India Innovation – Android Love from India, including a Siri Clone

Its been a while since I wrote about India and the technological innovation there but here is something that is hard to be missed. Being an Indian and an Android fan it is one of those moments that you will be surely proud of, Apps. Indian Software developers are not the foremost to come up with products, yes there are quite a few there, but in comparison to the number of apps used worldwide the apps from India don’t come to the forefront. Indian Software industry has always played a service role for most companies, where we have developed products for others. Not many products that are home-grown. I guess its changing, and here are the first signs that we can be good at it too.

When Apple introduced Siri, every Android user wanted to hear about the version for Android. And there were few but all lacked complete functionality. An Indian Startup is trying to change all that, from the notion that Indian Software companies dont do products to Siri App for Android. Enter Dexetra, A startup from Cochin that is planning to change the world of Android and India.

Iris 

Like the Siri clone, Iris is a speech recognition and interpretation engine aimed solely at the tech savvy always connected Android user. Like the iPhone 4s the Iris requires the internet to be connected at all times to be able to process the information and spit out the results. With over a Million  installs and with tremendous response from the global Android community this app seems to be the one to see in 2012. Along with the company.

Check out Iris for yourself here on Android Market. Oh yes that’s not it, they also have more software like the Speed Sense and Secure Keys that are as helpful as the Iris You can check them out on their developer page on Android Market. Check out decent App Intro Videos as well for their upcoming Android App, Friday. Does this not look like an international App company now ?? Proud to have crossed paths with these guys.

I just hope that these guys find all the support they need and also move along and produce some brilliant Android Apps. Now waiting for some hackable intelligence of connecting the Arduino with the Iris to get a proper solution to the Voice Activated Home. Dexedra Are you listening ??

Namma Metro – A geek train for a high tech city

Bangalore was the Garden City of India and IS the Silicon valley of India now. Yes, there will be some debate over this statement, but Bangalore is and always will be for me the IT hub or IT Capital of India. So when a new Metro started operation in the city it had to keep up with that image. Having used the Metro in Dubai, I was not very impressed with having the Metro manned with a driver, as opposed to the metro in Dubai which is completely automatic. But thinking as a project Manager I realized that the Capex of introducing an unmanned system was far greater than having the Opex of a Manned system, and in India there is no shortage of labor or rather inexpensive labor so it made sense.

So without having a train that was automatic, it would have to be impressive in terms of technology for me to be able to be impressed with it. On my last trip to India, I did go and see the train in Bangalore, the coach placed at MG Road was a non working display sample but still did not fail to impress. I did a bit of research on the technology used on Namma Metro and I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some things I found out :

The track system

The Bangalore Metro is standard gauge, a system used by most metros worldwide. Narrower than the broad gauge, it allows for greater manoeuvrability, easy ride along curves, laying of tracks even on narrow stretches and control. The standard gauge has a track width of 4ft, 8.5inches, or 1,435mm, while the Indian broad gauge is 5ft, 6inches, or 1,676mm.

Bangalore Metro runs on the ballastless track system used by 70% of the world’s metros. In layman’s language, this means the track does not require stones used on traditional broad gauge track systems to build the track and run the train, as the load is lower than that of a conventional train. The tracks are laid on a concrete slab after assessing the engineering factors. Stones on the conventional track help in balanced construction, while in metro systems concrete slabs are enough.

The Rolling Stock (Coaches)

The rolling stock (coaches/cars) are three stainless steel-bodied wagons. The train will be under the driver’s control, but they are equipped with some Automatic Controls to assist the driver. The seating capacity per train is approximately 1,000, giving more floor area to standing passengers.


The coaches are manufactured by Hyundai Rotem Korea and Mitsubishi Electric Company. BEML has the licence to manufacture the coaches in Bangalore. While Mitsubishi supplied the traction for the coaches, Hyundai Rotem supplied the rolling stock and BEML the coaches.

Power in Third Rail

Electricity for the train will run on a third rail next to the main track. It has an opening at the bottom at certain points from where the train draws its power. The third rail is covered with a yellow shroud, and a person falling on the track won’t be electrocuted. ABB designed, supplied, installed and commissioned four substations to receive and distribute electricity at 66/33 kV, as well as auxiliary and traction substations. ABB will also provide an integrated network management, or SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system to monitor and control the installations.

Consumer tech in the Coaches

Apart from the technology of the trains themselves, of course something that will not be very visible the trains feature a host of features that are visible and form an important part of the coaches. Guess here are some of the interesting consumer or close to consumer technologies in the metro.

Wi-Fi : Ironically the first thing I am listing is not visible at all, but is increasingly becoming one of the basic requirements especially in a city like Bangalore. Passengers can use their laptops, tablets and the mobile internet to be connected while on transit.

Emergency Voice Comms : Passengers will have emergency voice communication with train staff through a speaker system. Passengers can press a call button to communicate anything urgent to the driver or control centre. Help will be at hand at the next station. The integrated control centre will have direct communication with trains and stations which will be CCTV-fitted with visual and audio service information.

Collision Detection : Bangalore Metro also has automatic train supervision, protection and operation systems — if there’s a train on the same track ahead, the approaching train will sense it and come to a halt at a safe distance.

CCTV Monitoring : Cameras will be installed inside the train as well as stations, and people’s movements will be monitored by an operations control centre at Byappanahalli. In case of any help or emergency, the control room will be able to see what went wrong.

Ticketing : Ticketing, too, is completely automated with just a swipe of the ticket, token or card at a particular point near the entry and exit, enabling the gates to open and close. Recharge of metro cards through mobiles and SMS, a first in the world. What I am waiting for Google India to introduce the features of Google Wallet into the Metro, it will be really interesting. Are you listening Google?

Inquisitive Interviews : Sowmya Suryanarayanan – Research Analyst

After a bit of a break, for this feature Inquisitive Interviews is back. This week we feature one of the most interesting professions yet, Research Analyst, specially someone that will have a bearing on the outcome of the bilateral ties of two countries. Someone in fact that can help definitely make a change. A research analyst would quite literally do the ground work and research and come up with relevant policies that help in the formation of a new agreement in between 2 countries.

Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewees providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.

[Q] Tell us something about yourself- where you live, work, your interests…?

I work with a policy think tank called Strategic Foresight Group, which is based in Mumbai, India.  I write in-depth research reports on various development-related issues in South Asian countries, more specifically on Bangladesh and India.

Interests include reading, trekking, exploring new places and watching cricket.

[Q] What is your average day like at work?

My average day at work consists of reading opinion pieces and news reports on Bangladesh and India. Monitoring and analyzing emerging trends in both the countries. There are no daily deadlines to meet but there are project specific deadlines.

[Q] Is this job what you had pictured to be? If yes, then how long did you take to get here?

Yes, most definitely.

After I completed my Masters, it took me three years of whining, two odd jobs and a dear friend’s nudge to get here.

[Q] What’s the most interesting part of your job? Do you get bored at your workplace?

The most interesting part of my job is to study how similar issues affect poor people across South Asia and to identify different approaches to study a specific problem.

Hmmm..actually, I don’t get bored at my work place. I enjoy doing my job. And I work with a dynamic team and there is constant interaction and discussion taking place.

[Q] What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Not to have bias while analyzing issues.

[Q] Do you report to someone? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job?

Yes, I do report to the Executive Director of my organization. Her opinion has a direct bearing on my work.

[Q] Do you use skills that you learnt in school /college? Did you take up any specific training or courses?

I have a background in Economics, and that has definitely helped in doing my job better. No, I did not take up any specific courses. I developed my analytical skills on the job.

[Q] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry? As in what you think are the limitations / drawbacks on the industry ?

At the entry level, the salary could be low, especially in India. So you must pursue it only if you are interested in research. And it is a long term commitment.

[Q] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry?

Keep yourself updated with current events. Read editorial and analytical pieces in newspapers to start with. Develop a basic writing skill. A social science degree will definitely increase your prospects of getting a job in the industry. But it is not a must.

[Q] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession?

In terms of ‘job search’, you can check out http://www.devnetjobs.org/

There is no specific online material that you can read to get a job in this sector. However, there are various journal articles available online. You can read them based on your area of interest.

You can get in touch with Sowmya through :

Facebook: facebook.com/sowmya.suryanarayanan

Thank you Soumya for an interesting Interview. I need to note that Sowmya has been really busy with work, and I am thankful that she could really help out with some time of her’s. Thanks again Sowmya.

Be Inquisitive.

The Art and Science of Photography

I mentioned last week that I was heading to Bangalore to attend a photography workshop and I just did, the past few days have been an exhilarating experience when it comes to learning. The workshop that I attended was aptly called the Art and Science of Photography, teaching to use the device in hand to manipulate light in such a way, that the image produced by it would be stunning. Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, Exposure Compensation, and many other parameters that make up an image, forming the science of the photograph and the composition and story making the art part of the image. The workshop which was conducted by Kalyan Varma, who I believe is India’s best wild life photographer, was something f a revelation. From learning about the different components used to capture light to make brilliant photographs, to photo processing techniques used by early photographers using film cameras. Real eye opener.

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Photography has long been associated as an art form, and the DSLR’s have made it more of a gizmo that provides geek food. I would attribute the new SLR revolution to the Geekified image of the new SLR camera. And being a gadget the focus has shifted to photography as an art form but also as a small stream of science. The Science of manipulating light and producing mind boggling images. But like everything else these days, I think we as photographers are really getting carried away with the electronics and the gadgets. Good equipment does not always mean good photographs, however good photographer even with a crappy camera can take amazing photographs, if you search for Mobile Camera Photography you will know what I mean. Getting back to the topic of Gadgets and Photography. Here are some excellent examples of cameras ads that have aired over the years (the Polaroid one is the best), notice something similar… all of them try to convey the same message to the photographer, that the new camera is compact and light weight to take good pictures 😉

At the end of the day Photography is all about the photographer and his keep eye to freeze a moment to make a good photograph. This was one of the most important things I learnt at the workshop, having a great camera just helps the process. I am going to be posting images from my Photography workshop on my photo blog (http://photo.melvinpereira.com) soon.

Traffic Signals capable of switching off your car

Governments all over the world have tried everything to try and get motorists to switch off their engines at traffic signals, lets take it from the start; about 10 years ago, India’s best run Government Organization, “Bharat Electronics Limited” came up with a small addition to the traffic lights in India, adding a small timer to the red light letting motorists know how long the signal would stay red. Powered by Solar this new technology was a sort of a marvel in the Indian city. Starting from one experimental signal (BEL Main Road Junction) to spreading all over the city of Bangalore and then the state, now also being rolled out through out the country. The traffic timer was one of the first attempts known to make motorists responsible and try to persuade them to switch off their engines at traffic signals.

Continue reading Traffic Signals capable of switching off your car

New Parking technologies in Bangalore

There is an old phrase in Dubai, First in Dubai you look for a Job, then a house, and then you keep searching for Parking, all this suggesting how bad the scene with Parking was in Dubai. These days it does not seem to be a lot of issues with parking as the number of people in Dubai is reducing and with the Metro in place for people to try, However, the parking woes is moving to places like Bangalore  where unprecedented growth in the number of cars in the city is making parking something of a real problem. Indian developers and builders along with the government do not really give importance to parking and related issues. The situation seems like it is changing.

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India and Green .. Bangalore

[tweetmeme] Recently I stumbled upon a map created by Green2Tech which highlights the best Green Tech startups, and incidentally the only company worthwhile mentioning on the entire eastern hemisphere is a startup in Bangalore, India. Again, India, whoo hoo. More information about the company and its relevance after the map below :

Reva, the Indian electric car company, with its namesake vehicle, was the startup from Bangalore that was mentioned in the list. I am as intrigued as you are about this. If you haven’t heard of Reva, you’re about to. The Bangalore-based company’s cars are getting popular in congested urban areas (like Delhi and London), and are gaining traction in island destinations (like Cyprus), where vehicles with shorter ranges and low environmental impact are particularly attractive.

With the governments of Italy, Japan and the UK offering strong incentives for buyers of EVs (the US is catching up, and Reva is testing that market as we speak), Reva is looking to the future. It’s researching lithium-ion and lithium polymer batteries to extend range and increase performance. And its cost is relatively low — $9,000 for a range up to 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) per battery charge, according to the New York Times.

Reva got its start in 1994 as a joint venture between the Maini Group India and California-based AEV LLC, and after an extensive R&D period, its first commercial vehicle went to market in India in 2001. More recently, Draper Fisher Jurveston invested in the fledgling brand, and led a $20 million round of financing for the company in 2006. It’s about time the Indian electric car company, which has one of the best-selling electric vehicles in the world, opted for a few higher-end, better-performance options.

….Reva is launching a lithium-ion-battery-powered electric vehicle for the European market, along with a fast-charging station that can charge the lithium-ion battery 90 percent in one hour. According to a press release, Reva’s lithium-ion electric vehicle will be available for pre-order starting this coming February, with deliveries starting in May in Norway, the UK, France, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Belgium and Ireland.

Another feather in the cap of Bangalore, will be better known the real “green” garden city of India.