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Hi-Tech Pune Maharashtra conference 2008 – Day 2

Hi-Tech Pune Maharastra Conference 2008

Yesterday, I live-blogged about Day 1 of this conference. That was more about the speeches given by dignitaries. Today I am attending one session, and this one promises to be more technical talks.

To refresh your memory, this is the Hi-Tech Pune Maharashtra 2008 organized by Suresh Kalmadi backed Pune Vyaspeeth, this is the 5th installment of this conference, and in addition to IT, the focus this time is on Bio-Technology and Animation. The conference is spread out over three days (18th June to 20th June) and there is a fairly interesting schedule of presentations by a diverse set of speakers.

I am live-blogging this conference so, 1) refresh on a regular basis if you’re reading this on Wednesday evening (Pune time), and 2) please excuse the terse and ungrammatical language.

I missed the morning sessions. There were two sessions on innovation (which I’m glad to have missed – I am bored of talks on innovation), one on biotech, and one that sounded very interesting – because it was case studies on animation (“Golden Compass”, “Tare Zameen Par”, “Little Krishna”) that was done out of Pune.

This is the last session of the day.

Wipro Technologies.Image via Wikipedia

First up is P.S. Narayan, Head Sustainability Practice, Wipro, talking about “Does Green make business sense?” While a lot of the talk was general Al Gore-ish “you should help the environment” lecturing, there were a few points that I found interesting.

He is making the point that Green companies perform better. There are examples of businesses who focused on energy savings and managed to not just reduce energy costs, but also improved on a bunch of other measures. Also, he is showing that green companies do better on the stock market too. I’m not sure whether this is just correlation or there was some causation involved. (I mean it is possible that companies that think about going green, are also the same ones who are smart enough to reduce their costs, and the ones who are not going green are generally the companies that are not well run.)

What is Green IT? It’s not just designing your systems to consume less power. It is also about software solutions to reduce energy consumed in other parts of your company (e.g. did you think about re-designing your supply chain to minimize energy consumption?) Also, other things like green accounting (if your accounts department kept track of energy usage in addition to simply dollars spent, that would reduce consumption. Currently, most people don’t even know the details of their consumption.)

The next up is Dr. S. Ramakrishnan, Director General, C-DAC with a talk entitled “From Innovation to Deployment: Case Studies from C-DAC”. In their Language Computing initiative they have designed more than 3000 TrueType and Unicode fonts for Indian languages. In Speech Technologies, they not only have to worry about speech-to-text of Indian languages, but also speech-to-text of Indian English! C-DAC’s ATCS (Area Traffic Control System) brings advanced concepts in traffic control to Indian conditions. It uses vehicle detectors to optimize traffic signals. These kinds of signals are only present in two place in India – Delhi (63 signals, imported from UK) and Pune (34 signals, developed by C-DAC). The signals are controlled from a central location using wireless communication – which is really good because it reduces road digging. (Anyone driving around Pune these days will know how big a deal this is.) There is also a telemedicine project but he did not get time to go into that.

Dr. Anupam Saraph, CIO of Pune, making a case for having strong IT in government in Pune. To allow growth faster than the 7% that we are currently experiencing (it should be double digits), but also to ensure that we do not run into the problems that are caused by the growth when it happens. After the initial pitch, he is jumping ahead and talking about his vision for Pune in 2015, and then following it up with the specific projects that he has initiated. He mentioned how this is a partnership between government and businesses – he sees how it is sustainable when someone is making money off these cool services. He also mentioned the Design for Pune competition (which I am working on) and PuneTech. Cool.

In the plenary session, Rohit Srivastwa, head of IT for the Commonwealth Games, and Airtight Networks, gave a talk on how information security is very important these days. He talked about ClubHack (an online community for bringing security awareness to common people). He pointed out to Anupam Saraph how some government websites had security loopholes. This led to a nice back-and-forth between the two of them about the need to balance security vs. use of new technology – a refreshing change from the blandness that afflicts other presentations. But while the session was interesting, I was not entirely sure why it was a plenary session, instead of being a presentation in one of the regular sessions.

Vijay Kumar Gautam, COO, Commonwealth Games, Delhi 2010, gave a brilliant speech about the use of IT in sports, and brought out very nicely the huge difficulties involved in managing the IT for a sports event. Imagine a company that has 50,000 employees, and 1 billion customers. The company is built from scratch in 3 years, and is operational for only 3 weeks. Unlike most other IT projects, the deadline does not slip – the dates are fixed and remain fixed. Unlike most other software products, you don’t get a chance to do a bugfix or a patch release. You don’t get a chance to tune your system based on experience in the field. You don’t have an alpha or a beta release. And now imagine 10,000 journalists following your every move and ready to report on every gaffe.

He gave some idea of the complexity of the whole set up – hardware, software, processes. I’d love to get my hands on his presentation, not sure where I can get it from. They are planning on using the Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune later this year as a Proof-of-Concept test ground for the system.

The most interesting thing he said was this – such games happen all the time. There are Olympics (summer/winter) every two year. There are Commonwealth or Asian games every two years. Take into account world championships and other events and you have games all the time. And, it is very difficult to find people who have the experience of building IT systems for such a requirement. And they charge astronomical rates. You should get into this business. That was the main thrust of his talk.

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