Convergence Plus
Monday, November 18, 2019
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,, 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)

Apple iPhone losing brand pull in India; 2018 worst in four years: Analysts

Apple iPhone losing brand pull in India; 2018 worst in four years: Analysts The Indian smartphone market has gone from around 80 million in 2014 when Apple shipped 1.5 million to now 2018 when the market is nearly 150 million and Apple is shipping around 1.6-1.7 million, or a market share of 1.2%, according to Counterpoint. Apple’s iPhone shipments in India last year are estimated to have shrunk by as much as half from a record level in 2017, its worst performance in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market since 2014, adding to global woes that have forced the company to cut its revenue outlook.

While Hong Kong-based Counterpoint Technology Market Research projected Apple’s India shipments at 1.6-1.7 million in 2018, CyberMedia Research pegged them at roughly 2 million – both lower than 3.2 million in 2017. High prices were a drag for Apple, which was unable to compete with rivals including China’s OnePlus, which offer devices with better features at half or even a third of the cost of iPhones, analysts said.

Apple shipped about 400,000 iPhones in October-December, according to Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research. In comparison, OnePlus, the leader in the premium segment, shipped an estimated 500,000 units.

“Apple had been rising every year until 2017… the 2018 shipments will be at the level of 2014-15, setting them three years back in a market that has grown 50% between 2014-15 and 2018,” he said.

India’s smartphone market almost doubled to 150 million units in 2018 from about 80 million in 2014. Comparatively, Apple’s shipments have risen to 1.6-1.7 million now – a market share of about 1.2% – compared with 1.5 million in 2014, according to Counterpoint.

Analysts said the slow growth can be attributed to intense competition and the $1,000 price tags of the new iPhone models, which failed to attract buyers even after offering EMI schemes, zero down-payment and cashback plans. Some offers on older models such as iPhone 8 and 8 Plus also didn’t work, said analysts. India added to Apple’s problems across the globe in 2018, specifically slowing economic growth in China, due to which the company lowered its revenue forecast for its fiscal first quarter ended December 29 to $84 billion. In November, it had pegged first-quarter revenue at between $89 billion and $93 billion.

Apple declined to comment to ET’s emailed queries.

Apple’s India business grew from $100-200 million a few years ago to over $2 billion in 2016 and flattened out after that, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview to CNBC last week.

Apple still considers India an important market and has “more work to do,” Cook said in the interview, adding that it wants to get better results in the future. The Cupertino-based company wants to open its own stores in India and would like duties on its products to be cut.

“For Apple, 2018 has been a disastrous year in India… while Apple is still the favoured aspirational brand in India, it has definitely slipped. In comparison, the Android smartphone market in India is one that is thriving and full of innovation,” said Prabhu Ram, head-industry intelligence group at CyberMedia Research.

CMR anticipates an almost 45% decline on year in iPhone shipments in Q4 2018 and shipments of 2 million units for the full calendar year.

Counterpoint’s Shah said the stickiness factor for iPhones is reducing fast because phones have become a commodity.

“Chinese brands have 30-40% cheaper pricing than Apple. It doesn’t make sense to pay sky-high prices for a product that doesn’t have new features,” he said, adding that iPhones won’t even support 5G until 2020.

The prices of iPhones are shrinking its potential base, even among existing users who are due to replace their devices, according to techARC analyst Faisal Kawoosa.

Media reports said Apple may assemble its top-end iPhones in India through the local unit of Foxconn Technology Co. this year, a move that could result in cost savings that can be passed on to consumers.

“Local manufacturing won’t move the needle much since Indian consumers are happy with offerings by OnePlus,” Shah said, adding that Apple doesn’t want to lose brand equity in India and may not slash prices.

Navkendar Singh, associate research director at IDC India said that Apple seems to have taken a conscious decision to focus on value, and isn’t chasing volume in India. “They have realized that India is a big market but it is difficult to fight in India,” he said.

Singh said that the move can be seen as risk hedging against China given the ongoing trade-related US-China issues. “Besides, India could become the manufacturing destination for Apple in long term,” he added. (Source:ETTelecom)

After China, Actis planning to set up data centres in India

After China, Actis planning to set up data centres in IndiaActis is building the world’s largest non-governmental data centre outside Beijing and is eyeing similar opportunity in India amid implementation of RBI norms on data localization. Private equity firm Actis LLP is in talks with global information technology companies and retailers to set up data centres in India, said a senior company executive. Actis is building the world’s largest non-governmental data centre outside Beijing and is eyeing similar opportunity in India after implementation of RBI norms on data localization.

“The opportunity for real estate in Asia is fantastic. And if you look at here in India, as I said, both in the residential space and the office space with you know the top partners as the Tatas, Shapoorjis and Mahindras, what you can think about (is) data centres,” said Torbjorn Caesar, Actis senior partner.

Data localization refers to storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of a country where the data is generated. Free flow of digital data, especially which can impact government operations, is restricted by some governments. Many try to protect and promote security across borders and, thus, encourage data localization.

Caesar, who chairs Actis’ executive committee, said data generated in India needs to be stored locally to comply with government rules, which means all cloud-based services will need a local data centre.

The data centre business will be handled by Standard Chartered Bank’s Principal Finance Real Estate business in Asia that Actis acquired recently and which has invested in China, India and South Korea.

“It will be under the real estate arm,” Caesar said in an interview to Mint last month.

RBI has asked payment firms to submit fortnightly updates on the progress made on storing data locally. A 6 April RBI circular said: “All system providers shall ensure that the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them are stored in a system only in India. This data should include the full end-to-end transaction details/information collected/carried/processed as part of the message/payment instruction.” It added that for the overseas leg of a transaction, the data may be stored in the foreign country. Global digital payment firms such as Visa, American Express, Facebook, PayPal, Mastercard and Google are likely to be impacted by the Indian regulations.

Caesar said Actis is in talks with all big global IT firms but added that “we don’t want to mention some names as we are still in negotiations.” Actis, which invests solely in emerging markets, has committed $2.1 billion for India and has been operating in energy, financial services and real estate space. Of this, $950 million has been committed in the last 18 months.

The company has had a good run in India’s clean energy space. In the largest domestic clean energy deal, Actis sold in April this year Ostro Energy Pvt. Ltd to ReNew Power Ventures in at an enterprise value of $1.5 billion. Ostro Energy and Solenergi are among the energy platforms that Actis has created globally, following Globeleq Meso America in Central America, Zuma Energia in Mexico, Aela Energia in Chile and Atlantic Renovaveis in Brazil.

Caesar also spoke about the competitive advantage that the 500 board level, C suite personnel it has across its businesses that offers unique insight and competence to be leveraged across its portfolio.

“The bargaining power we have from the procurement point of view is strong,” he added.

Actis has $10 billion of projects under construction in growth markets and employs 116,500 employees in the businesses that it controls.(Source:Mint)

An artificial intelligence app that can ‘Mirrorsize’ apparel

An artificial intelligence app that can ‘Mirrorsize’ apparel Getting an apparel of your choice that fits right is a challenge, especially if it is ordered online. Studies show that nearly 30 per cent of online users drop out before a purchase, because of size and fit issues. Returns, post an online purchase due to sizing issues, range anywhere between 25 and 40 per cent. And this is where US-based tech start-up ‘Mirrorsize’ comes in with its artificial intelligence-enabled device agnostic body scanning app.

Launched on a trial basis earlier this month — on both Android and iOS platforms — the app takes 3D body scan to deliver “precise body measurements” on tablet PCs and smartphones.

While an individual user gets the right fit, for an apparel maker or e-tailer it could lead to increased sales, lesser returns and customer loyalty. For custom tailoring outfits, it is a chance to enhance their business opportunities and reach larger audiences.

No wonder then that Arup Chakraborty, Founder and CEO, Mirrorsize, wants to extend his offerings to brands, e-commerce companies and even bespoke players (custom tailoring outfits and start-ups). Currently, individual users and some bespoke players are using the app.

“We are in the process of filing patents. Once through, we will focus on the go to market strategy,” he told BusinessLine.

Mirrorsize has already developed two products: ‘Get Measured’ for custom-tailoring outfits; while ‘Size2Fit’ is targeted towards ready-made apparel makers. More additions in terms of product expansion are being planned.

Getting the idea
Chakraborty admits that he was on the look-out for custom tailoring, but was having fitting issues. Tailors would either ask him to be present in person at their shops or he used to send them his measurements. Size charts across e-tailers would confuse him. Even images used in ‘virtual trial rooms’ were not up to the mark. Thus, began his quest for “a solution”. During this time, he met a couple of professors from IIT-Delhi and, along with them, his company Mirrosize started developing the product.

“Measurements taken will be precise because of the use of AI (artificial intelligence). This apart, we will be a cost-effective solution provider,” Chakraborty said.

Monetisation, licensing
Monetisation plans are being worked at. “We may look at a click-based model for companies and brands. I am not much interested in charging individual users,” he added.

The company is already in discussions with at least seven to eight brands and custom-tailoring outfits (bespoke tailors) for licensing pacts. This means, an apparel maker will provide Mirrorsize with its brand specifications. A buyer will click on the ‘body measurement’ option on the apparel maker’s website or an online shopping site and get to know what size fits him/her the best.

Mirrorsize is also in talks to raise funds which, according to Chakraborty, should not be more than $5 million, as of now. Funds will be used for setting up a global sales and marketing team and to step up focus on R&D.(Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Finn co Zyfra’s Industrial IOT solutions for Indian firms

Finn co Zyfra’s Industrial IOT solutions for Indian firmsFinnish company Zyfra, which provides Artificial Intelligence-based solutions for heavy industries, foresees huge potential for industrial digitalisation in India.

The company’s Managing Director, Pavel Rastopshin, in a meeting with the representatives of companies in defence, aerospace, petrochemicals, metallurgy and mining sectors, said Zyfra’s machine- monitoring and manufacturing data collection (MDC) tool will allow manufacturers to increase industrial equipment efficiency.

The company is set to introduce the monitoring tool, MDC Plus, in the Indian market. “We have inked agreements with Indian Spudweb Technologies and Abcon Group for providing the tool in India. They, in turn, expect to sign over 15 contracts worth $2.5 million.”

“Our MDC tool will help track equipment operation, enhance production without considerable investment . This is a crucial task and the initial step towards Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),” he said.

Precise control of the implemented technological process will further improve machine performance by 8-12 per cent,” said Andrey Lovygin, Director, International Business Development, Zyfra.

Founded in November 2017, ZYFRA currently operates in Bulgaria, Finland, apart from India and Russia. The company is connected to over 7,000 CNC machines. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

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