RASA – an Open Source Chatbot Solution

Maruvada Deepti

Ever wondered if the agent you are chatting with online is a human or a robot? The answer would be the latter for an increasing number of industries. Conversational agents or chatbots are being employed by organizations as their first-line of support to reduce their response times.

The first generation of bots were not too smart, they could understand only a limited set of queries based on keywords. However, commoditization of NLP and machine learning by Wit.ai, API.ai, Luis.ai, Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson, and others, has resulted in intelligent bots.

What are the different chatbot platforms?

There are many platforms out there which are easy to use, like DialogFlow, Bot Framework, IBM Watson etc. But most of them are closed systems, not open source. These cannot be hosted on our servers and are mostly on-premise. These are mostly generalized and not very specific for a reason.

DialogFlow vs.  RASA

DialogFlow

  • Formerly known as API.ai before being acquired by Google.
  • It is a mostly complete tool for the creation of a chatbot. Mostly complete here means that it does almost everything you need for most chatbots.
  • Specifically, it can handle classification of intents and entities. It uses what it known as context to handle dialogue. It allows web hooks for fulfillment.
  • One thing it does not have, that is often desirable for chatbots, is some form of end-user management.
  • It has a robust API, which allows us to define entities/intents/etc. either via the API or with their web based interface.
  • Data is hosted in the cloud and any interaction with API.ai require cloud related communications.
  • It cannot be operated on premise.

Rasa NLU + Core

  • To compete with the best Frameworks like Google DialogFlow and Microsoft Luis, RASA came up with two built features NLU and CORE.
  • RASA NLU handles the intent and entity. Whereas, the RASA CORE takes care of the dialogue flow and guesses the “probable” next state of the conversation.
  • Unlike DialogFlow, RASA does not provide a complete user interface, the users are free to customize and develop Python scripts on top of it.
  • In contrast to DialogFlow, RASA does not provide hosting facilities. The user can host in their own sever, which also gives the user the ownership of the data.

What makes RASA different?

Rasa is an open source machine learning tool for developers and product teams to expand the abilities of bots beyond answering simple questions. It also gives control to the NLU, through which we can customize accordingly to a specific use case.

Rasa takes inspiration from different sources for building a conversational AI. It uses machine learning libraries and deep learning frameworks like TensorFlow, Keras.

Also, Rasa Stack is a platform that has seen some fast growth within 2 years.

RASA terminologies

  • Intent: Consider it as the intention or purpose of the user input. If a user says, “Which day is today?”, the intent would be finding the day of the week.
  • Entity: It is useful information from the user input that can be extracted like place or time. From the previous example, by intent, we understand the aim is to find the day of the week, but of which date? If we extract “Today” as an entity, we can perform the action on today.
  • Actions: As the name suggests, it’s an operation which can be performed by the bot. It could be replying something (Text, Image, Video, Suggestion, etc.) in return, querying a database or any other possibility by code.
  • Stories: These are sample interactions between the user and bot, defined in terms of intents captured and actions performed. So, the developer can mention what to do if you get a user input of some intent with/without some entities. Like saying if user intent is to find the day of the week and entity is today, find the day of the week of today and reply.

RASA Stack

Rasa has two major components:

  • RASA NLU: a library for natural language understanding that provides the function of intent classification and entity extraction. This helps the chatbot to understand what the user is saying. Refer to the below diagram of how NLU processes user input.
RASA Chatbot

  • RASA CORE: it uses machine learning techniques to generalize the dialogue flow of the system. It also predicts next best action based on the input from NLU, the conversation history, and the training data.

RASA architecture

This diagram shows the basic steps of how an assistant built with Rasa responds to a message:

RASA Chatbot

The steps are as follows:

  • The message is received and passed to an Interpreter, which converts it into a dictionary including the original text, the intent, and any entities that were found. This part is handled by NLU.
  • The Tracker is the object which keeps track of conversation state. It receives the info that a new message has come in.
  • The policy receives the current state of the tracker.
  • The policy chooses which action to take next.
  • The chosen action is logged by the tracker.
  • A response is sent to the user.

Areas of application

RASA is all one-stop solution in various industries like:

  • Customer Service: broadly used for technical support, accounts and billings, conversational search, travel concierge.
  • Financial Service: used in many banks for account management, bills, financial advices and fraud protection.
  • Healthcare: mainly used for fitness and wellbeing, health insurances and others

What’s next?

As any machine learning developer will tell you, improving an AI assistant is an ongoing task, but the RASA team has set their sights on one big roadmap item: updating to use the Response Selector NLU component, introduced with Rasa 1.3. “The response selector is a completely different model that uses the actual text of an incoming user message to directly predict a response for it.”

References:

https://rasa.com/product/features/

https://rasa.com/docs/rasa/user-guide/rasa-tutorial/

About the Author –

Deepti is an ML Engineer at Location Zero in GAVS. She is a voracious reader and has a keen interest in learning newer technologies. In her leisure time, she likes to sing and draw illustrations.
She believes that nothing influences her more than a shared experience.

Business with a Heart

Balaji Uppili

People and technology are converging like never before, as the world is gripped by COVID – 19. Just a few months ago, nobody could have predicted or foreseen the way businesses are having to work today.  As we were strategizing on corporate governance, digital transformation and the best of resiliency plans to ensure business continuity, no one ever anticipated the scale and enormity of COVID 19.

Today, it has become obvious that COVID 19 has brought about the convergence of technology and humanity and how it can change the way businesses work and function.  While we as leaders have been thinking largely about business outcomes, this pandemic has triggered a more humane approach, and the approach is here to stay.  The humane approach will be the differentiator and will prove the winner.

There is no doubt that this pandemic has brought an urgent need to accelerate our digital capabilities. With the focus on strong IT infrastructure and remote working, workforces were able to transition to working from home, meeting through video conferencing, and surprisingly, this has turned to increase the humane aspect of business relations – it has now become alright for both parties to be seeing children, spouses or pets in meeting backgrounds, and that in itself has broken down huge barriers and formalities.  It is refreshing to see the emerging empathy that is getting stronger with every meeting, and increasing collaboration and communication. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have overlooked the important factor of how it is that people have been showing up to work.  Suddenly it is now more visible that people have equally strong roles within the family – when we see parents having to home-school their children, or having other care obligations, we are viewing their personal lives and are able to empathize with them more.  We are seeing the impact that business can have on people and their personal lives and this is a never like before opportunity for leaders to put our people first.

And with customers being the center of every business, the situation of not being able to do in-person meetings has now warranted newer ways to collaborate and further strengthen the customer-centricity initiatives even more.  It has become evident that no matter how much we as leaders are thinking of automating operations, it is human connections that run businesses successfully. Lots of things have been unraveled – Important business imperatives like criticality of clean workspace compliance, the fact that offshoring thousands of miles away is not factually a compromise, but a very cost-effective and efficient way of getting things done. Productivity has also increased, and work done this far by, has a positive impact of at least 20% or even more in certain situations. As boundaries and barriers are broken, the rigidities of who should work on something and when they should work on it have all become less rigid.  Employees are less regimental about time.  Virtual crowd outsourcing has become the norm – you throw an idea at a bunch of people and whoever has the ability and the bandwidth to handle the task takes care of it, instead of a formal task assignment, and this highlights the fungibility of people.

All in all, the reset in the execution processes and introducing much more of a humane approach is here to stay and make the new norm even more exciting.

About the Author –

Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy, and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music, and visiting temples.

JAVA – Cache Management

Sivaprakash Krishnan

This article explores the offering of the various Java caching technologies that can play critical roles in improving application performance.

What is Cache Management?

A cache is a hot or a temporary memory buffer which stores most frequently used data like the live transactions, logical datasets, etc. This intensely improves the performance of an application, as read/write happens in the memory buffer thus reducing retrieval time and load on the primary source. Implementing and maintaining a cache in any Java enterprise application is important.

  • The client-side cache is used to temporarily store the static data transmitted over the network from the server to avoid unnecessarily calling to the server.
  • The server-side cache could be a query cache, CDN cache or a proxy cache where the data is stored in the respective servers instead of temporarily storing it on the browser.

Adoption of the right caching technique and tools allows the programmer to focus on the implementation of business logic; leaving the backend complexities like cache expiration, mutual exclusion, spooling, cache consistency to the frameworks and tools.

Caching should be designed specifically for the environment considering a single/multiple JVM and clusters. Given below multiple scenarios where caching can be used to improve performance.

1. In-process Cache – The In-process/local cache is the simplest cache, where the cache-store is effectively an object which is accessed inside the application process. It is much faster than any other cache accessed over a network and is strictly available only to the process that hosted it.

Data Center Consolidation Initiative Services

  • If the application is deployed only in one node, then in-process caching is the right candidate to store frequently accessed data with fast data access.
  • If the in-process cache is to be deployed in multiple instances of the application, then keeping data in-sync across all instances could be a challenge and cause data inconsistency.
  • An in-process cache can bring down the performance of any application where the server memory is limited and shared. In such cases, a garbage collector will be invoked often to clean up objects that may lead to performance overhead.

In-Memory Distributed Cache

Distributed caches can be built externally to an application that supports read/write to/from data repositories, keeps frequently accessed data in RAM, and avoid continuous fetching data from the data source. Such caches can be deployed on a cluster of multiple nodes, forming a single logical view.

  • In-memory distributed cache is suitable for applications running on multiple clusters where performance is key. Data inconsistency and shared memory aren’t matters of concern, as a distributed cache is deployed in the cluster as a single logical state.
  • As inter-process is required to access caches over a network, latency, failure, and object serialization are some overheads that could degrade performance.

2. In-memory database

In-memory database (IMDB) stores data in the main memory instead of a disk to produce quicker response times. The query is executed directly on the dataset stored in memory, thereby avoiding frequent read/writes to disk which provides better throughput and faster response times. It provides a configurable data persistence mechanism to avoid data loss.

Redis is an open-source in-memory data structure store used as a database, cache, and message broker. It offers data replication, different levels of persistence, HA, automatic partitioning that improves read/write.

Replacing the RDBMS with an in-memory database will improve the performance of an application without changing the application layer.

3. In-Memory Data Grid

An in-memory data grid (IMDG) is a data structure that resides entirely in RAM and is distributed among multiple servers.

Key features

  • Parallel computation of the data in memory
  • Search, aggregation, and sorting of the data in memory
  • Transactions management in memory
  • Event-handling

Cache Use Cases

There are use cases where a specific caching should be adapted to improve the performance of the application.

1. Application Cache

Application cache caches web content that can be accessed offline. Application owners/developers have the flexibility to configure what to cache and make it available for offline users. It has the following advantages:

  • Offline browsing
  • Quicker retrieval of data
  • Reduced load on servers

2. Level 1 (L1) Cache

This is the default transactional cache per session. It can be managed by any Java persistence framework (JPA) or object-relational mapping (ORM) tool.

The L1 cache stores entities that fall under a specific session and are cleared once a session is closed. If there are multiple transactions inside one session, all entities will be stored from all these transactions.

3. Level 2 (L2) Cache

The L2 cache can be configured to provide custom caches that can hold onto the data for all entities to be cached. It’s configured at the session factory-level and exists as long as the session factory is available.

  • Sessions in an application.
  • Applications on the same servers with the same database.
  • Application clusters running on multiple nodes but pointing to the same database.

4. Proxy / Load balancer cache

Enabling this reduces the load on application servers. When similar content is queried/requested frequently, proxy takes care of serving the content from the cache rather than routing the request back to application servers.

When a dataset is requested for the first time, proxy saves the response from the application server to a disk cache and uses them to respond to subsequent client requests without having to route the request back to the application server. Apache, NGINX, and F5 support proxy cache.

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) Solution

5. Hybrid Cache

A hybrid cache is a combination of JPA/ORM frameworks and open source services. It is used in applications where response time is a key factor.

Caching Design Considerations

  • Data loading/updating
  • Performance/memory size
  • Eviction policy
  • Concurrency
  • Cache statistics.

1. Data Loading/Updating

Data loading into a cache is an important design decision to maintain consistency across all cached content. The following approaches can be considered to load data:

  • Using default function/configuration provided by JPA and ORM frameworks to load/update data.
  • Implementing key-value maps using open-source cache APIs.
  • Programmatically loading entities through automatic or explicit insertion.
  • External application through synchronous or asynchronous communication.

2. Performance/Memory Size

Resource configuration is an important factor in achieving the performance SLA. Available memory and CPU architecture play a vital role in application performance. Available memory has a direct impact on garbage collection performance. More GC cycles can bring down the performance.

3. Eviction Policy

An eviction policy enables a cache to ensure that the size of the cache doesn’t exceed the maximum limit. The eviction algorithm decides what elements can be removed from the cache depending on the configured eviction policy thereby creating space for the new datasets.

There are various popular eviction algorithms used in cache solution:

  • Least Recently Used (LRU)
  • Least Frequently Used (LFU)
  • First In, First Out (FIFO)

4. Concurrency

Concurrency is a common issue in enterprise applications. It creates conflict and leaves the system in an inconsistent state. It can occur when multiple clients try to update the same data object at the same time during cache refresh. A common solution is to use a lock, but this may affect performance. Hence, optimization techniques should be considered.

5. Cache Statistics

Cache statistics are used to identify the health of cache and provide insights about its behavior and performance. Following attributes can be used:

  • Hit Count: Indicates the number of times the cache lookup has returned a cached value.
  • Miss Count: Indicates number of times cache lookup has returned a null or newly loaded or uncached value
  • Load success count: Indicates the number of times the cache lookup has successfully loaded a new value.
  • Total load time: Indicates time spent (nanoseconds) in loading new values.
  • Load exception count: Number of exceptions thrown while loading an entry
  • Eviction count: Number of entries evicted from the cache

Various Caching Solutions

There are various Java caching solutions available — the right choice depends on the use case.

Software Test Automation Platform

At GAVS, we focus on building a strong foundation of coding practices. We encourage and implement the “Design First, Code Later” principle and “Design Oriented Coding Practices” to bring in design thinking and engineering mindset to build stronger solutions.

We have been training and mentoring our talent on cutting-edge JAVA technologies, building reusable frameworks, templates, and solutions on the major areas like Security, DevOps, Migration, Performance, etc. Our objective is to “Partner with customers to realize business benefits through effective adoption of cutting-edge JAVA technologies thereby enabling customer success”.

About the Author –

Sivaprakash is a solutions architect with strong solutions and design skills. He is a seasoned expert in JAVA, Big Data, DevOps, Cloud, Containers, and Micro Services. He has successfully designed and implemented a stable monitoring platform for ZIF. He has also designed and driven Cloud assessment/migration, enterprise BRMS, and IoT-based solutions for many of our customers. At present, his focus is on building ‘ZIF Business’ a new-generation AIOps platform aligned to business outcomes.

Hyperautomation

Machine learning service provider

Bindu Vijayan

According to Gartner, “Hyper-automation refers to an approach in which organizations rapidly identify and automate as many business processes as possible. It involves the use of a combination of technology tools, including but not limited to machine learning, packaged software and automation tools to deliver work”.  Hyper-automation is to be among the year’s top 10 technologies, according to them.

It is expected that by 2024, organizations will be able to lower their operational costs by 30% by combining hyper-automation technologies with redesigned operational processes. According to Coherent Market Insights, “Hyper Automation Market will Surpass US$ 23.7 Billion by the end of 2027.  The global hyper automation market was valued at US$ 4.2 Billion in 2017 and is expected to exhibit a CAGR of 18.9% over the forecast period (2019-2027).”

How it works

To put it simply, hyper-automation uses AI to dramatically enhance automation technologies to augment human capabilities. Given the spectrum of tools it uses like Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning (ML), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), all functioning in sync to automate complex business processes, even those that once called for inputs from SMEs,  implies this is a powerful tool for organisations in their digital transformation journey.

Hyperautomation allows for robotic intelligence into the traditional automation process, and enhances the completion of processes to make it more efficient, faster and errorless.  Combining AI tools with RPA, the technology can automate almost any repetitive task; it automates the automation by identifying business processes and creates bots to automate them. It calls for different technologies to be leveraged, and that means the businesses investing in it should have the right tools, and the tools should be interoperable. The main feature of hyperautomation is, it merges several forms of automation and works seamlessly together, and so a hyperautomation strategy can consist of RPA, AI, Advanced Analytics, Intelligent Business Management and so on. With RPA, bots are programmed to get into software, manipulate data and respond to prompts. RPA can be as complex as handling multiple systems through several transactions, or as simple as copying information from applications. Combine that with the concept of Process Automation or Business Process Automation which enables the management of processes across systems, it can help streamline processes to increase business performance.    The tool or the platform should be easy to use and importantly scalable; investing in a platform that can integrate with the existing systems is crucial. The selection of the right tools is what  Gartner calls “architecting for hyperautomation.”

Impact of hyperautomation

Hyperautomation has a huge potential for impacting the speed of digital transformation for businesses, given that it automates complex work which is usually dependent on inputs from humans. With the work moved to intelligent digital workers (RPA with AI) that can perform repetitive tasks endlessly, human performance is augmented. These digital workers can then become real game-changers with their efficiency and capability to connect to multiple business applications, discover processes, work with voluminous data, and analyse in order to arrive at decisions for further / new automation.

The impact of being able to leverage previously inaccessible data and processes and automating them often results in the creation of a digital twin of the organization (DTO); virtual models of every physical asset and process in an organization.  Sensors and other devices monitor digital twins to gather vital information on their condition, and insights are gathered regarding their health and performance. As with data, the more data there is, the systems get smarter with it, and are able to provide sharp insights that can thwart problems, help businesses make informed decisions on new services/products, and in general make informed assessments. Having a DTO throws light on the hitherto unknown interactions between functions and processes, and how they can drive value and business opportunities.  That’s powerful – you get to see the business outcome it brings in as it happens or the negative effect it causes, that sort of intelligence within the organization is a powerful tool to make very informed decisions.

Hyperautomation is the future, an unavoidable market state

hyperautomation is an unavoidable market state in which organizations must rapidly identify and automate all possible business processes.” – Gartner

It is interesting to note that some companies are coming up with no-code automation. Creating tools that can be easily used even by those who cannot read or write code can be a major advantage – It can, for e.g., if employees are able to automate the multiple processes that they are responsible for, hyperautomation can help get more done at a much faster pace, sparing time for them to get involved in planning and strategy.  This brings more flexibility and agility within teams, as automation can be managed by the teams for the processes that they are involved in.

Conclusion

With hyperautomation, it would be easy for companies to actually see the ROI they are realizing from the amount of processes that have been automated, with clear visibility on the time and money saved. Hyperautomation enables seamless communication between different data systems, to provide organizations flexibility and digital agility. Businesses enjoy the advantages of increased productivity, quality output, greater compliance, better insights, advanced analytics, and of course automated processes. It allows machines to have real insights on business processes and understand them to make significant improvements.

“Organizations need the ability to reconfigure operations and supporting processes in response to evolving needs and competitive threats in the market. A hyperautomated future state can only be achieved through hyper agile working practices and tools.”  – Gartner

References:

Customer Centricity during Unprecedented Times

Cloud service for business

Balaji Uppili

“Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you.”

Heather Williams

Customer centricity lies at the heart of GAVS. An organization’s image is largely the reflection of how well its customers are treated. And unprecedented times demand unprecedented measures to ensure that our customers are well-supported. We conversed with our Chief Customer Success Officer, Balaji Uppili, to understand the pillars/principles of maintaining and improving an organization’s customer-centricity amidst a global emergency.

Helping keep the lights on

Keeping the lights on – this forms the foundation of all organizations. It is of utmost importance to extend as much support as required by the customers to ensure their business as usual remains unaffected. Keeping a real-time pulse on the evolving requirements and expectations of our customers will go a long way. It is impossible to understate the significance of continuous communication and collaboration here. Our job doesn’t end at deploying collaboration tools, we must also measure its effectiveness and take necessary corrective actions.

The lack of a clear vision into the future may lead business leaders into making not-so-sound decisions. Hence, bringing an element of ‘proactiveness’ into the equation will go a long way in assuring the customers of having invested in the right partner.

Being Empathy-driven

While empathy has always been a major tenet of customer-centricity, it is even more important in these times. The crisis has affected everyone, some more than others, and in ways, we couldn’t have imagined. Thus, we must drive all our conversations with empathy. The way we deal with our customers in a crisis is likely to leave lasting impressions in their minds.

Like in any relationship, we shouldn’t shy away from open and honest communication. It is also important to note that all rumours should be quelled by pushing legitimate information to our customers regularly. Transparency in operations and compassion in engagements will pave the path for more profound and trusted relationships.

Innovating for necessity and beyond

It is said that “Necessity is the mother of invention”. We probably haven’t faced a situation in the recent past that necessitated invention as much as it does now!

As we strive to achieve normalcy, we should take up this opportunity to innovate solutions. Solutions that are not just going to help our customers adjust to the new reality, but arm them with a more efficient way of achieving their desired outcomes. Could the new way of working be the future standard? Is the old way worth going back to? This is the apt time to answers these questions and reimagines our strategies.

Our deep understanding of our customers holds the key to helping them in meaningful ways. This should be an impetus for us to devise ways of delivering more value to our customers.

General Principles

With rapidly evolving situations and uncertainty, it is easy to fall prey to misinformation and rumours. Hence, it is crucial to keep a channel of communication open between you and your customers and share accurate information. We should be listening to our customers and be extra perceptive to their needs, whether they are articulated or not. Staying ahead and staying positive should be our mantras to swear by. The new barometer of customer experience will be how their partners/vendors meet their new needs with care and concern.

Over-communicating is not something we should shy away from. We should be constantly communicating with our customers to reassure them of our resolve to stand by them. Again, it is an absolute must to adjust our tone and not plug in any ‘sales-ly’ messages.

It is easy to lose focus on long-term goals and just concentrate on near-term survival. This may not be the best strategy if we’re looking to stay afloat after all this is over. All decisions must be data-driven or outcome-driven. Reimagining and designing newer ways of delivering value and ensuring customer success will be the true test of enterprises in the near future.

We’re looking at uncertain times ahead. It is imperative to build resilience to such disruptions. One way would be customer-centricity – we should be relentless in our pursuit of understanding, connecting with, and delighting our customers. Resilience is going to be as important as cost and efficiency in a business.

About the Author:
Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him, and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music and visiting temples.

Creating Purposeful Corporations, In pursuit of Conscious Capitalism

Gavs technologies ceo

Sumit Ganguli

More than 8 million metric tons of plastic leak into the ocean every year, so building infrastructure that stops plastic before it gets into the ocean is key to solving this issue,” said H. Fisk Johnson, Chairman, and CEO of SC Johnson. SC Johnson, an industry-leading manufacturer of household consumer brands, has launched a global partnership to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean and fight poverty.

In August 2019, after 42 years of its inception, Business Roundtable,  that has periodically issued Principles of Corporate Governance, with emphasis on serving shareholders, has released a new statement of Purpose of a Corporation. This new statement was signed by 181 CEOs who have committed to lead their companies to benefit all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.  Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., is the Chairman of Business Roundtable. He went on to say, “The American dream is alive, but fraying,” “Major employers are investing in their workers and communities because they know it is the only way to be successful over the long term. These modernized principles reflect the business community’s unwavering commitment to continue to push for an economy that serves all Americans.

Today the definition of corporate purpose seems to be changing. Companies are now focused on the environment and all the stakeholders.  There is a growing ambivalence about Capitalism that only promoted the pursuit of wealth, according to a Harvard Business School survey.

But this is a far cry from when we were growing up in India as youths, in the 1980s. Our definition of personal success was to expeditiously acquire wealth. Most of us who were studying Engineering, Medicine or pursuing other professional degrees, were all looking for a job that would sustain us and support our immediate family. The other option was to emigrate to America or other developed countries, for further studies and make a life here – to celebrate Capitalism in all its glory. 

In India, we were quite steeped in religious festivals and rituals. We attended Baal Mandir and had moral science in school, but the concept of Service, Altruism,  Seva, Sharing were largely platitudes and they were not a part of our daily lives.  There was an inbuilt cynicism about charity and we never felt that when we grow up, we need to think about the greater good of the society. 

And that is where Conscious Capitalism comes in. Instead of espousing Ayn Rand’s version of scorched earth capitalism, “ Selfishness is a Virtue”, or blindly following  Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is good”,  the media, parents, teachers, influence makers could promote and ingrain in all of the youth, students and people at large that there is merit in wealth creation, but it could be infused with altruism. We could celebrate the successful who also share. This could dispel the notion that charity and sharing of wealth is only for the rich and the famous.  

ai automation in cloud computing

America gets criticized for many things around the world, but often the world overlooks that the largest amount of charity and donations have been from the USA.  Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Warren Buffet, Larry Elison of Oracle who has pledged a significant portion of his wealth to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and many others have absolutely embraced the concept of Conscious Capitalism for their corporations. But what would really broaden the pyramid, would be when early entrepreneurs and upcoming executives are also engaged in sharing and giving, and not wait till they reach the pinnacle of success. We cannot expect only governmental initiatives to support the underprivileged. We need to celebrate Conscious Capitalism and entrepreneurs and business leaders who are pursuing their dreams and are also sharing some portion of their wealth with the society.

At GAVS and through the Private Equity firm Basil Partners we are privileged to have been involved in an initiative to nurture and support a small isolated village named Ramanwadi in Maharashtra, through a project named Venu Madhuri (www.venumadhuri.org).  The volunteers involved in supporting this small village have brought success in several areas of rural development and the small hamlet is inching towards self-sufficiency.

Basil Partners along with Apar Industries seed-funded the Midday meal program, (www.annamrita.org)  that feeds almost 1.26 Million school students per day in Mumbai; and have promoted the Bhakti Vedanta Hospital in Mumbai.

These are all very humble efforts compared to some of the massive projects undertaken by the largest of groups and individuals. However, they all make a difference. I truly believe that we need to internalize some of the credo and values that have been espoused by H Fisk Johnson & the work companies like SC Johnson is doing, emulate Azim Premji, Satya Nadella and many others. They are the true ambassadors of Conscious Capitalism and are creating purposeful corporations. 

Smart Spaces Tech Trends for 2020

data center as a service providers in usa

Priyanka Pandey

These are unprecedented times. The world hadn’t witnessed such a disruption in recent history. It is times like these test the strength and resilience of our community. While we’ve been advised to maintain social distancing to flatten to curve, we must keep the wheels of the economy rolling.

In my previous article, I covered the ‘People-Centric’ Tech Trends of the year, i.e., Hyper automation, Multiexperience, Democratization, Human Augmentation and Transparency and Traceability. All of those hold more importance now in the light of current events. Per Gartner, Smart Spaces enable people to interact with people-centric technologies. Hence, the next Tech Trends in the list are about creating ‘Smart Spaces’ around us.

Smart spaces, in simple words, are interactive physical environments decked out with technology, that act as a bridge between humans and the digital world. The most common example of a smart space is a smart home, also called as a connected home. Other environments that could be a smart space are offices and communal workspaces; hotels, malls, hospitals, public places such as libraries and schools, and transportation portals such as airports and train stations. Listed below are the 5 Smart Spaces Technology Trends which, per Gartner, have great potential for disruption.

Trend 6: Empowered Edge

Edge computing is a distributed computing topology in which information processing and data storage are located closer to the sources, repositories and consumers of this information. Empowered Edge is about moving towards a smarter, faster and more flexible edge by using more adaptive processes, fog/mesh architectures, dynamic network topology and distributed cloud. This trend will be introduced across a spectrum of endpoint devices which includes simple embedded devices (e.g., appliances, industrial devices), input/output devices (e.g., speakers, screens), computing devices (e.g., smartphones, PCs) and complex embedded devices (e.g., automobiles, power generators). Per Gartner predictions, by 2022, more than 50% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud. This trend also includes the next-generation cellular standard after 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE), i.e., 5G. The concept of edge also percolates to the digital-twin models.

Trend 7: Distributed Cloud

Gartner defines a distributed cloud as “distribution of public cloud services to different locations outside the cloud providers’ data centers, while the originating public cloud provider assumes responsibility for the operation, governance, maintenance and updates.” Cloud computing has always been viewed as a centralized service, although, private and hybrid cloud options compliments this model. Implementing private cloud is not an easy task and hybrid cloud breaks many important cloud computing principles such as shifting the responsibility to cloud providers, exploiting the economics of cloud elasticity and using the top-class services of large cloud service providers. A distributed cloud provides services in a location which meets organization’s requirements without compromising on the features of a public cloud. This trend is still in the early stages of development and is expected to build in three phases:

Phase 1: Services will be provided from a micro-cloud which will have a subset of services from its centralized cloud.

Phase 2: An extension to phase 1, where service provider will team up with a third-party to deliver subset of services from the centralized cloud.

Phase 3: Distributed cloud substations will be setup which could be shared by different organizations. This will improve the economics associated as the installation cost can be split among the companies.

Trend 8: Autonomous Things

Autonomous can be defined as being able to control oneself. Similarly, Autonomous Things are devices which can operate by themselves without human intervention using AI to automate all their functions. The most common among these devices are robots, drones, and aircrafts. These devices can operate across different environments and will interact more naturally with their surroundings and people. While exploring use cases of this technology, understanding the different spaces the device will interact to, is very important like the people, terrain obstacles or other autonomous things. Another aspect to consider would be the level of autonomy which can be applied. The different levels are: No automation, Human-assisted automation, Partial automation, Conditional automation, High automation and Full automation. With the proliferation of this trend, a shift is expected from stand-alone intelligent things to collaborative intelligent things in which multiple devices work together to deliver the final output. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is studying the use of drone swarms to defend or attack military targets.

Trend 9: Practical Blockchain

Most of us have heard about Blockchain technology. It is a tamper-proof, decentralized, distributed database that stores blocks of records linked together using cryptography. It holds the power to take industries to another level by enabling trust, providing transparency, reducing transaction settlement times and improving cash flow. Blockchain also makes it easy to trail assets back to its origin, reducing the chances of substituting it with counterfeit products. Smart contracts are used as part of the blockchain which can trigger actions on encountering any change in the blockchain; such as releasing payment when goods are received. New developments are being introduced in public blockchains but over time these will be integrated with permissioned blockchains which supports membership, governance and operating model requirements. Some of the use cases of this trend that Gartner has identified are: Asset Tracking, Identity Management/Know Your Client (KYC), Internal Record Keeping, Shared Record Keeping, Smart Cities/the IoT, Trading, Blockchain-based voting, Cryptocurrency payments and remittance services. Per the 2019 Gartner CIO Survey, in the next three years 60% of CIOs expect blockchain deployment in some way.

Trend 10: AI Security

Per Gartner, over the next five years AI-based decision-making will be applied across a wide set of use cases which will result in a tremendous increase of potential attack surfaces. Gartner provides three key perspectives on how AI impacts security: protecting AI-powered systems, leveraging AI to enhance security defense and anticipating negative use of AI by attackers. ML pipelines have different phases and at each of these phases there are various kinds of risks associated. AI-based security tools can be very powerful extension to toolkits with use cases such as security monitoring, malware detection, etc. On the other hand, there are many AI-related attack techniques which include training data poisoning, adversarial inputs and model theft and per Gartner predictions, through 2022, 30% of all AI cyberattacks will leverage these attacking techniques. Every innovation in AI can be exploited by attackers for finding new vulnerabilities. Few of the AI attacks that security professionals must explore are phishing, identity theft and DeepExploit.

One of the most important things to note here is that the trends listed above cannot exist in isolation. IT leaders must analyse what combination of these trends will drive the most innovation and strategy fitting it into their business models. Soon we will have smart spaces around us in forms of factories, offices and cities with increasingly insightful digital services everywhere for an ambient experience.

Sources:

https://www.pcmag.com/news/gartners-top-10-strategic-technology-trends-for-2020

About the Author:

Priyanka is an ardent feminist and a dog-lover. She spends her free time cooking, reading poetry and exploring new ways to conserve the environment.

Keep Calm and Be a Great Leader in a Time of Pandemic

Katy Sherman

We live in scary times. While governments call for social distancing, it becomes more important than ever to stay connected as a community. For many of us the measures around COVID-19 mean we work from home and manage remote teams. While virtual teams are not unusual, today’s situation brings its own challenges. Today it is not only about being remote, it’s about facing fears. We fear for our jobs, our health, our families and friends.

How do we help each other stay productive and connected while we are worried and isolated?

This is what every leader should do to support their teams and help them get through the difficult times:

1) Make sure everybody has what they need to work remotely. Technology goes a long way in creating inclusive collaborative environment. Ask frequently, be prepared to act to resolve issues. Know how to navigate the company to obtain resources through management, HR, and Helpdesk.

2) Mentor team members on time management, especially people who are not used to work from home. Share expectations and establish norms of how to be available throughout the day, and when to go offline. While some people struggle with home environment being too distracting, others find it difficult to disengage at the end of the day and would stay at their desks until late. Give guidance based on the unique needs of each individual.

3) Get into a habit of checking in on people without agenda – have a coffee break together, chat about things not related to work, allow to unwind. Keep your finger on the pulse! Your team members can experience anxiety, be dealing with personal issues or worried about their communities. Some will need time off, or more flexibility than usual to provide child care, buy groceries during sporadic shortages, or take care of family members.

4) Simulate reality through video chats. Being on camera helps us stay focused, engaged in the conversation, as well as look and feel professionally. It also allows to read the non-verbals and better understand the vibe of the conversation. Turn your video on every time you’re in a meeting, this will encourage others to do the same.

5) Take care about yourself! Wash hands, sleep, exercise, go for a walk, drink water. Keep calm. Don’t spread frustration and panic. Remember, people are looking up to you, so lead by example.

I am sure we will get through this as a community. Lead the way and help others!

Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider

About the Author:

Katy is passionate about:

•Leadership and vision • Innovation, technical excellence and highest quality standards • Agility achieved through teamwork, Agile, Scrum, Kanban, TDD, CI/CD, DevOps and automation • Breaking silos and promoting collaboration of Development, Testing and Operations under cross-functional umbrella of Software Engineering • Diversity of personalities, experiences and opinions.

Things Katy does to spread the word:

•Speak at Technology conferences (including as an invited and key-note speaker) • Blog and participate in group discussions

•Collaborate with schools, universities and clubs • Empower girls and women, help them learn about Technology and become engineers