Amit Paranjape’s Blog

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Current Landscape, and implications for India

Posted in Information Technology by Amit Paranjape on October 5, 2016

Few days back, I did a ‘tweet storm’ (twitter term for a series of tweets on a particular topic) on Artificial Intelligence (AI). I discussed the overall landscape and what AI means for India. This thread consists of 23 tweets (these tweets appear as a single thread on twitter…I have also numbered them as 1/n, 2/n, etc.). I have reproduced these tweets below in a single document. I guess, this is one way to convey a series of ‘micro-blogs’ into a ‘blog’! (Note: If you want to access the entire tweets thread on twitter, click this link: https://twitter.com/aparanjape/status/782186570585559041)

 

Please let me know your thoughts, comments on the points below.

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My ‘tweet storm’ (series of tweets) on ‘Artificial Intelligence’ … see thread below. #AI

 

Highly recommended primer (see video below) for anyone interested in Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning and Machine Learning. (1/n)

See this link: https://twitter.com/aparanjape/status/742326806666059777

In 2030, when personal digital assistants, driverless cars, intelligent robots are common, we will look back at 2016 as: ‘Year of AI’ (2/n)

#AI Many path-breaking developments in hardware, software are happening right now..important milestones are being achieved every month.(3/n)

#AI Google’s #AphaGo computer winning against the ‘Go’ world champion Lee Sedol .. IBM’s #Watson’s breakthroughs in cancer diagnostics (4/n)

#AI 2016 breakthroughs (cont.) Uber launching the first fleet of driver-less cabs in Pittsburgh… Automated script writing, etc. (5/n).

A key thing to note is how the top tech leaders: Google, FB, IBM, Amazon, MSFT are all prioritizing #AI as their top priority in 2016 (6/n)

These tech leaders are making big investments in their R&D, partnering with universities, buying startups related to #AI (7/n)

Here is an example: ‘Microsoft merges Bing, Cortana, and Research to make 5,000-strong #AI division’ http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/09/microsoft-merges-bing-cortana-and-research-to-make-5000-strong-ai-division/ … (8/n)

The tech leaders are also collaborating together in #AI, with respect to processes, data access (key driver) https://techcrunch.com/2016/09/28/facebook-amazon-google-ibm-and-microsoft-come-together-to-create-historic-partnership-on-ai/ … (9/n)

Some SV billionaires and VCs (including @elonmusk, @peterthiel…) have created a non-profit #AI research co: https://openai.com/blog/  (10/n)

Chinese tech leaders like Baidu are also making big investments in #AI (in China and in their SV labs) http://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2016/09/30/faster-artificial-intelligence-baidu-benchmarks-hardware-for-deep-learning/#62ebe2e27420 … (11/n)

Over the past many decades, DARPA has been a leader in strategic tech investments. #AI is a key priority: http://www.darpa.mil/program/explainable-artificial-intelligence … (12/n)

Many European companies are also prioritizing #AI investments (automotive, aerospace, healthcare, etc.). (13/n).

So, where is India in all this? The #AI wave is both a big threat (if we don’t do anything!) and an opportunity for India. (14/n).

Like in many tech races of the past, India is already well behind in the #AI race… but we can (and we should!) try to catch up. (15/n).

#AI can present a big threat to the traditional Indian IT Service Outsourcing model … A model that worked well for past 2 decades. (16/n)

Manufacturing and traditional services sector job growth is also at risk, with #AI driven automation. (17/n).

Like with any new tech disruption, #AI also brings in new opportunities… but in order to leverage these, we to have to move fast. (18/n)

India needs to set up a multi-year strategic program focused on #AI and robotics, which involves the govt and the private sector. (19/n).

This is a ‘moon-shot’ opportunity and needs a @ISRO like long-term program (look at @ISRO’s long term goals set in 60s/70s). #AI (20/n)

We need to invest in setting up world class #AI R&D labs (in our research institutions like the IITs, IISERs…or create new ones). (21/n).

We also need to create good long term incentive structures for the private sector to invest in their own #AI R&D initiatives. (22/n).

Such government and private labs can attract/retain top Indian talent in #AI (that today, we are losing to U.S., Europe). (23/n)

Okay…I think I am going to pause here on this #AI tweet storm :)… Sorry for flooding your timeline! May continue again later though🙂

#AI Was planning to write a blog-post about this …. but realized that I prefer @twitter and the tweet-storm method a lot more!

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A Visit To GE India’s John F. Welch Technology Center – Watching Innovation In Action

Posted in Current Affairs, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on September 6, 2015

I visited the John F. Welch Technology Center of GE in Bangalore this weekend. They were celebrating the center’s 15th anniversary with a ‘Tech Mela’. Solutions from the various business units at GE were showcased. I have admired GE as a company, and their previous legendary chairman Jack Welch (I would highly recommend reading Jack Welch’s books about his management philosophy). This visit was a good opportunity for me the get a better understanding of their work.

The center (also referred to as GE ITC: GE India Technology Center) has over 5,000 R&D professionals working across healthcare, aircraft engines, transportation, energy and other GE verticals. This is the largest multi-disciplinary R&D center of GE in the world and more than 50% of the employees here have Masters or PhD degrees.  The GE ITC is involved in supporting GE globally, as well as focusing on local/regional solutions for India and the emerging market.

Good discussion with Munesh Makhija (Head of GE, ITC)

Good discussion with Munesh Makhija (Head of GE, ITC)

I got a chance to interact with the head of GE ITC, Munesh Makhija (Managing Director, GE India Technology Centre Chief Technology Officer, GE South Asia). Here is a video of our interesting discussion (https://www.facebook.com/ge.tech.india/videos/vb.480156825343034/1075515979140446/?type=2&theater). It was good to hear about the overall focus and vision for the center, as well as their day to day activities and challenges. Hiring top talent is a challenge for every company and GE ITC is no different. Today, many top engineers want to work in software (and in startups), and this is a big hiring challenge. Along with their presence in Bangalore and Hyderabad, GE ITC is also trying to tap into the advanced manufacturing talent in Pune where they have a brand new state-of-the-art multi-modal manufacturing plant (inaugurated earlier this year). I suggested to Munesh that GE should seriously consider expanding their R&D activities in Pune. Pune is the biggest center for manufacturing in India and hosts many advanced manufacturing capabilities across large and SME companies, including a large talent pool.

Healthcare is one of the biggest groups at the GE ITC and is involved in developing solutions across imaging, maternal health, critical care, surgery and other areas. Solutions for the global market, as well as India/Emerging Market are developed here. We got an overview of these solutions from Shyam Rajan, CTO, GE Healthcare India.

A new latest PET/MRI scanner was on display (IMAGE). This scanner can simultaneously carry out the PET and MRI scans of a patient. A low-cost, award winning CT scanner was also showcased, specifically targeted for the developing markets, where cost and space are big issues.

PET/MRI scanner

PET/MRI scanner

Portable (Tablet) Ultrasound

Portable (Tablet) Ultrasound

Evolution of the Jet Engine

Evolution of the Jet Engine

GE Jet Engines

GE Jet Engines

Some of the other technology areas on display included:

Transportation – Diesel Locomotives, Fleet Management, Marine Engines

Energy – Oil & Gas, Wind Power

Gas Turbine Power Generation, Electricity Distribution, Smart Grids

Aircraft Engines
It is very interesting to note the diverse engineering and technology areas that GE is involved in. They are addressing the core problems in energy, transportation and healthcare. It was good visiting these various solution areas and learning more about the solutions and tech challenges involved. The kinds of problems being addressed include machine design, modeling & simulation, advanced materials, hi-tech manufacturing, data analytics, big-data, software programming, signal/image processing, structural design, electronics control systems, and many more.

I would have liked to see more of the aircraft engine technology on display. Unfortunately (I guess due to IP/competitive restrictions) couldn’t see a lot in this area.
I also got a chance to interact with Sukla Chandra General Manager, GE Global Research, Bangalore Director-Legal, Patents & Analytics Centre of Excellence. Patents are a big focus area for GE, and Sukla’s team is responsible for providing strategic IP support to GE Global Research and several other GE businesses. In addition the patents center, Sukla also co-leads the GE Women’s Network Initiatives for India.  The patents legacy of GE goes all the way back to the founder, Thomas Edison (who is credited with more than 1000 patents).

Top GE Inventors - includes Thomas Edison (1000+ patents

Top GE Inventors – includes Thomas Edison (1000+ patents

As part of the Tech Mela Event, GE released an info-graphic on their work in India (good summary): http://www.slideshare.net/GE_India/ge-reiterates-its-commitment-to-design-make-in-india-52449008

Germany sets new solar power record

Posted in Current Affairs, Science & Technology by Amit Paranjape on May 27, 2012

Germany is the world leader in Solar Power.

Solar Farm in Germany (Image Credits: Wikipedia)

Came across this interesting article from Reuters about Germany’s Solar Power Record: “Germany sets new solar power record, institute says”

This Friday and Saturday, when sunlight was quite good, Germany generated 22 GW (1 GW or Giga Watt = 1,000 Mega Watt) of solar power for a few hours in the afternoon! That is nearly 50% of its power requirements (note requirements on weekends are less, since factories and offices are closed). Still this is quite a milestone!  For comparison, the biggest power consuming state in India, Maharashtra consumes about 15 GW of power.

Came across quite a few interesting data points from the article:

– Germany generates about 4% of its total electricity needs annually via solar power.

– Total renewable energy generation is 20% of its total needs.

– Total installed capacity of Solar Power in Germany is nearly half of the installed capacity in the whole world.

– Germany added 7.5 GW of installed power generation capacity in 2012 and 1.8 GW more in the first quarter for a total of 26 GW capacity.

– Germany has a total installed solar power capacity of 24 GW

– From the article: “Utilities and consumer groups have complained the FIT for solar power adds about 2 cents per kilowatt/hour on top of electricity prices in Germany that are already among the highest in the world with consumers paying about 23 cents per kw/h.”

– But the solar power costs might come down as photo-voltaics become cheaper each year.

Do read the full article here and also visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany for more details.

Some quick implications for India

India has lot more hours and months of sun as compared to Germany. Cost of photo-voltaics is coming down, making solar power more competitive. Solar power seems a lot more attractive renewable energy option, as compared to wind. Gujarat has taken the lead in installing solar power. Maharashtra, Karnataka and other states are also setting up solar fields, but the progress is slow.

India needs more policy focus and better execution to make solar power a successful reality.

Currently, China is the world’s major exporter of photo-voltaic cells. India needs to expand production of photo-voltaics. Similarly, other new related areas such as concentrated photo-voltaics (CPV) should also explored.

It is worth noting that Solar Power (or for that matter, any renewable energy source) is not a panacea for energy requirements… at least definitely not in the coming decade. Even in Germany today, Solar Power contributes single digit percentages annually of the total energy requirements. Thus, India will still need to expand its electricity production from conventional and nuclear power sources. Still, in an energy starved India, 10% renewable solar power in a decade, with no dependence on foreign fuel, would be a great step.

Incentives for Preserving and ‘Recreating’ Heritage Architecture In New Buildings

Posted in Current Affairs, History, Pune by Amit Paranjape on May 16, 2012

It is really sad to see the crazy expansion of concrete, steel and glass in Pune, with completely haphazard architecture standards. It is the same state in all major cities in India. In many cases, there is an attempt to emulate foreign architecture concepts that don’t blend in here very well. This extends to those ridiculous sounding names in English (and French, Italian, Spanish)!

I think it is the responsibility of local civic authorities (as is done in many cities, in the developed world), to enforce some kind of consistency standards in architecture of buildings, landscapes and ideally, even the names!

Just as there are green building requirements and certification standards, civic authorities need to enforce such standards for basic architecture. There have been many discussions on this topic, but doubt if any Indian city has done any progress in this area. I am going to take this requirement one step further. Not only should basic architecture standards be enforced, but heritage architecture should be provided with incentives (I am not asking for enforcement here… but some positive reinforcement).

For example, if a building (or more specifically, a private bungalow) tries to use the old Pune ‘Wada’ type architecture, or the early 20th century ‘Stone’ construction, they should be offered some benefits. We have to encourage new development that respects, preserves and recreates our heritage.

Similar small token incentives should be given to using local and Indian names. Instead of the often horrible (supposedly ‘aspirational’) sounding western names that we see everywhere today, we should encourage the use of local/regional names. Pune was the city of gardens (‘Baugs’) during the Peshwe Era. We had great gardens such as Hirabaug, Sarasbaug, Tulshibaug, and many others. Today, it would be great to see some apartment complexes named as ‘XYZ-Baug’.

In addition to local authorities (like PMC) providing incentives; NGOs and other organizations who are working in the area of heritage preservation (e.g. Janwani in Pune) should also institute prizes and awards for buildings that go out of their way to preserve and replicate the heritage.

Would like to hear the readers thoughts on this topic. Has something like this been done effectively in any Indian city? Note, I agree that ‘incentives’ are a small step, amongst many others to preserve our rich (but poorly maintained and fast dwindling) heritage.

‘Lokmanya Tilak – A Biography’ by A.K. Bhagwat and G.P. Pradhan

Posted in History by Amit Paranjape on November 19, 2010
Lokmanya Tilak

Lokmanya Tilak

Just completed reading a good book ‘Lokmanya Tilak – A Biography’ by A.K. Bhagwat and G.P. Pradhan. This book was written in 1956, to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Tilak. The book’s foreword is written by Dr. S Radhakrishnan. This biography presents an in-depth, detailed discussion of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s life. It provides the reader with a very good insight into the life of the great man.

The book starts with Tilak’s early life and formative years in Pune, and delves into a discussion around how his ideals and thought process were getting crystallized in College. The book covers at great length his friendship and differences of opinions with Agarkar. The first few chapters of this book provide mini-biographies of Agarkar and Justice Ranade. This is followed by a description of formation of Deccan Education Society, Fergusson College and establishment of Kesari and Maratha newspapers.

The subsequent chapters get into Tilak’s political life as he became the key figure in the Indian freedom struggle for the next three decades. Tilak’s prominent role in the early days of the Indian National Congress is very well described. The difference of opinion between the moderates and nationalists, that led to the ‘split’ at the Surat session is well highlighted and discussed.

That Tilak was an excellent lawyer is well known; but it was still great reading through the details of his legal arguments, especially the famous 1908 trial in Bombay High Court. His life at Mandalay and his struggle with diabetes are also discussed. Was interesting to note how he studied German, French and Pali, while in prison…his desire for knowledge was strong as ever in his late 50s.

This book also enables the reader to get a better picture of the surroundings in Pune and in other parts of India in that period. These surroundings, along with the global situation in the late 19th century/early 20th century had an important influence on Tilak. It was quite interesting to read how Tilak closely followed the various global geo-political developments in Europe, Russia, America, China and Japan.

The book offers good insights into the thought process of Lokmanya Tilak and his personality. His conviction, his forthrightness, his courage, his intellect and his other qualities are presented with plenty of examples.   The book is very well researched with detailed references and sources provided for various points. Many extracts from Tilak’s own writings in Kesari are also presented. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Indian History.

NOTE – Another excellent source of information about Lokmanya Tilak is the Tilak Museum at Kesari Wada in Pune.