Monday, June 12, 2017

Thought Leaders from multiple domains to gather at the the 2nd IITBayCon

June 12, 2017, Sunnyvale, CA.

The 121,000+ member strong IIT Bay Area Alumni Association is hosting the 2nd IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference (IIT BALC) 2017, on June 17 at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, USA. The leadership conference is primarily designed for IITians and their family and guests.

Besides over 40 plus illustrious IITians speaking at the conference, we are excited to have Deepak Chopra, an inspirational thought leader, Arjun Malhotra, Ca co-founder of HCL Group, and advisor to many startups, Rajat Gupta, former Managing Director of McKinsey, and pioneer of IIT Brand beyond India, and Ravi Mahatre, Founder, Managing Director, Lightspeed Venture Partners for keynotes.

According to the conference Chair Aman Walia, “We are finally on a road to create epicenter for IITians to network and discuss their ‘BIG’ ideas. This year attendance is expected to double, and number of startups by 500%. VC’s interest is growing in being at the IIT Bay Area Conference.”

The sponsorship has more than doubled over the last edition of the IIT Bay Area Conference. Rubrik leads as the Platinum Sponsor, joined by Gold Sponsors Light Speed Venture Partners and Google, and Silver Sponsors VMWare, Cohesity, Nvidia and Upaya.

Topics for the Leadership Conference 2017 include Autonomous Vehicles, Clean Energy, FinTech, and Off Beaten Track, and Founder’s Journey. About 20 startups will also be pitching their value propositions.

After a day-long intense tech talks, the 2nd IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference will present high energy entertainment to attendees for unwinding with Silicon Valley wines. As Bimal Sangari, Outreach Chair, says, “Attendees will enjoy the total experience of meeting other IITians. They will work and play, both.”

To learn more about speakers at the 2nd IIT Bay Area Leadership Conference 2017, please

About IIT Bay Area Alumni Association – IIT Alumni of Bay Area is a 501(c)(7) non-profit organization of alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have more than 120,000 alumni members in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Contact: For media inquiries, Praveen Gupta, Ttel: (408)-429, 9782, and all others Bimal Sangari.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Can Your Smartwatch Read Your Mind? Highlights from WearablesTech Con

I was able to drop by the Wearables TechCon that was held earlier this month in Santa Clara - a charming suburb claimed by many as the Heart of Silicon Valley. Here is a "trip report." 

The conference combined educational tracks addressing the full spectrum of wearable technologies with sessions on business opportunities, keynotes from industry luminaries, and an expo floor where leading wearable tech companies were exhibiting their devices and technologies.

There were more than 60 combined classes and tutorials split among three tracks -  the hardware track,  including classes on product design and embedded technologies such as sensors, and other components; the software and App development track,  focusing on platforms, APIs, Software development kits (SDK), and best programming practices; and finally a business opportunities track. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see not one or two but multiple sessions on a topic near and dear to my heart. As those of you who have read my autobiography already know, I had proposed a project in "Artificial Imagination" during my graduate studies. The project envisaged computer systems that could understand and simulate human emotions and imagination. The proposal was quickly shot down by my adviser, with a look on his face that seemed to suggest that I ought to seek medical attention. 

 Twenty eight years later, the technology I briefly imagined is coming closer to being reality. The sessions on the army of wearable devices turning sentimental included one on
 embedding ultra-lightweight vision software that can read facial micro-expressions in real-time into wearable devices. Yes, camera sensors that feed into image and pattern recognition software to recognize joy, surprise, anger, fear, and 30 other emotional states  in less than 1/30 of a second that gives us enough time to possibly react in real time as well. 
In addition, it recognizes mood indicators and other facial behavioral metrics. If wearable technology can recognize emotions, we are just a small step away from simulating them! We can all imagine applications that can benefit by sensing moods and emotions.

Similarly, there was one session about sensors directly communicating via the brain. Yes, now we are talking the next gen Wearables - a device that can understand me without talking to it! The presenter explained methods like  Electroencephalography (EEG), which measures electrical activity along the scalp, and nano-sensors fit into a contact lens which can analyze the chemical composition of our tears to know what we are REALLY feeling.  Brain-computer interaction is not the only way. The presenter also talked about "Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation (tDCS)" whereas constant, low current is delivered via electrodes to increase cognitive performance and attention span, and enhance language & math abilities.

These may sound futuristic but remember, just a few years ago, the idea that computers would understand voice commands and help us look up information, do computations or remind us seemed far- fetched. Not only have such advances been achieved, but computers have also shrunk in size to fit into our phone or watch and are affordable enough for masses to own them.

There was also a session on "affective" computing (not a typo, that's what we're calling computing involving processing of emotions) by Scott Amyx, who goes by the title of Wearable and IoT thought leader. Watch highlights of his session by 
clicking here

But these ideas about monitoring and influencing human mind are all is still in the "innovation" stage. Let's talk about wearable technologies that have moved from Alpha / Beta testing to early adoption.

One of the keynote presentations at Wearables TechCon – the only one that I was able to attend - was by Qaizar Hassonjee, vice president of innovation at Adidas. His startup - Textronics - was purchased by Adidas in 2008. After the merger with Adidas, the Textronics group worked on a project that became Adidas' miCoach Elite software and hardware which has been rolled out to the entire league by major league association.  Each miCoach Elite sensor pack includes a GPS, compass, heart rate sensors, accelerometer, and wireless transmission equipment.  The acquired data is analyzed by the miCoach Elite system which produces insights that helps the coaches improve their teams' performance. These insights have been extended to the consumer market through an array of other devices produced by Adidas such as a smart sports bra and a smart ball - a soccer ball with sensors inside that allows players to see how hard they're kicking and how far the ball has gone, thanks to GPS.

Of course, no one can talk about wearable technology innovations without talking about smart watches. There was also a series of classes specifically on the Apple Watch, including  an overview session, several deep dive sessions into the Software Development Kit for the Apple Watch (dubbed WatchKit), a session specifically on what will the Apple Watch mean for fitness apps, and one comparing Android Wear with Apple Watch for Developers. 

All that discussion about the Apple Watch fascinated me enough that I decided to buy a smart watch. - No, Apple is not selling the Apple Watch yet (pre-orders begin next month) but Pebble was at the expo offering a discount on the Pebble watch, so I ended up buying one. Please standby for an article describing my experiences with Pebble watch, but you can watch Verge's video on it below: 

That's a good segue onto the Expo floor, where leading wearable tech companies were  exhibiting their devices and technologies.

In addition to the Pebble watch, the two other exhibiting companies that are worthy of mention in this blog are:
  • Duratouch, which demonstrated its PCap touch technology that works in the pouring rain, with winter gloves, and in extreme temperatures. They had an innovative demonstration booth with  streaming water fountains where they'd immerse the device in water stream and the touch screen  would continue to work.  
  • Infostretch,. Santa Clara based Infostretch provides mobile testing, certification, verification, development and sustenance engineering services to enterprise customers in different verticals. 
Wearables TechCon is produced by BZ Media LLC, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. I do not have any business or investment relationship with BZMedia, or with Adidas, Pebble, Infostretch, or Duratouch. I do own a few Apple shares, but who doesn't?  

Yash Talreja 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Will Apple succeed in Dethroning Paypal with Apple Pay?

Apple Watch, Coming Early 2015, Announced Sept 9, 2014

Today was a very busy news day for Apple, with the company launching not one or two but four new products offerings.

  Apple released details of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – what Apple calls “the biggest advancements in iPhone history.”  The body of the iPhone has been redesigned to be thinner, with a body of anodized aluminum that seamlessly converges with the glass display.  Both versions will run iOS8, the latest version of the Apple operating software which promises a “simpler, faster and more intuitive user experience.”  The A8 chip with second generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture provides faster and more energy efficient performance.  Combined with Metal, the new graphics of iOS8, the iPhone 6 versions will allow games that are closer to console and 3-D games than ever before.  In a departure from other versions, the iPhone 6 will come in two sizes.  The iPhone 6 has a 4.7 inch Retina HD display – a 38% larger viewing area than the iPhone 5S- while the iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5 inch Retina HD display – an 88% larger viewing area.  Both versions will also come with Apple Pay, another innovative announced today by the company.

Apple Pay promises to “transform mobile payments with an easy, secure and private way to pay.”  How? Apple Pay features a dedicated chip called the Secure Element, which stores a unique and encrypted Device Account Number.  When a credit or debit card is added to Apple Pay, the card number is never stored on the phone or Apple’s servers – each transaction is authorized by creating a one-time number with the Device Account Number and a dynamic security code instead of the security code from the card.  Cashiers will not be able to see the card holder’s name, card number or security code.  Apple Pay supports Mastercard, Visa and American Express issued by the most popular banks accounting for 83% of credit card sales in the U.S.  258 large retailers such as Staples, Walgreens and Macy’s are already on board.  Apple Pay will work with over 200,000 retailers that support contactless payments. But that’s just the beginning. The mobile payment business is huge. How large is it? Gartner estimates that mobile payments will grow from $235 billion in 2013 to more than $720 billion by 2017. Even at that size, it will be a tiny part of total retail transaction volume, which was $15 trillion in 2013.  

So far, PayPal seems to be in lead in the mobile payment industry.  The combined total of its internet and mobile transaction was $180 billion in 2013, encompassing 26 currencies and 193 countries. PayPal earned $6.6 billion in transaction and other fees and has, so far, withstood challenges from Google (which first offered Google checkout and later Google wallet), Amazon and Square. However, despite Paypal’s dominance in eCommerce – when mobile devices are used to purchase goods remotely – and billions of dollars invested in NFC (Near Field Communications) technology by Google and other companies, offline mobile payment is still a very much open field.  Many people claim it’s just a matter of time before NFC catches on, but many others doubt that NFC ever will, even making fun of it by claiming it stands for “Not for Commerce.” Will Apple Pay, which also uses NFC, help accelerate its adoption? If Apple succeeds where Google Wallet failed, it could end up with a sizable share of the combined online / offline mobile payment market. Not only will Apple make billions of dollars in transaction fees, it will also collect massive amounts of data about consumers' interests and purchasing behavior.  Such date will open avenues to an additional revenue streams by enabling Apple to build a location-aware, targeted advertising platform built essentially into the palm (and with apple watch, wrist) of hundreds of millions of people around the world.  

The Apple Watch features a specially designed face, the Digital Crown, which allows users to scroll and navigate via touch – a significant difference from most competing products.  In fact, the Digital Crown is so sensitive a user can send their heartbeat to another person.  User can send and receive messages, answer phone calls and use comprehensive health and fitness apps directly via the Digital Crown.  Other innovations are found in the Apple Watch as well.  Force Touch allows the face to differentiate between a tap and a press, allowing easier use of apps.  A built in speaker and Taptic Engine technology create a much larger variety of notifications that the user can both hear and feel.  The extremely accurate timepiece comes with unique faces such as a 3-D interactive model of the sun, earth and moon.  Sparing no detail, the Apple Watch comes in three designs.  The body is available in stainless steel alloy, anodized aluminum, or 18-karat yellow or rose gold, while the band is available in 6 versions, ranging from an elastomer sport band to leather to stainless steel.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Apple Watch leads the army of Wearable devices destined to take over the world

In Science Fiction, the world is frequently portrayed as having been taken over by computers. Interestingly,  the computers that take over the world in movies or fiction appear either in humanoid form, either as physical humanoids such as in "The Terminator" or  "I, Robot", or as human-like illusions such as "Agent Smith" in the Matrix trilogy. 

Fast forward to 2015. Computers do indeed seem destined to take over the world, but these "computers" neither look like the large racks of circuits sitting in a data center, nor the humanoids portrayed in popular fiction. Computers are already a familiar part in many items we use, including appliances, automobiles, home security systems, thermostats, and smart TVs.  But most people won't even associate the word ‘computers’ with the tiny, wearable devices that will soon be a part of many items we wear, such as  watches, bracelets, glasses, shoes, belts and jewelry

Yes, I am referring to the Apple Watch announcement at today’s Apple's Spring Forward event. Among a few other things, Apple announced more details about the Apple Watch including the release and pre-ordering dates. The Apple Watch (or rather Watches, as we describe further below) will be available on April 24th, and pre-orders will start  on April 10 (I feel honored that Apple picked my birthday as the pre-ordering day.)

As announced last year, the Apple Watch is really three different family of watches addressing three different markets - Apple Watch Sport, The Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition. 

Apple Watch Sport is the least expensive among the three with prices ranging from $349 to $399 based on the size 38 mm and 42 mm.This version is encased in anodized aluminum. 

The second family of watches - The Apple Watch - is stainless steel, with prices starting at $549 for the 38mm, $599 for the 42mm, but going as high as $1,099 depending on the band chosen. 

Finally, the Apple Watch Edition, the 18-karat gold version, starts at a whopping $10,000 and can go as high as $17,000, targeting the luxury market.

Apple has successfully blended technology with fashion and design elegance over past few decades. I believe that the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch will be very successful, especially among those of us who are used to the touch screens on our smartphones.  All three versions of the Apple Watch come with a lot of Apps. The WatchKit tool kit/ APIs were released to developers last November, and Apple demonstrated  that will make  things we do on our smartphone today even easier.  Instead of having to dig your phone out of a phone or purse, , just twist the wrist.— The apps that were demonstrated include Uber for summoning a car, using Passbook to check- in for a flight, opening garage doors, health and fitness apps, social networking apps, calendar and email alerts. In fact, Apple Watch would result in a comeback of the watch for many of us. Like many people, I had given up on wearing a watch because I didn't need it - I could just look at the time on my smartphone so no need to carry around a device just for that. But now that the watch can do lot more, and has the similar touch screen-like user interface, I am already considering buying one. 

The one exception that I am not sure about is the $10,000+ Apple Watch Edition.  Today's luxury watch market is driven by the perceived value — where the material cost and even design elegance are less important than the exclusivity associated with the brand and the human craftsmanship that went into its construction. People pay tens of thousands of dollars for Rolex, Omega, etc. whose time keeping accuracy does not exceed the accuracy of a $5 quartz watch. This is primarily because those companies have created a brand image over centuries that has become synonymous with luxury and prestige,  but also because they require lot more human effort in construction. While I will personally never understand why someone would pay thousands of dollar for a watch that has same (or less) functionality and fashion appeal than a well-constructed $100 quartz watch; an estimated 800,000 to 1,000,000 people do buy a new Rolex every year. (For the record, I do own a luxury car and have traveled first class on few occasions at my dime, but I still never saw any value into forking out more than $100 for a watch, especially if the prestige watch is no more reliable than a nice quartz watch that I can get for $100, besides, I no longer wear any of them anyway) 

 While Apple is a reputed brand, I am not sure it will able to leap into the luxury brand club and be considered at par with an Omega, a Rolls Royce or a Louis Vuitton anytime soon. Apple's massive success makes that di
fficult since luxury is usually associated with scarcity, and with hundreds of millions of people carrying an iPhone or an iPod around the globe, Apple is not a scarce brand.That said, I am sure there are enough affluent people who love Apple's products that some of them will fork out $17,000 for an Apple Watch Edition just because it costs $17,000. 

But independent of how many people buy the high end Apple Watch edition, after seeing what it can do, I believe that the company will be able to hit the Analysts estimates of 20 to 40 million Apple watches sold in first 12 months after launch. However, this should not be construed as advice to buy or sell company's stock - please consult your investment adviser.  For f
ull disclosure: I do own some Apple stock, but who doesn't?

Yash Talreja 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

With ready access to 30 million merchants, Will Samsung Pay surpass Apple Pay in Global adoption?

Samsung unveiled their new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge this week on March 1, and the most exciting news concerning these new devices is the fact that they will be the first to feature Samsung’s new mobile tap-to-pay feature, appropriately called Samsung Pay, which is positioned to surpass Apple Pay in terms of transactions conducted across the globe.

Much like its competitor Google  (which launched the Google Wallet in September 2011) and Apple (which launched Apple Pay in October 2014), Samsung is targeting to be a major player in the "in store" mobile payments with Samsung Pay. Mobile payments aren’t a new concept, but the support from handsets in terms embedded requisite technologies such as NFC has only been realized in past 12 months. With a major company like Apple pushing in-store Mobile Payments, it appears that the time has finally come for these technologies to move to the forefront. In fact, Samsung could very well gain from the momentum that Apple and others have created to move Mobile Payments move from R&D settings to real world.

Samsung’s acquisition of LoopPay in February was a significant strategic move for the company that could help launch them to the forefront of Mobile Payments. Like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, Samsung Pay can utilize NFC technology  that works with compatible cash registers, However, in addition, Samsung Pay also has LoopPay technology  with the Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) feature. This feature will allow Samsung users to hold their phone up to a traditional card swipe reader to pay for their transaction. Because MST does not require the retailers or merchants to upgrade they Point-of-Sale terminals, it results in nearly universal access to credit card readers for MST equipped Samsung phones, unlike the other mobile pay technologies which rely on NFC technology only.

Samsung estimates that their system has a potential to be accepted by 30 million global merchants, or what totals to 90% of all retail locations, in comparison to the mere 200,000 acceptance points for Apple Pay and 300,000 MasterCard PayPass locations for Google Wallet. This will give Samsung a major advantage over Apple Pay when they launch the system in June, and will further push back Google Wallet and PayPal in the mobile pay market. Samsung has gained commitments from Visa and Mastercard, American Express, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase, which add to the insurance of their staying power. In addition, the company is focused on security, and makes it clear that Samsung will not keep any personal account numbers on the device itself. They will adopt fingerprint technology, similar to the Apple Pay system, which requires the device owner to hold down their finger at the time of payment tap.

While more and more retailers roll out NFC chip readers, the playing field could still be evened out, but for the time being Samsung is positioned to be well ahead of the game. Samsung Pay may very well be a defining feature that draws more mobile customers over to Samsung when it rolls out this summer in the US and Korea.

While there is much talk about how Samsung Pay will topple Apple Pay, but it will also push back PayPal Mobile and Google Wallet. PayPal’s system only works with merchants who have a PayPal reader

Friday, November 21, 2014

Report on AnDevCon, 2014, San Francisco

This year again, I was able to attend AnDevCon the premier technical conference for Android developers held on November 18-21 in San Francisco.

The conference was attended by more than 1,000 software developers - many entrepreneurs who had build their own apps. The attendees were able to choose from 70+ classes which ranged from Introductory to Advanced levels. As common with many such conferences, there was a day of pre-conference tutorial, Exhibits with free admission, Lightening talks, fireside chat and a conference party.

Even though AnDevCon is advertised to be an (Android) developer conference, there is actually a lot of useful information even if you are not a hardcore software programmer who develops code in Android for a living, but someone involved in the Mobile App industry. The 4 conference was held from November 12th  to November 15th in Burlingame near San Francisco Airport. In addition to numerous classes covering both broad topics such as Android Concurrency, Security, Cross platform development and Details of Specific sets of Android APIs such as those involving Image, Sound and Video handling, to very narrow and focused areas such as 3D modeling and Payment APIs for Paypal support; there were also several interesting keynotes by speakers from Google, Twitter, Qualcomm and Blackberry. There was also an "Android Business" track and a plethora of major companies exhibiting at the event, including Google (no surprise), Amazon, Sony, Adobe, and Intel, among others.

Organizing Stuff of andevcon poses for the blog

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Twitter's Keyword Targeting

Twitter advertising has added a unique feature - it allows advertisers target the recipients of their advertisements by using a technology that analyzes that person’s communications.

Necessity is the mother of invention - this particular way of advertising was necessitated by the fact that unlike Facebook or Linkedin, Twitter users don't build an extensive profile. In fact, Twitter limits user profiles to 160 characters including spaces, and a link. 

In the past, Twitter allowed advertisers to target users based on their interest which were determined by analyzing the accounts that the user followed. But this method didn't utilize an important social commerce data resource - people's tweets. The tweets indicate a person’s actual interests in a very specific manner - not what they think they are interested in (i.e. follow) but what they really are talking about. The other good thing about this is that this keyword analysis can be done in real time. 

With the new social commerce tool, Twitter allows marketers to set keywords that would trigger their ad when the said keywords appear in a user’s tweets.

For instance, if the company is promoting an American Idol finalists’ concert in New York, they could make it so that their ads will appear on a user’s timeline when the user sends out a tweet containing the keywords “American Idol” or “New York.”

Companies can also make it so that their ads are triggered by Twitter searches and would appear in a user’s search results instead of the user’s timeline.

“Tweets are signals of what's top of mind for people in real time, including their intentions, needs and wants,” Twitter explained in the newsletter it sends to its subscribers. “You can reach users at the right time and in the right context based on keywords in their Tweets and the Tweets they've recently engaged with,” the newsletter says.

While this Twitter Ads tool is advertised by fans of twitter as truly revolutionary, it is not very different than an echo of Google’s contextual ad technology, which shows ads to their Gmail users based on the terms in their email messages. Same contextual advertising is also used by Google adsense advertising units while people reading articles on a blog or Google news receive ads based on the keywords included in the text of the news or blog. 

Authored by Yash Talreja, Edited by Blessie Adlaon