Will 2018 be kind to startups in India?

Startups face a number of challenges when embarking on their entrepreneurial journey – according to NASSCOM data, the standard mortality rate is around 25%.

In 2015, about 140 startups shut shop in India; in 2016, about 212 startups closed doors—50% higher than the previous year; the rate for 2017 planed out to 25% as large-scale startup hubs, accelerators, and investors cropped up across the country. To help the sector, government went to the extent of redefining the meaning of a “startup” by raising the age limit to 7 years from the date of incorporation (10 years for Biotech firms). From linking villages with the Start-up India programme to mega-sized accelerators and spirited investors, a slew of regulatory changes, activities and initiatives helped the startup sector emerge as the next big theme for economic growth.

Today, India is among the top five countries in the world in terms of startups. Its consumer demographics and extensive urbanisation continues to channel large-scale investment opportunities. The number of tech and non-tech startups cropping up every year only continues to the rise, irrespective of the shutdowns. It is projected that by 2020 there will be over 12,000 startups in the country, changing the way the markets are perceived and work. Until 2016, it was a trend among investors to make an early entry, even before the start of a firm. However, 2018 started on a bleak note with the causality list taking on a more serious turn: a Hong Kong-based tech startup accelerator, Jaarvis, started writing off investments in its portfolio and shutting down its India operations. Other startup accelerators in India are not doing good as well and are taking parting shots in getting their business model right. All this begs the question: Is there a market for all these startups?

According to an analysis report of startup postmortems, the first and topmost reason for startup mortality was ‘a lack of market need’ for it. Most failed startups relied on perceived solutions to implied needs. Market research was comfortably ignored, placing the onus on VCs to do the due diligence. For many startups, obtaining the seed fund was an end in itself. As seven out of ten well-funded startups failed, it also debunked a major myth; Scalability. Most of the high profile startups that shut down shop grew too fast and expanded even faster, so scalability to meet the demand was not the problem. Soon, the reality struck.

India’s vast unorganised market was a logistical nightmare to even companies having a strong network and financial backing. High smartphone penetration seems to incorrectly warrant more tech solutions. However, tech solutions were considered low-risk by investors, only to have them make a hasty retreat within a year or two.

As Prime Minister Modi’s “Startup India” is nearing completion of two years, startups are already yearning for the magic of 2015 when they savoured being the flavour of the season, which saw the emergence of a number of home-grown unicorns across the country. However, a new class of investors are stepping in to bring about the turnaround. For instance, organisations such as Tata Trust are planning to help startups in India that are categorised as high-risk and have uncertain business models. This is a space where no angel investors or venture capitalists would put their money in. For a change, these investors are looking forward to support ideas having a social impact. As one official put it candidly – in order to have a deep and irreversible impact, one has to try different things, and not use the same approach again and again. The coming days will witness the funding companies taking the lead from the startups. But will it energise the sector? One only needs to wait and watch what 2018 holds.

Building a Knowledge City: Lessons from Melbourne

Striving for the label ‘Smart City’ or ‘Knowledge City’ is no longer a simple administrative prerogative. It involves a lot more than public will for a city to build capacities and generate the momentum required to gain visibility as a ‘Knowledge City’ in the region. What can be even more demanding are the accompanying proactive measures needed to ensure that such a city retains and strengthens its prime position among the comity of knowledge cities of the world.

‘Knowledge Cities’ base their ability to create wealth depending on these three factors: (i) capability to generate ideas, (ii) exchange ideas, and (ii) influence knowledge networks. Both private and public sectors play an equal and complementary role in valuing and nurturing knowledge, supporting knowledge dissemination and discovery, and harnessing knowledge to create products and services that add value. Many developed cities around the world are now moving towards economies that are predominantly based on their knowledge capabilities. San Francisco, Singapore, Manchester, Montreal, Helsinki, Birmingham… the list goes on.

Today, each state or administrative district in every nation has a city labelled as a Knowledge City. There may be reasons for such categorisation; for instance, robust economic performance in knowledge-intensive sectors, conditions conducive to innovation and entrepreneurialism, availability of a skilled workforce, and presence of knowledge infrastructure, such as universities, libraries and laboratories. The challenges faced by each of these cities may be unique to their region, but then the connected world poses a different set of demands that every knowledge city can ill afford to ignore. Some of the demands that knowledge cities have to reckon with include:

  • Integration with the globalised world
  • Growing global competition among ‘knowledge capitals’
  • Mobility of talent, firms and investment
  • Emergence of disruptive technology and its changing role in research, learning and innovation
  • A high degree of liveability – from infrastructure to cultural activities

The above unenviable set of challenges, along with a strong contention from Asian city economies, makes it worthy to observe how Melbourne strives to carve out a niche for itself and defend its position. In many ways, Melbourne’s challenges are not unlike our own Thiruvananthapuram’s, but there is one crucial aspect that makes a world of difference. Melbourne already is a burgeoning knowledge capital:  The knowledge sector contributes more than 50% its gross regional product, with the financial services industry being the largest contributor. The city’s action plan envisages different goals, roles and initiatives that help Melbourne contribute to the growth of knowledge-intensive activities. From retaining and attracting knowledge talent, firms and investment to achieving recognition of the knowledge sector’s strength and value, Melbourne’s action plan is a case study in how to deal with emerging realisations proactively.

 

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Melbourne’s holistic strategy helps in creating a flourishing knowledge economy and in building an entrepreneurial culture that can transform local economies and put it on the global map. For instance, Goal #2 focuses on Melbourne’s strong arts and culture scene, which are attractive to knowledge workers and add to the city’s liveability quotient. This focused approach enabled Melbourne to win recognition as the Most Admired Knowledge City at the Knowledge Cities World Summit (2013). Every aspect of the strategy acknowledges the importance of collaboration and partnership between the city, the knowledge sector, and the wider community.

Blockchain’s Silent Blitz In Kerala

Kochi’s Maker Village has had a few reasons to be in an upbeat mood from early 2017 onwards. For the uninitiated, Maker Village is an electronics incubator that promotes the development of innovative consumer electronics by focusing on emerging technologies of a disruptive nature. When the buzz around Blockchain swept the globe, Maker Village realised the immense potential of this new technology. Whether governments around the world like it or not, Blockchain is the necessary link for developing IoT-based, machine-to-machine payment solutions. As word spread among the IT community in Kerala, Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K), one of the stakeholders of Maker Village project, got wind of the trend and set the ball rolling.

Soon enough, Kerala became the second state in the country (after Karnataka) to get its own Blockchain Academy in 2017. IIITM-K set up the unique Kerala Blockchain Academy (KBA) in association with the international learning and business development platform, Blockchain Education Network (BEN), to spearhead research, innovation, and impart technical consultancy.

Blockchain: the most promising innovation since the Internet

Known as the backbone technology behind Bitcoin, and all cryptocurrencies, Blockchain has the potential to make processes more democratic, secure, transparent, and efficient. This is going to transform multiple industries and governance. In Blockchain, the history of all transactions is stored as ‘blocks’ and distributed across decentralised peer-to-peer networks. After validating transactions, all blocks are linked from the beginning of the chain to the most recent. This is Blockchain, in short.

Banking, healthcare, and governance are the three major avenues where this technology’s impact will be deeply felt, and it will also open up new avenues in both the software and hardware sectors.

According to experts, Maker Village can leverage this technology to great effect as Blockchain not only provides a tamper-proof data storage system but also facilitates distributed computing and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Challenges to Overcome

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, organisations keen on using Blockchain faced more challenges in the adoption phase than in the implementation phase.

It classified the challenges broadly under the following six major areas:

Lack of internal awareness

Identification of business case and business partners

Selection of vendor/platform

Partner on-boarding

Development environment and security related issues

Integration

On deep dive into each of the areas, it was discovered that the challenges related to adoption and using case identification were the most difficult to surmount. It is in this context that one should look at the trailblazing initiative of IIITM-K in setting up the Kerala Blockchain Academy (KBA). On its part, KBA has partnered with organisations from academia and industry for collaborative efforts on creating awareness on this technology. The academy has also recently signed a MoU with UST Global for recruiting and training Blockchain aspirants.

Welcome the Disruptor!

According to a study by the World Economic Forum, banks and regulators around the world are still in the prototyping phase with Blockchain. Most of the global central banks are seriously considering this technology, and 80% of the banks are planning to initiate projects in Blockchain and its distributed ledger technology (DLT).

With Blockchain well on its course to become the new normal in the world of financial services, IIITM-K is keeping a close watch on the potential Blockchain use cases. This can positively disrupt traditional business models. Moreover, with the full digitisation of Kerala, huge volumes of data are being generated every day. This is where the state will fully leverage this technology’s inherent advantages to execute transactions quicker, ensure cost efficient operations, and provide transparency to its citizens, for an enhanced customer experience.

Co-working Spaces: Matchmaking for Startups

Co-working spaces have evolved from the shared workspace concept to a new holistic level. Today, a co-working space is a place where people come together and integrate work with their personal lives, eventually building a sense of belonging to a community. In common parlance, co-working refers to the sharing of a working environment. Entrepreneurs, self-employed, or staff working for different companies may opt for co-working to optimise space and manage costs.

A large number of freelancers, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and start-ups are opting for the flexibility to use space and resources on demand. The millennials are not the ones who would be willing to sign long-term leases. Despite their loathing for established practices, they make good with a strong work ethic. This aspect, along with a growing entrepreneur community, has accelerated the rise in co-working spaces. Therefore, the new work environment is attuned to emphasise values such as flexibility, autonomy and choice. Co-working spaces are successful because they are reflective of the new demands of the new generation of workforce. In fact, even big corporations are sending their employees to co-working spaces. For instance, HSBC Bank (in Hong Kong) offers its employees the option to work from a co-working space. It has been observed that such “co-working” employees are happier and more productive with the new way to work. Isn’t it exciting to see how co-working is shaping the old models of working? Another aspect that spurs the co-working space lies in staffing problems. Talent retention is becoming a challenge for big companies. Unlike the earlier generation of workers, the new age worker likes to work in a physically and mentally motivating environment.

What brings people together in a co-working space?

Opportunities for collaboration and mentorship are the driving force that motivates people and companies to gravitate towards a co-working space. Not just business prospects, but also a great sense of belonging brings people together. There are no tangible reporting lines here, only communities. Discussions relating to food, friendship and business fill the air, giving the space the apt amount of gravitas for equitable working. Even big corporations such as Coca-Cola are creating such spaces on their campuses and are inviting other freelancers to come and work there! Companies are coming to terms with the fact that internal work processes may not be up to the mark when it comes to ideation, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

If community is the bedrock of a co-working space, then technology is the infrastructure that brings it all together. People are always on the Internet all the time through different devices, an aspect that is changing the way we treat workspaces. As co-working offices are creating a whole new ecosystem, it is giving way to another, more specialised micro-environment where “connected” professionals such as lawyers, counsellors, accountants and others are beginning to play a role.

Looking ahead, one can safely say that co-working spaces will no longer be limited to top-tier cities. In fact, there are more than 11,000 co-working spaces in the world right now—all in a matter of a few years. As many new entrants in this field are increasingly moving into second- and third-tier cities, co-working will usher in a new way of working as a much older workforce gets acclimatised to this concept.

BITCOIN & THE FELLOWSHIP OF DISRUPTION

Today, Bitcoin is becoming an issue. While some governments worldwide are sending out warnings, others are warming up to the sustained performance of the Bitcoin market against all odds. Traditional banks intend to lead a frontal assault against Bitcoin, as Operation Tarnish Image is underway. Meanwhile, the Bitcoin markets march with self-assured hubris and even promise freedom from the traditional banking system!

Ever since its status as a “proper currency” was acknowledged formally in 2010—thanks to its acceptance by marquee businesses such as Expedia, WordPress, and Microsoft—Bitcoin has come a long way. Its value soared from around $1150 (in Jan 2017) to an all-time high of over $17,382 (in Dec 2017). It is now being said that the supply of Bitcoin would slow down owing to its high demand. News reports suggest that the wider cryptocurrency market is seeing gains. In fact, the top-10 cryptocurrencies by market capitalisation are witnessing price increases every day. As it stands, the total market capitalisation of cryptocurrencies is roughly at $456 billion. Perhaps when the total market value of Bitcoin exceeds $500 billion, India’s Central bank would favourably toy with the idea of purchasing digital currencies. At any rate, there is no sign of Bitcoin value falling in the near future. Clearly, these are times for investing in Bitcoin.

Let us look at some of the key drivers that buttress the growth of this new form of currency.

Firstly, the highly encrypted nature of Bitcoin transactions is fool-proof. Each transaction or money transfer would be safe without the risk of any data leakage. It is widely considered as the fastest method of transferring money online. To make a payment, the individual has to approach an agent, who transfers the Bitcoin equal to the money’s worth immediately to the payee. In addition, Bitcoin’s encryption contains multiple levels of cryptographic coding, which guarantees top-notch protection against frauds or attempts of online theft. This is a far cry from the error-prone and vulnerable firewall protection that traditional banks depend on to ensure safety to monetary transactions.

Secondly, the value of a Bitcoin is entirely dependent on market demands; Bitcoin exchanges determine the value unlike the conventional currency systems that are controlled, monitored and regulated by specific authorities.

Thirdly, there is investor anonymity. Receiving Bitcoin payment doesn’t require a traditional bank account, bank cards, etc. People simply need a reliable Internet connection and designated software to transfer and receive the money. As these transactions are free from banks’ watchful eyes, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will bring communities closer through peer-to-peer (P2P) transaction and crowdfunding platforms.

Lastly, there is no transaction fee associated with every movement of the currency. Depending on the agent they approach, people have to pay a minimum service charge while sending or receiving money. Unlike the banking system, you would not find any arbitrary imposition of huge processing fee or service charge on transactions.

Bitcoin has disrupted the markets, governments, and institutions. However, enterprising governments around the world are warming up to the realities and possibilities of giving Bitcoin a larger room as befitting its growing status. All the growing clamour begs the question: What next with Bitcoin? Now, with cryptocurrencies being preferred over gold by investors, it only remains to be seen whether Bitcoin will replace gold as the prime medium of exchange and investment. Or, maybe we are in the throes of preparing for a decentralised economy. Or, arrest the rising inflationary trends… the possibilities are numerous with Bitcoin.

Today, the fastest growing Bitcoin markets are Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The GCC and African Union countries are not far behind. Maybe there is a lesson or two hidden in these markets.

India’s Battle To Keep Our Children Safe Online

The proportion of people aged between 15 and 24 who are online is estimated to be over 70 per cent worldwide, according to an ITU report. The report also goes to add that more than half of the world’s households have access to the Internet. While all this may draw a rosy picture of digitally empowered societies, the Internet has also opened the door for exploitation of the vulnerable. Today’s generation of connected, savvy children has become the unwitting victim of numerous abuses online.

Studies into children and young people’s online behaviour indicate that they use the Internet for activities such as research, social messaging, gaming and learning activities. Eventually, even before they could realise it, children end up being victims of cyber bullying, inappropriate contact, identity theft, fraud and exposure to adult content. In Indian societies, it wreaks havoc on not only the lives of children and their parents, but also on the very social fabric of the community that they live in. To set the context, cyber safety does not end with just protecting children; it invariably extends to families, communities, and consumers.

What we need is an ecosystem that fosters the undertaking of steps to support digital safety, security and privacy. It is important that for our children to develop digital life skills in a safe environment, the industry and government must work together with experts and advocacy groups to identify and ensure that the Internet evolves in a healthy and responsible way. Globally, online protection for children is a much recognised and discussed topic and an agenda for many governments, but India has taken a longer time to realise it. Given the state of poor digital literacy in India, lack of online safety measure, and the fact that a large percent of children is taking to the Internet and social messaging, there is a rising consensus that protecting today’s children requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including service providers, content providers, civil society and regulatory authorities.

In September 2016, UNICEF India launched the first comprehensive report on child online safety in India. According to the report, offline forms of crime and violence against children are finding new forms of expression in the online world and their effects on children are alarming. By staying anonymous online and impersonating others, offenders become emboldened to commit offensive and criminal acts, successfully bypassing the deterrent potential of laws. The report goes on to add that cybercrimes against children in India are under-reported and have received very little attention; in fact, such crimes are not included in the National Crime Records Bureau statistics as a separate category.

As a nation, we still lack the ability to protect our children from online abuse and respond effectively to harmful content. In fact, there is widespread lack of awareness about child online abuse and exploitation among parents, teachers, police and policymakers. Responding to these threats does not require the passing of legislation alone.

Given the nature and growth of the Internet, its ecosystem, strengths, and risks, there can be no single agency or government institution that can ensure the safety of children from online threats and violence. It is important that all government institutions, private sector, academia, and civil society to work together to build the mechanism to prevent and respond to the specific threats and risks posed to children.

The cyber safety brigade has a full time job the world over. The list of online risks continues to grow each passing day, the latest being the issue of fake news. It is on such a backdrop that one should welcome a motivated and earnest attempt by Cybersafety India to be the harbinger of change in the country. A brainchild of the global consumer protection activist, Dr. Parry Aftab, Cybersafety India envisages using the power of grassroots volunteers to help deliver its message and assist in the building of a digitally aware community.

Current forms of child online abuse and exploitation in India (Source: UNICEF, 2016)

  • Cyberbullying: Emotional harassment, defamation and social exposure, intimidation, social exclusion
  • Online sexual abuse: Distribution of sexually explicit and violent content, sexual harassment
  • Online sexual exploitation: Production, distribution and use of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), or child pornography, “sextortion”, “revenge pornography”
  • Cyber extremism: Ideological indoctrination and recruitment, threats of extreme violence
  • Online commercial fraud: Identity theft, phishing, hacking, financial fraud
  • Habit formation and online enticement to illegal behaviours: Access to alcohol, cheating, plagiarism, gambling, drug trafficking, sexting and self-exposure
  • Grooming: Preparing a child, significant adults and the environment for sexual abuse and exploitation or ideological manipulation

TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMING THE BFSI SECTOR

As more banks and financial institutions (FIs) show indefatigable appetite for solutions ranging from fraud and risk management to regulatory compliance, the FinTech segment is set for rapid growth in India. In the past year, the banking industry in India began embracing new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and blockchain to leverage existing data, expand products and services, and revolutionise the customer experience. In fact, banks are collaborating with FinTechs to experiment with a variety of use-cases, from implementing bot-enabled conversational banking services to using recommendation engines for targeted marketing of financial products.

Even as the FinTech sector slowed down globally, the scene in India presented a different picture with the country emerging as one of the most promising regions for FinTech investment. In 2016, India’s FinTech segment witnessed a strong growth; a boost provided by the demonetisation of high value currency notes. On one hand, the country has the largest unbanked or underbanked population waiting to be covered, while on the other, there are regions—such as Kerala and Gujarat—with a strong technology and infrastructure ecosystem. This provided the FinTech firms the necessary room to implement new technologies and scale operations.

Exciting days ahead for AI and ML

The two terms—artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)—are often used interchangeably; a fact that irritates most technocrats. AI refers to smart algorithms that vary the output based on a wide range of input variables. On the other hand, ML refers to one particular application of AI that ‘learns’ from large amounts of data and makes the required inferences useful to the user.

Banks and FIs are using AI and ML applications in data analytics and customer service for the following reasons: personalising and improving customer experiences, generating better insights, and automating back-end workflows. According to a PwC study, over 36% of large financial institutions in India have already invested in these technologies, and almost 70% reported that they are planning to do so soon.

Systems using AI or ML can undertake the execution of numerous applications such as voice and image recognition, logistics, search and matching, and personalisation. As the financial sector quickly recognises the potential of these two technologies, there is bound to be major progress in the development and adoption of AI in the years to come. Moreover, with Google and Apple incorporating AI and ML features on their mobile platforms, there is a strong indication of high demand for more efficient data analytics. Watch out for this trend in 2018 – the rapid growth of B2C applications in the realm of AI.

Blockchain is here to stay

In the past year, blockchain-based Bitcoin exchanges have been growing in India. The traditional financial services sector is also coming to terms with the fact that the blockchain architecture is ideal for different use-case scenarios. With blockchain-based systems offering vastly improved trust, transparency, and native regulatory advantages, the adoption of blockchain in the Indian banking sector is also finding support from regulators.

As large players in the BFSI sector are inclined towards innovative blockchain implementations, the technology shows promise of rapid adoption in the coming years. The significant back-office savings and transparency that blockchain provides are very attractive from a regulatory and audit perspective. Within the next year or so, about three main blockchain applications will dominate the Indian market:

Payment / fund transfer infrastructure

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Smart contracts

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Digital identity

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However, as is the case of any new financial technology, a major issue hindering the development of blockchain is the lack of continued support and collaboration between participating parties. Similar to the AI and ML segment, FinTech startups and banks must work together to develop solutions that allow blockchain to get into the mainstream.

Smart Transportation Solutions

HOW SMART TRANSPORTATION INITIATIVES CAN TRANSFORM CITIES?

As more people move into cities, civic authorities are putting in place smart transportation initiatives. These initiatives aim to reduce infrastructure costs, alleviate traffic bottlenecks, optimize routes, and foster road safety. What drives these initiatives is the data from connected vehicles. Information from vehicles helps smart cities to create holistic plans that encompass an entire city’s ecosystem.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the transportation industry. As the market for IoT is estimated to reach $1.7 trillion in 2020, smart transportation systems are creating opportunities across a wide range of industries and market segments. Opportunities abound in automating roadways, railways, and airways; transforming passenger experiences; and reshaping the way cargo and merchandise are tracked and delivered. Riding the IoT wave is a prime component in smart transportation systems: big data analytics.

Massive volumes of data are generated by smart technologies deployed within connected vehicles. According to a study by Hitachi, a single connected car will produce more than 25 GB of data per hour of use. Putting this data into perspective enables businesses and civic authorities to see patterns they can use to develop a range of innovative services towards building a connected infrastructure.

CONNECTED VEHICLES ARE THE NEW “EYES”

As IoT can create connections between the smart vehicle and the transportation infrastructure, it offers several benefits, including a coordinated system designed to get everyone safely to their destination on time. Sensors installed on the vehicles could send a signal that alerts nearby vehicles about any problem, enabling them to slow down or take an alternate route. In-vehicle sensors and systems create valuable information flows:

Smart Parking

03(1)IoT-enabled parking garages can monitor capacity. They can report on the location and number of available parking spaces in a facility to the drivers who enter.

Predictive Maintenance

05In-vehicle sensors can analyze engine loads, driver behavior, road condition, etc. This can then compile a vehicle history that can be used to optimize scheduled maintenance.

Optimized Routing

01(1)Analysis of traffic conditions, fuel consumption and vehicle idle time between routes can determine the most efficient route for vehicles to follow.

Video Surveillance

02(1)By linking dashboard cameras and other video sources with cloud storage, organizations can stream video for immediate review.

Rider Services

04(2)Bus and train services can provide real-time route data to customers’ smartphones, showing where the next bus is and when it is due.

HOW CONNECTED INFRASTRUCTURE CAN TRANSFORM URBAN TRAVEL
As smart cities evolve, different systems in the city will be able to communicate with each other. Connected cars help cities to monitor their transport infrastructure. This in turn can enable the development of allied services that are adaptive, and the introduction of predictive tools that allow the best transport service to be offered, based on forecast and real-time environmental, traffic, and other related data. For instance, data from connected sensors can give many insights such as how citizens use transport, what planning is required, and what information can be shared with citizens to enhance their travelling experience. By combining multiple sources of data, such as weather and traffic information, complex analysis of travel patterns can be undertaken.

When vehicles, passengers and infrastructure can communicate with each other, it becomes possible for the city to adapt and integrate different systems, enabling new services to be deployed. Traffic lights can automatically turn green for emergency vehicles, buses can ply routes where more people are waiting, vehicles can pay tolls for distance driven, and pedestrians can have priority over vehicular traffic in some areas.

To make the most of IoT in transport services, the onus is on the civic authorities and service operators. Understanding how best to utilize the data and connectivity options available to them will allow civic authorities to redefine the urban infrastructure landscape to greater effect, and for common good.

 

 

9 STEPS FOR A SMART CITY

IoT in urban environments brings in a number of benefits. A well-planned IoT implementation helps in managing and optimising traditional public services; increases transparency and promotes better civic response to citizens; stimulates the active participation of citizens in public affairs; and fosters the creation of new services—all of these without drying up the city council’s treasury.

Therefore, local and regional administrations keen on making their city smart keenly follow the developments taking place in the world of IoT. However, any successful implementation requires more than just rolling out a slew of technologies; it involves the public, private and civic bodies to participate in devising a common action plan for their city.

Below is a list of recommendations for implementing, optimising, and evaluating smart city initiatives for all stakeholders:

091.Vision: There term “Smart City” refers to computerisation in the public sphere, i.e IT convergence, digitalisation, connectivity, etc. A smart city is capable of reinventing itself with new standards for the welfare and wellbeing of its population. In IoT parlance, a Smart Cities project refers to the interconnection of key industry and service sectors, such as Smart Governance, Smart Mobility, Smart Utilities, Smart Buildings, and Smart Environment. Therefore, the vision for a Smart City should consider the prevailing social-economic conditions and civic readiness to arrive at the objectives for the Smart City model.

082.Technology Adoption: Creating a scalable, manageable and secured broadband and IoT infrastructure is the foundation for all communications requirements of any smart city. Apart from the above prerequisite, a Smart City project also requires allied technologies as enablers. To better appreciate the level of maturity of enabling technologies and their adoption, it is important to have a synoptic view of all services in terms of technical, infrastructural and administrative constraints.

073. Open Data Policy: Smart cities use public data and information from government and other sources to help solve civic problems and create new business opportunities. Defining the rights and privileges associated with collected data, data governance, and data usage assists in fostering transparency and providing value-added services.

064. Public-Private Initiatives: Categorising the “need to have” and “nice to have” applications (which will be delivered by public-private partnership) sets the parameters for incorporating smart requirements into publicly funded infrastructure programs and in areas such as mobility, healthcare, security, lighting, environment, energy, construction, and communications.

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5. Cross-Domain Initiatives: Establishing the framework for a holistic approach across sectors and applications require expertise and standards that span many different sectors—from smart transport to smart buildings. This holistic and layered framework addresses the multiple needs of a smart city, leverages urban data to boost economic competitiveness, and builds effective solutions to many challenges.

046. Stimulate Ecosystems: Cultivating a collaborative culture with private partners plays a key role in developing the smart city eco system. Project developers, utilities companies, service providers, technology vendors, system integrators, and application developers collaborate through initiatives like city labs, developer contests, and application playgrounds to build the smart city. It would be beneficial to create a common network infrastructure and a secure IoT architecture that serves the needs of partners and the city council.

037. Milestones: Defining a framework with quantitative and qualitative indicators is important, and it must be customised for the city’s specific objectives. The evaluation should not only cover technical aspects, but also consider parameters like digital economic growth, sectoral sensitivity, accessibility of open data, digital service adoption, and more.

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8Education: A smart city project should reflect the inclusive, participatory, and social nature of its civic initiatives. Connecting with citizens and keeping them informed about progress through communications and social media is important for the success of any initiative. Through end-user education, field trials, surveys and open house sessions, the administration should reach out to the public.

019. Community Connect: It is important to make innovative companies collaborate with local communities on concepts, end-to-end prototypes, business models, and market trials. Although technologies such as broadband Internet and IoT are important building blocks of the government’s vision, the citizens’ acceptance and engagement will eventually determine success or failure of any smart city initiative.

THE RISE OF COGNITIVE BANKING

Blockchain, Artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies are creating new opportunities for the finance industry. In an industry where insight and information is crucial, the focus is now on investing in technology and resources that aid in complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity to meet customer expectations in a timely manner and provide tailored products and services. Banks are embracing the latest technologies—ranging from blockchain, cloud computing, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things, to machine learning and more—to understand the needs of customers and service them.

For the banking sector, investing in cognitive technology is a given and a necessity to retain their competitiveness. Cognitive technology helps banks to make sense of data for providing a range of services that include customer experience and fulfilment, cyber security, risk management, and compliance. Therefore, the financial services business is now transforming into a cognitive business.

How do Cognitive Systems work ?

In financial service companies, cognitive systems use the unstructured data present in industry reports, investment advisories, financial news, and other party sources to offer customised solutions based on individual needs and requirements of customers. In other words, financial service companies can target individuals to deliver the right product, thereby increasing the chances of sales conversion. Cognitive systems apply predictive analysis to determine an individual’s characteristic requirements from social media, messages, and other available content. Once the persona of an individual is shaped, data analysis helps to determine the customer type, and assists the advisor in making decisions.

Impact on Processes

Previously, only humans could perform certain tasks with some degree of autonomy; now, cognitive technologies are able to do that and more. Over the years, cognitive technologies have matured to perform the following tasks –

  • Analysing Numbers: Cognitive technologies help analysing numbers in structured formats. Simple algorithmic methods help in creating variables and models that best fit to a data set. Complex cognitive methods can learn from labeled data to determine strategies that may come in handy during complex business situations; for instance, fraud detection and personalised marketing.

  • Analysing Images & Words: This key aspect of cognition is no longer a realm of human intervention. A wide variety of tools analyse words and images, and do more: words are read, counted, classified, interpreted, and predicted. This has been possible through technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, neural networks, deep learning, and so forth.

  • Performing Digital tasks: Automating administrative tasks and decisions often is best handled by cognitive technologies. As there are thousands of such tasks to perform in the financial sector, cognitive tools perform the required tasks to move a ‘case’ through a logical series of workflow steps. Banks and insurance companies use it for back-office customer service tasks such as replacing a lost ATM card, processing claims, and handling payments etc.

  • Performing Physical tasks: Robots come with cognitive abilities for more intelligence and greater ability to make decisions. When loaded with deep learning software, robots can analyse processes, perform tasks within processes, and make learning predictions of what is most likely to satisfy a customer.

Customer demand is fundamentally changing traditional business models with technology-driven peer-to-peer lending services, online banking, and DIY portfolio management companies. Competition is fierce to deliver timely and tailored products to customers, and companies are embracing different financial technologies as new means to engage with customers.