There is No Fate But What We Make: June 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

MSR IoT Summer School at IISc Bangalore

“Beam me up, Scotty!” said Captain Kirk in the popular TV serial Star Trek. The technology to travel from one place to another instantly is not yet a reality. However, tremendous strides have been made in many areas of science and technology. Driverless cars have started sharing roads with regular cars. People living in remote areas with no medical facilities have started receiving sound medical advice via phones with sensors measuring the patients’ pressure, pulse rate etc. Small, inexpensive and connected sensors are the backbone of these leaps in technologies. Such a network of devices, vehicles and buildings has embedded electronics, software and sensors. It also has network connectivity to collect and exchange data. These schemes are referred to as Internet of Things (IoT).
Microsoft Research and the Department of Computational & Data Sciences at IISc came together to conduct an event on IoT. The event was called MSR India Summer School 2016 on IoT and took place from June 20th to 25th at the IISc campus. It brought together academic researchers, entrepreneurs and students and provided an excellent platform to disseminate information on the research ideas being pursued at Microsoft Research and other companies. The work and ideas presented were cutting edge. Dr. Shaz Qadeer from Microsoft Research presented his work on a novel programming language called P, which is suited for testing sensors and devices, such as an USB device. Dr Rajeev Shorey from TCS Innovation Lab explained how Industrial Internet of Technologies (IIoT) uses IoT to improve industrial manufacturing. Michael Depa, an MIT alumnus, presented the work on Diabetes diagnosis. This is an example of how IoT is improving human lives. Dr. Ranveer Chandra from Microsoft Research explained the networking issues with sensors. He also explained how IoT optimizes how resources are used in an agriculture farm, using a technique called FarmBeats. Although the specific example was applicable to developed countries which have large farm sizes, the problem is extremely relevant to India too since the total farm output needs to double in India by the year 2050. Dr Amarjeet Singh, an entrepreneur at Zenatrix, explained how IoT makes electrical appliances more efficient. In this energy starved world, this is a problem that is crying out for a solution. Zainul Charbiwala from Tricog Healthcare explained how the humble ECG machine is entering the modern era using IoT. The Tricog system has helped over 70,000 patients in south India. Dr Ronak Sutaria narrated his experience on urban air quality monitoring. Dr Ashish Kapoor, from Microsoft Research, explained how machine learning and IoT improves weather forecasting and disaster management in Rwanda. Prof TVS Hari from IISc explained his work on Indoor localization and vehicle classification. Finally, Prof Marco Grusteser of Rutgers University explained how IoT is used for pedestrian safety and also privacy issues with connected vehicle. Additionally, some of the participants presented projects that they did as part of a Hackathon. They were given sensors, electronic components and computing resources. It was an exhilarating experience to listen to the diverse ideas and feel the passion with which they worked on them.
We cannot predict what technologies will be like in the future. However, as is evident from the work and ideas presented during this event, IoT is already improving lives of people.