Friday, December 1, 2017

Future of Blockchain in India

Prof Dr Bart Preenel, Belgium, Prof Dr Kouichi Samurai, Japan, me, Satyam Lokam , Microsoft and J A Chowdhury, AP. At ISI Panel discussion today. .

There was a panel discussion today at Indian Statistical Institute. This was at the end of a 3-day workshop on Blockchain. I attended the inaugural tutorial lecture and another on coding. Today I was at the panel discussion.
I learnt many things and i mentioned that on Wednesday 6th Dec we would have a strategy discussion to chalk out Bengal's approach.

Some key takeaways:
- The Bitcoin bubble will probably burst and it would be risky to deal in ICOs (initial Coin Offerings) and Cryptocurrency in the public sector.
- A government backed cryptocurrency with matching assets would be better than normal physical currencies as it would be less fungible and a traceable trail (because of embedded hash functions) and so chance of theft and black money would be less. There was a discussion on payment tokens for Self Help Groups using cryptocurrency. Japan has been trying a version of J-currency in this fashion
- Estonia and Sweeden are doing good work on blockchains. Dubai is also forging ahead.
- There are promising e-governance applications like smart contracts, land registry, car ownership, driving licences etc
- Crowdsourced infrastructure funding was also discussed.
- Bank / financial institution cybersecurity could be strengthened by blockchains
- Supply chain management
- International money transfers in real time (few seconds)

Energy Savings in Street Lights by Smart Technology

Street No 333, New Town. With energy
saver on (top) and off (bottom)

The idea of this pilot path breaking project is to switch off one third of street lights until and unless a car passes.
The challenge was to see that a person or a cattle should not trigger on the lights that are supposede to be switched on only when a car passes. So traditional motion sensors, IR sensors or photo-electric and light based sensors were ruled out. Ruled out also was any pressure sensitive trigger because bullock carts, for example, can trigger the mechanism.
So we thought of eddy currents, earth's magnetic field and recalled that the car is made of metal .
The sensor is based on a copper loop and embedded underneath the surface of the road. One at one end of the road on the entry lane, and one on the other lane of the road, again at the entry lane.
When a car enters Street 333, it disturbs the linked terrestrial magnetism linked to the embedded coil and generates an eddy current. This is amplified and used to switch on the till-then-unlit street lights. It switches off after 5 minutes automatically through a timer mechanism, 5 minutes being the average time required for a car to traverse he 1 km length of road no 333.
I saw it in operation yesterday. Working fine.
Few details:
Street no 333 is between Biswa Bangla Sarani near Bagjola Canal and connects to Major Arterial Road near Alia University/ Amity University.
39 light poles, 80 LED Street Light  Assemblies. 52 such light assemblies (read bulbs in simple terms !) connected to sensors. Total estimated cost savings Rs 2 lakhs per year

Monday, November 20, 2017

Senior Living in Rajarhat New Town

Eco Park Toy Train Ride: For the Young and the Senior

Rajarhat New Town is designed for all, young and old. That is why there are Sonar Kella Park, Vivek Tirtha and Shishu Tirtha for the Children but also Swapna Bhor for the Seniors.  New Town Business Club and star hotels in New Town co-exist with Swapna Bhor and Snehodiya, the a new generation independent living habitat expected to be commissioned in 2018.
Swapna Bhor consists of a long walking path around a large lush green lawn. There are handrails in the pathway and tactile projections on the path. Four golden Buddhas, two aviaries and a large central aquarium add a sense of tranquillity and peaceful living. Garden swings and bamboo covered gazebos allows members to enjoy nature. Laughing arena, kitchen garden and pet shop allow networking among members. An e-Health clinic with modern diagnostic devices offer health check-up facilities within the campus.

The community building is a stunning architecture reminiscent of British India’s pavilions on the race course. Overlooking a large green playground, its first floor wide balcony offers a ringside view of what goes on in the greens below. Two air-conditioned community halls adorned with original paintings and tasteful interiors host cultural events, educative talks and dance performances every now and then. The ground floor has a reading room and library with a coffee shop, where book releases are organised on and off, reminding one of the Oxfordbookstore in Park Street or Delhi. The adjoining games room is privy to many indoor games and competitions on carom generate enthusiastic participation. Group tours and Sunday evening functions are very popular among the 500 members of Swapna Bhor, the only dedicated seniors’ facility of its kind in India.

Opposite Swapna Bhor, across the road on the northern side, a 100 room independent living habitat is being built. Application forms are on sale. There are 100 plus AC rooms, each with an attached restroom, a sitting/living space and a bedroom, furnished in a senior friendly manner. Common facilities and lounge on each floor, attendant in every two floors, basic support services and add-on ones. Tastefully decorated on the rural Bangla cottages stacked one above the other, two floors even have its own walking space balcony.

Snehodiya and Swapno Bhor will complement each other in ways that have not happened anywhere in the country in terms of adding value for a second innings in one’s life.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Residential Plots

In the Hidco stall at Realty Expo now being held at Netaji Indoor Stadium we are displaying many innovative models being adopted to cater to different segments of the state and society. This is an age of personalisation and we think that products must follow the individual's preferences.

The most innovative example out on display is the residential plots at Gitabitan Township at Santiniketan. There are over 400 plots but 154 are right now put out for application. More than 500 brochures have been sold and completed applications are being accepted in designated bank branches. Lottery will be held to determine the allottees. The point to note - the innovativeness - is that the pots will be given with sanctioned building plans. Thus the owner doesn't have to engage an architect, get all clearances and apply for sanction of the plan. The plot with a sanctioned plan will be allotted together. The owner will also be given the option of getting the house made through a govt agency (SSDA) at a pre-fixed cost, of which there will be three or more options depending on finishing preferences. Of course, the owner will also be free to engage her own agency or worksmen too.

An equally innovative approach is about allotment of suites / rooms in Snehodiya, a habitat for senior citizens in New Town, located just opposite to Swapna Bhor, the Seniors' Park. You pay an amount (say Rs 25 lakhs) initially but get back 75% on vacating it, no matter how long you actually occupy. Thus, upon the demise of an occupant, 75% of the money is to be received back by the nominee who can then use it to buy her / his own property. Or if the occupant shifts and vacates. Once vacant, the suite is to be reallotted to another senior applicant. No interest however is payable and food / housekeeping charges are payable monthly.

And perhaps for the first time, we are putting up 25 residential plots on e-auction. This was based on our experience that for 75 plots in the same area of New Town, for the HIG category, there were about 1:30 applicants. Thus, for every plot, there were 29 dissatisfied persons. Now they can participate in an e-auction that allows an applicant who pays the EMD of Rs 1.5 lakhs 25 opportunities, if he / she so likes to apply, of outbidding other bidders. Te last date of application for appearing in the e-auction is in the last week of this month (Nov 2017).

Details are being explained in the Hidco pavilion at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Singapore Fintech Festival : Panel Discussion

At panel discussion at Singapore
The topic of the panel discussion at the Singapore Fintech Festival at Singapore Expo (name of the convention centre) was: India: Opportunities and Challenges in Fintech.

The session was moderated by Ms Ritu Singh of CNBC. Other panelists were from SBI, Axis Bank and Venture Capitalist.

I mentioned that Fintech and Blockchain holds the promise to India with its digitised economy, 99% Adhar coverage of adults, and increasing trend of FinTech adoption. I mentioned that early development was happening in Kolkata (Fintech Hub and Blockchain), Vizag (Fintech) and Mumbai (Fintech City).

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Blockchain For Bengal

Yesterday we had a meeting with various stakeholders in the IT&E Sector and deliberated on the way forward for strategy to be adopted in 2018 for positioning Bengal as a leader in the Global New Technology Eco System.

We recognised that unilateral vertical knowledge silos no longer work: this is the age of networking, clustering and co-working . It is not enough to man a centre with experts knowing C++, Java, Python or Ionic2 codes: there must be inputs from other field specialists as well. With traditional skills of Bengal in mathematics and statistics, with the existence of Indian Statistical Institute as well as other institutions like IIT, IIIT, IIEST,  IIM, Presidency, Science College, Bose Institute, SINP and more, Bengal has been producing a large amount of leadership in Cybersecurity, Fintech and Data Sciences the world over in recent years.

We therefore decided to project the game-changing Blockchain Technology to be the anchor theme for Bengal's strategy in the IT World in the short and medium term. Blockchain has deep linkages to FinTech, Data Sciences and Cybersecurity and indeed all of these are related to each other at a deep level. Blockchains provide secured public databases that are free from cyber attacks. Blockchain Technology is the basis of Bitcoins, Ethereums and Initial Coin Offerings in the realm of FinTech zone. Blockchain is linked to data sciences in public database managements.

A recent report in Economist suggests that the latest frenzy in global markets is cryptocurrency. It is a derivative of Blockchain Technology. The price of the best known cryptocurrency, bitcoin, has risen by 700% last year. ICOs or Initial Coin Offerings have drawn in more than $3.2 billion in crowd-sourced funds this year, as per the report.

In New Town, a FinTech Hub has already been conceptualized, near the Financial Hub, where tech firms and New Technology Ventures will be provided space to work with Financial Institutions - of which 23 have already taken up space in the Finance Hub. A wing of a new building, designed architecturally to be IT friendly, in New Town will house a Centre of Excellence on Cybersecurity. A call has been given to Blockchain experts to create a pilot scheme of land records in Sector 5 and New Town. And West Bengal is participating in the India Pavilion in the Singapore FinTech Festival next week.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Drone Centre

In New Town Smart City proposal, I had proposed monitoring and surveillance of cleanliness, traffic jams, road repair and solid waste management monitoring using drones. DJI Phantom drones are available with cameras at less than Rs 1 lakh at various e commerce sites. But import of drones - most are Chine made - are not allowed. Very recently, the Civil Aviation Ministry has brought out a draft policy. We went through it today and jotted down our observations. For example, we have suggested that night flying may be allowed for enabling wedding photographs to be taken. We will soon write to DGCA.

In particular, and among others, we will promote designated areas in Kalyani, Falta, Naihati and Kolkata as drone testing and demonstration zones. We will also encourage Sonarpur hardware manufacturing park as a preferred destination for manufacturing drones by giving plots at affordable rates.
* * *
West Bengal is seriously considering to become a hub of drone manufacturing in India. The recently published “Requirements for Operation of Civil Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)” was reviewed by IT&E Department and the feedback on the guidelines are being shared with DGCA. Department of IT & E, Government of West Bengal and Webel, is in consultation with different organisations focusing on drone manufacturing, assembling and providing training on Unmanned Aircraft flying. They are also taking the opinion of the different authorities like Kolkata Police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and other eminent personalities experienced in Defence and Air Operations. The State Government is aiming to leverage the existing infrastructure in Kalyani, Naihati, Falta to make the state as the Drone Manufacturing epicenter of the country.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Technology for Cities : Facial Recognition

Discussion with IBM team, Police, Hidco and NKDA yesterday, 19th October 2017 at Hidco
We had a brainstorming session yesterday with IBM team led by Mr Anindya Mitra, Director, Sandipan Sarkar, Executive Architect IBM, Assistant Commissioner of Police, and HIDCO/NKDA senior officers. The objective was to pinpoint use of cutting edge technology for helping the man on the street. I mentioned that using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Facial Recognition techniques through live analysis of CCTV feeds people committing crimes or petty nuisances could be identified: we could send fine notices to men who committed nuisance on road or dirtied public places. Public spaces would also be safer for women if real-time analysis of CCTV feeds could send alarm to police in live mode. We also talked of using analytics on CCTV in real time to predict traffic accidents / collisions and make the roads safer than now. Preventing traffic jams before they happen would also be a desired outcome.
Executive Software Architect IBM Mr S Sarkar said that access to photographic archives like driving licences, aadhar etc would be helpful. I mentioned that the 9th Sep 2017 issue of The Economist carried a cover story entitled "Nowhere to Hide: What Machines can tell from your face" and that we could harness the advances for real life benefits.
The IBM team would  visit the control room of Bidhannagar Police Commissionarate and revert to us with a concept note.