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View from India: Crystal ball gazing into new digital realities

India is home to 600 million internet users, 300 million smartphone users, 80 million IoT devices and 813 million mobile users. An amalgamation of all this is an interesting take on the futuristic developments in the country’s tech landscape.

India is gearing up for the next generation computers. This move also reinforces the Digital India and Make in India vision of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Government of India (GoI) has launched the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) to connect the national academia with research institutes. With its peak computing power and high memory compute nodes supercomputers are expected to open out new avenues of scientific research and innovation.

The first phase of NSM has already begun. Param Shivay, the first supercomputer, has been installed at Indian Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University (IIT BHU). Supercomputers have also been installed at IIT, Kharagpur, and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune. With capabilities measured in floating point operations per second (FLOPS), supercomputers are million times faster than a desktop computer. 

The supercomputing mission with an outlay of Rs 4,500 crore (45bn rupees, £480m) has been established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). C-DAC and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are its nodal institutions. It is intended to set up a cluster of over 70 high-performance computers in the country by 2022. Disaster management, high-performance computing, big data processing and national security are among the benefits to watch out for.

Another technology to watch out for is quantum computers. India is at the cusp of it, as it has opened out channels of opportunities in quantum computing. Quantum Information Science and Technology (QuST) is a DST-led programme to promote quantum computing on a large scale. It is intended to invest Rs 80 crore (£9m) over the next three years to encourage path-breaking research in this domain. R&D professionals can explore opportunities through an interdisciplinary approach by drawing the essence of physics, computer science, mathematics and information theory. 

Based on the principles of quantum mechanics, quantum computers are described as the next wave of digital revolution. These computers use qubits to perform computational tasks and calculations at a speed which is unknown to the regular processor.

Universities and corporate India are expected to forge ties with the government to build a research community and skilled workforce to take this technology ahead. Corporate research labs are already working on quantum machines and quantum chips. The scalability of quantum computing will help unravel many dimensions of communication, which is expected to impact society, besides helping in the detection of gravitational waves. Breakthroughs in science, aerospace and atomic energy and machine-learning (ML) processes for healthcare are other highlights.

GoI is in the process of laying the ground for basic infrastructure of supercomputers and quantum computers, as these complex machines are expensive to build. Once things are made available to build and assemble these computers in the domestic market, the manufacturing costs will scale down. This can then lead to their widespread adoption in a phased manner. These are computers of the future. These high-performance machines will help in addressing many environmental issues that would have otherwise taken several years to overcome.

However, this digital transformation requires a new level of collaboration between business leaders, employees and IT staff. “In 2020, this cultural shift and collaborative mentality will become just as important as the technology itself. Organisations will look seriously at DX (digital transformation) culture and ramp up efforts to remake their entire staff/culture to ensure that DX is optimised for success,” said Don Schuerman, CTO, VP product marketing, Pega.

One can expect traditional organisational boundaries between IT and business lines to start breaking down. New roles like ‘citizen developer’ and ‘AI ethicist’ that blend IT and business backgrounds will grow.

Digital transformation still means different things to different people. “For some it describes the latest IT project they’ve undertaken. For others, including myself,” Schuerman continued, “it means true company-wide transformation – rethinking how an organisation does business, while creating efficiencies to minimise duplication of effort, streamlining workflows, and delivering the experiences customers are demanding”.

Digital Twin

The coming years will witness the digital imprints of devices, products and even cities. Singapore has set a precedent with its digital twin.

A combination of technologies like AI, ML, IoT and Big Data make the digital twin: a multi-system virtual model that simulates the physical or the original. Thereby wherever the digital twin is created, professionals can upgrade processes by predicting failures in advance. It will be a testbed for trials. The creation of a digital twin is forecast to happen across a spectrum of verticals including transport, healthcare, industrial applications and manufacturing. If the Government of India (GoI) opens out incentives for the creation of digital twins, it can boost the economy and contribute to the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Cloud services

At the same time, cloud will replace on-premises infrastructure. “The size of the Indian cloud market is $4.5 billion, the data-centre market is $4 billion and cloud managed services is $3 billion,” highlighted BS Rao, vice president marketing at CtrlS.

It is estimated only 30 per cent of all IT infrastructure purchased by businesses is used at any point in time, wasting the remaining 70 per cent. Cloud technology solves the problem by helping them buy as much as they need and pay as much as they use. This leads to zero wastage of resources. Hence, cloud adoption is likely to grow rapidly – anywhere between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. This will also propel the growth of cloud managed services.

There will be a felt need for edge computing. And the need is fuelled by the humungous amount of data generated across organisations. Due to this, there could probably be some sort of snag somewhere with the cloud service. The second possibility is in situations where location is a challenge and outreach is difficult. In these circumstances, edge computing acts as a mini data centre. It exists on the edge, quite close to where the computing happens.

“Edge datacentres will play a key role in minimising latency and providing quick user access to data including movies, games, music and websites. India will be home to at least 5,000 edge data centres by 2025 and is likely to cross 10,000 by 2040,” added Rao.

Automating industry and business

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will lap up 5G network. A case in point is the factories that implement industrial IIoT. Factories require cloud on the edge as information about the operations is processed internally.

Robots will perform repetitive tasks: artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA) will replace routine processes. Bots that work round the clock without fatigue are likely to replace many human jobs currently engaged in routine, repetitive tasks in factories. Industrial robots will take the place of humans, call centres will witness replacement of human agents by chatbots and human insurance underwriters will be replaced by RPA-powered automated underwriters. Indian banks, insurance companies, e-commerce, healthcare, telecoms and retail companies are deploying robotic process. This segment will witness a substantial growth during this decade.

On the road

The very thought of a driverless car itself is imaginative. Technology helps fulfil this imagination, the two combine to give us a world of autonomous vehicles (AV) or driverless cars. Innovative safety options will come up to cater to the needs of the AV. Likewise, the cyber security will also be strengthened. Many functions within the vehicle will be customised for an enhanced user experience. Vehicles to infrastructure (V2I) as well as Internet of Vehicles (IoV) will be responsible for the smooth connectivity between vehicles (vehicles to vehicles or V2V). Given the fact that 5G facilitates broadband anywhere, it is suited for connectivity in AVs. Vehicles will be equipped with sensors, cameras and radars that send out alerts on roadside traffic, thereby facilitating real-time decisions. The overall thrust is on ADAS or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.

At another level, vehicles are going electric. For electric vehicles (EVs) the accent is on energy efficiency solutions. Unlike fossil-based mobility, e-mobility will reduce the carbon footprint. But a full-fledged infrastructure is required for EVs to accelerate on the tracks. Commercial production of lithium-ion battery packs, investments and favourable policy guidelines will help boost EVs. As of now, we see a lot of E-autorickshaws and E-two-wheelers taking to the roads.  

One thing is certain. In the next 10 years those who accept that constant change is the new normal and build a culture and technology to embrace it will be in much better shape than those who don’t. We are moving into an era where services will be personalised and products will be tailored for on-demand experiences. It’s important to be digitally relevant. This is the new digital reality.

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