Category Archives: Technology

Good bye to an internet powered simple life

It is the last week of our stay in Hyderabad and marks the end of nearly twelve months of our minimalistic, easy camp sort of life in the city. As I go around the house to finger count the number of items to be packed including a few kitchen utensils, books and couple of foldable things that made our only possessions here, I tend to neglect the small unassuming Bose Revolve SoundLink Speaker and the Echo Dot with Alexa sitting in an obscured corner. Taking a step back and reflecting on the days spent here, I realize my blunder. I was overlooking the fact that these lightweight, small size devices were the ones that had brought significant change to our prosaic life in a house of mostly empty spaces and near-zero assets.

Fifteen months ago, when we were packing and winding up in Singapore, my heart cringed the most at the sight of my beloved Sony DVD Home Theatre System getting dismantled and Sony Smart TV being disassembled to be packed and shipped to India. The idea of temporary dysconnectivity to the digital world of entertainment was painful.  After relocation to the city of Bengaluru and reassembling of the devices, our lives were, though, restored to normal where Airtel company gave us Broadband connectivity to run our Smart TV, computers, mobile and landline phones, very soon, life took a turn towards dysconnectivity yet again, by a move to the city of Hyderabad. We found ourselves temporarily thrown again into a lifestyle of previous century with minimum possessions and no fancy gadgets for our daily entertainment. To live in a rental villa with minimum furniture and large open spaces was indeed a frightening thought.

So, the only hope of connectivity to the digital world of music and TV being the Internet, we lost no time in subscribing to ACT Fibernet with 50Mbps Internet speed. Bit by bit our digital world of entertainment returned to us with live streaming of our favourite internet radio stations on our Smartphone, and TV serials and news channels on our humble Personal computer, enhanced considerably, very soon, by equally humble looking devices.

Indeed, it is a marvel how the internet and the Smart devices that seamlessly connect to internet and to each other can change our lives and our lifestyles. Internet connected to Echo Dot with Alexa voice recognition service gives an unlimited range of music and a Le-Bose revolve sound-link speaker that seamlessly connects through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, gives an enhanced Surround quality sound from voices playing on PC or Mobile phones. The best part is the ease of carrying these light weight handheld devices to any place or space of our desire. We can enjoy movies on Netflix in our first-floor room where sitting in front of our PC screen, we can control the room’s ambient light – the colour and amount of lighting of Wipro Smart LED, right from the soft touch button of our mobile. Echo Dot Alexa is a delightful companion during our tea/coffee, book reading or short- nap sessions on holidays, which at the smallest instruction plays our choice of music, makes calls to any place we desire, tells us the weather conditions, traffic and any useful information that we want to know.

The ease and flexibility that these lightweight digital devices have given, to enliven our empty living spaces is a big gain over the small compromise on picture resolution and sound quality and occasional dropping of internet streaming, as compared to that on robust large fixed devices.  I eagerly look forward to going back to a 4K, high- quality picture on a 55’ screen and Dolby sound quality music in my Bengaluru home, however, I am also pretty sure I will miss the digital entertainment world that the small devices created and brightened the otherwise open and banal vacant spaces of our Hyderabad home.

 

The Future of HIV in India: dismal or bright

India and other developing countries of Asia and Africa may see a rise in HIV cases in coming years. In a breakthrough finding by the only research lab in India doing research on HIV C pathogens, which needs to be confirmed with few more rigorous experiments, scientists fear an onslaught of HIV in near future.

The head of the program and emeritus scientist Prof Ranga Udaykumar of JNCASR, Bengaluru, said that the C variety of HIV which is specific to India, China and part of the African population has a natural propensity to change into new variants. The root of the problem of the emerging new variants is identified as the promoter (DNA sequence) in the HIV C family gene. The promoter in C family is quickly changing and getting stronger with capability to make more and more viral proteins that in turn are making them resistant to all medications.

A seemingly super intelligent virus, with some brilliant design strategies, HIV C has unlike other viruses a single promoter that controls an entire range of gene expressions with any important change having an impact on the entire viral pathology. The variant property is also manifested in Tat protein in C virus, which is instrumental in lesser incidents of dementia in HIV infected people in India as compared to that in Caucasian population.

The new discovery has baffled the scientists yet again who have for long battled to understand the genetic code of the HIV C family that is causing more than half of global HIV infections. The study is a collaboration of AIIMS, St John’s medical college Bengaluru, YGRK Chennai, National Aids centre Pune with 800 HIV infected samples from patients who were not administered with any drugs. The study has also added to their puzzle of understanding the software code or virus algorithm responsible for the unique viral transcriptional silencing property by which the virus completely switches off after infecting and activating the immune system.

The unique property of the virus which is more pronounced in C family makes one cell active and keeps itself silent in the other cell. Multiple proteins come together and make daughter virus which inactivates the cell defence machinery by targeting the CD4 white blood cells, before making more of itself. With the emerging new variants this proliferation is much more in C family as compared to other families which the scientists fear to be of extensively drug resistant varieties.  It could then have a direct impact on HIV treatment too. The ART (Antiretroviral therapy) that is currently the only drug available for HIV patients may have to be administered for life.

For aforesaid reasons the focus of research which was till recently on vaccine development worldwide is now shifting slowly to understanding of virus software code and the emerging drug resistant variants.

“The problem in India is of funding. The government funding is too dismal. Where there is all the money and the lab there is no C virus and where there is C virus there is no money. So far, all the research has been focussed in the western world, towards understanding only B variety.  Sadly, in India there is no philanthropy funding too,” laments Prof.Uday kumar who pioneered the research on C virus in India.

The Tech Buzz

The yearly technology event CommunicAsia, Broadcast Asia, EnterpriseIT2015 was back in Singapore recently. The 4 day event was held in Marina Bay Sands between 2nd to 5th June. Over the years the scale of the event has grown considerably and changed venues with the latest covering five floors in the MBS Convention centre. For the past couple of years some free programs have been included for the public. Technology tours and lectures by industry experts are some of the popular ones. It is an easy way for the general public to get acquainted with latest technologies and actually see the demos in many booths on display.

Smart home related technologies have been around for a few years now. But this year smart techs displayed covered an entire range of home appliances and devices across every part and aspect of home like LED lighting to curtain drawing. Other than Smart technologies what a visitor took away as this year’s buzz was the cloud services and internet of things in the enterprise related technologies. Among those displayed in the BroadcastAsia technologies that saw the maximum crowds was the TV everywhere  zone which basically is about monetization of OTT (Over the top) content for multi-screen viewing and for devices on the move.

It is evident that what was envisioned on papers as a research topic a few years ago has now mushroomed into a host of applications with the bottom-line reason being that the devices can now connect to the internet faster than ever through technologies like Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G. The whole idea of smartness which was till few years ago limited to smart handheld devices and Smart TVs today spans the entire spectrum of the consumer, health and industrial electronics based technologies. The small  embedded chips have made entry into our lives in unimaginable ways through every sort of device, tools or even wearables acting like sensors and providing unlimited data for analysis. The new technologies have spurred some builders including the HDB to announce building of smart homes as part of the drive towards making Singapore a smart nation.

The IOT or the internet of things which is essentially the collection of data (Big Data) through sensors in industry environment with a centrally managed cloud is believed to be waiting for a second wave to become widely accepted if only its business model could add more functional value to the devices at a radically lower cost with real privacy. If cloud services is decentralized the enhanced functionality of devices could create a new market place and a new economy of things.

The increased connectivity and connected devices is central to the players in OTT market too who are trying to make money by producing the right digital content for the right device also known as second screen content. The deployment of 4G(LTE) mobile networks in recent years has enabled a higher bit rate with increased streaming speeds for viewing on smart devices like I-phone and I-pad. Since the full rollout of Digital Transmission(DVB) is yet to catch up in many countries, and traditional broadcast networks not being ready to support for the much hyped 4K UHD, OTT networks provide alternative channels for 4K content delivery for the broadcasters. Broadcast- IP broadband integration technologies are thus the in thing to take care of the changing consumer behavior with regards to on -demand and anywhere and everywhere of the viewing content. This has opened up a range of possibilities for tech companies for leveraging their expertise in content management.