Man-machine interaction will take dramatic turn in 2020

Published: December 30, 2019 12:58:16 PM

Electric vehicles and harnessing renewable energy are some of the obvious asks but certainly not low-hanging fruits— much challenged as they are due to inadequate infrastructure.

Electric vehicles and harnessing renewable energy are some of the obvious asks but certainly not low-hanging fruits— much challenged as they are due to inadequate infrastructure.

By Debjani Ghosh 

In India, tech adoption is a little different from, say, US or China. Whatever propagates here will be a function of affordability and accessibility and of course, quality cannot be compromised upon. Bearing these in mind, let me attempt to draw the Indian tech landscape for the next 12 months (indicative only).

Voice-based conversations

Under conversational AI there are predominantly two categories—chatbots and voicebots. Chatbots are already mainstream and have undergone rapid shifts through two waves (initially rule-based, functioning in a closed environment to large-scale AI-powered adoption across verticals and horizontals). Comparatively, bots that accept voice as input are still nascent. Natural language processing enables machines to understand human language, extract specific terminologies with context, identify sentiments (positive /negative) and automate translation from one language to another. This is the game-changer and is under way.

IDC says smart speakers’ sales will grow at 32% CAGR during 2017-22. It’s a major driver already in voice-based searches across the world. In India, 51% of internet users (tips China’s 49% even) use voice-based functionality (across devices). It will further drive digital literacy in India for the next set of 300 million users who may be underprivileged from a literacy standpoint. As the preferred first-line of interaction in the future, even the government can communicate with users, once regional languages are enabled. Use cases such as filling forms, educational support to children and empowerment of the visually-impaired, are foreseen.

Cloud computing – catalyst to a trillion-dollar digital economy

Nasscom studies indicate that over a five-year period, starting in 2018, cloud spending (India) will grow at 30% CAGR. By that count, it should be a shade lower than $4.5 billion by next year-end. More aggressive market sentiments may even take it upwards of $5.1 billion.

Distinctly, as part of cloud offerings, and driven by a need to cut down fixed costs, yet accessing the best in breed software, SMBs and startups are looking at SaaS adoption with greater zeal. Beyond domestic growth and buoyed by worldwide trends, we will also capture a bigger share of the global market. Actually, 70% of SaaS revenues earned by Indian players, come from other geographies—the US leads the pack. In India, information technology, e-commerce and media industries will continue to spend on cloud. Many players have been born-on-cloud and have a cloud-only strategy. The “matured” verticals (cloud adoption standpoint) are moving both new and existing workloads to the cloud. Whereas verticals such as banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), and logistics are doing so with the new workloads only, that is easy to migrate.

Urban mobility—Expect a dramatic turn

NCR, between the years 1981-2011 had a population increase of 2.3x. Guess how much was the area of expansion? Only 1.1x times! This means the population density grew by 2.1x over a 30-year period. I can tell you, things have gotten worse in the last eight years. The massive influx of population from rural to urban will see Indian cities housing more than half of the population (by 2030), putting enormous pressure on the quality of life. I can produce tons of data to build a case for unsustainable growth unless we do something right now. Adding to this, are issues related to health, productivity drop (due to traffic jams) and excessive use of fossil fuels (more than 80% of India’s energy consumption). How can we save our cities?

Electric vehicles and harnessing renewable energy are some of the obvious asks but certainly not low-hanging fruits— much challenged as they are due to inadequate infrastructure. However, in the next 12-18 months there will be increased focus on innovation in MaaS (Mobility as a Service). The goal will be towards comprehensive urban planning, rapid adoption of shared mobility and a push for cleaner mobility (EVs are set to account for 30% of vehicle sales by 2030).

Design Thinking

Paul Rand, a modernist master famously said, “Design is so simple, that’s why it’s so complicated.” The 21st century, in particular, has witnessed a major shift—design has crossed the boundaries of aesthetics alone to now include functionality at the very core of software development. Software developers will have to bear in mind an empathy-led approach where the users’ needs are primary. Technology happens around it.

In India, design thinking is also focused on sustainability, the cornerstone of a circular economy. Even as we optimise on value creation we must remain equally mindful of recoverability and regeneration so as to minimise our carbon footprints. The man-machine interplay will progressively have a stronger influence on design.

It’s always difficult to pick and choose three to four items from a huge laundry list. And, readers may well argue I left out some of the prominent others, such as immersive media, blockchain and robotic process automation (RPA). Surely, that calls for another column.

The author is President, NASSCOM

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