Archive for ‘Technology’

03/08/2016

Startups hope to capitalize on the massive IoT market – Times of India

Fresh from the sale of their first venture focused on the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) market, Shishir Gupta, Nithin David and Varun Gupta embarked on what they thought was their next breakthrough idea.

In mid-2013, the trio decided to devise solar air conditioners based on their previous experience in the market but, after some pilots, they discovered the idea was commercially unviable.

From the ashes of their second enterprise, they did manage one small gain — a connected controller that reduced energy use by 30% during the night. Using this, they pushed their entrepreneurial energy in a new direction — towards the rapidly emerging opportunity in the internet of things (IoT) , or devices and objects that send and receive data over the internet. Rather than build large systems for this, their new venture Oakter is thinking much smaller. It is building out a series of IoT-based devices to “smarten” homes across India.

In around two years of operation, Oakter’s controllers have smartened some 10,000 gadgets, claims Shishir Gupta, without disclosing the number of homes his controllers have been installed in currently. The startup’s full launch hasn’t even happened, he says, since it is still reaching out informally to consumers. Around Diwali this year, Oakter is expected to make a big-bang offline launch and expects to reach 10,000 homes in a year and revenues of Rs 100 crore by 2018-19.

“Within 10 years, IoT will transform the way we manage our lives,” says Shishir. There are plenty of data points to back his enthusiasm. In 2008 itself, there were more objects connected to the internet than people, and technology researcher Gartner forecasts that by 2020 there will be nearly 21 billion connected devices. If the ATM was perhaps the first popular connected device in the early 1970s, hundreds of companies have since shown an interest in getting wired up.

IoT’s the Thing

In the US, the largest technology market, there has been a mixed response to various kinds of IoT. According to CB Insights, a tracker of this kind of deal data, deal volume is on track to surpass 2015’s total by 30%. Fundingwise, 2016 should be a robust year for IoT in the West, and the second year in a row of $1.2 billion-plus in funding. Several startups in the field raised significant amount of funding, including IoT software and services company Greenwave Systems ($45 million Series C), commercial drone developer Airware ($30 million Series C), and connected HVAC and lighting company Enlighted ($25 million Series D financing).However, deal flow looked less upbeat on a quarterly basis, with both value and volume declining in the second quarter of 2016. After an increase in the first quarter with 54 transactions, deal-making fell 26% quarter-over-quarter. And funding fell from $328 million to $325 million — a 9% quarter-on-quarter decline. At a global level, there is massive potential.

According to a statement from Gartner’s research chief Peter Sondergaard, the incremental revenue generated by IoT suppliers is estimated to reach $309 billion per year by 2020. This growth opens up new business opportunities, as half will be attributed to new startups and 80% will be in services, not products. Manufacturing, healthcare and insurance are expected to lead the IoT race.

Some of this entrepreneurial interest is being generated in India, too. For example, in May this year, Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital (EVC), an early stage investor, launched a $50 million unit to focus on IT.

Qualcomm Ventures, the VC arm of the global chipmaker, recently unveiled its $150 million India fund and made its first investment of $10 million in healthcare IoT venture Attune Technologies. In early July, a centre of excellence for IoT was launched jointly by software industry lobby Nasscom, the department of electronics and information technology and the Education and Research Network. This centre can house up to 40 startups and the model is expected to be replicated nationwide.

Source: Startups hope to capitalize on the massive IoT market – Times of India

26/07/2016

Could India Become a Cashless Economy? – India Real Time – WSJ

Cash is set to lose currency in India, as an explosion in smartphone usage drives a digital payments boom, according to a new report.

By year 2020, nearly $500 billion worth of transactions in India will happen digitally, using online wallets and other digital-payment systems, 10 times the level currently, according to a report by Google India and The Boston Consulting Group.

Indians traditionally prefer to save and spend in cash, and a vast majority of the more-than 1.2 billion population doesn’t have a bank account.

Last year, 78% of all consumer payments in India were made by cash, whereas in developed countries like the U.S. and U.K., only 20% to 25% of such payments were made that way, the report said.

But the reliance on notes and coins in India is likely to diminish, as spending habits change and financial services reach more people, said the Google-BCG report. It expects cash-based consumer payments to fall to 40% to 45% by 2025.

A sharp increase in the use of mobile phones with internet connectivity will help drive the move to digital payments, said the report.

India has more than 1 billion mobile subscribers, a quarter of whom use smartphones, according to the report. By 2020, the number of smartphone users in the country will likely be 520 million, and the number of internet users 650 million, twice the number currently, according to the report.

Personal internet banking has become more popular in India over the past few years along with digital payment options that allow users to settle mobile phone, electricity and even taxi bills.

The recent spurt of growth has come from non-bank companies offering payment services. Cellphone companies like Airtel and Vodafone offer facilities to transfer money using phones, while “wallet” companies like One97 Communications’ Paytm unit, and MobiKwik, allow users to store money digitally and pay through their systems.

The next level of growth will come when local mom-and-pop grocery stores start accepting digital payments, said the report.However, there are plenty of consumers and merchants who still feel skeptical of digital payments, or find them too complicated, said the report. And others just don’t want to give up using cash, it added.

Source: Could India Become a Cashless Economy? – India Real Time – WSJ

22/06/2016

China’s newest space rocket, Long March 7, ready for blast-off | South China Morning Post

China’s latest Long March rocket arrived on the launch pad on Wednesday morning three days before it is due for blast-off on the maiden launch of both the rocket and the launch site.

At 8am on Wednesday the 600-tonnes Long March 7 rocket began a three-hour rail journey of several kilometres from the assembly complex to the launch site at Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre, China Central Television reported.

The Long March 7 will use new liquid fuel, which is environmentally friendly and costs only a fraction of the fuel used by its predecessor, LM-2.It will be carrying a test model of China’s next-generation manned spacecraft, together with several small satellites.

China’s second space lab to go into orbit this year as part of permanent manned space station by 2022

The rocket’s role in future will be to send up cargo ships to the Chinese space station.

If the weather turns bad on Saturday – which is not uncommon at the nation’s southernmost launch site on the tropical Hainan Island – the launch window will be able to remain open until Wednesday.

This launch will be different from others carried out by China because the public will be able to watch what happens in person on the mainland for the first time.

Eight designated “best spot” viewing areas covering 40 hectares around the launch site, including public parks and a private hotel beach, can accommodate about 25,000 spectators.

“This launch will open a new chapter in the history of Chinese space exploration,” a space scientist involved in the development of the new Long March rockets told the South China Morning Post.

“The blast of flames, rise of vapour, the chest-pounding noise and the trembling of the ground under people’s feet … it will be a life-changing experience for many people [watching],” the scientist said.

Source: China’s newest space rocket, Long March 7, ready for blast-off | South China Morning Post

22/06/2016

Cabinet approves auction of mobile phone airwaves – govt source | Reuters

The cabinet approved on Wednesday an auction of mobile phone airwaves, a government source told Reuters.

Earlier this year India’s telecoms ministry had proposed sale of airwaves in the 700 Mhz, 800 Mhz, 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2100 Mhz, 2300 Mhz and 2500 MHz bands.

India is the world’s second largest mobile phone market by users after China, and a rapid expansion of high-speed 4G services is expected to create demand for additional airwaves.The government is expected to announce details of the auction at a press conference later in the day, the official who did not want to be named, said.

Source: Cabinet approves auction of mobile phone airwaves – govt source | Reuters

22/06/2016

India’s Space Agency Sends 20 Satellites Into Orbit – India Real Time – WSJ

India on Wednesday put 20 satellites into the Earth’s orbit, including 17 from foreign countries, a record number for its space agency as it seeks to become a low-cost and reliable choice for launches.

The successful mission by the Indian Space Research Organisation puts it right after Russia and the U.S. for the number of satellites launched from a single rocket so far, said an ISRO official. In 2014, a single Russian space launch vehicle deployed 33 satellites. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration rocket carried 29 satellites in 2013.

ISRO’s rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, carried its own Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation along with 13 satellites from the U.S., two from Canada, one each from Germany and Indonesia and two from Indian academic institutions.

“ISRO continues to break new barriers,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on his Twitter account. He said the country’s space program “has time and again shown the transformative potential of science and technology in people’s lives.”

The launch comes as global space agencies face competition from private companies who are aiming to bring down the cost and time for manufacturing and launching satellites by automating their production and using unmanned reusable rockets.

U.S. businessman Greg Wyler has joined hands with Airbus Group SE to build an automated manufacturing facility in Florida that can churn out hundreds of satellites each year. Traditional satellites are built using touch labor. SpaceX, an aerospace startup founded by Elon Musk, successfully landed a rocket on an ocean platform in early May after launching a communications satellite.

India has been fast achieving recognition as a budget option for launching satellites. In 2014, ISRO put a satellite into the orbit of Mars, becoming the first Asian country to reach the red planet, and at fraction of the cost of a similar launch in U.S. and Europe.

In May ISRO launched the test model of its planned reusable space shuttle.  In April, it launched the seventh satellite needed to create its own navigation system, joining a small group of nations with their own versions of GPS.

The global space industry was estimated to be worth $330 billion in 2014, the latest year for which data are available, according to the Space Foundation, a U.S.-based research group. Commercial space activities comprised as much as 76% of the industry, it said.

There were 92 rocket launches in 2014, and Russia continues to hold its leadership in this area with 32 rocket launches, followed by U.S. with 32 and 11 by Europe, the Space Foundation said. It didn’t provide figures for India.Ajay Lele, a senior fellow at New Delhi-based Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses estimates the U.S. has about a 40% share of the global satellite-launching market, while Europe has 25% and Russia 20%. Countries such as China and India have a much smaller share of the market of about 3% percent or less, Mr. Lele said.

ISRO officials said after the launch they want to accelerate the pace of sending satellites into space by extending partnerships with private Indian companies. The space organization has launched more than 57 satellites from about 20 countries on board the PSLV over about two decades.

Source: India’s Space Agency Sends 20 Satellites Into Orbit – India Real Time – WSJ

18/06/2016

India looks to China’s technology for making clouds rain|Government|chinadaily.com.cn

China is in talks with India on the transfer of cloud-seeding technology.In the first such engagement between the Asian giants, a team of scientists and officials from Beijing, Shanghai and East China’s Anhui province, were recently in Maharashtra to discuss weather conditions with the government of the western Indian state, parts of which have experienced severe droughts over the past two years.

line art drawing of cloud seeding.

line art drawing of cloud seeding. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chinese team’s days-long tour concluded on June 2.If the discussions are successful, Chinese experts would provide training to officials of the Indian Meteorological Department on their latest cloud-seeding technology, according to two sources with knowledge of the matter.

One of the sources had earlier described it as an “exploratory visit by the Chinese side to discuss with relevant Indian authorities how to go about it”.

The training is expected to be given on procedures to seed clouds successfully, the source said.

The training is aimed at inducing rain over Maharashtra’s Marathwada region in the summer of 2017 if needed, the source said.

While summer rains have arrived this year in India, the region has been traditionally vulnerable to drought.

The sources spoke to China Daily on condition of anonymity.

An official in the China Meteorological Administration said that arrangements are still in progress.

The development follows a meeting between Han Zheng, Shanghai’s top official, and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, in the Indian state’s capital of Mumbai in early May.

Han, who is also a Communist Party of China Politburo member, had asked Fadnavis if China could do anything for drought relief in Maharashtra, one of the sources said.

Monsoons and temperatures nearing 50 C have triggered many agrarian crises in India, with poor farmers being hit the hardest.

Indian media said in April that the Maharashtra government would begin cloud-seeding experiments in June and continue through August – the period of summer monsoons.

China started to use cloud-seeding technology in 1958, and today has one of the most advanced systems in the world.

Source: India looks to China’s technology for making clouds rain|Government|chinadaily.com.cn

18/06/2016

New App Promises to Tell Indian Farmers When to Sow Crops – India Real Time – WSJ

Monsoon season in India has just begun, but farmers in Andhra Pradesh, a southeastern coastal state of India, won’t need to look to the skies to know when to sow their crops.

A new mobile application launched earlier this month and developed by a local agriculture research institute, Microsoft India and the state government tells farmers in the state which week is perfect for sowing seeds, the health of their soil and other indicators.

The app uses rainfall data collected from farms in 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh over 45 years to give farmers a sense of when to start planting, Suhas P. Wani, director of Asia research at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics or ICRISAT, a research organization in Hyderabad said.Farmers are asked to register a mobile number with the state government, choose a language–currently limited to the regional Telugu and English–and enter details of the village, district or sub-district.

The advice received could vary from farmer to farmer and from village to village, Mr. Wani said. “The app has crop-specific information such as 10 years of groundnut sowing progress data” to guide farmers who grow specific crops, he added.

He said that constant data on crop yield was being collected on a monthly basis by field officers and sent for evaluation to provide regular forecasts to farmers.

A weather button shows the temperature and rainfall as well as fertilizer recommendations for the day and projection for the next seven days. Additionally, a farmer can get weather alerts for extreme conditions like hailstorms or unseasonal rains that impact crop yields.

Andhra Pradesh logged the highest number of farmer suicides in the country last year. At least 58 farmers took their own lives in the state, according to an agriculture ministry report.

But not every farmer can afford to invest in expensive smartphone technology.

So far, most of the farmers have requested to be sent the information via SMS message. Mr. Wani said once registered, farmers can get the predicted sowing date through SMS. “The main idea behind the application is to help farmers reduce losses by telling when to sow seeds or spray the plants,” he said.

The application will be rolled out in other Indian states next year, based on feedback from farmers in the state, he added.

Source: New App Promises to Tell Indian Farmers When to Sow Crops – India Real Time – WSJ

05/03/2016

China lays out its vision to become a tech power | Reuters

China aims to become a world leader in advanced industries such as semiconductors and in the next generation of chip materials, robotics, aviation equipment and satellites, the government said in its blueprint for development between 2016 and 2020.

In its new draft five-year development plan unveiled on Saturday, Beijing also said it aims to use the internet to bolster a slowing economy and make the country a cyber power.

China aims to boost its R&D spending to 2.5 percent of gross domestic product for the five-year period, compared with 2.1 percent of GDP in 2011-to-2015.

Innovation is the primary driving force for the country’s development, Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech at the start of the annual full session of parliament.

China is hoping to marry its tech sector’s nimbleness and ability to gather and process mountains of data to make other, traditional areas of the economy more advanced and efficient, with an eye to shoring up its slowing economy and helping transition to a growth model that is driven more by services and consumption than by exports and investment.

This policy, known as “Internet Plus”, also applies to government, health care and education.

As technology has come to permeate every layer of Chinese business and society, controlling technology and using technology to exert control have become key priorities for the government.

China will implement its “cyber power strategy”, the five-year plan said, underscoring the weight Beijing gives to controlling the Internet, both for domestic national security and the aim of becoming a powerful voice in international governance of the web. China aims to increase Internet control capabilities, set up a network security review system, strengthen cyberspace control and promote a multilateral, democratic and transparent international Internet governance system, according to the plan.

Source: China lays out its vision to become a tech power | Reuters

18/02/2016

Apple Pay takes on China’s internet kings in mobile payments | Reuters

Apple Inc launched its mobile payment system in China on Thursday in a bid to convince the hundreds of millions of users of the country’s entrenched, dominant services to switch.

Photo

“We think China could be our largest Apple Pay market,” Jennifer Bailey, vice president of Apple Pay, told Reuters in an interview in Beijing.

In an early boost, China’s biggest lender, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC), was among the banks that said earlier this week that customers would be able to use Apple Pay from Thursday.

However, Apple Pay has not had an easy ride so far in China, the fifth country to get the service. Even in its U.S. home market, Apple has faced skeptical retailers in its effort to develop a new revenue stream.

China is not likely to prove any easier to crack.

“People switch applications for significantly better experiences, it (Apple) has to deliver not just a little bit more secure, or a little bit easier to use,” said Mark Natkin, founder of Marbridge Consulting.

Greater China is Apple’s second-largest market by revenue, and the world’s biggest smartphone market. By the end of 2015, 358 million people, more than the U.S. population, had already taken to buying goods and services by mobile phone, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

The vast majority are using payment services from China’s two biggest Internet companies that have existed for years.

Social networking and gaming firm Tencent Holdings Ltd operates WeChat Payment, and e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, through its Internet finance affiliate Ant Financial Services Group, runs Alipay.

“With 100 percent saturation of local payment systems, no one in China is clamoring for Apple Pay,” said one retailer who declined to be named for fear of harming business prospects. “Today, everyone has a local payment option on their phone, so Apple Pay is a solution in need of a problem.”

Source: Apple Pay takes on China’s internet kings in mobile payments | Reuters

18/02/2016

Is India’s Freedom 251, a $4 Smartphone, Too Good to Be True? – India Real Time – WSJ

A little-known Indian company has announced grand plans to sell millions of made-in-India smartphones for less than $4 a piece, despite the fact that it has only been in the smartphone business for five months and has yet to build a factory.

Ringing Bells Pvt. started taking orders for its Freedom 251 phone on Thursday for 251 rupees ($3.67) each, or less than the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac in the U.S. The company has promised to deliver the phones by June 30–after it builds two manufacturing plants.

Social media lit up with discussion about the device–which the company says will have a four-inch display, 3.2-megapixel camera and 8 gigabytes of storage–after ads for the phone with the tagline “dreams will come true,” appeared in newspapers. Ringing Bells said its phones will have apps that help farmers check soil conditions and fishermen get weather reports.

The company’s website crashed Thursday and it stopped accepting orders for the device as it worked to upgrade its servers, the website said.

At a launch event in a public park Wednesday, thousands turned out to see company President Ashok Chadha unveil a poster-sized image of a phone under a shower of pyrotechnics and confetti. It was an impressive turnout considering only days earlier almost no one had even heard of him, his company or its phone.

Phones given to journalists to try looked as if the branding from another manufacturer had been covered up with white-out on the phone’s front. Indian flag stickers covered the rear. The phones used an Android operating system.

Mr. Chadha said the phone he was sharing was a “beta device.”

Ringing Bells said it would spend 5 billion rupees, or about $73 million, to build the factories. Mr. Chadha said the money will come from the family of Mohit Goel, one of the founders and directors of the company. Mr. Goel’s family owns a farming business, Mr. Chadha said. Attempts to reach Mr. Goel were unsuccessful.

Analysts said they couldn’t see how Ringing Bells could ever make money selling phones for $4.

If Ringing Bells follows through with its plans, the difficulties of setting up manufacturing operations in India could mean it runs into delays that could cause it to miss its June deadline, a spokeswoman for another Indian phone manufacturer said. She said setting up a new factory often takes up to a year.

The company aims produce hundreds of thousands of phones a month and take around 30% of the smartphone market within a year, Mr. Chadha said. Over 100 million smartphones were shipped by manufacturers to retailers in India last year, according to International Data Corp., a research company.

Despite the low price, Mr. Chadha said the company expects to make money on the phones. He said that making the phone using components imported from China would cost about 2,500 rupees per phone. India doesn’t make many components used in phones and other phone sellers in the country import their phones and components from elsewhere.

But Mr. Chadha said he expected to reduce costs through through “economies of scale,” tax breaks for local manufacturing, and other cost-cutting measures. “We are technocrats and have some understanding of international economics,” he said.

Ringing Bells says it will offer a smartphone with a 4-inch display, 3.2 megapixel camera and 8 gigabytes of memory for less than $4. The $33 smartphones powered by Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox operating system have a 3.5 inch display, 2 megapixel camera and 256 megabytes of storage.

Source: Is India’s Freedom 251, a $4 Smartphone, Too Good to Be True? – India Real Time – WSJ

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