Dorai Thodla, CEO of the US-based iMorph Inc. (http://bit.ly/F4TThodlaD), speaks frequently on the emerging trends in IT. When Business Line caught up with him at a TiE event, recently, Dorai wastes no time in outlining that the obvious such trends staring us in the face are mobile, cloud, tablets, and social computing. Each one is a major trend that will transform the way we work.

The second set of trends may not be as obvious, he continues. “Data science (including data mining and analytics), information mining applications (enabled by machine learning), some kind of data-driven web (semantic web if you want to call it that), government open data, sensor-based computing, Internet of things, cloud OS, and a host of others are currently weak signals.”

Citing a reference to his post (http://bit.ly/goEudy), Dorai advises that the best way to observe these trends is to look at who is leveraging them and for what purpose; because each one of the major trends has a few sub-trends which may become major trends in themselves. “I take a crack at analysing the impact of cloud computing in my post here (http://bit.ly/dDkNpb). That is just an example and does not even scratch the surface.” Our conversation continues over the email.

Excerpts from the interview

What are the newer forces at play now?

If you look at computing from mainframes to tablets, our interactions with the devices have been changing: Batch computing (mainframes), time-sharing (minis), personal computing (PCs), and mobile computing (laptops, tablets, smart phones). In each generation, the infrastructure, the way we interact with these computers, and how we use these, have been shifting.

Till the web arrived, we had a different model of building IT applications. The web changed all that. Web 2.0 which enabled everyone to become a content producer has changed something very fundamental.

Social computing evolved from participatory computing. While the consumer trend for social is kind of obvious and manifests itself through Twitter and Facebook, these concepts are just catching on in enterprises. Every Indian IT major, such as TCS and Cognizant, has its own social fabric which merges Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, and a set of others for collaborative work.

Over the next few years, you will see a few very different trends. Location awareness, context awareness will be driven by large amount of open data that will be accessible. ‘Augmented Reality’ is just the tip of the iceberg. Wait till sensors and little devices start talking to each other and to your mobile devices and to the cloud.

This Internet of things will cause another fundamental shift. The shift will be at several levels – at the chip level (hundreds of cores), at the device level (smart phones more powerful than your current laptops), at the interaction level (smart devices talking to each other), application level (smart applications leveraging all these sensors for different uses), and interaction level (caused by touch, gestures and voice inputs).

In which areas of emerging IT do you see India playing a major role?

India can play many roles both as a consumer of the technology and a producer. As a consumer, we will use more mobile devices and put them to more innovative uses especially in BOP apps. We will also consume every type of sensor to keep people healthier. The current generation is very socially aware. So we will take social computing to a level that no other nation can imagine.

At a producer level, if we handle our innovation infrastructure right, we will participate in every major trend. We can detect them earlier now and we may be a causing a few of our own. For instance, one of the top 10 companies in cloud computing is from Chennai called OrangeScape. One of the best charting applications is Fusion Charts from Pune, and they moved faster from Flash to HTML5.

To leverage these emerging trends, we need to invest in product builders. We lack that community in the country. If we can shift from the service-based economy to product-based economy in IT, there will be several opportunities to innovate.

Would you like to discuss the methods that can be used for spotting the emerging technology trends?

There are several. We can use some simple tools to gather information from tweets, blogs, web pages, portals and create information pipes. We can apply NLP, pattern mining and machine learning technologies to surface some of the weak signals.

Your advice to entrepreneurs on how to be successful in the new-age IT.

Start with a niche and a micro-product. Even though risky, don’t start with the same thing everyone else does (creating websites, providing Java/dotnet programmers).

If you want to make money, find a pain point and provide a solution. If you want to have longer-term impact, do something unusual and very original.

Here are some audacious ones:

a) We know the world is going to go multicore. Is there an easy tool/language to build/optimise multicore applications?

b) We know that interactive books will be the norm. How many good and easy tools are there for authoring interactive animated content that is easy to use?

c) We know that cloud is going to be big. How many scripting languages are there to build an application on cloud in minutes?

I can go on and on. But a simple rule is watch emerging trends. Think about people who want to leverage those trends, and ask yourself what you can do to help them.

Any other points of interest?

Over the past about four decades, every decade I used to think that it is an exciting time to be in this business. But seeing what I am seeing, the rate of accelerated change opportunities abound. We cannot even imagine what each shift brings.

Watch a few information portals I am planning to set up over the next few months. There will be one for tracking emerging technologies and the basic information will be free for every one. I am pretty excited.

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