Electronics Rocks – 2014

erocks_logoBeen thinking of writing about Electronics Rocks 2014 (eRocks), finally able to pen-down few things. For people who don’t know what eRocks, here is a brief – it is one of the most popular electronics conference organized by EFY media. Last year I attended as a participant found some interesting things in the conference. This year, after joining Emertxe we got opportunity to be a community partner of the event and offer a presentation on the Internet-Of-Things (IoT) design challenges. The event happened during October 10th and 11th at NIMHANS convention center, Bangalore that attracted 3000+ participants for the event. For my session about IoT which was the key focus for the conference attracted 200+ participants. Post presentation we have received very positive feedback from the community.

While there are many things about the conference, here are my top-3 learnings from the conference:

  • Not only Open software: The field of electronics has become more interesting in the recent years mainly because of open source software and easily available/affordable hardware. While devices like Raspberry-Pi, Arduino has already become very popular, I found some of the new devices like UDOO which are becoming very powerful around which many cool things can be built. Going forward I see many companies flocking into this space which is yet to be tapped to its full potential.
  • Product design: While the previous point gives opportunity to build around so many ideas, there seems to be very large gap when it comes to product design knowledge. While student level knowledge is enough to build a prototype (ex: Agriculture automation) making it as a complete product required a different set of knowledge. During my discussions with many enthusiasts I found there is a severe lack of knowledge about Productization using real hardware.
  • IoT is not new: While there is a lot of opportunity around the IoT space, in my opinion it is not something very new. Connecting devices to network (say LAN) is been existing for a long time, which has taken a upgraded as IoT thanks to multiple advancements happening in embedded & web application development. During my talk also I mainly stressed about this aspect, where fundamentals needs to be taken care to build products in the IoT space.

Here is the Slideshare link to my presentation, comments are welcome. Couldn’t spend much time across various tracks due to my time constraints hopefully next year I will be able to do better by listening into multiple tracks (ex: Jugaad innovation).


CV Raman nagar : A green running route

Bagmane Lake There are many interesting running routes in and around Bangalore city, some of them still remain unexplored. CV Raman Nagar DRDO are is one such running route, which will always remain very close to my heart for many reasons. First I have been living in the same area for years together now, used to go for long walks in the same route much before I started training for long distance running with Runners High. Second, this serene and green router is well maintained, one of the most beautiful landscapes that I am aware of.  It also gives a great opportunity to listen to self while running.

For people who don’t know, DRDO Township is located in CV Raman Nagar, about 2 KM from Indira Nagar. This access restricted Township has some timing limitations where pedestrians and vehicles are not allowed to pass through between 8 PM to 8 AM. Also none of the private vehicles are allowed into the township during any part of the day, which relates the traffic to a larger extent. Well maintained roads, restricted access combined with excellent greenery offers a very good opportunity to use this route as a walking or running track.

The route starting from CV Raman statue -> Bagmane Tech park entrance -> DRDO Township -> DRDO shopping complexDRDO_entrance (1024x768) covers good 2 KM stretch, which is ideal for anybody to start running. This stretch has good combination of flat, uphill and downhill surfaces that gives a good experience for a runner. Since the whole stretch consist of well laid out roads, possibility of skidding or falling is almost ruled out. With ample parking facilities (both inside and outside the complex), a good ‘out-and-back’ of the above mentioned stretch will give a 4 KM distance. As a part of our running program with RH, I have been using this route as per the weekly plan. Also when I miss my weekend runs, this route serves as an alternative option thereby getting rid of guilt feeling that comes as a bonus for missing the routine.

From timing point of view evenings (especially between 5 PM – 8 PM) serves as an ideal slot to go for a run as there will be a lot of regular walkers and runners. Couple of vivid incidents always comes to my mind when I think of this route. The first one being spotting a dead snake on the route, which not only scared people who were walking or running, it created a bad stink in the entire area for more than a week. It was stinking so badly that it even after a week I couldn’t run in the route. The second one being picking up smaller fights with security authorities for stopping me by asking some vague questions, irrespective me mentioned that I came to run in that area. Every other day security personnel keep changing each of them have their own set of rules for pedestrians and timings. It would be better if they come up with some proper mechanism for handling this.

If you are looking for Running_route_3 (1024x768)a good running route well within the city, especially in the Bangalore east area I would strongly recommend DRDO. The ‘darshini’ located inside the complex serves crispy plain-dosa, combining it with a cup of hot tea will complete your run in a high note for sure. Now it’s time to tie your laces!

Bangalore Ultra 2013

Bangalore Ultra 2013
Bangalore Ultra 2013

After my first season running with Kaveri Trial Marathon, enrolled for Bangalore Ultra 2013 with Runners High community. The first season was extremely challenging, as I was finding too difficult to get myself up and running. After long runs (especially on weekends), it used to pain a lot (especially in the calf muscles), which made my weekends really painful days spent by sleeping, icing and taking rest. There were multiple other challenges like getting-up early, showing up on-time to coaching sessions, coordinating with folks for car-pooling along added with  bottom line responsibilities from work and family. During Bangalore Ultra training challenges became multi-fold as I was handling a big workplace transition added with my folks falling in sick frequently with some family travel. The real fun of running with Runners High community is the togetherness and support we get in form of coaches, runners and special children from Ananya and Shristi, which helped me to run successfully irrespective of all challenges.

For ultra I had very few and specific goals were in my mind. First and foremost goal was about running continuously for the race distance. During my first season, I used to do run-walk-run sequence whenever I ran out of my breath, which happened quite frequently. Thanks to regular coaching and breathing exercises (as cross-training), rhythm has set in to a larger extent. During the coaching sessions I was able to run much comfortably without losing breath or taking breaks. This has given me a significant boost in terms of self confidence and can-do attitude. Diwali heavy-eating made my last week coaching little challenging, but overall I was confident because of regular coaching.

The race day was even better. One small mistake I did during my previous season was getting too excited on the previous night, thereby getting lesser sleep. On the run day I had difficulty between 6-8 KM as I just couldn’t push my legs forward. Also the race was happening in Mysore, I ended up eating outside food which I was never comfortable with. Since Ultra was happening in Bangalore (near Hennur Road), I wanted to plan well by taking good amount of rest. Especially on the previous night I went to bed early with having very simple yet ‘carb-rich’ idlis. Had a pretty comfortable sleep and I was very fresh on the race day feeling very light. We (along with my running buddies) reached the location much earlier. The route was misty with lesser visibility.  Fortunately one of our buddy’s workplace is near Hennur, who had quite a good idea about the whole route. In fact the previous day he drove all the way to race location and measured drive time approximately.

When we reached the race location (about 5 AM), folks who were doing ultra long distances (100K, 24 hour continuous run etc…) were winding up their last minutes, which literally blew me off. They started on the previous day about 5 AM, were still running when I reached the location. Trained human body, driven by a strong will to succeed has no limits. I have heard and read similar stuff in many book, it was really an experience to see things unfold in front of my eyes. Some of my RH members have clocked more than 150+ KM in 24 hour time which is a remarkable achievement.

Bangalore Ultra 2013 - Completion
Bangalore Ultra 2013 – Completion

Bangalore Ultra is relatively a flat track with excellent running environment of Bamboo forest. This government protected forest got opened up only for running purpose, otherwise I understand it largely remains closed. The temperature was just perfect with 25K runners starting on time few minutes before us. My pace was steady around 3 KM mark, taken quick breaks (for few seconds) at aid stations to take enough of water and Electral to keep myself hydrated by maintaining appropriate  salt levels. I was not taking separate salt pills as my coaches mentioned taking electoral at break points will have the same as salt pills. On the way I was able to see some of the 25K runners coming back with lot of cheers and support. The pure joy of running and clocking every other kilometer was visible. There was also good number of friends (outside RH

running community, from my professional side and some college buddies) running as a part of this event, met them on the way. I couldn’t spend as much as time I could have wanted other than waving my hands on the way.  The last 2 KM mark was very comfortable for me as I was taking steady and strong steps towards the closure line. Buddies and chief coach from RH accompanied me in the last 300 meters or so asking me to push hard by increasing the speed. I was able to do it quite comfortably and finished the race in style. Food after race was also really tasty (unlike KTM, where we had a major disappointment with respect to food) ended up gulping some good number of idlis and pongal.

During my first season I used to have so much of sourness in my leg. When I was mentioning this to one of my seniors (whose son is training for national level badminton tournament for years now), he gave a tip of taking bath in cold water, which worked wonders. I don’t exactly remember the science behind this, it brought down my post-run pains to a larger extent. With cold water bath becoming part of life now, I am looking forward for my next reason with my own goals and objectives.

Electronics Rocks 2013

Electronics Rocks 2013
Electronics Rocks 2013

Last weekend, Electronics for You (EFY) folks organized a very interesting electronics related conference (called as Electronics Rocks) at NIMHANS convention Center Bangalore. I got a chance to attend the conference after a long time. The primary objective was to attend the hands-on workshop organized by Kits and Spares folks on their Mango Pi development board as I wanted to get more insights into these embedded learning kits, which was coming as a free item along with the workshop. Though workshop was a major flop show (details below), there were many interesting takeaways.

As mentioned in my previous post on Embedded learning kits, I spent quite some time surveying development boards that can be used for educational/learning purpose.  I started off by looking into the latest Beaglebone black board (by Texas Instruments) with ARM 335x Cortex-A8 processor, which doesn’t come with TI DSP for media processing. Upon conversation I understood, there are applications available, which can do decent graphics processing. However for higher end graphics related stuff, Pandaboard still works better as it comes with multiple media interfaces. Definitely there is also a 4 times price difference between these two (Beagle comes at USD 45 v/s Pandaboard at 174 USD). On business side, I could observe all these boards are sold by multiple re-sellers, who were having different stalls in the conference. Considering the price point and target audience, it perfectly makes sense to take re-seller option.

On the electronics components side, I could see many vendors who were showcasing their list consisting of various parts. Had some conversation with folks from RS components, who are into component selling from almost all the major semiconductor manufactures.  They also seem to have a hub of interesting embedded projects in platform called Designspark, where design engineers can can exchange their ideas and create projects. Along with components, there were also many vendors demonstrating debuggers, tools and embedded design services capability. The debugging space is definitely interesting, but I was not paying much attention as it makes sense only for devices with at least a JTAG interface, which was not my area of focus. From governance side, erstwhile Indian Semiconductor Association (ISA) has changed their name into Indian Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA) with responsibility of promoting electronics ecosystem in India.

Coming to Mango Pi workshop, it turned out to be a major flop. During initial promotion they mentioned this workshop as “Build a wireless robot in 60 minutes” using Mango Pi board and mentioned participants can take away a board at the end of the workshop. I was excited about it and registered for the session by paying extra 1500 INR, specifically for this workshop. It was a total chaos where they messed up everything starting with schedule. I was supposed to attend 11:30 AM slot, but they asked me to to attend the 12:30 PM slot due to increased number of participants . I waited for almost an hour, where there was a big queue and people were flocking into a small room. The workshop co-ordinators were relatively junior guys, who couldn’t manage this chaos, eventually mentioned they will do the next session in a bigger room located upstairs.

The upstairs location was an open one, where the sound system was not at all conducive for a workshop environment. On top of that, workshop speaker was of very low quality, neither he was good in communication nor he had much idea about technical aspects. He went on demonstrating building robots with totally a different kit (where Mango Pi board only plays a part), where there were other components like Arduino board, RF sender and receiver etc. I got totally irritated with this poor organization  ended up leaving the workshop within 15 minutes. When they organize an event of this scale, proper attention to be paid as it creates a strong impression on the whole product that is getting demonstrated. Executing it in such a ad-hoc manner has resulted in nothing short of a disaster.

Apart from the items mentioned above, there were a series of talks happening on multiple themes which I couldn’t attend due to personal time constraint. Probably I should plan and attend those sessions next time. Overall it was a decent conference, which provided me deeper insights into many aspects of embedded systems, educational kits, open source, Linux and related technologies.

Tech entrepreneurship events in Bangalore

The San-Francisco bay area of the US is popularly known as ‘Silicon Valley’. Its wealth generation story is well known, where it created umpteen numbers of billionaires over the past three decades. Companies started from the valley literally rewritten the technology entrepreneurship, thereby creating history. The amount of contributions by valley based technology entrepreneurs to the bigger world is unbelievable. Starting from Hewlett-Packard to latest Google every other company has changed the world to a larger extent. These valley based world class product companies, literally created the term Multi National Company (MNC), which is a house-hold name today. It was mainly due to the valley entrepreneurs and their ability to take risk, identifying the opportunity and tapping the correct market had made all the difference. Added to that, world class universities, access to venture capital and world class minds created the ideal ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

India is in the similar growth trajectory what US was in the 1960s and 1970s. It needs more and more technologists to take become entrepreneurs. As known to all of us, the first wave of tech entrepreneurship came in the form of software service companies like Infosys, Wipro and HCL. These companies showed that there is a country called India exist in the world map and high quality, low cost software can be delivered from there. The second wave of tech entrepreneurship is been emerging in the past four years, where young technologists primarily based out of Bangalore are joining the entrepreneurial bandwagon. Many of these emerging entrepreneurial ventures are mainly focusing on Mobility, Software as a service (Saas), Social networking, Web based services and education. With having more technology professionals than Silicon Valley, Bangalore is catching up well with entrepreneurship.

However the entrepreneurial system has got a long way to go in India. To start with these ventures would be limited by the size of the local market, which happens to be a huge challenge. Added to that access to venture capital, mature mentorship and incubation facilities are still growing up in a reasonable phase. This ecosystem plays a very critical part in nurturing ecosystem for entrepreneurship. Apart from the points mentioned above, there needs to be a set of forums where entrepreneurs, investors and technology enthusiasts can meet up and exchange their thoughts. This story talks about such entrepreneurial events and forums in Bangalore

Barcamp

Inspired by the popular ‘unconference’ concept, Barcamps are very informal, vibrant and contagious. Any individual can nominate to provide a talk about his interested topic. These ideas may or may not have any business aspects associated with it. In facts typical topics in Barcamp can be starting from IEEE specifications to Kama Sutra. This forum is conveived, moderated and run by volunteers without any financials associated with it. However many big corporatations, like Yahoo, Google, sponsor the event management expenses.
This event acts as a platform to bring the geek community in a common forum. In Bangalore it typically happens over a weekend in IIM-B. These sessions are organized under multiple tracks, where an individual can choose depending on his interest. There is no cost associated with attending the event and happens across multiple cities in India. If you are interested in latest technology happenings, review the latest gizmo in the town or interested in meeting some energetic individuals, Barcamp is the place to go.

Web link: http://www.barcampbangalore.org
Group’s link: bangalore_barcamp@yahoogroups.com

Mobile Mondays (MoMo)

The Mobile Mondays are typically are knowledge sharing sessions, focused mainly on mobile industry. Majority of discussions happens around the mobile Value Added Services (VAS), which are driven by individuals running entrepreneurial ventures to big corporations. Many mobile industry leaders like Nokia sponsor the event. This typically happens once in a month in one of the IT company premises in Bangalore, which keeps changing depending on the availability. This is an ideal forum to network with mobile industry folks and keep updated with happenings in the industry. This event is volunteer driven, with participation at free of cost. In order to keep up with the name, the discussions are organized on Mondays to break Monday blues. This is a worldwide forum, happens multiple cities in India.

Web link: http://www.momobangalore.org
Group’s link: momobangalore@yahoogroups.com

Proto

This Proto is a more mature forum with more focus on business, which operates out of IIT-Madras campus. This forum is primarily aimed at creating the startup ecosystem in India by bringing in entrepreneurs and investors in a common platform. This forum organizes road-shows in multiple cities, where entrepreneurial ventures can showcase its product or service to prospective investors. In order to participate in the forum, one has to pay a nominal amount and register their organization. This forum is operating in a non-profit mode, where the membership fee is spent towards organizing the events. The audience brings in good amount of experience in the technology business. Some companies got funded by participating in the forum.

Web link: http://www.proto.in
Group’s link: prototalk@googlegroups.com

Kickstart

Kick start is initiated by the spirit of MoMo and Barcamps, by having tie-up with IIM-Bangalore’s NSRCEL. This forum typically organizes Startup saturdays, where companies need to nominate themselves to present their plan to a set of panel. Not much information is available about the list of companies that got funded thro’ this platform.

Web link: http://www.kickstart.in

The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE): Bangalore chapter

This is the oldest forum created to promote entrepreneurship in India, started by Indian origin entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. In order to participate, there is a paid membership. Very senior members from the industry offer mentorship under this umbrella to prospective entrepreneurs. For members, the TiE organizes regular sessions, where stalwarts share their experiences with entrepreneurship. Unlike Barcamps and MoMo, it is more Formal forum.

Web link: http://bangalore.tie.org/

Consistently inconsistent – Auto rickshaw meters in Bangalore

Inside Bangalore city, autos were supposed to be the best mode of transport in a cost-effective way. Compared to other metros like Chennai, Bangalore had a well regulated meter system in place, which was hassle free. Especially for IT employees, autos used to be used to be viable alternative to commute to workplace, back and forth. There were numerous folks who use autos to commute on a daily basis without any worries. In fact many of them preferred auto journeys, given the city traffic conditions. Added to that auto drivers were friendly and co-operative, thereby making the journey comfortable. Unfortunately over the past three to five years auto rickshaw journey has gone from pleasure to pain, and getting worse day by day. After traveling in an auto, individuals end up having head-ache, tension apart from emptying their pockets.

Based on our recent study, many of the city residents experienced set of different problems with auto-rickshaws. First problem is about getting an auto to reach the destination. Majority of the auto drivers are not ready to take in any passenger even though they run empty autos. Upon asking the place to reach, many of these drivers behave very rudely by not even responding back in a proper manner. Nowadays in order to get into an auto, one needs to spend at least 20 minutes, after asking for at least 4-5 autos that are not ready to picking them up. The reason these drivers will give for not taking in a passenger is very simple: “We will not get proper savari from the point we leave you”. Given Bangalore’s volume of working population and city’s recent growth, its hard to believe that, these drivers will have any problems with getting passengers. However, this is the uniform response one gets by talking to any of the drivers on the way. Also one need to be happy if the driver responds properly even though he is not interested in picking up the passenger. Turning face on the other direction, murmuring in Kannada or giving a vague look are some of the behaviors exhibited by these auto-drivers, which makes an individual feel “Who is the customer? Who is going to pay whom?”

The problem gets even worse after boarding the auto. Majority of these autos don’t have proper meters and they jump like crazy. According to the latest official chart, seven rupees is charged per kilometer with minimum charge being fourteen rupees for first two kilometers. But one has to be lucky if the meter functions properly. Based on our observations for 11 kms, fare ranged anywhere between 80 to 120 rupees, whereas it is supposed to be 77 rupees. Even though meters are installed on autos they are not properly maintained. Some of them still have very old meter ,which just show up the fare information. Some show up kilometers traveled and fare and some are electronic. The latest electronic meters were supposed to be more reliable, but eventually end up showing incorrect numbers. To put in simple terms these meters behave consistently inconsistent. When auto drivers were asked more questions for the malfunctioning of the meter the response could be anything. Some accept it with a vague smile, some respond rudely, some even don’t respond. Eventually the customer’s heart beats faster every time they see the meter jumping in a disproportionate manner.

Here is another point that makes it even worse — extra charges. Asking for extra charges over and above the tampered meters has become the norm these days. Some years back drivers used to ask for 50% extra, only after 10:00 PM in the night, which is no longer true. During peak hours, like 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM, asking extra has become a day-today affair. On rainy days it becomes hits the peak, where these drivers straightaway asking for an atrocious flat charge without even thinking twice. Also if the passenger is not aware of the route or new to the city, these drivers take the longer route instead of proper one. For busy working professionals finding auto, paying extra charge and reaching their workplace adds stress to their mind. Many solutions, like booking autos thro’ SMS or phone were proposed, but nothing seems to work practically over a long period of time.

Which are the factors has made auto journey a pain? Is it increasing IT employees in the city? Is it increasing demand makes these drivers feel that they can demand any amount? Is the difference between haves and have-nots is increasing, which is making auto-drivers to find some way to make money from wealthy IT employees? What is the government is doing about it? There is definitely an optimization problem, waiting to be solved. At one end there is a huge need for autos and vast amount of people ready to pay proper fare. But where is the solution?

Serial blasts in Bangalore

After finishing a casual phone call with my mother at 2:15 PM, I opened up NDTV’s website to catch-up with afternoon news. I couldn’t believe my eyes to see big,bold,black letters which read “FLASH : SERIAL BOMB BLASTS IN BANGALORE”. By the time I informed my family about my safe state, panic has set inside the office. Almost everybody was on phone finding about their friends, spouce, children, parents and informing that they are safe. Upon reading the news further, I leant that all of them were low intensity blasts, primarily aimed to threaten people. Started off from office early (at 3:30) to avoid traffic jams caused due to panic. The traffic was normal and the city is very much functioning except the affected areas.

I have been living in this city for the past 7 years and it always provided me ‘home-away-from-home’ feeling. Without any question, I have developed a emotional bonding with this place and it feels really bad when terror has struck the city. Its not as bad as Mumbai blasts, but it had left panic in the mind of Bangaloreans for sure.

The ‘Garden city’ will no longer be the same.