Is your smartphone really smart?

March 21, 2014

Wikipedia definition of Smartphone is that

Smartphone is a mobile phone with more advanced computing capability and connectivity than basic feature phones.

The image that one gets on looking at a smartphone is not that of computing capability or connectivity but more in terms of the activities one gets to do with – it has effectively replaced a watch, an alarm-clock, music-player, diary and so on. The smartphone also became one with which you could save a lot of data (contact details, messages, videos, songs, etc.). With the advent of cloud, I feel that the smartness has kind-of reduced! Why do I think so? Let me explain.

I have an Android phone and what has happened post that?

  • My contacts have been synced with my Google account.
  • Google Auto-Backup runs regularly to copy all photos and videos to Google Drive.
  • Messages are now synced with Hangouts

While this is good in one way (that I dont lose my data if my phone is lost), I feel then that my smartphone has become more like a browser – an entry-point, nothing more.

Of course, it has all the numerous apps that I can play and browse. For the main reason I bought a smartphone though, there is not much smartness left on the phone though! Agree?


Technology Predictions for 2014

December 23, 2013

Time of the year when we need to look at what will be hot next year. As I tried to do last year and 2012, I will attempt the same exercise for 2014 also. 

  1. Interesting to see that I had predicted Mobile Payments for 2012. I feel that for 2014, Financial institutions will accelerate initiatives on payments on alternate channels (mobiles, tablets, etc.)
  2. Another prediction for 2012 was Analytics. I have a slight change here. Social Media Analytics with the help of Big Data will be in focus for organizations who try to predict customer behaviour better. Acquisitions will be high in this space.
  3. Private cloud adoption will reach mainstream proportions. Even traditional organizations like Banks will increase investment in Private clouds
  4. Data Scientists will increase in their population and organizations will see the requests from existing employees increase for a shift to the sexy job of a data scientist.
  5. Gamification (my favourite) will make its impact in Enterprise – a tool similar to Yammer will make its presence felt.

What do you think? Do you have any other trend that you feel will make a mark in 2014? What is it?

Gaming Infographics

November 6, 2013

Thanks to OnlineUniversities for the graphic below.

The Neurology of Gaming

Bank branches redesigned

September 22, 2013

Branches of banks all around the world are getting a revamp based on the technology upgrades. The primary motive is to save costs while continuing to provide their customers with additional value-added features. After 40 years of branch building, Celent forecasts that the US will witness reduction of 30-40% in the number of branches over the next decade.

Though the new generation likes online features, there are security concerns among many customers as well. The elder generation has a massive bridge towards moving to online features (Banks have been trying to address this aspect proactively)

Let us look at how Banks are evolving their branches:

  • Bank of America spent 2012 remodeling and modernizing 2,000 of its American branches – new features include virtual ATMs, online click to call & online budgeting tools, rooms with video-conferencing capabilities, and more specialist staff members.
  • BNP Paribas has launched a new online bank ‘Hello Bank’ with heavy integration with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The online bank has a team working six days a week to answer queries via chat, email, tweet and voice phone.
  • Wells Fargo launched mini-branches earlier this year.
  • Ukraine’s PrivatBank has tied up with the new trend of Google Glasses
  • Metro Bank to launch drive-through branch – are Banks the new McDonalds?
  • Denmark’s JyskeBank branches have been developed to offer a destination for both customers and the community. ‘Sensory marketing’ allows the comforting aroma of coffee to pervade the atmosphere of branches, where the whole community – not just bank customers – are welcome to use the cafe and leisure facilities
  • In 2010 DBS launched ‘I Designed A Bank’ that invited young people to design their ideal branch. Based on the winning entries, the bank then opened couple of branches to cater to the Next Generation. This year, Barclays has launched a crowdsourcing micro-site called Your Bank, inviting customers to share ideas about how it can improve its service.
  • PNC Bank has opened its first pop-up branch in Atlanta, having consultants who will help customers with more complex transactions and show off mobile and online services.
  • Wells Fargo plans to open a series of technology-packed mini-branches in neighborhoods that cannot support full-sized outlets.

Indian Passport Reissue – Tatkal process

August 16, 2013

This post details my recent experience with the Passport office (and other related government offices) to renew my passport. Hopefully it will help one in a similar situation later on.

I had presented my passport for Schengen visa processing and expected it to come back with the stamping. To my surprise, I received a call from the Consulate stating that the passport has been damaged and they wanted me to come back with a new passport. This was Friday afternoon – no way I could get anything started on the new passport. I did go immediately to receive my passport – the ‘damage’ was the plastic lamination on the first page peeling off ! Must have happened because the passport had been manhandled quite badly (mostly by me and rest by the immigration officials all over while scanning it).

I filed my application online at the website and decided to take the tatkal route the following Monday where one could go with the printout to the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). Since I didnt have any change in the address or name, I thought I had an advantage and so, my process would be completed early. Thus, started my eventful two weeks with the Passport process. Read on!

  • Day 1 – Monday morning at PSK (Lalbagh, Bangalore) saw me standing in a queue at 8am in the morning with a number of folks who wanted a tatkal appointment. When the office opened at 9am, people were allowed inside the office. The first stop was the enquiry counter – 3 were for Tatkal walk-ins while there were 2-3 more for normal applicants. After standing in the queue for almost an hour, my application letter was received at the counter and sent inside for verification. Few minutes later, the person at the counter called my name and gave me the news that he will not be able to give a tatkal appointment since my passport was damaged. Lesson #1 – If your passport is damaged, you cannot apply by tatkal. Getting a normal appointment was futile (next date available was one month later). But, I needed the passport urgently. What else can I do? The staff was very helpful and suggested that I go to the Regional Passport Office at Koramangala to get an approval from the Officer to process further. I dashed off to the office – they took walk-in’s from 930 am to 1200 hours. Though I reached there by 1135, the person at the enquiry counter said that since the application form already had ‘damaged’ written on it, I needed a different copy of the application form. There was no way I could get another print-out in the remaining time (20 minutes) and hence decided to go the next day.
  • Day 2 – RPO – Tuesday morning at Regional Passport Office (RPO) at 8:30 am in the morning where I saw a number of folks already present. Wonder where people are travelling in this economy! I managed to get a darshan of the enquiry counter by 10am where the person asked me to meet the Assistant Passport Officer (sitting in Room 11). The meeting with the officer was quite short where the officer stamped the letter asking the office to process the appointment further. Lesson #2 – please get Form notarized before you take your application form – (Annexure “L”). All annexures are available here.
  • Day 2 – PSK – I had to rush back to the PSK Lalbagh since they allowed walk-ins from 9 to 1130 only (later realized that with the officer’s stamp, they did allow at a later time also). After going through the documents, they realized that my marital status had changed from the last passport! So, I had to get my proof now. Lesson #3 – if anything has changed in your life (change of name, address or marital status), you are better off carrying the proof with you for the walk-in. After getting an agreement from the counter that they will accept me again, I went back home to get the proof. You can sense my frustration increasing but what happened next was very pleasant! The staff had withheld my appointment which meant that I didnt have to wait for long in the queue again and proceeded to go to the different counters A, B, C. This was my first time since TCS had taken over this process and to be fair to them, the business process has been revamped and it shows! Counters that took your photographs, finger-prints were marked A. Once done, we were asked to go to next counter ‘B’ where another person validated all that had been done. Then, it was the last counter ‘C’ where the lady cancelled my existing passport and said that the process will continue to police verification. The status was Normal and not Tatkal! How can I upgrade to Tatkal? I decided to meet the Lead who was walking the floor at the PSK for ideas. He asked me to get police verification done as soon as possible.
  • Day 2 – Police station – I then proceeded to the police station in the evening to meet the person who would help me out for the verification along with a neighbour whose name was provided in the application. To my surprise, the application was available with the police the very evening after the PSK routine was done. But, the process is still not manual. The police had to print out the application and copy details to three other forms manually 😦 Why wasn’t the last mile left out?  Why did the Passport Office not provide that convenience as well? Lesson #4 – Please carry 2 passport photos, ID proof, address proof and copy of your appointment acknowledgement (given by PSK)
  • Day 3 – The Police department was delayed because the Chief Minister was in the locality inaugurating a flower show. The team was busy with the security arrangements and hence, the report was sent later in the day from the local police station. There is an online process as well as a offline copy sent manually to the Commissioner’s office.
  • Day 4 – Status on the passport site showed that the report had been submitted by the local police station and the application was with Police Commissioner’s office for approval. I tried looking at the police site but no update there. I decided to go down to the Commissioner office on Monday if the status did not change. All that I could do till then was to wait!
  • Day 5 – National Holiday (Ramzan) and nothing moved.
  • Weekend and no action – decided not to worry about the status till Monday.
  • Day 6 – Monday morning again. The status changed – passport printing in progress. Decided to go to the RPO to upgrade my status to Tatkal (as per the suggestion of the TCS Lead at PSK).
  • Day 7 – Again, after standing for an hour, got the token to see the Assistant Passport Officer. The Officer asked for urgency proof to process it by tatkal. Lesson #5 – Please carry letter from your organization (if employed) that talks about the urgency for passport. Once done, the Officer asked for ID card from my organization – I didn’t carry it with me and hence that meant another visit to my house. So, Lesson #6 – Please carry your ID card that shows your affiliation with the organization that gave the urgency letter. Next, was the section where I had to pay the penalty (2000 Rs) – counter where there was a big line. After that was the counter where the documents were scanned so that the system updated my application. Once done, I had to meet the Officer at Room No.11 once again. The Officer then called up someone and told him to go ahead for printing. 
  • Day 8 – status on the website changed to Printed and by late in the night, got changed to Passport has been dispatched via Speed Post. There was a mention of Tracking Number but didn’t find it anywhere.
  • Day 9 – National Holiday (Independence Day).
  • Day 10 – Received my passport today 🙂

All in all, it took me less than 2 weeks for me to get my passport reissued. Hope this helps you! Do let me know your experiences if it differed.

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