial revolution i.e. Industry 4.0. To know more contact our engineering services.

July 19, 2017

Smart Contracts: Introducing A Transparent Way To Do Business

Posted by Manjunatha Gurulingaiah Kukkuru (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:10 AM

Smart Contracts: Introducing A Transparent Way To Do Business

Enterprises, irrespective of size or industry, are supported by written contracts. Unfortunately, these are often cumbersome and a source of business and legal conflict. A solution can be found in replacing traditional contracts with smart ones. A smart contract is an agreement, in the form of a computer program that is executed automatically once certain pre-programmed conditions are satisfied. On blockchain, the goal of a smart contract is to simplify business and trade between both anonymous and identified parties, sometimes without the need for a middleman. A smart contract scales down on formality and costs associated with traditional methods, without compromising on authenticity and credibility.

Some advantages of smart contracts are:

  • Security - As the distributed ledger is impregnable and immune to alterations
  • Disintermediation - Enables parties to enter into agreements with reduced dependence on middlemen
  • Near real-time execution - As it takes place almost simultaneously for all parties, across participating computers, once the necessary criteria are satisfied
  • Transparency - Creates an environment of trust as the logic and information in the contract is visible to all participants in the blockchain network

Implementing smart contracts is not without its share of challenges, some of these if unaddressed can hinder its immediate adoption:

  • Confidentiality - Though enterprises desire transparency, they hesitate to put their contractual information, which may contain competitive strategies, on the blockchain. While a blockchain platform like Hyperledger is permission-driven and enables parties to engage in a private smart contract (visible only to people party to the contract), Ethereum, a blockchain platform, does not have an option for private smart contracts. Enterprises will, therefore, have to select their blockchain platform based on need.
  • Accuracy - Since a smart contract is a computer program, each term and condition of the contract needs to be coded. There is possibility of misinterpretation and omission by the coder, which may lead to loopholes in the contract. I believe the more we use smart contracts, the more we will encounter these loopholes and code against them.
  • Unreliable Inputs - These could lead to false contracts or non-execution of contracts. In the case of a traditional contract, the parties can proceed to a judicial court for redressal. Unfortunately this is not a possibility with smart contracts where legal validity is still being debated upon.
  • Bugs and errors in the code - These could lead to disputes and procedural difficulties related to identifying errors and the parties responsible for those. They could also cause unforeseen repercussions. This is exactly what happened in June 2016, when a hacker exploited a vulnerability in the code of the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), which is a piece of smart contract built on Ethereum, and made away with 50 million Ether, a bitcoin-like digital currency.
  • Rogue Contracts - Taking advantage of self-execution and anonymity of smart contracts, illegal activities could also be conducted by smugglers, terrorists, hackers and others.

Smart contracts have the potential to introduce radical change in the way international business and trade are executed by speeding up transactions, reducing paperwork, and bringing about cost-efficiency.

Industries like art, music, real estate, finance, manufacturing, retail, supply chain, and telecom could benefit significantly from smart contracts. The adoption of smart contracts would be hastened if the platforms which host them accept payments in all currencies instead of just cryptocurrencies, and these were brought under the purview of the current judicial system. Two states in the US that have moved in this direction are Arizona, and Nevada. Both enacted legislations this year to legalize smart contracts. Until smart contracts become legally recognized across states and countries, they will be practical for short, individual agreements. But for lengthy, large deals, enterprises will have to turn to flexible traditional contracts.

In some scenarios, we would have to make do with hybrid contracts, which allow for faster, more efficient, and more secure execution of agreements, while also providing a channel for judicial audit and scrutiny.

Infosys Blockchain addresses blockchain and adjacent technologies including shared ledger, distributed ledger and smart contracts. Contact us to know more about our services.

July 6, 2017

Automation, AI and the Opportunities of Lifelong Learning

Posted by Robin Kirby (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:14 AM

Automation, AI and the Opportunities of Lifelong Learning

While debates and discussions across forums are focusing on automation, costs reduction and job loss - the inevitable throes of massive transformation - we at Infosys believe in taking a deeper perspective, and rather look at the future that will be born out of this change. There are significant roles that stakeholders across the spectrum, from government, to academics, to businesses and non-profits, can play in collaborating to shape the skills and competencies needed to be successful. Infosys' strong tradition of learning and education has equipped us to adopt this approach of always looking forward to the innovations and skills of the future, and at the same time, has created a culture of lifelong learning, where every opportunity is new and provides growth.

We believe the future need not be an increment of our past or present - and this time around, it could be a significant shift. The exponential rise of computing power at fraction of the cost, as well as rapid miniaturization of hardware that can correspondingly support this, are fundamentally making all of this possible - bringing about the onset of the age of automation and AI.

While learning completely new kinds of skills at a faster rate will soon become the norm, it does not end there. The degree and intensity of the current technological advancements are extraordinary, beyond comprehension, and so along with the new skills, we must train our minds and inform our thinking with this possible future, by kindling our imagination, curiosity, and empathy - qualities that make us unique as humans. And through this, we will be able to find a larger purpose in this brave new world that is being reshaped by technology.

As machines progressively are able to do more and more of the mundane and repetitive tasks, our opportunity then becomes to train ourselves to look deeper and find those hidden problems that are relevant to a situation, rather than the ones that might be obvious at first. In addition, we are focused on training leaders for this exciting future. Leaders that learn how to constantly absorb new information and evolve. Leaders that embody and role model the behaviors of inspiration, amplification and synergy creation. Leaders that understand both technology and business but also the art and science of people and of leadership. This combination will enable us to shape a future generation of growth unlike any seen in the past.

We are developing many tools to aid in our evolution at Infosys. For example, Design Thinking is a tool that can enable meaningful problem finding and problem solving. At Infosys, more than 130,000 employees have been trained in Design Thinking and their learning and knowledge has been instituted as a constantly evolving training module through our online learning platform as well as at the company's corporate university in Mysore.

Our grassroots innovation movement, Zero Distance, integrates the principles of Design Thinking to be closest to our clients' needs and problems, to create purposeful solutions, and nudge ourselves out of the familiar comfort zones to see something that is not yet there - at the individual, project, and organizational levels. The Zero Distance initiative covers the majority of all our client projects today. Through such initiatives, we have been able to effect an organizational journey towards purpose, involving our clients, partners and the larger ecosystem. Businesses today have the unique opportunity to look beyond the topline and the bottom line, look up from their 90-day rhythms, and change the world for the better.

Technologies such as automation and AI are a great opportunity to unshackle ourselves and rise up to the call of our times - to be more than our perceived abilities and to be more than what we think we are capable of, amplified by technological progress. Technology, in fact, enables us to be more human today - and that is the core purpose of our being. Whether it be the products and services we are designing, the companies we are building, the countries we are running, it is and should be about being more - human.

The recent launch of the North Carolina Technology and Innovation Hub -- the second of four Hubs to be opened by Infosys -- is part of our investment in the future of the U.S. tech workforce and will focus on these progressive technologies -- artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, user experience, emerging digital technologies, cloud and big data. The Hub will facilitate greater collaboration in key North Carolinian industries such as financial services, information technology, life sciences, clean technology, advanced manufacturing and more.

We are proud to be developing entrepreneurial mindsets and deepening technological knowledge so that the focus of our work can be on building a bright future. This investment reinforces our strong legacy of learning and collaboration with our clients, partners and the larger ecosystem, and which today is helping us navigate some extraordinary times.

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