Share to lead the transformation

In Focus

Mahendra Upadhyay, CIO

Broadcast Audience Research Council

We are skilled at using AI for analyzing troves of data efficiently

BARC India is a statistical and measurement science company which is ‘Of the Industry, By the Industry and For the Industry’.

The company is registered with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) as a self-regulated, not-for-profit Joint Industry Body that provides the most authentic audience estimates of What India Watches, to Broadcasters, Advertisers and Advertising Agencies. The Big Data driven insights generated by BARC India, is built upon a robust and future-ready technology backbone which powers efficient media spends and content decisions in a highly dynamic and growing broadcasting sector.

Commencing operations in 2015, today BARC India manages the world’s largest and most diverse TV measurement system covering approximately187000 individuals in 44,000 households, in 513 districts covering over 600 towns and 1300 villages, across India.

Jatinder Singh of Better World recently interacted with Mahendra K Upadhyay, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India to get in-depth understanding of how BARC has leveraged technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML) and robotics to analyze, predict and process various metrics for driving effective business and customer experience. Excerpts of the interview:

Better World: How have you leveraged the latest technologies and innovations to strengthen credibility, transparency and instill confidence in all stakeholders in the TRP measurement system?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: Our data serves as the trusted “currency” for the Indian broadcast industry. Through this “currency,” broadcasters and agencies make several vital decisions relating to programming, strategy, and audience targeting. Providing the data in usable forms in an unfailing and timely fashion, week on week is highly dependent on technology.

Collecting data from over 44,000 household television meters and 15,000+ individuals’ digital meters daily while integrating with massive databases and alternative data sources requires the data to be stored safely, scalably, efficiently, accessible, and cost-effectively. The kind of data BARC India collects, compiles, and provides insights for is a brilliant example of the 5Vs of big data – Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity, and Value. BARC India processes ten petabytes of data annually, larger than the Aadhar Card database’s data size and the US Census Bureau.

With this large and variable data, extensive use of the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies is required to minimize human intervention and extract and represent the information accurately as per the prescribed methodology.

We have set a strict standard for releasing our clients’ data, doing so diligently every Thursday at 11 am. Performance, improvements, quality, and consistency are few parameters we experience and implement each passing day – without a firm Information and technology framework, this would not be possible.

Besides, we have deployed and enriched Lambda (λ) architecture that utilizes cloud services (Native & Custom) and on-premises data center capacities. An in-house created Enterprise Data Lake (EDL) helps end-to-end Data Validation Processes (DVP), fully automated, removing any human intervention. In addition to this, the application framework learns system patterns to help us identify areas for improvement.

Better World: Can you please elaborate more on AI and ML technologies to strengthen business resiliency levels and navigate the disruptions?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: At BARC India, rather than serving as a replacement for human intelligence and ingenuity, we use AI as a supporting tool. We are skilled at processing and analyzing troves of data efficiently to generate the insights needed by our clients.  This way, we use AI to help get the best-required output and streamline the decision-making process.

BARC India has eliminated human intervention end-to-end in the data validation journey. All admin access on the system and the data is via Identity and Access Management and activity recording.

We prefer networks rather than hierarchies. BARC India has created cross-technology groups to share knowledge. To ensure that our systems/networks and applications are robust and mitigate process lapses, we regularly undertake third-party audits.

To generate authentic and accurate data of ‘What India Watches™’ is a responsibility we take with the highest sense of commitment and integrity. Also, we are implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to do the daily repetitive operational jobs, not only in the Tech stream, but we are experimenting with it across the organization.

Better World: How do you prevent data tampering in your business?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: To generate authentic and accurate data of ‘What India Watches™’ is a responsibility we take with the highest sense of commitment and integrity.

Mahendra K Upadhyay, CIO, BARC India

Mahendra Upadhyay is a senior management professional in digital, data and technology space; presently working with BARC India as Chief Information Officer. Mahendra comes with 20 years of rich experience in telecom, banking, retail, media, and advertising industries with expertise in the entire data/digital value chain, i.e., ingestion-insights-analytics-interventions-auto AI and digital transformation.

Mahendra Upadhyay has previously worked with multinationals such as Mindshare, Ericsson, SAS Institute, among others.

Expertise

  • Digital transformation and automation
  • Digital marketing, marketing automation and measurement
  • Consumer Insights, interventions and advance analytics
  • Big data analytics, business intelligence (AI/ML)
  • Data/process management, security and governance
  • Large scale program management

Education

  • Executive Management, Business Administration and Management, General, Harvard business publishing, 2018
  • MBA, Business Management, Institute of Technology and Management, 2011
  • MCA, Rajiv Gandhi Prodyogiki Vishwavidyalaya, 2001

To ensure that we have deployed enterprise-level security architecture with robust perimeter and access control measures with the entire data path, from source to delivery, being end-to-end encrypted and monitored while maintaining vigilance through privilege identity management.

To ensure that endpoint security controls are in place, we’ve implemented Mobile Device Management (MDM) on the devices used/accessed by employees and the field force for data collection.

Over a Virtual Private Network (VPN), a single sign-in option for all corporate applications (on-premises, SaaS, IaaS) and Privilege Identity Management (PIM) based access methods ensure we have control over the actions being taken at every logging.  Further to this, we have network/user-level access controls for information to ensure it never crosses the BARC boundaries.

We have multi-layer firewalls and encryption methods; most importantly, we ensure that our data resides within India for effective law enforcement. Excellence is continuous. We do audits/checks of our IT systems and general control policies periodically to ensure we have updated protocols in place to resolve digital/cybersecurity-related challenges effectively.

Better World: How have you navigated the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: BARC India drafted a comprehensive work-from-home (WFH) framework for its internal and external users by focusing on its key pillars: Communication, Collaboration, and Checks (security, integrity, and authority).

Secure processes and information flow are keys for success, so ‘Checks’ are critical to ensure their integrity. We have implemented two additional security layers and encryption protocols to ensure information is secure and applications function smoothly in the new normal environment of WFH.

Better World: What, according to you, are the key technology trends that will likely have the most significant impact on the enterprise ecosystem in the post-COVID environment?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: The FOUR key trends I see are:

  1. ‘Security Frameworks’ for securing information, application, networks, and end-users.
  2. ‘Robotic Process Automation’ for 100% uptime and optimum process utilization.
  3. Data-driven use cases and auto-discovery/treatments using advanced AI.
  4. Edge computing.

Finally, while technology and innovations can help, it’s ultimately human intelligence that makes the outcome business-friendly. This requires continuous investment, not only in tech but also in PEOPLE.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

The new WhatsApp policy has stirred up a hornet’s nest

The new WhatsApp policy has stirred up a hornet’s nest

Pavan Duggal

Dr. Pavan Duggal, Indian Cyber Law Expert

“I’m surprised that WhatsApp has done this even though India is their largest market. Effectively this means that WhatsApp, apart from sharing personal data, also discloses your transaction-associated information, which means including your credit card number, your debit card number, and your bank details. At the same time, they will share the IP address of users. It’s a very perilous situation, especially in a country that lacks a strong legal ecosystem around cyber laws and data security. Such policy changes can upsurge the probabilities of misusing users’ data by anti-social elements.  I strongly believe that people should count on more secure platforms such as Signal and Telegram for their messaging needs now.”

Gagandeep Kaur

Gagandeep Kaur, Indian telecom market observer and commentator

“This policy change will force users to re-think their use of WhatsApp. WhatsApp users need to change their usage patterns, and if possible, find other messaging platforms that have stricter data privacy policies. I’ve been using WhatsApp since its inception for virtually every aspect of my conversations. But with new integration and privacy policies, I plan to filter my conversations, particularly regarding my banking details. WhatsApp and Facebook should stop taking people for granted.”

If you are a WhatsApp user, it is quite likely that you would have seen a notification from the messaging application that it has updated its privacy policy. WhatsApp has said that it will inevitably begin sharing users’ data with Facebook in a month’s time. According to WhatsApp, all WhatsApp users need to read and accept the new terms before 8 February to continue using its services. Those who do not accept the policy will have to give up access to their accounts.

The revised policies will allow WhatsApp to share various forms of user data with the Facebook platform. What is more concerning is that the data could be accessed by multiple third-party applications that a WhatsApp user may use on Facebook.

While the cross-platform messaging solution remains end-to-end encrypted, which implies no one can access the content of WhatsApp’s messages and calls, the new policy means sharing a host of critical user information. It includes information about a user’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and receipt of a Facebook or WhatsApp account. Additionally, conversations associated with business accounts will now be shared with Facebook.

A step change

The social media giant has backtracked from its earlier stance as an advocate for user privacy. One must recall that in February 2014, at the time of WhatsApp’s acquisition, the US-based Facebook maintained that it would keep the messaging company autonomous, discarding any overlap concerns with Facebook or Messenger app.

That apart, Facebook’s past record, when it comes to user privacy, has been far from stellar. The social-media giant has often been accused of surveillance and data-mining by internet watchers.

In early 2019, data of 49 million Instagram users and 419 million Facebook users were disclosed. In 2020, another hacking scandal erupted where cybercriminals leaked personal details of 267 million Facebook users. As per media reports, the leaked database was available for sale on the Dark Web without any password for just under $600, intensifying concerns around SMS spam and phishing.

The business case for new-alternatives

Facebook-WhatsApp integration may not be brand new since WhatsApp had been in one form or the other was sharing user information throughout its corporate family. However, compared with what has happened previously, the user does not have the option of not sharing his personal data.

There is no doubt that the new WhatsApp policy will dilute users’ privacy and trigger intense debate around data security and finding new alternatives to the social messaging app.

The question is: should users search for a more secure alternative to WhatsApp? At present, there are various alternatives such as Telegram, Signal, Snapchat, and Hike, for Indian users. Telegram has an upper edge explicitly since it was developed to contest WhatsApp’s dominance and has already gained a substantial presence in the Indian market. It also claims to have the multi-data center infrastructure and encryption policies superior to WhatsApp.

“Use signal,” Tesla Founder Elon Musk had tweeted in response.

Better World has designed a quick survey, aimed at garnering a consolidated view of users’ response to the policy change announced by WhatsApp.

Please click here to take the survey. 

Your participation matters. On the survey’s completion, Better World will share the link to the report 

Deepak Kumar

Deepak Kumar, Founder Analyst and Chief Research Officer, Better World | BM Nxt

“This policy change has the potential to trigger a longer-lasting debate than being envisaged now. It raises a fundamental question: does a service provider have the right over user data just because it is being shared or stored with the platform? The ramifications could be wide and deep, and regulators will likely step in to redefine the finer contours of privacy.”

 

Jatinder Singh

Jatinder Singh, Director – Strategy and Insights, Better World | BM Nxt

“Given the history of privacy breaches faced by Facebook, it is understandable that WhatsApp users should get concerned about sharing their personal information. However, it needs to be seen if WhatsApp’s abandonment is a viable option, especially for a country that has become heavily dependent on its use. Overall, the move could cause a dent in the growth aspects of WhatsApp in India and give an opportunity for competiting messaging platforms to expand their presence in the Indian market.”

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

Hackers step up obfuscation attacks to break into IT networks

In 2020, cyber-attacks reached a new scale, disrupting the business community and Information security professionals. Malware, phishing, denial of service attacks, DNS tunneling, SQL injection, and zero-day exploits have seen a massive explosion in every large organization. According to a report from antivirus, cloud, and endpoint security firm McAfee, since 2018, the cost of global cybercrime has reached over $1 trillion. If that wasn’t enough, the industry has noticed a new pattern of cybercriminals investing in plug-and-play obfuscation software-based toolkits to infect corporate networks for financial gains. (See: Top enterprise cybersecurity trends of 2020)

Obfuscation is a proven technology widely used by security professionals and coders to make the source code anonymous and incoherent. The technique helps businesses secure their critical data and prevent hackers from using reverse engineering techniques to discover an enterprise network’s vulnerability and launch attacks.

The recent cyber intrusion in the software  IT monitoring and management software company Solarwinds was executed by an obfuscated advanced persistent threat (APT) that mysteriously took nine months to discover. (See: SolarWinds hack: CISOs need to revisit cyber resilience?)

However, as usual, hackers appear to be a step ahead of network protectors. Call it money as a motive or an innovative mindset; cybercriminals always develop enterprising ways to infiltrate defenses. Obfuscation-as-a-service is one such recently exposed illegal business model developed by cybercriminals. Professional hackers try to make money from selling such techniques on subscription-based models to other hackers.

As-a-service model for orchestrating a hack

Those who trust that the as-a-service models are currently only transforming legitimate business models will probably live on a different planet. Over the past few years, cybercrime as a service model is swiftly making inroads into the dark-web. Professional fraudsters and cybercriminals use illegal platforms to sell cyberattack tools, procedures, services, and a host of software programs to evade detection and launch fully automated cyberattacks.

Obfuscation-as-a-service model is operating on similar lines. In 2020, many instances were discovered by cybersecurity monitoring agencies and solution providers where hackers provided automated obfuscation service and android pocket kits (APKs) on a subscription basis to fraudsters. In the wake of a growing remote workforce, most organizations are introducing workplace productivity apps that can be accessed quickly by employees through their mobile phones. As such cracking mobile applications, especially android, through obfuscation has become a prime focus area for cybercriminals.

The entire business of purchasing and selling obfuscation service happens through illegitimate darknet marketplaces, making it very challenging for governments and law-enforcement authorities to keep a consistent track. This new development of obfuscation-as-a-service is perturbing for enterprises with global footprints, which have a massive amount of data located on different clouds. This unlawful cybercrime service model can give a ready-to-launch platform to even newbie cybercriminals who regularly exploit weaker networks.

What’s the remedy?

To protect networks from obfuscation techniques or deobfuscate malicious codes launched by hackers, organizations need to ensure the uppermost security level that fills the unwanted gaps. Applying integrity controls, encrypting as much as possible, transforming program codes and making them unintelligible, inserting anti-debugging logic are some of the fields that should be strengthened.

While there is no perfect solution that can give full-proof code security, a host of commercial tools can be tested and implemented to make your security architectures robust.

Most importantly, in 2021, organizations and cybersecurity leaders should set-up quality budgets to train their in-house talents and develop innovative solutions to fortify their resilience levels and mitigate new-age obfuscation security threats.

Jaspreet Singh, Partner–Cybersecurity, EY

Jaspreet Singh, Partner–Cybersecurity, EY

In Focus

Jaspreet Singh

Partner, Cybersecurity, EY 

It’s about leading the cybersecurity organization in the new normal.

The Covid-19 pandemic has ushered in a series of unprecedented shifts in global and Indian economic conditions amidst extensive industry disruptions. Over the last ten months, there has been a significant remolding of how services and products are delivered and consumed. Remote working has become a reality and, in some ways, ‘the new normal,’ while online models have primarily driven consumption of goods and services. These drastic and sudden modifications in business environments have significantly impacted the ICT  and cybersecurity priorities and investments across organizations.

Almost all enterprises have responded to this precarious situation by empowering their employees and engaging customers through remote working interventions, policies, and tools. Without a doubt, this response has been brisk and useful to an extent and has brought to light chinks in many an organization’s armors in the realm of cybersecurity.

Coupled with an insurmountable surge in the volume and sophistication of cyberattacks in the last two quarters, India’s CISO community had to move ahead with a steely resolve to address these challenges. (See: How COVID-19 has changed cybersecurity focus for 2021)

Jaspreet Singh, Partner–Cybersecurity at EY, outlines the top challenges faced by the CISOs in India in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. He also shares best practices that organizations could embrace to steer them through the complex maze of cybersecurity issues and help them firm up their cybersecurity posture.

Essential, and yet troublesome—thy name is remote working.

Covid-19 is creating a global ‘work from home’ culture, as organizations see employees working from home as a feasible long-term option if regulatory issues can be addressed.

However, cybercriminals are using it as a massive opportunity as people are often connected to the corporate network through their home Wi-Fi connections, which are not secure due to weak router configurations or multiple poorly protected IoT devices connected to the same network (among other things).

Cybercriminals are also using this time of great fear to target people with phishing attacks using coronavirus themes. Cybercriminals are also leveraging and targeting video communication platforms for hijacking teleconferences, and we have also found maze ransomware targeting managed IT, service providers, on a global scale.

Adapting to the new normal is the biggest challenge for the CISO.

Today’s enterprises need to secure access to their organizational resources, regardless of the user or application environment. This means that the biggest challenge is about adapting to the modern distributed workplace and embracing a mobile workforce while protecting people, devices, and data, irrespective of their locations. (See: Here’s how the new Cyber Security Policy could reshape CISO roles)

Addressing the remote working conundrum—in search of a feasible and effective intervention

It is highly critical for organizations to review their cybersecurity strategies given the global pandemic and follow their renewed realization of IT dependence. IT teams are organizational warriors who have worked day and night and played a crucial role in helping most organizations adapt to the work-from-home culture.

The initial focus of all organizations has been on enabling work from home in the fastest possible time, due to which security was not kept on priority. This resulted in a major risk.

Cybersecurity also needs to align itself to see through risks to the organization—its people, processes, and technologies. The organization would have to align its cybersecurity strategy to changing IT strategies and investments.

Post the pandemic, the cybersecurity organization is slated to undergo a drastic transformation.

The cybersecurity industry will see a sharp increase in the demand for adapting to technological solutions for remote working and security solutions to reduce risks to the IT infrastructure.

The cybersecurity skills shortage will also worsen as these skills would be necessary to protect the IT infrastructure and address the likely increase in cybersecurity compliance.

Never trust, always verify—‘zero trust’ as a critical component of the cybersecurity system for Indian organizations. 

Zero trust teaches to “never trust, always verify.” It has a significant role in how people access organizational resources, regardless of where the request originates from or what resources one accesses.

Jaspreet Singh, PartnerCybersecurity, EY

With 17 years of rich industry experience, Jaspreet owns the P&L of Cybersecurity for North India at EY. He advises organizations across telecom, tech, media, and entertainment sectors, and has been instrumental in helping them become cyber-ready businesses of the future.

Over the years, his advisory and evaluation skills have helped many businesses progress through the cybersecurity value chain.

He also shares the additional responsibility of developing the cybersecurity practice in Bangladesh and the Middle East for EY.

Expertise

  • Data privacy
  • IT security and governance
  • IT strategy
  • IT program management
  • IT attestation services
  • Datacenter security
  • Network security
  • Risk assessment and management
  • Business continuity planning and crisis management
  • Ethical hacking

Honors and awards

  • Chairman Value Award, 2014
  • Consultant of the year, Cybersecurity, 2017

It is not about users being un-trustworthy; instead, it is about firmly authenticating, authorizing, and inspecting all traffic flows always to ensure that malware and attacks don’t sneak in accidentally or maliciously.

Many organizations are knowingly or unknowingly following, in principle, the ‘zero trust architecture.’ However, moving to a complete ‘zero trust’ architecture will take time. Organizations need to mature to a level starting with strong authentication in general.

It will be essential to consider each investment carefully and align it with current business needs. Fortunately, each step forward will make a difference in reducing the cybersecurity risk and returning trust in the entirety of your IT Infrastructure.

Aim to build resilience across the value chain.

You must be prepared to deal with the attack. You have to be able to investigate the incident quickly, make smart decisions, and take actions immediately.” Effective resilience programs look not only at the infrastructure within the four walls of the organization but also look to consider the impacts of customers, vendors, partners, and other participants across the value chain.

*The article was originally published as part of a Better World–Microfocus Coffee Table Book initiative titled Accelerating Enterprise Innovations. You can read the e-Book by clicking here.

A case for cloud-enabled COVID-19 sensors and loggers

A case for cloud-enabled COVID-19 sensors and loggers

Deepak KumarFinally, the Covishield vaccine has been approved for emergency use in India. Starting 2 January, a dry run commences for the vaccination program across the country. Hopefully, this will mark the beginning of the end for the century’s biggest threat to humanity. Use of COVID-19 sensors for temperature monitoring and control can help.  

COVID-19 has indeed been the biggest economic disruption in a century. However, it is also turning out to be a giant digital-transformation catalyst for the healthcare sector, with a windfall for the logistics sector along the way.

The necessary thrust for this rapid transformation come from the urgency to overcome transportation challenges for some of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. Leading pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna, along with their tier-1 logistics partners like UPS and FedEx, have been at the forefront of innovating processes and technologies for the purpose.

The key challenge, as we know, has been to maintain the vaccine vials at temperatures as low as minus 70 degree Celsius until they get thawed and administered to people.

Warehousing and logistics innovations fast-tracked

As we know, the need for storing and moving around truckloads (and airplane loads) of mass vaccine vials at –70 degree C posed a giant challenge at the very outset for pharma majors, particularly Pfizer. Clearly, the supply-chain team at Pfizer started to perfect a shipping solution soon as the scientists initiated the vaccine development program in the labs.

By October 2020, while positive breakthroughs were being achieved by scientists in vaccine development, Pfizer’s supply-chain team had worked out end-to-end logistics plans with partners such as United Parcel Service (UPS) and FedEx to deliver vaccine boxes to various parts of the USA as well as to different locations around the world.

Transportation and storage need two-pronged strategy

GPS-based temperature monitoring on the move was an obvious solution but putting it into practice was not an easy task.

As we know, special boxes were designed for transporting the vials. Each box was fitted with temperature sensors and a GPS device, which was used for tracking the temperatures inside the boxes from a monitoring center. Already, in instances where the temperature of a box crossed an upper (or lower) threshold, any further movement of the box was stopped and it was immediately recalled.

At pre-shipping stage, UPS, for example, had created an ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezer farm, from where the shipments would be done to the destined locations. These ULT freezers too were equipped with COVID-19 sensors for monitoring and maintenance purposes. As per an article posted by UPS on its website, “Cloud connectivity will enable sensor-based remote monitoring, control and predictive analytics across banks of ULT freezers. A continuous stream of data will detect performance characteristics to provide critical “onboard” information to ensure proper sample management, leading to increased efficacy of biologics.”

“Future ULT freezers will introduce guided access capabilities, which will allow the tracking and visualization of vials in laboratory management systems and at freezer access points,” the article, penned by Dusty Tenney, CEO of Stirling Ultracold, further noted. Stirling Ultracold is the company making the ULT freezers for the storage of vaccines.

ULT freezers with Covid-19 sensors

Figure source: Stirling Ultracold.

Global distribution may need to be ‘with the box’

The company has readied the ULT freezers in three different form factors (see Figure), each suited for the three key stages of a vaccine supply chain. The large ULT freezers are designed for manufacturing and warehousing bases for storing large number of vaccine vials; the mid-sized models are aimed at large pharmacies and hospitals; and the portable models are well-suited for serving the needs of local points of care, including remote and mobile points. All these models can maintain ultra-cold temperatures in the range of -80 degree C to -20 degree C, and are fitted with COVID-19 sensors for monitoring and control.

For a global distribution framework to be truly effective, all these different form factors need to be used at their respective target locations. In other words, while the big boxes will need to be deployed at warehouses, the mid-size boxes will need to installed at the hospitals in cities across the world ahead of the vial shipments. This important to ensure that vials can be stored at these hospitals when the shipments arrive there in ultra-cold boxes containing vials protected with dry ice packs. (Dry ice can only keep the boxes at ultra-cold temperatures of -70 degree C for up to five days, and is not readily and sufficiently available).

Likewise, the portable ULT models also need to be shipped in advance in satellite vaccination centers and remote locations.

All the time, remote monitoring of the ULT freezers and vial boxes is constantly being done to ensure that the efficacy of the vaccines is not lost due to change in box or freezer temperature before the vial being thawed for use. 

While vanilla GPS solutions are being used for now, there is enough room for involving technologies like robotics and internet of things (IoT) in the delivery and monitoring process.

For example, if we consider the process of changing the dry ice in boxes, a human intervention could be time-consuming and hence cause the temperature of vials to rise to detrimental levels. However, with the use of robotics, this task can be accomplished in a safe and assured manner. As far as IoT is concerned, building management system (BMS) IOT connectivity is already available for Stirling’s ULT freezers.

The ULT freezers as well as shipment boxes for vaccine vials come fitted with COVID-19 sensors that can have battery lifespans of up to 10 years and support datalogging in the cloud, which makes them suited for real-time remote monitoring. For example, in case of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, the solution comprises SenseAnywhere’s AiroSensors and Pt100 smart probes.

Why other vaccines too need digital monitoring and upkeep

Covishield, the vaccine candidate from Pune-based Serum Institute of India, may not require a very stringent temperature control and monitoring mechanism. The vaccines, which received the emergency-use approval and for which the dry run commences on 2 January 2021, can be safely stored in regular refrigerators. The storage temperature requirement for Covishield is 2–8 degree C, which also gives it a huge edge over other vaccine candidates in India.

Nevertheless, use of COVID-19 sensors can doubly ensure that the vials are constantly being maintained at the required temperature range. This is because power supplies can be quite unpredictable in smaller cities and towns and not all pharmacies and refrigerators are supported with power-backup facilities. By mandating that refrigerators used for storing vials be retrofitted with COVID-19 sensors for monitoring the temperatures, governments and health watchdogs can determine the efficacy efficiency of a vaccination program. In case of power failures and ineffectiveness of refrigerators, the necessary corrective actions may be taken in a timely manner.

Warehousing and distribution companies engaged in the logistics of COVID-19 vaccines would particularly need to get equipped with appropriate sensor mechanisms. It goes without saying that IT teams at these organizations will have a special role to play in ensuring integrated and foolproof solutions in this context.

See also How smartphones could be Covid-19 testing game changers

and Aarogya Setu needs to overcome more privacy issues

TCS finds its new growth mojo in DX

TCS finds its new growth mojo in DX

After a shaky start in the FY21, due to the pandemic-induced weak business sentiments Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), top global IT services, consulting, and business solutions firm, made a solid comeback in the latter half of the year. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020). TCS’s strong growth momentum is the result of its persistent efforts to build transformational solutions and robust business fundamentals. 

After seeing a drop in its revenues in April this year, the country’s largest software services firm successfully navigated the operational challenge of scale, velocity, and complexity in an unbelievable manner. Its net profit in the quarter ended September 30 rose nearly 5 percent y-o-y to ₹8,433 crores. The IT major had clocked a net profit of ₹8,042 crores in the September 2019 quarter.

A couple of days back, India’s largest IT Services firm’s share price reached an all-time high of ₹2,948 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE), with a market capitalization of ₹11. 03 lakh crore. One needs to note that TCS is the only company in India to reach this milestone after Reliance.

With its deep focus on the cloud, TCS share prices have made great strides this year, growing by more than 30% since March 2020. It was only because of its confidence in its capabilities to meet the rising Dx demands that TCS embarked on a recruiting frenzy even during the pandemic. It even declared salary hikes for its employees from October this year. (See: It turned out to be a good year for Indian IT services firms)

In Q2 2020 alone, TCS announced that it signed total contract deals worth $8.6 billion.

Let’s deepen our understanding of the secret recipe that has helped the IT major generate a positive climate around its growth even during crisis times.

Readying in time for Dx opportunities

TCS’s growth has been principally marked by its rising focus on cloud and accelerated digital transformation initiatives. Over the last twelve months, India’s largest software services exporter has made substantial headways into expanding its footprints in building new and innovative cloud offerings.

As discretionary spending and virtual work environment are gaining steam, businesses move from legacy to digital IT infrastructure. These changing dynamics have resulted in TCS witnessing strong growth across banking, financial services, insurance (BFSI), healthcare, and retail verticals in Q2’21. While BFSI grew at 6.2%, Retail saw a massive 8.8% growth and Life Sciences and Healthcare at 6.9% sequentially and 17.2% on a YoY basis.

The IT services giant has a strong focus on the BFSI sector, particularly in the wake of Europe’s growing demand. Most BFSI companies in Europe are reorganizing their IT structure and focusing on digital transformation, and this provides it a significant opportunity to accelerate growth.

In a statement issued to press and analysts recently, Rajesh Gopinathan, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of TCS mentioned that TCS’s revenues from Europe have more than doubled in the last five years. He reflected that substantial success was the result of TCS’s enterprise agility and machine first delivery model.

This year, TCS has also set up a new European cloud center in Finland to provide end-to-end infrastructure services. In 2021, the center is expected to expand even further to support its growing customer base.

On the acquisitions front, it announced a couple of purchases recently to beef up its BFSI portfolio – Frankfurt-based Postbank Systems AG and a certain percentage of  Ireland base Pramerica Systems from insurance firm Prudential Financial Inc (PFI).

The company is also focusing extensively on its agile-based Secure Borderless Workspaces (SBW) model, which it launched recently during the lockdown. SBW is a new cloud-based operating model for businesses to seamlessly deploy virtual workspaces while taking full advantage of existing talent ecosystems and related investments.

TCS Q2’21 growth performance

Region

Growth (in %)

India

20

EMEA

8

Continental Europe

6.1

Latin America

5

UK

3.8

North America

3.6

Asia Pacific

2.9

New focus areas

Amidst the pandemic, most global enterprises have fast-tracked their transformation initiatives to beef-up their cloud-based foundations for a safe and resilient remote-work environment. There is growing momentum towards deploying AI and automation solutions for future business continuity in the remote work environment.

Given the above, TCS has been working hard to integrate accessibility and contactless aspects into its most recent digital transformation solutions portfolio. It has also invested significantly to develop deep-technology expertise and strengthening cyber resiliency services with built-in service assurance, data segregation, and compliance with various local regulatory requirements. In October this year, the company unveiled 10 new threat management centers worldwide to provide cybersecurity services to its enterprise customers.

It also introduced several internets of things (IoT) related research and innovation programs for visionary and autonomous infrastructure, personalized medicines, and smart machines.

A wide range of research and development efforts are also being undertaken to create intellectual property (IP) on the sustainability front by leveraging emerging technologies and developing solutions around them. TCS is even venturing into data masking tools, cryptography, hash control, and access rights management for taking a substantial leap and achieve better growth in 2021.

Another crucial focus area for TCS is the machine learning approach, i.e., delivering cloud-based solutions based on AI, automation, and actionable insights to improve operational efficiency.

Maintaining a strong outlook

COVID-19 has turned out to be a catalyst for business transformation. Due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns, enterprises are rapidly scaling their digital efforts to reduce their operating expense, protect their market position, and ensure customer retention. As such, TCS, which is putting automation and new age technologies at the core of its comprehensive service offerings, is in an exceptional place to continue winning the trust of its existing clients and gain new customers

In 2021, it is expected that most enterprises will continue to see an exponential rise in their technology budgets to improve their innovation capabilities and redefining their customer experience. Touchless solutions and remote monitoring solutions, in particular, will gain significant adoption.

While TCS may see a slowdown in its accounting books due to pandemic-caused delayed revenue realizations, its strong technological fundamentals and cash position will make it an essential driver of change in many global companies’ digital transformation efforts.

By leveraging differential technologies, TCS is positioning itself to become a digital transformation leader and gain a future edge. 

 

Focus on DevOps set to grow more in 2021

Focus on DevOps set to grow more in 2021

Jatinder SinghThe coronavirus pandemic has caused an unprecedented impact on the operational and IT processes of nearly all organizations. With the role of IT changing from business enabler to mission-critical function, a growing focus on DevOps augurs well in a cloud-centric ecosystem shaping the enterprise world with breakthrough innovations.

During the crisis, one of the crucial learnings that have been identified by the enterprise leaders and everyone else is how important is the role of technology in enhancing people’s ability to continue to collaborate, work, receive essential services and learn new skills. (See: Top technology trends to look for in 2021)

The crisis also provided technology leaders an opportunity to re-energize their legacy ecosystems and reshape their business continuity plans. In light of this, DevOps, which is all about continuous improvement, is expected to play even a more crucial role in enhancing businesses’ digital capabilities in 2021.

DevOps is a software development methodology that blends software development with computing operations. Implementing a robust application methodology allows organizations to accelerate delivery and time to market in a competitive environment.

Let’s focus on some of the top DevOps trends that will shape the DevOps market next year.

AI-enabled automation

Automation is the foundation of DevOps and plays an essential role in building a robust application framework that can drive the future of agility. In 2021, AI-based DevOps automation tools will be extended across enterprise ecosystems. They will automate the incorporation of rapid data volumes, equip organizations better analyze data, and use it for automation or decision-making.

Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning, in DevOps will allow the DevOps team to review the problems and preselect the best solution after a complete assessment.

Emphasis on training, learning, and skill enhancement

Among top DevOps trends, DevOps training and learning will be a crucial priority for technology leaders. A study by DevOps Institute found that more than 50 percent of organizations prefer to build their DevOps teams from within the organization. But most organizations don’t have the luxury of creating a DevOps team from in-house resources. And due to the rapid decrease in IT budgets, it may not be possible to hire the best DevOps talent from the outside world.

As a result, organizations will increasingly focus on training and refinement of DevOps methodologies in-house in 2021.

Serverless architecture approach to grow

The technology leaders continually realize the inherent benefits offered by the serverless architecture approach. Serverless architecture is a monumental leap that gives advantages such as fully managed, scalable, and the pay-as-you-go model for DevOps applications. It also helps businesses improve delivery and quickly identify prototypes tailored to evolving customer needs.

The most significant benefit of serverless architecture is the pay-as-you-go model, which means you will pay only for resources that you would use. It’s one of the top DevOps trends that make DevOps cheaper and help many businesses reap their benefits in 2021.

Service Mesh to have more significance

Service Mesh is a built-in application infrastructure layer that facilitates data sharing across services and integrates actions such as encryption, load balancing, authorization, and verification. While Service Mesh may be a relatively new concept in DevOps, many industry onlookers believe that this is the best way for businesses to scale, secure and track apps, especially in the cloud-native application building process.

Security at every layer

As widespread telecommuting is becoming the new standard in the post-pandemic world, data governance, information protection, and compliance will be taken more seriously than ever. It will make it critical for enterprises to build mechanisms that give them full visibility into applications, networks, devices, cloud platforms, and other IT environment components. And DevOps is no exception either.

The DevOps model enables various cross-functional teams to collaborate effectively and make wiser decisions. However, as the DevOps model gets mature, it also faces the challenge of simplifying growing complexities in its applications.

In 2021, as one of the top DevOps trends, it is anticipated that companies will focus on implanting strong security layers to help teams collaborate without fear of threats to their network ecosystems.

With AIOps, organizations will put intelligence at the core of IT operations. There will be increasing stress on integrating artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics within DevOps. Concepts such as AIOps and DataOps will help businesses accelerate their software development lifecycle – build, test, release, deploy, and maintain – in 2021.

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