Monday, 14 November 2016


Prime Minister Narendra Modi has banned the use of denominations Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000 in India in a historic decision to curb black money and rising corruption. Here are some apps to use in a cashless India.

Easy Transportation 
Even though debit cards come handy there are  Ola and Uber mobile apps. These online travel booking services can make life easy if you don't have enough cash to travel. OLA also has OLA money which can used to pay for OLA rides and also other vendors like Dominos. 

Buying Daily Groceries
Buy grocery has become a pain as as no one is quite willing to accept Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000 cash. In this regard Bigbasket, Grofers and other apps are useful in buying groceries and all the other stuff to run the daily livelihood. They deliver at doorstep within hardly some 2-3 hours time. The user can directly link their debit card and make online payment for the stuff they buy. Be it fruits, veggies, milk, poultry, these apps can deliver everything. 

Bill Payments
Well, one should always avoid paying bills with cash, standing in long queues, when you can do it online at just a few clicks. PayTM, Freecharge and there are several other online apps are there which are useful in paying any bills be it DTH, the internet or any other. 

Buying Food
Well, you don't need cash to buy yourself your favorite food. Apps like UtraCash, Swiggy and Foodpanda can help in this regard. One needs to do is select restaurants and pay using these wallets. The users need not transfer money to the wallet, and can directly link their card, and the money will be debited directly from the card. 

Entertainment Tickets
BookMyShow and other apps are there which doesn't require you to have cash to book a movie ticket or any event that is happening in your city. You can click on the tickets you want to book tickets for and directly link it to your debit card. Here, go have some fun, and yes, you surely need to cash to travel to the spot.

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Monday, 7 November 2016


Bengaluru-based startup, Ather Energy, has unveiled what is calls ‘India’s first smart scooter’ in the two-day Surge conference. 

Their model - S340 smart scooty has a lithium ion battery pack with a top speed of 72 kmph and a range up to 60 kms. The battery uses the 18650 cell format which is also seen used in Tesla’s Model S electric scooter. It takes 50 minutes to achieve 80 percent charge using the fast charging mode. The S340’s IP67-rated battery pack claims a life cycle of 50,000 kms and a life span of 5-6 years.

The scooty comes with a touchscreen dashboard integrating cloud-based data that helps personalize the consumer ride experience. Some features include a profile-based sign in, on board navigation and pre-configured drive modes. The scooter comes integrated with a S340 mobile app that helps configure the ride and profile preferences. On the touch-dashboard there are touch icons for Bluetooth and Maps. It also shows the time. On tapping the Maps icons, it shows the speed, fuel, and modes like economy, reverse and power. There are options like History, showing the travel history and also lets one mark favorites.

The startup is founded by IITians Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain and has received funding from Tiger Global and Flipkart founders. The scooter will be manufactured in India. The manufacturing unit is in Bengaluru and the production is likely to begin by the end of this year. 

The test rides will begin in the next few months and the company will start taking pre-booking orders in select cities such as Bengaluru, Chennai and Pune.
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Sunday, 6 November 2016


Microsoft Research Asia, Microsoft’s research lab in Beijing, China recently announced the public release of technology called ‘Concept Graph’ designed to help computers conceptualize in a human-like fashion.

For example, consider a problem in natural language processing. Humans do not find sentences such as “animals other than dogs such as cats” ambiguous, but machine parsing can lead to two possible understandings: “cats are animals” or “cats are dogs.” Common sense tells us that cats cannot be dogs, which renders the second parsing improbable. To make computers understand like humans, we need to make them have knowledge about concepts (e.g., persons and animals) and the ability to conceptualize (e.g., cats are animals).

Microsoft Research built a research project called Probase, which is a big graph of concepts which help in this purpose. Probase is built using billions of web pages and years’ worth of search logs. Probase brings 5.4 million concepts to the table, beating other knowledge databases like Cyc, which offers 120,000 concepts. This Microsoft Concept Graph release is built upon Probase.

The public release of the Microsoft Concept Graph and Microsoft Concept Tagging Model are a major development to artificial intelligence systems.The goal of all the connected information is to support text analysis by mixing interpretations with probabilities — this is very similar to the way humans use rapid process of elimination to accomplish the same task.

Future versions will be able to account for what they call “single instance conceptualization with context,” which would essentially mean that words could be connected to denote meaning. Even farther out, the team hopes to solve “short text conceptualization,” even further broadening the  scope of applications within search, advertising and AI.
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Saturday, 5 November 2016


Microsoft has come out with its first ever desktop computer - the Surface Studio. It was launched event in New York where Microsoft also announced its next version of Windows 10, known as "Creators Edition",to be released in Spring 2017.

The Surface Studio has a 28-inch touchscreen display, that Microsoft claims is the thinnest LCD monitor ever built at just 12.5 mm width. It has a "4.5k ultra HD" screen which delivers 13.5 million pixels - or 192 pixels per inch. This is almost 63% more than a 4K television. The Surface Studio has a contrast ratio of 1100:1 and a wide color-gamut that delivers more color than 99% of the world’s desktop monitors.
To interact with the touchscreen, there is also a stylus such as the Surface Pen, or a new hockey puck-shaped accessory called the Surface Dial. Surface Studio's display can easily be moved from upright Desktop Mode into Studio Mode with the "Zero Gravity Hinge".

The CPU is also powerful enough for the latest PC games and virtual reality experiences like HTC Vive. It and supports Xbox Wireless, which allows to connect up to four Xbox One-compatible controllers.It sports a 1080p low-light-capable front camera and stereo 2.1 speakers powered by Dolby Audio Premium, making it ideal for video calls.It also comes with a front-facing infrared camera giving you enterprise-grade security with Windows Hello.

In Desktop Mode, Surface Studio works with a wireless keyboard and mouse, while in Studio Mode the Surface Pen and Surface Dial come into play.The Surface Pen has year-long battery life, 1,024 pressure points and comes in five colors with inter-changeable pen tips.Surface Dial is a new wireless rotational device that claims to offer a faster and more intuitive way to scroll, zoom and navigate, as well as providing customization controls and shortcuts within apps.

The product will provide competition to Apple's iMac and Mac Pro, which have long been mainstays of the creative industries. Pre-orders for the Surface Studio are now already open in the US. It will begin shipping in limited quantities over Christmas, with broader availability to follow in early 2017. There's no word yet on a UK release date, but pre-orders are expected to be announced soon. Microsoft's UK store will be the first place to get the Surface Studio, and if past releases are anything to go by, the device will also be available from high-street retailers soon after.

The Surface Studio will go on sale in the US for $2,999 when it becomes available later this year.
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Wednesday, 2 November 2016


Its seems the sequences of "The Jetsons", the 1962 U.S. cartoon would soon become a reality, at-least in the space flight domain. Uber Technologies Inc recently released a white paper document envisioning a future in which commuters hop onto a small aircraft. It would take off vertically and within minutes arrive at their destinations. The flyers are also expected to become unmanned in the long run.

Uber already offers helicopter rides to commuters in Brazil. The company plans to have a global summit early next year to explore the possibilities of an on-demand aviation, in which small electric aircraft could take off and land vertically. It would reduce congestion and save time for long-distance commuters.

The idea of vertical take off and landing aircraft (VTOL) have been studied and developed for decades by aircraft makers, the military, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration. Uber's also believes that future of transportation is going to be on the skies.

Uber is already exploring driver-less car technology, hoping to slash costs by eliminating the need for drivers in its core business of on-demand rides. On-demand air transport marks a new frontier.

Uber's 97-page vision document says that on-demand aviation will be affordable and achievable in the next decade with an effective collaboration between regulators, communities and manufacturers. 

On-demand VTOL aircraft would be "optionally piloted," though autonomous technology takes over the main workload and the pilot is relied on for situational awareness. In the long run the aircraft will be fully automated.

Hurdles for VTOL include battery technology. Batteries must come down in cost and charge faster and they should become more powerful and have longer life cycles. Regulatory hurdles must also be solved such as certification by aviation regulators. 

Infrastructure also needs to be worked on like more of takeoff and landing sites. Uber plans to reach out to stakeholders within the next six months to explore the implications of urban air transport and share ideas before hosting a summit in early 2017 to explore the issues and solutions and help accelerate urban air transportation.
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Monday, 31 October 2016


In 2012, when Kodak filed for bankruptcy, it was shock for the people across the global. 
Go back 16 years, Kodak was ranked the fourth most valuable brand in the US, behind Disney, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. Whenever people brought camera, Kodak was the first choice. It's only competitor was Fujifilm, which came at a cheaper price, but Kodak was way ahead with as much as 90% market share in the film segment.

The decline of Kodak is fine example of how new technology replaces the old one and if one is not able to upgrade itself with time it lags behind. In the late 90s, digital cameras became cheaper and as such film sales dropped. By the early 2000s, Kodak was seeing downside. Kodak shifted the focus to digital camera market. In 2005, they ranked first in US digital camera sales.
However, digital cameras were easy and cheap to produce and such more players came in. Then came the smart phones which gave cast the final dent to Kodak. As smartphones came in, traditional cameras were losing their existence. Kodak was the most affected and in 2010, they fell to seventh place in camera sales.

The company's financial suffered suffered as it struggled to be in profit. They tried a couple of measure like making inkjet printers, laying off workers and using patent litigation as a source of revenue.They even considered auctioning off their decades worth of patents. Things kept getting worse and in 2012, they filed for bankruptcy. 

Recently, Kodak is in news for the launch its product called Kodak Ektra. It is a new offering with hopes that it would revive the company's fortunes. Ektra is a smartphone named after Kodak's iconic 1940s rangefinder Ektra camera.

Ektra is powered by 2.3 GHz Helio X20 processor and it comes with 3 GB of RAM. It has a non-removable 3000 mAh battery inside and comes with Android 6.0. The Kodak Ektra packs a 21-megapixel primary camera on the rear and a 13-megapixel front shooter for selfies. .The phone has a 5.00-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1080 pixels by 1920 pixels at a PPI of 441 pixels per inch. The phone has a 32 GB of internal storage which can be expanded via a card. It is a single SIM phone which the availability of Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth.Sensors on the phone include proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and an accelerometer. 

It is covered in an artificial "leatherette" material with metal sides. There is a curved grip and dedicated shutter button to give a classic camera-like look. The camera app is integrated a photo editing app Snapseed which allows for swift edits with one tap. There's also a "Super 8" video app that adds vintage-style filters to videos to give in a '70s nostalgia look. The rear camera supports 4K video and a HDR, along with optical image stabilization. 

While the existence of camera's is in question here is a device which has camera as the primary device and calling services as an add on. Its a good choice for the photographers as the phone has photography as its main focus. Undoubtedly, Kodak is banking on its well-known photography branding to help sell this phone and lets hope this works for we don't want Kodak to be forgotten.
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Monday, 24 October 2016


The country's leading car manufacturer, Mahindra and Mahindra has launched the new four-door version of their all-electric 2-door e2o hatchback. Named as the e2oPlus, the car has more space, a faster charging capability and a bigger range than the standard e2o.

The car’s name - e2o plus is an amalgamation of e2o, which stands for energy to oxygen and Plus is for the positive contributions that the car will make in the lives of customers. Like the e2o, the new car's body is also made out of ABS panel. The panel's versatile character helps in moulding it to form a wide variety of products which has helped Mahindra in keeping both the weight of the car and manufacturing costs down.

The fascia has been updated with a new grille which is akin to the Scorpio's. The length of the car is increased by 310 mm to 3590 mm and the wheelbase is up by 300 mm at 2258mm. It comes loaded with features like a GPS enabled navigation system and an on-board computer that warns you about the car's driving range. The touch-screen monitor is easy to use and very responsive. The e2oPlus also gets an SOS feature called revive which is being carried over from the e2o that gives you an additional range of 7-10 km if your battery power dips below 10 per cent. This can be activated by a touch of a button or by using the e2oPlus app on your smartphone. The mobile app also hosts other features like switching on/off the car's air conditioning and even locking/unlocking the car.

The top spec P8 variant of the car has a 3 phase induction motor which is more powerful than the 2-door e2o. It has a peak power of 40 bhp and torque of 91 Nm. The battery has been upgraded. It has a 210ah lithium ion battery which claims a driving range of 140 kilometres and a top speed of 85Km/h. The other variants get a slightly less powerful battery claiming the same drive range of 110 km.A full charge for the e2oPlus takes about 9 hours same time as what 2-door e20 takes to power-up

The slightly softer suspension offers a decent ride but you do feel some of the bumps and potholes occasionally. The rear seat, also the cabin is spacious and offers decent legroom. The car comes standard with 14-inch wheels and power steering as well. The 4.35-metre turning radius is the best in the segment and the automatic gearbox is unchanged from the 2-door variant and gets a boost or sport mode.

This 4-door version is available in 3 variants and price ranges from 5.46 to 8.46 lakh (Ex-showroom Delhi).

The e20plus does suffer from the same challenges that every electric car in India faces. There is still lack of infrastructure to support electric cars in India and barring states like Karnataka, Delhi, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, no other states have announced any kind of incentives for electric vehicles in India. 
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Tuesday, 18 October 2016


With a nominal GDP of $285 billion, Pakistan can expect an investment of $46 billion to be a game changer. Around 30% of the people in Pakistan live in BPL. In such a scenario when China came up with a package of $46 billion during Chinese President Xi Jinping's Pakistan visit in April 2015, Pakistan couldn't have asked for anything more. In a country that been struggling in all fronts - from poor economics to terrorist activities, it is expected that an investment of this scale can work wonders. The Pakistan government which has done nothing over the years has found found Alladin's chirag which has a genie in China.

Why would China invest such a huge amount in Pakistan?
The Gwadar port in Pakistan is where the answer lies. If China connects to this port it will create a presence in the Indian Ocean and also have move closer to the Persian Gulf. This would increase China's presence in the water - making it a two-ocean power.  The CPEC will stretch from the Western Chinese city of Kashgar in the Xinxiang province to the port of Gwadar. It will providing China an access to the Arabian Sea barely 600 kilometre east of the narrow Strait of Hormuz through which passes about 35% of the world’s oil shipments.
If China wants to utilize this port effectively, it has to work on Pakistan’s infrastructure. The package was basically directed towards this objective. China plans to build a rail road and a 125 wide tunnel connecting Pakistan and itself. It also has plans to upgrade the Gwadar airport and a couple of existing highways. In order to boost the energy availability, China has plans to add around 10000 megawatts of power to Pakistan by 2018.
The CPEC would have a significant impact in reducing the transportation costs of Chinese good to Europe. China will also be able to receive the oil from the Persian Gulf at the Gwadar port and pump it to western China through pipelines.
The CPEC includes roads and railways that will pass through Pakistan, Azad Kashmir (PoK) and Baluchistan. It will greatly reduce the distance for Chinese exports to western countries. Trade by CPEC will bypass the Strait of Malacca in Southeast Asia and reduce the distance by much as 2000 miles. China would not have to depend on the US to keep the choke point of Strait of Malacca open because if it get access to port of Gwadar which is hardly a few hundred miles from the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
In future, the CPEC may be used by China to build to the Silk Road Economic Belt and a Maritime Silk Road linking China to Europe and beyond. Though the Gwadar port is being developed as a commercial port, China may turn this into a military port in future and increase its presence in the waters. What this essentially does is that China is able to use a lot of the ground in Pakistan as its territory and use it for its economic benefits.

For Pakistan, it’s like leasing its land for development. It lacks infrastructure and neither has the resources to develop it. They expect the Chinese investments to develop and upgrade its infrastructure and correct its energy shortage. As per reports, Pakistan’s economy loses up to 6 percent of GDP due to power and infrastructure problems. For China to work in Pakistan, it’s very crucial that the country sees development. Otherwise, if the nuclear armed country fails it could become a nightmare for China.
India has always supported development projects in Pakistan which may bring stability and benefits to the region. However, of late the Chinese state media started calling Gilgit-Baltistan a Pakistani territory. The territory is actually a disputed region between India and Pakistan. The CPEC runs through POK which is claimed by India. China is considering this region to be a Pakistani territory not a disputed region. India also has concerns that, in case of India-China conflict, China can quickly move its troops to LOC on the Pakistani side and thus opening another front and creating more pressure on India. Also with China creating presence in Gwadar port, it can create a strategically navel presence in it to encircle India from another front.

Though Pakistan is considering this project to be a game changer, reality is very different. Let's have a look at the true picture. Pakistan would have had some benefit from the projects if the construction of highways and power projects would have been awarded to Pakistani companies. But this has not happening. Even the workers working on the projects are Chinese so no employment opportunity created. Even the raw materials and machinery are imported from China.
It is also doubtful if the infrastructure development would help the industries in Pakistan as there would be high influx of cheap Chinese goods in Pakistan through the corridor once it is complete. It is very unlikely that Pakistani companies would be able to compete with Chinese companies. In the long run, this will lead to the downfall of Pakistani industries.
Pakistan will also not be able to impose import duties on Chinese goods, as these projects have been financed through Chinese loans and China is too big a power for them to take on.
There would be some benefits from the transit fee but that is too less given the fact that the Suez Canal, through which 7.5% of world’s ocean trade passes, generates $5 billion dollar annually.
There would be some positives to the exports but that too won’t have much impact. In the long run, this will be disastrous for Pakistani industries and the economy as whole. China would continue to strength its foothold and this would lead the debt ridden Pakistani economy to more sever condition.

Share your views on #CPEC!!!

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