WearFin – India in the path of innovation

fin-ring

There was a time when Indian technology industry was thriving with software services based companies and BPOs. The likes of Infosys, Wipro Technologies and TCS were major players in both these sectors earning a name amongst the world leaders as delivering the best of services in the software world. In this race to be the best, what got left out was innovation. While the facebooks and the googles and the twitters emerged as the giants in the technology world, India seemed to be content with providing those valuable services in the backdrop. The blame cannot be entirely attributed to the Indian industry alone. There is that faction of Indians who flew across the sevens seas to a land known as the silicon valley to set up shop and be recognized as the entrepreneurs of the west. Some statistics, aptly pointed out by Neesha Bapat in her article in Forbes state that, in 2012, more that 14% of the startups in the Silicon Valley were started by Indians, an astounding rise from around 7% in 1998. When Satya Nadella was appointed as the CEO of Microsoft, amongst the myriad of newspaper articles heaping praises and pointing out success stories, one article caught my eye. I was initially drawn to it through its title – Nadella as Microsoft CEO, a slap in the face of Indian System . Although I must admit that a lot of what is stated in the article can be counter argued through some of the successes that Indians have had in Indian soil, those examples are certainly far and few.

Then came the revolution. One which Shashi Tharoor, a renowned author and columnist, puts as “soft power” started to emerge. The penetration of cell phones, and the emergence of smartphones along with the “phablets” made information a commodity. Internet started to be seen as a regular household utility just like electricity and water. And with it came the thought for innovation.

Back in April 2012, Sijo Kurivila George and Kris Gopalakrishnan, the co-founder of Infosys, started a venture known as The Startup Village with a goal to keep the innovators back in India. The aim was to successfully launch 1000 companies in India by the year 2022. Add on the outbreak of crowd funding through the likes of Wishberry and Ignite Intent , the stage was set. And the play began…

In the recent CES 2014 hardware battlefield, there was one such startup from a small town in India, Kochi. This in particular aroused my curiosity, having personally spent a significant part of my life till date in this metropolitan town by the backwaters, surrounded by a wall of greenery. Fin as the founders called it, was a prototype that captured the wildest of my imaginations. The final version of this product looks even slicker, in the form of a ring worn around the thumb – a gadget that can be used to control anything that can connect via bluetooth by the flick of a finger. It was available to preorder for $99, a couple of days back in their website. The link has mysteriously disappeared now. The prospects are infinite. A little exaggerated, I know. But I always get excited when a new gadget comes into the world, as much as I meet it with a pinch of skepticism.

But what makes me even more excited is the fact that this now has opened doors to many more of those innovators in India to stay back and plant the seeds of their dream startup in those pockets of technology, those silicons valleys that are scattered across the peninsula – along the backwaters down south to the land of fortresses in the north. The future looks hazy today, but it definitely seems bright from where I look!

Advertisements

What’s in your wallet?

coin_vertical_brand_thumbnail_medium

Ever since its inception back in the 1920s, with oil companies and hotel chains, credit cards have been a victim of constant identity thefts. Easy as the payments were, equally easy was to lose it, stolen or left behind in a bar/restaurant. I had written sometime back about Digital Identity . While the idea then was about a digital wallet on your smartphones using NFC or Near Field Communications, Coin decided to take it a step further. NFC still in its infant stages, mainly due to the security concerns associated with it, Coin might just be an answer to a fat wallet! In short, coin makes a digital copy of all your credit cards and lets you swipe “the coin” in place of them. And what’s more, it constantly communicates with your smartphone via bluetooth. This ensures that you always have the coin right next to the phone for it to function, with an alert triggered every time it leaves the phone behind by around 7 meters. It then deactivates itself – a simple solution for a lost of stolen card. Sounds wonderful on paper.

Two reasons why adopting such a technology would make me a little skeptical, although I must admit I’m usually always the first to pounce on any new gadget. For one, this is a financial gadget literally having access to every single credit card that you choose to store in there, much like a financial management tool, which gets to have all your financial data. And, although it was announced back in November, this year. The shipments will not start until “summer” of 2014 and you are charged as soon as you preorder. Now the company has a very diplomatic answer to this, stating that this is a way they can help aid, financially, the manufacturing process. I’m sure this is all very credible, with its all expanding media hype and the number of preorders.

Julianne Pepitone, from CNN Money, puts it very nicely on 3 big problems with Coin . I would say, one of the primary problems (in fact two in her article), makes me nervous – its acceptance amongst the retailers and credit card companies. Consumers will accept this readily as long as the usability is widened. It would be harsh if you enter a shop and the retailer does not accept your “coin”. Common man does not usually take security as a huge threat unless there is a gaping hole. If not several of those startups such as mint.com, paypal, or even facebook, wouldn’t have taken off.

Having said all those, I still think Coin has a lot of potential. For one, the concept in itself is interesting. Not having to carry all my credit cards in my wallet just reduced the significance of my traditional wallet entirely. And the card looks great in its design.

So while we wait on its shipments and the user reviews, I’m still on the fence regarding the preorder… Let me leave you with an interesting concept video in the meantime.

Gesture Technology – Pointgrab

Point grab

I spoke about touch screen walls sometime back here. Although still in its formative years, using Microsoft Kinect and a household projector, presentations suddenly became a lot more “magical”! Taking it a step further, PointGrab recently introduced the Hand Gesture Recognition Software (HGRS) using a standard 2D camera. Based in Israel, Pointgrab introduced two new mobile (encompassing both tablets and smartphone) apps – CamMe, for gesture based photography and PlungaShot, a gesture based bow and arrow game on February 25th 2013 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona . Again, it is in its nascent stages, but the possibilities are amazingly abundant. Primarily in the presentation area, this could become a game changer, with its ability to deliver presentations from a distance without a remote control or aid from a colleague.

I personally downloaded the CamMe application, both on my ipad and iphone. For long I was searching for a decent app, with the with the ability to perform time- based photography. Although a bit buggy right now, CamMe takes things even further than a timer-based methodology, to snap a picture a second after you asks it to, from a distance.

With its SDK being open to application developers, I can very well see this being picked up by the imaginative elite to develop games, customized user interfaces, what all and what not!

Think Geek item of the week

NeuroweargeotaggingiPhoneappfuturisticgadget1

From gestures we go to telepathy! NeuroSky Mindwave Mobile lets you play games with the power of your mind!

Reading books – a new cost model

ereader-with-stack-of-books

The news at Gizmodo today morning, got me thinking, why do I pay for books I don’t read beyond a few pages! The latest victim was, The Last Templars, by Raymond Khoury – a book which showed an amazing promise in the beginning, with its fast pace and history, but slowly managed to drag into religion and philosophy, making me drop it right then. I almost regretted buying it. It was Amazon 1-click that has emerged as the primary culprit for such impulse buys. It has also become a common dilemma around the globe, not just for ebooks, but printed copies as well. There are two problems that I see here – what do I do with a book that I do not wish to keep after reading, and what do I do, if I do not wish to read a book completely.

I was rather amused a few months back, when I was browsing through the books at the Paradies Shop in St. Louis Airport. I picked up a book and walked over to the counter to pay for it. At the end of the whole transaction, I was given a slip which said that I could return the book after reading, to any of the listed bookstores and get 50% money back. Read and Return , they called it. So when I read about Total BooX and their concept of pay-as-you-go, it did sound intriguing. Atleast it did prompt to jump into the band wagon, and register for updates. I must admit the screenshots look rather impressive. And with the statistics that have been put forth, I must say a person like my father who loves keeping track of things, he would jump on to such a opportunity. Now how much would a page cost? That’s something we will have to wait an watch.

There is another school of thought, which advocates making eBooks free, with adwords and advertisements making up for the cost and any additional profit you expect out of it. Now finding the right balance for that would be an interesting economic problem.

Renting has been another aspect in the world of books. How can that be translated into eBooks, poses the other interesting challenge. Amazon lending Library has found quite an impressive success ever since the launch. But the fact that it is limited to kindle owners hinders its growth to an extend, although I’m sure one of these days it will make its way to the Kindle App as well. And then along came Overdrive , with an attempt to resurrect the ailing hard copy lending libraries. Its concepts such as waiting for a book to be available at the library, and automatically returning the books after the specified due date, has made it almost close to the lending library around the corner that we all are used to. But there is certainly room for growth and innovations. Combining the concepts of Collaborative Consumption along with the revolution of the social media, peer-to-peer lending of ebooks is still an untapped avenue.

Let me know what you guys think.

Wallaby solves one of those financial dilemmas!

If you are someone like me, I’m sure you must have faced a situation where you took out your wallet at a restaurant and started to gaze at all your credit cards wondering which one to choose in order to gain the maximum rewards. Well, now the answer to this problem is just a click away – Wallaby ! Currently launched just on the iPhone as a free app, wallaby lets you add you credit cards to scrape through their rewards and benefits every time you search for a location. Before you panic, I must say, it does not require you to give out your entire card number. All it needs it the first 6 digits of your card, which uniquely identifies the bank and their list of credit cards. You can then save the ones you own. What that means is, wallaby just mines the rewards programs from each of those cards, which usually stays the same across any user. So the next time you go to a restaurant, all you have to do is to just launch the app and it will tell you based on your location, which one of those cards to pick to pay. Quite a novel idea!

Coached by the mentors at Mucker Lab , the app was launched two days ago at the iTunes Store . While the whole array of credit cards that it presents to you is huge, there is still quite a few missing. For now, it gives you an option to send a message stating the details of the missing card. I’m sure as the user base grows, the database of credit cards will slowly move towards being exhaustive.

Renting is bliss … sharing is divine!

It was almost a year ago that I picked up the book What’s mine is yours – a groundbreaking idea proposed by Rachel Botsman . The idea was called Collaborative Consumption – a thought that wonderfully built itself atop the social media and social networking. The booking was engaging and equally informative. Since then, I’ve always made it a point to visit the site, to pick up on the latest of the ventures that embraced this idea. And thats how I landed on Share some Sugar .

There were two things that caught my eye about this place, amidst the amazingly long list of startups. The first one is obvious – its name. But along with its name, the thought was equally impressive.There is a little bit of history there. Back in India, it was rather common to see people, who just moved into a new location, walking over to their neighbors to ask for a tablespoon of curd (yogurt)! Making yogurt at home was an absolute necessity, as it a staple side dish for every meal, including breakfast at some places. And as I navigated my way through this site, I realized that was exactly the reason for this venture as well! It was a place to rent (for a deposit or a daily rate) or share equipments at home with neighbors – a rather novel thought!

As always with these new websites, I proceeded to register. One of the nice things about the registration was that they auto created a username for you based on your first and last name. Now you do have the option to change it. However, I’ve often had trouble thinking of a user name, esp. when all the ones that I wanted were taken. So I thought that was an interesting feature to have on the registration page, as an option. Once you login, it lets you choose from a variety of items, which were neatly categorized, that you are willing to share.The list includes home furniture through tools and even apparel! I wonder how many actually rent out apparel. But it would be a good idea to have some statistical model built to trend what people commonly rent/share.

Once registered, you can go on to browse for goods that people in your neighborhood are willing to share or rent and perhaps pick one that you are in dire need of. You can also add friends through your Facebook and Twitter contacts – one of those common features in any new social networking site these days. The place is still new and a little localized at the moment as well (I was unable to find anything in my area). But I would love to see it grow into a larger community. Being a proponent of collaborative consumption, what more can make you happier than a site for more sharing through social networking!