View from India: Use tech upgrades to prosper or else perish

India celebrates its 74th Republic Day today (26 January). Besides the highlights of Republic Day, read on for trends that could shape the tech landscape of the country.

President Droupadi Murmu has hoisted the National Flag at the Kartavya Path to begin the 74th Republic Day celebrations. President Murmu was honoured with a 21-gun salute with the Indigenous 105 mm Indian Field Guns as she arrived at the Kartavya Path along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El Sisi. This was the first time an Egyptian President has been the chief guest at the Republic Day.

The Republic Day Parade at the Kartavya Path has been represented by 23 tableaux, 17 from states and Union Territories and six from various ministries and departments. New Delhi's iconic Rajpath has been rechristened as Kartavya Path. The parade has a patriotic fervour, depicting the nation’s rich cultural heritage, economic progress and strong internal and external security. The highlight of the grand parade is the all-women Central Reserve Police Force marching contingent. Many tableaux showcased Nari Shakti, or 'women power'. The armed forces have depicted many of their works that have been developed in India.

The significance of Republic Day is that this was the day in 1950 when India declared itself a sovereign, democratic and republic state with the adoption of the Constitution. “Many wishes for the Republic Day. This time this occasion is also special because we are celebrating it during the Amrit Mahotsav of Independence. We wish to move ahead unitedly to make the dreams of the great freedom fighters of the country come true. Happy Republic Day to all fellow Indians,” said Prime Minister Modi in a tweet in Hindi.

Tech Trends: 5G network unlock opportunities

India is a key market for 5G. The chip components are projected to unlock new opportunities. India is home to around half a billion internet users and, as a market, the country offers opportunities for almost every player in the 5G phone segment. 5G is characterised by speed and low latency, and the lifecycle of 5G devices could be around 18-24 months. It could mean that 5G may be a consumer trend, wherein 5G product categories could be a diverse mix of smartphone, cameras, data cards, fitness brands and smart watches. The 5G-connected new norms could prevail almost everywhere – we have to be future ready; a connected ecosystem is required to take it forward.

Open source architecture may increase as much as wireless connectivity, 5G hardware devices may do the rounds and 5G may be positioned as a catalyst of the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will be the hub for connecting everything and could drive the 'Digital India' mission. 5G spectrum has other highlights: it has more aggregation power and, being software driven, it has more flexibility. It should also have a rural outreach, with 5G simulators expected to increase the outreach and improve training.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will help in data visualisation, with reference to the 5G emergent data. Augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D printing, along with 5G, will enhance application integration. When we look at cyber security, we need to view it in the context of the pandemic. Work from home (WFH) became the norm and that’s when challenges related to cyber attacks were magnified. WFH may have faded away (in most cases), but cyber security remains a nagging fear. This fear stems from 5G. The network will help machines talk to machines, and humans as well; connectivity is its hallmark and therefore the subscriber base of 5G phones is expected to increase. But it is this very connectivity that brings the fear of cyber attacks. Ideally, cyber security should be organic, along with the flexibility aspect of the network. After all, digital trust is essential for the growth of the organisation.

Healthcare corner

Technologies such as AI can be an enabler in many healthcare procedures. For instance, AI can be leveraged for predicting the outcome of clinical trials; computer vision may help in monitoring medical imagery; robotic technology may be used for remote healthcare; tele health or tele medicine, which was unthinkable a few years ago, is going on now. This could go one step further with video calls becoming commonplace. IoT health devices may gain traction as a preventive measure. To illustrate, the device could trigger off an alarm when the user's health begins to deteriorate. Wearable technology was initially sought after by a handful and it seemed fashionable to sport a gadget or two on the wrist. The pandemic-induced fear has compelled people to latch on to health gadgets for their wellbeing – it’s a must-have gadget and, usually, a reassuring one.   

Do-it-yourself health kits are likely to proliferate. Investments in deep tech, science, IP platforms, health R&D and collaboration between research and academia could be intensified as time goes. The data points emerging from it can be gleaned for improving the lives of the people. Remote medicine has come to the forefront and B2B companies are expected to emerge from this.

The tech factor

Technology is growing at an unprecedented pace as the likes of IoT and AI are being built into the system. A reality check indicates that those companies that deploy AI-ML prosper, while those that don’t will probably perish. Development tools and product designs are enablers for top line and bottom line growth of companies. Distributed cloud and IoT could lead the way for the next evolution of enterprise. This could result in the global evolution of everything smart and connected. In the smart connected world, metaverse will help create shared experiences. By its very nature, metaverse is a virtual platform interactive in nature.

This year, a privacy experience is expected to be built into products and devices. Such features could make it a compelling digital experience. Purpose-built, efficiently designed, digitised products are expected to click with buyers. In all likelihood, this will create a new generation of jobs in India. And when we talk about products and devices, it’s also known that they are getting smarter, with unexplored potential coming from product testers-managers.

DSaaS – Data Science as a Service – is becoming important for companies. Initially, companies used to whet data. Now that’s not enough. Companies prefer to fine-tune their offering and be more customer-centric. This is where DSaaS will fit in as the link between data science and business goals.

Computing power, or the fact that devices are being exceedingly computerised, can be seen as a job opening. Robotic process automation is essential for companies, and avenues can open out for the AI engineer and robotics designer-researcher, among other offerings.

Electronics is a fast-growing market. Thermal simulations, electro magnetics, manufacturing, end-to-end design tool sets and automated printed circuit boards as today’s workflows are based on sequel tool flow. Recently, the Centre for Nano Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, developed an energy-efficient computing platform. This will be used towards building the next-generation electronic devices as the demand for intelligent computers and devices is huge.

India is a price-sensitive market and inflation and geo-political issues are add-ons to the situation. Hence the time taken for design inputs across verticals to turn into reality has shrunk. To make it work, multidisciplinary efforts may help. This is how it could pan out: the decision scientist will look at the domain, while AI engineers will work on recommendation systems and the information architect will figure out ways of enhancing the look of the product. Within these parameters there could be other career options that require domain experts and data scientists, along with AI-based careers in risk management and marketing, among other choices.

The previous decade has shown that India has data-driven digital platforms and this can lead us ahead. The data derived from various platforms and services can be used to address issues such as water, healthcare, education and nutrition, and fill in the gaps wherever necessary. It would be great if we can create innovation capabilities in emerging areas like cyber security, fintech and AI. It would also be nice if innovation efforts lead to a new generation of innovation clusters. These clusters may necessitate collaboration between companies and even countries.

The gig economy may be something to watch out for. This encompasses freelancers, online platform workers, self-employed and on-call workers. Various factors are responsible for encouraging this community; it being possible to work from remote locations, and work operations being flexible and simplified through tech-enabled platforms, are just two of the reasons for this community to thrive.

Looking forward, machine learning (ML) could be leveraged for services, while AI would augment many operations at work. Newer applications of ML and AI may lead to a skill deficit as professionals may not yet be fully adept at it. Consequently, core training initiatives may be included in the company’s module. The banking, financial services and insurance sector, manufacturing, education, and healthcare all look at intelligent systems. Human capital is required for intelligent digital workplaces; the readiness of people, processes, technology and vision need to be aligned with the workplaces of the future. This growing need could be matched by allied programmes that now go along with the engineering course in computer science. These include 3D printing, AI-ML, IoT and block chain, among others.  

Over the last decade, India’s citizen-centric services have grown exponentially. Many of these online services have evolved into data-driven digital platforms. They can also be accessed on the mobile and sport a vernacular flavour. The pandemic has urged us to up-skill, re-skill, re-think and re-align our thoughts and processes.

Connected infotainment solutions could be on the rise. These include, but are not limited to, safe display cameras, audio and user reception. This could also mean that the design-production-maintenance of these products will generate income. The mobile-car-home connection could become more focused – a day may come when people can, via their mobile phones, start music playing in their homes before they enter them. Autonomous vehicles, connectivity and shared mobility are other highlights of the auto journey.

Startups are working on computer vision, ed-tech, space tech and experiential learning. Cyber security is the mother of all challenges, but also of opportunity. Innovation for India is Holy Grail. Pollution, transportation, voice vernaculars and bringing computing skills to all could open up new possibilities.

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