Mobile Payments – Key Lies in Identity

Although speculation at this point I believe that the reason Google has invested in NFC  for payments is specifically because they have a chance to the Identity providers for merchants in a mobile transaction.

Google will soon have the ability to specifically determine the location and contextual information of any user of its Android ecosystem. I am pretty sure the the amount of information google crawls about me : browsing history, location data, search data , photos, videos , they can build a profile about me.

While I am not a banking and finance expert, i believe that the future of mCash, or any mobile transaction leveraging NFC is dependent on the confirmation of the identity. Middle men such as Visa and Mastercard have built an multi billion dollar industry riding on the need for such identity management.

Merchant trusts Visa , as he is absolved of the need for validating the identity of the user transacting with him. In case of the card or plastic money holder , the onus of security of his/her identify has been left to the holder.

Enter providers such as Google, who have a key role in being the transaction channel and also the identity management channel for mobile payments.

In a futuristic scenario of a shopper enabled with a NFC device, Google has a central role in confirming the identity of the the device holder.

When the shopper uses his NFC wallet, Google can then provide the location information , verify the nature of the transaction { if the user purchases something out of the ordinary, google can send an alert via SMS } , broker the transaction between the merchant and the user by providing identity data to the merchant.

Thus at one go, the shopper has confirmation that he/she was present at the merchant location, provided confirmation of the transaction and feel absolved of the need for partnering with a Visa/Mastercard for enabling him to carry plastic money.

The transaction is now simplified by ensuring payment confirmation goes from Merchant to bank for Credit and user to Bank for debit. All the while google enjoys tracking transactions across billions of transactions by millions of users.

So I am not disappointed that google has spent research on NFC enabled mWallets or eWallets what ever one may want to call em.

Cheers

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Dropbox for Enterprises – Rehash

Dropbox has been in the news offlate for some wrong reasons but I must commend their business model of ‘Freemium’ to attract users. Our team uses dropbox for document collaboration and we often come to the event horizon of the size limit of the account. While we are currently evaluating the necessity of upgrading to ‘Dropbox for Teams’ our current method of usage has reached roadblocks.

I have recommended Dropbox to a large number of users and hence I did receive about eight gigabytes of storage space courtesy ‘referrals’ but other members of my team are grappling for storage as their accounts are still 2 gigabytes worth. Our current method involves one person sacrificing their account to be the common ‘folder account’. The user has then created a common folder that has been shared across the team.Now here comes the problem : Dropbox creates a folder of equal size in all the user accounts.Lets say folder ‘Fun’ has grown to 2.5 Gb then it will become the same in all the users who are sharing the folder.

At this juncture we did reach out to Dropbox for pricing on their ‘Dropbox for Teams’ and it was amounting to a staggering 1500 USD/yr for 30 users. Although competitively priced against other similar services but it was not an amount we were willing to spend on a external service. This is where I got thinking.

How can Dropbox make inroads into Enterprises who need this technology but have painfully limiting security concerns?

The answer lied in ‘Dropbox in a box’. Although a cheesy term for what I am proposing. It involves providing rack mounted single unit server connected to a storage device either SAN or NAS provided as a box that can be deployed internally behind Enterprise firewalls. This delivery method solves both the access and the security considerations that will creep up when they might pitch to large enterprises.

Although I might be naive in assuming that they would not have thought about it but still I am happy that years of working in Enterprises trying to justify development or acquisition of new technologies to security teams I have learnt the middle ground of approaching them.

tl;dr 

“Dropbox in a box”: a rack-mounted server unit with SAN/NAS storage deployed behind the enterprise firewall with the proprietary software and services installed

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Information Gluttons

We have come to  the pinnacle of the celebration of partial attention deficiency disorder : A trait much valued in the new web2.0 age.

But what amazes me is the creation of a new breed of people who I would call. “Information Gluttons” : People hyper addicted to gathering and storing knowledge in the mega terabyte human grey cells.

They are constantly on twitter following messages with wanton craze.They are people living in and  on facebook and  whose page refresh actions causes Facebook Inc to ever  increase server capacity .They are people following blogs and wikis with absolutely no regard for context or quality of content they read.They are people who celebrate their knowledge of almost everything and sometimes do fail to recognize the significance of 42.They are people who can watch the screen, type an sms and listen to music all at the same time.

These breed of people have previously been classified as “Web workers”  or ” Knowledge workers”

But are they really working? Can they continue this crazy notion of gathering all information on earth?  Can they survive the storage of all that information?

They can cause I am one of them .

Posted in Life and Work | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Measurement of tangible benefits of Social Km platform

Enterprises across the world are deploying  social km platforms in their quest for enabling ‘facebooks’ and ‘linkedins’ within their companies.While it has become simple to justify deployment of a km platform a common question raised by senior management is to determine ways to quantify benefits accrued by the deployment of a social km platform
Ganesh a colleague  has defined that measurement of success is not an offline activity but dependent on measurement of live engagement metrics that provides a constant view of KM effectiveness . For instance  some examples are
(a) Meantime between question and answer
(b) Net RoI of ideas implemented
(c) Average number of searchs per user to locate content
In addition to that I believe that certain offline parameters also aid determination of effectiveness of a social km platform. They are as given below
1. Connection density : Measure number of bidirectional connections across various level. For example i follow you, but only when you follow me can we consider there is additional value generated . We would need to understand whether km champions act only as mouthpieces or whether they are participating within the community. By splitting measurement of connection density across designations and levels we can determine the true extent of collaboration.
2.Trackbacks/Pingbacks/References : In a content aware platform like Knome how many reference links , trackbacks are generated. This measures  usefulness of the content
3.Content and Search relevance : Influx of data allows for relevant search results and suggestions. Many KM platforms also have “suggested content” feature that recommends similar content to a user. When the system reaches a critical mass then the search results and the suggested content are most relevant .This is very much like the search results offered by Google in 2007 to the results offered today.
There are certain other key sociological patterns that I will cover in subsequent posts
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Open Vs Closed Innovation

I had participated in a recent K Community Event at TCS , Chennai. There was an interesting change in the event calendar. A debate on “Closed vs.. Open Group Innovation” was included imho for the first in a K Community Meet. I was to defend Closed Innovation. Although I was filling in for another gentleman, my initial thoughts were to surrender to the winning side of the debate and prepare to be hammered on every point I could possible conjure to defend ‘Closed Innovation’.

Research into the topic brought out a lot of interesting points that I wish to share in this post. This post is divided into two parts, a description of my defense and the second a brief light on the innovation model , that I believe makes sense in the Web2.0 world.

Closed vs.. Open

Closed Innovation Model serves as a catalyst for innovation, considering that many of the greatest inventions either in the product or services space had its beginnings in the vertically integrated model of Closed Innovation.

The greatest example of a Closed Innovation Model is the company at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Working behind veils of secrecy and the occasional ‘strategic leak’ , Apple has delivered some of the greatest products in the the technology industry. The proponents of open innovation model do agree that Apple ‘s success lies in an innovation model that is ‘Closed’ yet conducive for openness. The single maniacal direction enforced by Steve Jobs and the radical internalization of all branches of product development had brought out coherent products.They have managed to avoid ‘featuritis’ plaguing many ‘Open’ products.

The focus of my argument is the problems within open innovation.The very concepts of Open Innovation can in certain situation be its Achilles heel.

Open Innovation is primarily one sided with large corporations feeding of smaller companies. The greatest proponents  of Open Innovation P&G,IBM are some of the examples of this nature of relationship.

Since Open Innovation is open coming in , it can also be open going out. This effect is offset by companies finally acquiring their partner companies. Spate of Googles acquisitions or the recent purchase of Siri by Apple goes to show how the status quo can be affected if the parent companies perceives a possible threat or augmentation.Somehow this actions make it seem Open Innovation primarily works with ‘suppliers’ .

Open Innovation can lead to many conflicts over IP , conflicts of monetization , direction of Innovation and also revenue share unless iron clad agreements are in place.Risk Sharing also become contentious. In a world of increased violations and decreased cost of litigations the very partner relationship can be the ‘reserve salient’ for Open Innovation models. In a partner ecosystem model that depends on increased cost of collaboration between the stakeholders , there is a greater element of management overhead and also perceivable loss of flexibility.

Another key characteristic of open innovation is that for the innovation process to be defined ‘open’, the research/researcher must have the ability to evaluate and integrate knowledge { both tacit and documented}. This leads to significant investment in the R&D stage while performing the integration activities.

In summary, the best possible Innovation Model, that is interestingly being defined as the ‘Hybrid Model’ , is for initial stages of Innovation to follow the Closed Model, wherein a core object can be delivered and before the development reaches a stage of glut, the model to be opened up. Taking a lesson from Eric S Raymonds ‘Cathedral and the Bazaar’ this Hybrid model brings in the best of both models.

As a side note it is interesting to note that the innovation model came to be classified as Open vis a vis Closed only after a seminal book by Henry Chesbrough . Prior to that it was plain ol R&D.

Open Innovation Model

The second part of this post is to bring out a model of Open Innovation which I believe sums up the nature of innovation successful companies in the Web2.0 world are able to leverage to deliver outstanding products/services. In my research on Closed vs.. Open Innovation models I had come across the definition of Open Innovation model summed up in the following diagram.

Image courtesy; http://www.business-strategy-innovation.com

While it sums up the concept of open innovation it does not account for the increasing amounts of Agile Development and Customer feedback that is being incorporated by companies such as Apple, Google. The ‘ Perpetual Beta’ model has not been captured  in the above definition of Open Innovation.

Companies like Apple are famous for not looking at the ‘Hype cycles’ or ‘ Market Analysis’ yet they have their ears on the ground listening to customers. Customer feedback loops are becoming a part of the Innovation Cycle.

OpenInnovation

This new model incorporates the feedback from  users/customers in the beta development mode.The feedback described in this is what is gathered from the customers/users after they experience the  prototype/concept. This feedback loop ensures that the development process is kept in check with relevant controls in place.

Thus hybrid model ensures that companies can be agile in the increasing open globalized world.

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Effort Estimation

This is going to be a very short one . Primarily a LOTD [ Link of the Day] post.

Do take   a look at this link http://makingitbigcareers.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/avoding-software-project-overruns-watch-the-ratio/ for a simple guide for estimating software development effort.

For those not willing to brave another mouse click. The following is a summary of it

Coding Estimate = Ask your developer to give his best estimate for pure coding effort

Design and spec = 2 x coding estimate

Function and integration test = 1.5 x coding estimate

System test = 1.5 x coding estimate


Its interesting i stumbled on this link, because the previous day was spent trying to get effort estimation for a project from a team, who previously had not interacted with me.

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Incentives and Motivations Part 2

Incentivization is a surprisingly touchy subject. End of every fiscal gets employees grumbling on the topic of salary, raise and motivation. I must confess  I  am not oblivious of the resounding impact of necessities driving work and passion.Companies generally resort to ostentatious rewards mechanisms to motivate employees. The power of a bonus is not lost on anyone. But these rewards , imho, generally force the employee to limp from bonus to bonus to motivate him/herself.

Researching on this topic , albeit its a pretty old one that I had touched upon couple of years back,  I have come across a general acceptance in thought leaders and the blogosphere,that measurable rewards and incentives  are generally failing. Some articles can be found here, herehere and here .

Do take a look at this video http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html .A Universitity of  Florida IFAS Extension has go so far as to categorize the various motivators at workplace for various generations [ Small write up can be seen at this location ]. Classifying motivators and incentives under requirements for “Baby Boomers”, “Gen X”, and “Gen Y” and the new “Smart Mob-Digital Native” generation has been an interesting readup, the details of which I will share seperately.

Fundamental nature of deploying a rewards mechanisms is different for different audiences. A common strategy cannot be used for motivating “Internal Customers” and “External Customers”. Needs of an “Internal Customer” largely differ vis-a-vis an “External Customer”. Shifts in the work culture of people are forcing employers to radically alter the way they reward and motivate employees. Impact of technology , the internet , telepresence and cloud computing have fundamentally shifted the way people work. Access to information , that previously a privy of  “Knowledge Silos” , has changed the nature of work. Today the ability to  understand business, function in teams, lead a process change, co-ordinate knowledge sharing is also being measured along with the ability to churn code or solve problems.

Whereas enough has been said and done to understand how rewards and motivation can affect so called “white collar” employees I am yet to discover an study on alternative rewards/incentive plans for “blue collar” work. A direct translation of work to money is important for work in those categories. Bonuses, gifts, banners and titles seem to the most successful way of motivation in that work category.

I wish to understand the impact of different Incentive plans for blue collar employees on a case study. The example taken was something driven out of experience and in no way does represent the general nature of the work.

I have visited a  a location in Chennai two times for some random events.Its pretty far from where I stay . Lets take the name of the place as X. At a strategic location at X is a franchise of a popular chain of restaurants. The restaurant H offers free parking to all its customers. To continue with my work at X ,I  generally park at H and travel on Foot. Whilst I agree its generally unprofessional to do so , I am guilty and try not to do that often, I am yet to encounter any resistance against my actions and the security has a general  nonchalant attitude to Bike Parking.

I definitely perceive a loss of business for hotel H , lack of parking directly translates to loss of a customer at least in Chennai. I was wondering if the following incentive mechanisms will help them tide this menace.

Method 1 : Charge a flat parking rate collectible from all entering the hotel parking.

Pros : Increased Revenue to Hotel , Increased salaries to the Security to enforce this extra burden

Cons : General aggravation of Customers who would have to shell out parking charges in addition to food, The non customers would be happy shelling out a parking fee to avoid burden.

Method 2 : Charge a High Fee for Parking , and waive on production of a bill . A flavour of this is already in place of stores with surplus parking. The difference is that a portion of the default payments would be given to the security .

Pros : Prevention of NonCustomers parking in the premises, High return rate on parking.

Cons: Extra effort of the Security in co ordinating this effort. overheads and admin costs.

Method 3 :Incentivize the Security to discover fraudulent parking .

Pros : This method gives direct benefit to the Security Staff

Cons : The ambiguous nature of discovering fraud would lead to inconvenience to customers who would be exposed to “bright ideas” of the Security Staff in discovering fraud.

So what would be the best way forward for the Establishment

While the case study is not directly related to my research on motivation for Blue collar work , the solutions and view points offered will help analyse the right direction to progress

Looking forward for an engaging discussion in the comments

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Will VoIP beat Voice?

Recent quest for a good way to talk to people in the US got me researching on the best Voice/VoIP connection for calls to the USA. Arguably call to the US is the most popular ISDN service that indian Cellular service providers offer to customers. Standard rates vary from  Rs 5/- to Rs 6/- { Variance from different service providers}. But it was still not attarctive for me to make voice calls to the USA. A priori they did not offer ,what is defined as , unlimited service to a number in the USA.

In many ways more , I was not compelled to take up Voice Services to make ISDN calls as I had the internet at my disposal. Ubiquity of internet where ever I usually am made me opt for VoIP services.

On tweeting about possible contenders I got some names. Wont go into details of the name search but will shed some light  on few at least from an India centric view.

Skype :

Skype is an incumbent in the VoIP players. To me seems the most popular service that is currently available. Great Codecs, allows for perfect calls to the US even on 144 Kbps Tata Indicom Data card.

The pricing model is slightly higher than other players in the business, but for the service offered its reasonable. With recent developments in the legal front , one should see good developments in terms of the technology.

The only scary part is that its up for sale and when companies go into sale mode, its either make or break for the customers.

 

Voxxox

Pretty good competitor to to Skype and has an awesome dialer, along with some great. They are offering great prices, but the hidden * symbol is what always scares me. Their Fair Usage Policy is also limiting.

Neverthless an interesting watch.

 

Will Voice services be relevant in the age of Fring,Skype etc. With hyper connectivity available everyone one must wonder if the age of VoIP is coming to obliterate the simple Voice Services.

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Whattay Fun !! Miiind It :-D

My Blog has experienced drought of posts from. Although I can quietly say I can attribute it to my activities in Twitter or on Facebook , I still feel I will do injustice to events of Today if I do not write a  post about it

Chance visit to Satyam , brought me to buy tickets to the Thursday Blind Date show, And what do I get ,

Preview show of the most discussed film of this Season    Quick Gun Murugan.

I will not dedicate the rest of the post for the story of the movie . { Shall leave to others to give their valuable comments on the plotline }

QGMG is what I deem a celebration of the Stereotypical Parody. It presents a interesting juxtaposition of Opposites.

An Actor from the state of Andhra Pradesh playing the lead, a Vegetarian Cowboy , a protector of cows , Lola Kutty and of  Dabbawala Annnie  Quick Gun Murugan { Check out his intro Philosophy of Earth , Sky and the Elements  ROFL} from Tamil Nadu

An Actor from the State of Tamil Nadu playing his Nemesis, An unscrupulous villain , a stereotype Rice Plate Reddy { Nasser at his full flow, Hilarious} from Andhra Pradesh.

Overall its set in aaamchi Mumbai { Matunga and Chembur Juntaaa, this is for ya }

Over and above all its been produced by Fox and the Director is from somewhere else.sorry Shashanka could not google your location.  { Talk about a Global Mashup } .

You seen me mention South Indianisms and a Bollywood director and you might be like .Here we go again a typical Bollywood impression of South Indianism . { Man  Sharukh , you may have gone overboard in Om Shanti Om , but you did deliver the brilliant Idea to the writers of this Film }.

This film is unapologetic in its celebration of mannerisms and the language that makes Tollywood, Kollywood and Mollywood so wonderful.

The actual and proper usage of Tamilz , the unfettered gravity defying stunts over Coconut trees, the absolute misuse of Bullet time and the glorious tributes to the Gun Slinging ability of all thalaivars Rajni and Vijaykant , wonderful portrayal of Mallu Kuttis ;-).

<Sample>“If you think you are Lightning ,  I am 250 Volt Current , I SAY”</Sample>

A glorious dedication to the fascination of Indians for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wonderful Cameos by Vinay Pathak, Sandhya Mridul and Ranvir Shorey will have you in splits.

Kudos and my Bows to the Script writers who have made this film a great benchmark for Parody and Imagination.The Intro scenes will have you rolling on the floor { Mind it}.

The underlying film is so abstracted and beautiful that it is what we call in the IT Parlance  “Actor Agnostic” { Meci beacoup Karteek }, but i think no other actor could have done more justice . There are enough revenge drama, Maa scenes and tillation to keep the average film goers interest piqued through the entire length of the movie.

All in All , I had humongous amount of fun and one film I  absolutely not regret watching in Theatre. For all you cheapskates { Includin me 😉 } do not watch anywhere else except theatre.

I am no Rajeev Masand but here’s my Ratings

Plotline : 8.5/10

Direction : 9/10

Art and Costume : 10/10

Script/Screenplay :9.5 /10

Rollicking comedy ingrained in the film : 20/10

in a nut shell, with a healthy dose of good attitude. one u will possibly carry to a Russel Peters Show

WATCH IT . I SAY !!!

Posted in 2 rupaiiya onTinsel-town | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A small hole in my heart!

The power of tangential learning will be understood by all who have access to the internet and are intrigued by a topic , to such an extent that it will consume all your mind.

It started with me watching “Waltz with Bashir” a film that rightfully should have won an award at the Oscars.

The lack of subtitles in the print that I had managed to obtain kept me searching for the .srt file {subtitles track}. The captivating script of the movie kept me googling stuff on the  7 Day war, the Lebannon conflict , and about who  Bashir was

Movies such as this go a long way in making people bring out the proverbial skeletons hidden inside deep closets.

Its on the  long road down the lanes of history that one can see and feel the horror and misery that man has inflicted on man. Its a sad feeling that man as a species is specifically designed to destroy one another. Makes me  wonder whether we have been created through Intelligent Design like some Virus as the Mr.Smith so eloquently delivers .As  a speculative darwinist I find it hard to believe that a species so capable of greatness , seeks self-destruction as means for sustenance.

Well I think I had enough of learning on a hot sultry chennai afternoon and as with the tradition of this escapist generation I shall gobble down few Groundnut Cookies and some juice.

Posted in Random | 4 Comments