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Technology
Friday, February 28, 2020
Haier launches 83 products, some AI- and IoT-powered

Sony India Feels the Heat from Chinese Cos, Cuts Over 120 JobsHome appliances and consumer electronics brand Haier has launched 83 products in different categories, including some powered by Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Thing solutions.

“The home appliances industry has entered the era of IoT and new technologies with customers looking for products that provide a connected and a holistic new age experience,” Eric Braganza, President of Haier Appliances India, said, after unveiling the new range of products.

The new range included refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines and LED TVs.

With the expansion of its product portfolio to smart home solutions, the brand expects to continue its high growth momentum in different categories. The firm, which has a network of 20,000 dealers, has 539 service centres covering 19,000 pin codes across the country.

On Saturday, it showcased its AI-enabled Smart TVs and smart refrigerators and WiFi-enabled washing machines along with other products.

With an eye on the upcoming summer season, Haier has lined up 29 new air conditioners to cater to diverse needs of its customers. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

HCL Technologies expects strong demand across sectors in coming quarters

IT services firm HCL Technologies is betting on strong demand across sectors, including manufacturing and retail, to continue its growth momentum in the coming quarters.

The company, which posted 15.5 per cent rise in revenue in the December quarter, is also seeing strong growth in the European and US markets. “Our pipeline is very strong. And we’re also pretty confident of the conversion rates. As we speak, we’re looking large deals. So overall, I’m positive,” HCL Technologies President and CEO C Vijayakumar told PTI.

He added that sectors like manufacturing, retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) look quite strong.

“On financial services, we are a little bit cautious because European banks...there is still some decline in spends in some of our customers,” he said, adding that Europe overall is performing well for the company. On the back of the strong growth, the company has narrowed its revenue growth outlook to 16.5-17 per cent for 2019-20 in constant currency terms from its previous forecast of 15-17 per cent top line growth.

In the December quarter, growth was led by manufacturing at 38.1 per cent year-on-year, energy, utility and public services at 31.3 per cent, retail CPG at 16.9 per cent, financial services at 16.8 per cent, and telecom and media at 13.6 per cent. In terms of geographies, the US, Europe and Rest of World (RoW) experienced double digit growth on a year-on-year basis in constant currency.

RoW lead the growth with 27.3 per cent year-on-year growth in constant currency. Vijayakumar pointed out that the company is also expanding its presence in geographies like Canada, South Africa and Middle East.

Talking about deal sizes, he said, “I think, in 2019, we had a lot of large deals where billion dollar deals were coming”. “I don’t see that but maybe still quite large, say $ 200 to 500 million,” he added.(Source: The Hindu Businessline)

This Tech may Replace Swipe Machines

MERCHANTS CAN PROCESS small-ticket payments made via contactless cards using their smartphones. The merchant at your neighbourhood store (kirana) may soon be able receive small-ticket payments on his smartphone for purchases you make using contactless cards.

This is a step up from using hefty Point of Sale (POS) devices.

Global payments major Visa is set to enable POS operators and fintech companies to upgrade merchant smartphones with NFC (Near Field Communication) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology to accept digital transactions from contactless cards.

The technology, called ‘Tap to Phone’, will allow merchants to process payments made through contactless cards directly on their smartphones without having to use the swipe machines.

This is expected to reduce both the cost of setting up the infrastructure and handling these intermediary devices, used to process small-ticket retail transactions instantly.

“We are working with both large players and nimble fintech companies as well. The pilots have been successfully conducted. We will see this trend pretty much immediately, say from January or February,” T R Ramachandran, Group Country Manager, India and South Asia, Visa told ET in an exclusive interaction. The US-based payments network operator said it was in the process of issuing certifications on security standards for the fintech companies and banks that will deploy these devices.

“It is estimated that there are nearly 60 to 80 million MSME outlets in the country, but there are less than 5 million POS machines in operation. We should not let the capex — which is $150 to $200 — hinder the rollout of these merchant discount devices,” said Ramachandran.

The HCE or Host Card Emulator technology is already being used by large players such as Samsung, Apple, and SBI Cards to create digital wallets linked to their cards. This enables customers to make instant payments at merchant points without physically using their cards.

The new technology will ‘reverse engineer’ the same process to make the smartphones the receiver of payments instead of transmitters, Ramachandran said.

“There are several use cases where smartphones with HCE (Host Card Emulator) technology can function as cards to transfer funds. We’re thinking if they can transfer, they can also receive,” he explained. As per the latest Reserve Bank of India data, there are about 835 million debit cards and 52.5 million active credit cards. The number of POS devices has been pegged at 4.6 million as of September 2019.

A contactless card uses a chipbased technology to complete transactions through a secure radio interface. These transactions, unlike traditional swipe transactions, does not require a customer to complete a two-factor authentication process involving a secure pin or One Time Password (OTP) to make payments under ₹2,000, as per the RBI’s current mandate. (Source: Economic Times)

Tech Services Firms Look to Turn a Page with Content Moderation

Firms see a sharp rise in opportunities amid increasing demand from social networking cos, others. Some large technology services companies and their boutique counterparts are betting big on the content moderation services business, analysts have said.

This is a business that IT services provider Cognizant said recently it was exiting, pushed by the challenges of dealing with stressed employees and its new strategy.

Content moderation work involves tasks like filtering a video, image or text with hate messages, which could end up hurting organisations, businesses or others.

Globally, this type of work has received criticism due to the high stress levels and long working hours, often leading to an unhealthy work-life balance. Staff at such businesses are often underpaid, said analysts.

The size of the content moderation services market, which is in huge demand from social networking firms, is pegged at nearly $2 billion, according to Ray Wang, chief analyst of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research.

The technology services and business process management industry continues to see higher demand for content moderation services and companies such as Accenture, Wipro, Genpact and domestic boutique firms are seeing a sharp rise in opportunities, said Peter Bendor-Samuel, chief executive, Everest Group, an IT advisory and research firm.

“It is true that some of the roles in content moderation are challenging and can be disturbing if not handled well. However, the need is growing, creating a robust and growing market. Also, the industry is learning how to better support their employees in these roles,” said Bendor-Samuel. Experts said revenue generated by this business comes at a reputation cost for companies, and does not add value to the company.

ET reported earlier that Cognizant had come under scrutiny for the work environment of its content moderators and the impact such work was having on their mental health.

Cognizant’s exit from this segment, roughly worth $250 million, is also largely strategic to the company’s future, analysts said.

“I don’t think this (Cognizant's exit) changes the business. We see huge demand and requests from the social networks for more help as this is not an easy job,” said Wang of Constellation Research.

Experts said large IT companies face more costs in this business compared to smaller boutique firms, due to higher employee management costs, increased locations, processes etc. (Source: Economic Times)

US-based tech start-up to expand India operations, to open office in Delhi soon

Mulls expanding into the Southeast Asian and Chinese market too. India’s building control and energy efficiency market are estimated to touch USD 2 billion a year with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12 per cent over the next three years, according to buildings technology start-up 75F.

The US-based building intelligence solutions provider is opening an office in Delhi soon, its fourth office in India. Currently, the firm has engineering, product development and sales hub in Bengaluru, as well as sales and support services offices in Chennai and Mumbai.

“We are well established in India and now expanding into the Southeast Asian and Chinese markets,” 75F India Country President Gaurav Burman said on Sunday after signing a distribution agreement with Singapore Power for the markets. The agreement was signed on December 6.

Burman estimated the combined business potential of USD 2 billion a year from Southeast Asian and Chinese markets with a CAGR of 10 per cent.

“Having succeeded in both the US and India, we are now expanding from Singapore into regional markets,” said Burman. “75F launched its operations in India in August 2016, and has been growing steadily, acquiring several customers ever since,” he said.

The business growth potential has helped the start-up raise USD 18 million from the US-based Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is backed by Bill Gates, said 75F Chief Executive Officer and founder Deepinder Singh.

Climate Initiatives, a USD 1.3-billion UK-based fund backed by the world’s 13 largest oil companies, co-led series A funding in 75F with support from Building Ventures, a fund by the world’s leading mechanical contractors, said Singh who closed the fund in September 2019.

Elaborating on 75F technology founded in 2012, Singh said it is an intelligent building solution that utilises the internet of things and the latest in cloud computing to create systems that predict, monitor and manage the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) needs of commercial buildings.

With 25 years of experience in electronics and computing, Singh founded 75F in 2012 after he designed some of the world’s fastest core networks for Tier-I service providers such as AT&T, NTT and Verizon. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

ITC Infotech employees to get bot ‘buddies’

Driven by automation, ITC Infotech has undertaken a workplace transformation that could result in a culture change. The company has chalked out a plan to equip every employee with a digital bot — a software tool that performs tasks it’s configured for. The initiative, which ITC Infotech is officially rolling out in September this year, will cover all 8,500 employees over a period of six months.

While most companies are undertaking automation and are deploying bots for specific functions catering to the workforce and customers, the difference here is that every employee at ITC Infotech will get a bot that will act like a “buddy” and execute mostly mundane tasks to meet the employee’s requirements.

Bots, said ITC Infotech, can be designed to execute a variety of actions — from complex tasks such as understanding human conversation, to simply automating repetitive tasks such as creating a pivot table in an excel sheet and pasting that on to a slide to create a presentation. The move at ITC Infotech is aimed mainly at boosting employee engagement and productivity levels.

Although the company did not disclose the total investment that will go into the entire initiative, MD & CEO Sudip Singh told TOI, “We have set the foundation for ITC Infotech to be the first technology services organisation to have developed digital personas for different roles across the organisation to drive significant productivity enhancements by automating mundane and repetitive tasks. Every employee wants to be relevant in tomorrow’s world, where creativity has a greater value. We are thus empowering our employees with bots. The objective is to make the employee happy, and a happy employee would mean a happy client.”

Automation Anywhere, a developer of robotic process automation software, is assisting ITC Infotech in developing these bot personas.

Milan Sheth, who is Automation Anywhere’s executive VP for India, Middle East & Africa, said although several companies have deployed bots at work, no company has set a goal of equipping 100% of their employees with bot personas. “ITC Infotech will be the first to do so. Even if all employees are not able to complete the task in six months, at least 80-85% would do so,” said Sheth, who reckons this could increase productivity levels of employees by 12-14% in the first year after full rollout.

Automation is the buzz word across sectors. In an under-development project of smart policies at Sun Life Asia Service Centre, all policies will be accessible online, searchable by key words. The chat bot will empower the database and help the employee with any query. This, said Sun Life Asia Service Centre, will be functional by December 2019.

Recently, Kotak Mahindra Bank launched an AI-powered voicebot, developed using millions of phone-banking conversations. Yes Bank, with the help of video analytics, AI and bots, develops personality reports. The app enables scheduling face-to-face/telephonic interviews, helping the bank to reach out to candidates at any place or time.

“We are convinced this is the future. The future workforce will want to perform activities that are creative. That cannot happen unless you empower them with the requisite technological tools,” said Singh. In a phased manner, help desks and kiosks have been planned across ITC Infotech’s campus in Bengaluru to help employees in leveraging the bots. (Source: Times of India)

Prominent scientists warn that 5G could pose health hazards

Call for measured steps noting that it could also affect environment adversely Several eminent scientists in the country have begun a crusade to caution the Government against rushing into auctioning of spectrum for the industry to roll-out 5G technology based services in the country.

These scientists are campaigning, writing letters to Government and Parliamentarians and other opinion makers.
The list of such concerned scientists includes well-known names such as:
1. Prof V S Ramamurthy, former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology
2. Dr T Ramasami, also a former Secretary of DST and a former Director-General of CSIR
3. Prof Girish Kumar, Deparment of Electronics, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, who has written a book on EMF radiation hazards
4. Dr L V Krishnan, former Director of Safety Research and Health Physics Programmes at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam
5. Dr P C Kesavan, a noted radiobiologist and a former Dean, School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi
6. Dr R S Sharma of Indian Council for Medical Research, Delhi, who has studied RF radiation effects on rats
7. Dr Mahadevan Srinivasan, a former atomic scientist at Baba Atomic Research Centre (BARC)
BusinessLine spoke to many of them. Their message is simple: look before you leap. They fear that as the Government prepares to auction the airwaves to raise an estimated Rs 6 lakh crore, commercial interests might override, even overrule, prudence.

These scientists could have taken a cue from a similar campaign of scientists in Europe, who have started a web-based “5G appeal” -- so far, 244 scientists have joined the appeal. The website, 5gappeal.eu, lists out their names.

A quick look at the 5G appeal

The appeal states:
“We the undersigned, scientists and doctors, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry.”

After describing in detail how 5G could be harmful, the appeal “urges” the governments of the EU countries to take all reasonable measures to halt the 5G RF-EMF expansion until independent scientists can assure that 5G and the total radiation levels caused by RF-EMF (5G together with 2G, 3G, 4G, and WiFi) will not be harmful for EU-citizens, especially infants, children and pregnant women, as well as the environment.

The public domain today abounds with videos on ill-effects of 5G. Dr Martin Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at the Washington State University, USA,says that “putting in tens of millions of 5G antennae without a single biological test of safety has got to be the stupidest idea anyone has had in the history of the world.”

Now, Indian scientists have begun to lend their support in favour of comprehensive studies on possible deleterious effects of 5G on health of humans and environment.

What is 5G and why could it be harmful?
Beginning in the early 1990s, successive generations—or ‘G’s—of wireless technological advancement have improved communications in the world. Wireless technology works by sending signals that are transmitted as energy waves. One established way of expressing the nature of waves is in terms of how many ‘crests’ and ‘troughs’ are generated per second, or frequency—this is expressed as ‘hertz’.

Now, while technologies from 2G in 1991 to 4G in 2008 have used waves of progressively increasing frequencies up to 2.5 Gigahertz (GHz). Then comes 5G, where the frequencies go up to 90 GHz.

Data riding on such fast waves get transmitted quickly—that is why you should be able to download a full 3D movie in half a minute, play video games better and link-up all the appliances in your house to your mobile – so that you can, for instance, switch on your AC from your mobile ten minutes before you arrive home.

But the question that is being raised is - how would it affect a person’s health and well-being?
For sure, such questions have come up before, even in the context of 3G and 4G, but this time around the voices are shriller because the risks could be significantly higher.

Dr L V Krishnan cautions that beam 5G radiations on some rats or humans is not enough. Ill effects of radiation often shows up after a time lag. Even if humans are shown to be safe, the effects on flora and fauna must be comprehensively studied, he says.

Krishnan and others point out that there are many instances where birds and animals have died where 5G experiments have been conducted. The connection between the deaths and 5G has not been proved, but has not been disproved either.

A need for comprehensive studies “There must be a road map, and the roll-out could be done guardedly, in phases,” Krishnan told BusinessLine.
Radiation is of two types—ionizing and non-ionizing. Gamma rays and X-rays are ionizing, they are so energetic that they rip break atoms in our body and cause cancer. Sunlight and waves from TV sets are non-ionizing, they are okay.

Defenders of 5G point out that the 5G radiation is non-ionizing, hence safe. “That is rubbish,” says Dr Kesavan, pointing out that even UV rays from the sun are non-ionizing, but they do cause cancer.

One video on 5G’s harmful effects wonders if the recorded fall in sperm count in males has something to do with cell phones kept in pockets. “We bathe our genitals in radiation all the time,” it says.

The scientists are at pains to stress that they are not alarmists, nor anti-technology Luddites.

“We have to convince the powers that be in India that during test phase prior to introducing 5G as a regular technology, government, medical commission-monitored cell biology measurements must be mandatory, says Dr Mahadevan Srinivasan.

“I am all for giving people the benefit of technology,” say Dr T Ramasami, “but we must do comprehensive studies to ensure that people are not harmed.” (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Cloud-based training for Swachh Bharat

TRAI to decide on rules for internet calling, messaging firms soon Besides helping the Ministry in running community training courses and track their performance, it also provided video-based learning for users. Microsoft India has joined hands with the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to roll out its cloud-based solution Project Sangam to train stakeholders on Swachh Bharat e-Learning Portal.

The project is a cloud-hosted, mobile-first community learning platform, using which the ministry trained over 1.1 lakh municipal staff and relevant personnel in best sanitation practices in 4,000 cities.

“The Ministry wanted to standardise, centralise, modernise, and establish systems for knowledge exchange and capacity development to train the staff,” senior Microsoft executive said in a statement on Sunday.

Besides helping the Ministry in running community training courses and track their performance, it also provided video-based learning for users. In the phase two of Swachh Bharat e-learning mission, the Ministry will soon roll out Citizen Training programme to educate people on public toilets hygiene, waste management, household hygiene and sanitation practices. An app is available on the android platform Google Play. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)


Innovative Swiss Quality Cabling Products for High Communication Networks showcased by R&M

Innovative Swiss Quality Cabling Products for High 
Communication Networks showcased by R&M
Future-proof technology products of R&M received appreciation from Indian telecom czars and leaders from IT, Internet and IoT industries. R&M, a Swiss cabling systems developer and provider of high-quality fiber & copper solutions for network infrastructures around the world, showcased its world class Swiss cabling products for high communication networks at the 27th Convergence India Summit. The summit was held in Delhi attracting CXOs across various verticals and industries. R&M had its top Indian executives provide feasible solutions to the critical issues faced by the CXOs at their organizations. Some of the focused areas of discussions were on IoT, Big Data and Analytics, Cloud services, Broadband and Internet services etc.

Shailendra Trivedi, Senior Director Sales - Public Network at R&M India said, "Convergence India Expo is the most influential and relevant trade event for the ICT, Broadcast and Digital media industry in South Asia. It provides an excellent platform for people to view and get educated on the newer technological advanced products, solutions and services. We feel privileged to be associated with the summit and exhibit our technology-rich products that boost Digital India initiative."

R&M displayed the following key products at the event:
Central Office Solutions: Fibre Management Systems, Rack Mount Splitter
Connectivity Solutions: Patch cords (SM, MM, MPO), Splitters
Outside Plant Solutions: Joint Closures - Coloured, FTTA (CPRI) Assemblies, Armoured Patch cords
FTTH Solutions: FAT, OTB, FDC, FTB, HTB, Splitter Boxes
TSEC & CACT Approved: FDMS Indoor, FDMS Closure, Splitter, Wall Mount FDMS, Patch cords
Unique products: E-2000 FMS, Flat Closure-Colored, SCM ODF Module

"R&M team leveraged the platform in interacting with industry leaders and briefed on the key products of the company which serves ICT segment. This also gave us an opportunity to gain greater knowledge on the current market demands. Overall, the platform assisted us in increasing our reach by tapping new strategic partners who will help in our business growth", added Shailendra.

Convergence India is one of the leading summits which addresses the conglomeration of Telecom, IT, Broadcast & Digital Media Industry. The event witnessed 800 plus exhibitors with more than 25,000 trade visitors including key government officials, MSOs, D2H players, System Integrators, Satellite Operators, Cable Operator associations, Broadcasting associations, etc., The main agenda of Convergence India is to take government's key vision - Digital India ahead by bringing mega-minds of various industries under one roof.

Indian consumers say big hello to voice-based devices

Indian consumers say big hello to voice-based devices Hey Alexa! Please play "BhajaGovindam" by M.S. Subbulakshmi, goes the command every morning at my home and Alexa takes no time in obliging, playing the song by the legendary Carnatic vocalist as breakfast begins to roll.

Hey Alexa! Please play "BhajaGovindam" by M.S. Subbulakshmi, goes the command every morning at my home and Alexa takes no time in obliging, playing the song by the legendary Carnatic vocalist as breakfast begins to roll.

This has become a routine at millions of Indian homes, indicating a clear trend about voice becoming the next conversational platform between people and devices.

As we head toward a world where data-driven machine intelligence powers conversations between brands and consumers, Indian consumers are now ready for this, frequently using smartphones to interact with brands and coordinate tasks.

According to Forrester, mobile penetration has allowed rapid, leapfrogging acceleration among metropolitan Indian online adults in the uptake of wearable devices and other smart technology.

Nearly 54 per cent Indians now use at least one wearable device. The smart home is at a similar turning point: 30 per cent use a smart TV, 16 per cent use a voice assistant speaker like Alexa-rich Amazon Echo or Google Assistant-driven Home, and 36 per cent use smart home devices like Internet-connected thermostats or home audio systems.

According to Meenakshi Tiwari, Forecast Analyst at Forrester, most of the digital consumers in India today are mobile consumers, doing multi-tasking on the go.

"Voice has much bigger role to play in the circumstance, which is further verified by the fact that 28 per cent of search queries in India are done by voice, and Hindi voice search queries are growing at over 400 per cent year on year," she told IANS.

It gives clear indication that voice will play a bigger role in India's digital space in near future.

"Smart speaker will also play critical in this direction which is evident from their increasing shipment and time spent by consumer on it," Tiwai added.

According to market research firm International Data Corp (IDC), the smart speakers' category in India, led by Amazon, grew 43 per cent in the second quarter of 2018.

"I personally believe that voice as a platform is going to lead the next wave of content searches, social conservation, and eventually, it will also become the medium of commerce, said Jaipal Singh, Senior Analyst, IDC India.

We already have voice-enabled devices which help us set routines, automate home appliances and provide on-demand information.

"In terms of devices install base in 2018, it has significantly improved as vendors have shipped a set of new devices ranging from mobile phones, ear pods, TVs and smart speakers with voice assistants feature enabled on them," Singh told IANS.

This novelty feature is really attracting a wide segment of users and obviously, millennials and Gen Z are leading the adoption as they are more comfortable to experiment with new technology.

According to Singh, smart speakers are very popular among the kids who mostly use those for educational content, listening mythological stories quizzing and playing games.

"However, playing music and setting alarms, asking for information from the internet are some of the popular tasks that Indian users prefer asking to voice assistants," the IDC analyst said.

There are still concerns on users spending time with voice assistants as it is yet to get the desired traction in India.

However, refined use cases with localised experiences are expected to lead the desired growth of voice-based devices in the coming years, the experts stressed. (Source:ETTelecom)

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