Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Automating irrigation

Recently while I was in Jaffna it was extremely warm and humid. I asked my uncle, when was the last time it rained, he nodded and said he cannot recall. He then told me that a few years back there was a prediction saying that in 20 years time Jaffna will be a desert. He feared at this rate it might happen for real. I've no idea how accurate this prediction is or who made this prediction, but it gave me one more reason to believe that the Yarl IT Hub's newest project - Irrigation automation using open hardware makes a lot of practical sense.

In a region like Jaffna, where although water is a scarce resource agriculture either at commercial scale or as home garden is plentiful, the need for an affordable automated irrigation system is a must. YIT's DIA project tries to solve this problem.

Using open hardware the hand picked team of talented youngsters will build a localized blue print of mobile controlled DIA project. What they will be producing will be made in to a "Do it your self" open source project. Which basically means, a kid living in Jaffna will be able to buy the relevant affordable open source hardware either online or at shops, follow the instructions given online and set up the mobile controlled automated DIA irrigation project in his or her own home garden.

In Tamil they say "ஒரு கல்லில ரெண்டு மாங்காய்", direct translation means "Two mangoes with one throw". This project also has twin agenda, while solving the problem of irrigation we want to make open hardware accessible to the youngsters. So at least a few of them will take a few more steps and start experimenting with open hardware. Then hopefully, they will do greater things with it in future!

The team is working with a target to get an end to end prototype working by early June and then to have a complete blue print ready in three months time. Looking forward to an exciting time ahead.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kids these days

'Kids these days' is a pretty popular phrase used by each generation on its next. To be precise each generation used to complain about the next. Now that I am old, seems like I have also picked this up. But in my case I am not complaining, but instead intrigued by the possibilities they present. While we tell others and more than others, we tell ourselves to think different. I am quite fascinated at times how kids think differently without anyone telling them to do so. 

In one case, I asked little Thenmozhi to show me a picture taken earlier on her father's phone. She picked the android phone clicked camera icon on short cut. I was about to repeat and tell her that I don't want her to take a new picture but instead want to see one of her earlier ones.  Before I could say it she clicked on the small picture icon on the left hand corner of camera view and started browsing the old pictures. I realized I have a very constrained and stereotyped world view. For me if I wanted to take a picture I need to go to camera app. If I wanted to browse earlier pics I wanted to either use file browser application or go to photos application. I have trained myself to see a one to one mapping between a function to be performed and an application. There by not seeing the most efficient access method.

The second case was little Dharshika, she so small that she can barely speak still. Someone has given her a toy phone with buttons on it. For a while it was her main toy. But recently she has started to reject it. Reason, she has observed that one of my aunt's have a phone on which she swipes. She has figured out swipe was cooler than keys ( How long did research in motion take to figure it! ) Not stopping at it after a while she walked up to the TV and took a good long swipe at the screen and the adults were not too pleased. I am not sure whether if they already have tvs where you can swipe and is free of all buttons.  But for me it was intriguing,  because on some of these, I have almost resigned to the fact that these stuff are already at optimal designed.

When I thought beyond the debate whether the questions they pose are right or wrong, it opened up an unadulterated perspective on technology.

I felt that those who are building products would have to wake up to a different reality.  It is going to be a different generation.  Growing up with devices and has a different intuitive thinking. To be a winner you will have to convince them.

“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. 
In the expert’s mind there are few" ~ Zen Monk Shunryu Suzuki