Kiruba is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, podcaster and a farmer.

My New Indian Express Column: Geotagging & A-GPS

Here’s the column that got published in today’s paper.

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Phones that know where you are!

We all love taking photos on our digital cameras and camera mobiles. These are fond memories and would love to treasure. While we store them, what we don’t usually do is add information about each photo. A few of us blog or take the effort to give titles to the photos, but the majority of us just do nothing. Let’s face it. We’re are plain lazy or just don’t find it important enough to do it. Hence, the fond memories are consigned to the forgotten corners of our computer’s hard disk.

Enter automatic Geotagging. This is the latest feature in some of the latest mobile phones like the Nokia N78 that automatically finds out the location you are in and adds this information to the photo. For example, let’s say you shot a group photo in front of the Taj Mahal. The geotagging feature in the phone adds the tags, ‘Agra; and ‘Taj Mahal’ to the photo. How does the phone know this? Because the phone has the A-GPS feature (The Assisted Global Positioning System) and hence knows the latitude, longitude, altitude of the position you are in from the Satellite data. Understandably, you must have subscribed for a GPRS connectivity from your mobile service provider. (This is the feature that lets you access Internet from your mobile)

So, when you shoot a photo from the phone and upload it to photo sites like Flickr, details like the name of city and place are automatically uploaded too. Knowing where your picture is taken acts as a great memory jogger. It also acts as an excellent community tool. If someone wanted to see pictures of The Taj Mahal, your picture will result in the searches because of the automatic geo tag.

There’s more to just automatic geotagging in the latest phones. To explain this, let me walk you through an experience. Once, me and a bunch of friends did a cycling trip from Bangalore to Chennai. Being techies, we had a bunch of gadgets. One of us had an odometer fixed to the cycle’s wheel to help us with data on kilometers covered and average speed. Another friend had got an expensive GPS device that looked like a walkie talkie that gave information on the altitude and showed us on a map the path covered. And then a laptop with an Internet data card to upload all this information to our website so that anyone can follow where we are.

The Nokia N78 is in essence all these three devices put together. Amazing how technology has advanced. The phone can give the speed of our travel, time taken to cover the distance, average speed, the altitude, the map and more importantly live publishing of all the date online. Not to mention automatically geotagging all our photos.

The next time we go on a cycling expedition, we’re going to dump all those expensive paraphernalia and just pick up an A-GPS enabled phone.


My Google Card

This is what I call a ‘Google card’ . And it’s my newest “visiting card”. The front side of the card has just the search box with my name. My first set of 100 cards came from the printers today and I’m super impressed with how they turned out. So impressed was I that I placed an extra order for 400 cards.

The idea originated from Japanese ads. For more, go ahead and read my Business Standard column that I reproduce below. Here’s link to the story that appeared in print.

Search box replaces URLs in ads.

A recent visit to the Japanese consulate helped me in designing my latest business card. It has nothing but just the google logo and my name in the search box.

Let me walk you through my experience.

While waiting at the reception of the Japan consulate, I picked up a few magazines lying on the table . My knowledge of the Japanese language begins and ends with the word ‘sayonara’ and that too if its written in English!

While flipping through the magazine whose language was greek to me, I noticed something familiar about the advertisements. Some of the ads had the Google search box while few others had the Yahoo! search boxes as part of their advertisements.

That’s when it stuck me. What a wonderful strategy. Instead of putting in the website URL you encourage the person to just search for your company or brand. Its much more easier to remember the keyword as against the URL.

Whoever came up with this concept has actually been paying attention to the way people use the web browser. Most people use the web search to easily get to a website.

That’s the same idea I used for my business card too. I love the idea for various reasons. First, its unique. Second, googling for my name not only throws up my website it also shows my Flickr page, my twitter account, my YouTube page, links to my podcast and my writings on the NASSCOM blog. That’s like hitting six mangoes with one stone.

I noticed that this idea of putting in Search Boxes is also an excellent mobile strategy. Typing in the full URL in a mobile phone can be quite painful and it becomes easy to just search for a company’s name. No wonder most advertisements inside Japanese trains have the search box embedded in them.

Pontiac does this in their TV ads. Instead of the generic URL, they have Google ‘pontiac’ to find out more.” When doing so, you must also realize that you are at risk of losing out the mileage to a quick thinking competitor. At times when Search Engine Optimization is a billion dollar business, there are specialist agencies that work solely on bringing a particular website on top of a web search. So, you don’t want your competitor reaping the benefits of your advertisements.

Pontiac made exact that mistake. While they made sure their site came up top, they did not pay attention to the sponsored links section. When one searches for ‘Pontiac’ in Google, you get its competitor, Honda’s ad on the top. Big mistake. Just to play doubly safe, companies are encouraged to buy the top Google ‘sponsored adword’ so that their link is guaranteed to be on top of the search page.

The UK Government has also used this technique effectively. They recently started a campaign called ‘Act on CO2′ to encourage people to cut down on the carbon emissions. On their TV advertisements, rather than saying “Visit double-yoo double-yoo double-yoo dot dee eff tee dot gov dot yoo-kay forward-slash act on see-oh-too”, they just say “Search for ‘act on co2′”. The same concept can be effectively used in Radio advertisements.

Its just a matter of time before we see this practice happening in Indian advertisements too.

—————–End of article —————————


Meeting Ray Ozzie and a Dream Team of Tech CEOs

Tomorrow, the Diya hall at Hotel Leela Palace, Bangalore will have the highest concentration of Intelligence and wealth per square inch. Thankfully, the Law of Averages in the form of my presence, will ensure that it’s brought down by half!

A select panel of 10 CEOs have been invited by NASSCOM for an exclusive round table with Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect. Or better known as the man who took Bill Gates’ place when he retired.

The invitees are:

1. Sharad Sharma, CEO Yahoo! R&D who is also the Session Chair & Moderator.

2. Ramalinga Raju, Founder & Chairman, Satyam Computers

3. Biren Ghosh, CEO Kahani World Inc.

4. Ashish Gupta, CoFounder and Managing Partner, Helion VC

5. Rajiv Mody, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Sasken Communications

6. Anand Deshpande, Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Persistent Technologies

7. Kiruba Shankar, Blogger, Columnist, CEO, Business Blogging, Founder, F5ive Tech.

8. Mohan C M, Chief Scientist, IBM India

9. Ravi Venkatesan, Chairman and Managing Director, Microsoft India

10. Ram Narayanan, Vice President, Yahoo! R & D

The discussion is going to be on the topic, ‘Is the Rise of SaaS an Opportunity for India?’ To me, the coincidence couldn’t have been any higher. Exactly the day before I got the invite (which was two weeks ago), I had scheduled ‘SaaS’ as the subject for my column in Business Standard for next week. I’ll just advance it now. I shouldn’t have any problem getting the best quotes!

Being a blogger, I’m the natural choice for being the guy who documents the meeting discussion. With such brilliant minds around, I’m going to be one busy ‘note taker’.

The round-table with Ray brings up my memories of a similar meeting with Kevin Turner, the COO of Microsoft. It took place almost exactly one year ago.

One of the big reason why I’m eagerly looking forward to the meeting is because I’ll get to meet 8 of the 10 people for the first time. The only people who I’ve met before are Sharad and Ravi Venkatesan. It’s always interesting connecing up with new people who have accomplished a lot in their life. (which has been the motivating factor for me to start Cerebrate.)


A Year on Twitter

It’s exactly one year since I’ve been on Twitter.

First, i was skeptical about Twitter itself. My first initial reaction? It’s a micro-navel gazing tool and worse, watching others gaze their navels too.

Really, why would you want to know what folks are doing every errr.. hour? Are we all *that* unemployed?

I stayed away from it laughing at its stupidity. Then I saw more and more people, typically folks I have high regard for, jumping into it. I had this, ‘Damn! if I’m not in it, I’m not cool enough‘ feeling. Signed up to see what really it is.

Now, a year later, I find myself enjoying it. Especially catching up with people’s activities, who otherwise, I really wouldn’t have had a chance to. And Yes, it still continues to be a navel gazing tool.

Another reason why I like Twitter because its a place where I can write down things that I think are too frivolous for a blog post. “Crap! The crow just shat on me!”.

Sometimes, it can be a place for me to type my thoughts down and then pick one to expand into a blog post. It feeds my blog.

But mostly, it eats into blogging. I’ve noticed that my blogging frequency has fallen down ever since I’ve taken up twittering. The beauty of twitter may lie in its simplicity.

A few days ago, it was deja vu for me when I sat down to write about the ‘Business Uses of Twitter’. My initial feeling? Twitter is as useful for businesses as Orkut is. I was skeptical until I saw more and more businesses jumping in. Fastrack, JetBlue, SouthWest Airlines,Wrox. Then I woke up and peered in closer. The result of which you can read in this article for my Business Standard Column.


Starting a New Column in Business Standard Newspaper

Starting this Thursday and Every Thursday, I’ll be authoring a brand new column that looks into technology with a strong local perspective and a global outlook.

When Leslie D’Monte, the technology Editor invited me to write for the paper, there’s one thing that absolutely caught my attention in his conversation – his emphasis on ‘attitude’. By attitude, he meant being frank and critical. To better explain his stance, he said, “Write like how you spoke on that IAMAI panel”. The memories came back.

“That Panel” that Leslie referred was the Web 2.0 Conference organized by the Internet and Mobile Association of India sometime last year. My co-panelists were Shailesh Rao, MD of Google India and Jaspreet Bindra, Head, MSN India. During the debate about the over dominance of Google’s Adsense, I was against any one company over dominating. I evinced keen interest in MSN’s AdCenter and Yahoo’s Publisher Network while I turned around to face Shailesh Rao and said to his face, “I REALLY hope they kick Google’s butt”. I don’t know if its the choice of words or the conviction in my voice that hushed the packed auditorium of 400 executives for a split second before they broke into rapturous applause.

Leslie happened to be at that conference and said that’s the one panel the he enjoyed and it’s that attitude the he was referring to . I knew that he meant. I couldn’t ask for more. Its the freedom and the confidence that any columnist values foremost.

To say I’m excited, is an under-statement.