All you need to know about PWA and AMP

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Some learnings from GDD Bengaluru


Are you confused by the many changes that are going on in the world of mobile and web apps? How do we make sense of Progressive Web Apps (PWA), Instant Apps, Single Page Apps (SPA) or Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)? What are the differences and similarities among these and when to use what? I’d hoped that I would get answers to at least some of these questions at the Google Developer Days (GDD) event at Bangalore, happening on 1-2 December.

I attended the event yesterday. It was a busy day with a tight schedule of back-to-back sessions, so much so that I had rush through a five-minute lunch. I got to know recent updates to Google’s platforms and products. I learned about some of the hot topics of the day: Google Assistant, Android Things, TensorFlow, Firebase, Lighthouse… But a number of sessions looked at PWA and AMP.

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An Introduction to Amazon Alexa

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Takeaways from Alexa Dev Day, Bangalore


Voice-based interfaces are all in rage right now. On one side tech is being driven by Machine Learning. On the other side, speech-to-text, text-to-speech and Natural Language Understanding are complementing it from the perspective of user interfaces. This is not to say that keyboards and touchscreens are going to go away. It does suggest that there are many applications where sight and touch can be freed for parallel tasks while you converse with your apps using voice.

Some of the speech agents that power voice-based interfaces are Siri, Alexa and Cortana, just to name the well-known ones. Today I had the chance to attend Alexa Dev Day organized by Amazon Alexa team. Similar events are scheduled to happen all across the world in the coming weeks. The event hall was packed, mostly with developers, and mostly with those who already owned Echo devices. I found this to be the key differentiator with Alexa. Amazon has managed to get Echo devices into a number of homes and offices. Early adopters perhaps bought them for the novelty factor but thanks to them, basic uses cases have been shown to work. Now there’s sufficient interest from developers to reach this bunch of Echo owners and beyond to interest them with innovative apps. Novelty therefore is moving from Echo hardware to apps powered by Alexa. I met someone trying to do railway ticket bookings with Alexa. A couple of guys from Sulekha are exploring voice-based hyperlocal searches. Another person is looking to give first-aid advice and emergency care.

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Edge Computing in a Telecom Network

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Powered by Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC)


Until a few years ago, for many decades, telecom operators had been claiming that all they provided was a “dumb pipe”. It was not their concern what those pipes carried; and they were not responsible for content that was served or consumed at both ends of the pipe. Their main goal was to ensure that the pipes had enough bandwidth to serve average and peak traffic requirements. All was well and good until over-the-top (OTT) content starting dominating the market. Such content bypassed legacy circuit-switched services and value-added services provided by the operators.

Indeed telecom operators started to lose both ends of the bargain. They now wanted control over the content and charge a premium but all they could collect from their customers was for bare bits and bytes. In a price-sensitive market, “unlimited plans” became the order of the day. When OTT content became predominant, operator revenues started to drop. Content also became rich in multimedia, particularly video that congested backhaul links. Operators couldn’t afford to upgrade these backhauls. Yes, operators were providing dumb pipes but apparently even these had a hard time keeping up with demand.

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IoT Project Day: Ideas, Reference Boards and Prototypes

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Plus an exciting quiz on IoT


IoT Project Day is our quarterly event. It’s an event for exchanging knowledge, inspiring others and networking with peers. It really doesn’t matter how trivial the project, we give chance to everyone to showcase what they have built, get feedback, learn and iterate. By having college students and industry folks on the same platform, students become aware of industry trends and project opportunities. As usual, we are happy to have it at Microsoft, Bangalore, and we thank them for opening up their venue for this purpose. We also thank all presenters who gave demos and withstood the barrage of tough questions from the audience!

In today’s event, a couple of students gave demo of an Arduino-based prototype. We had two industry folks presenting technical overviews of their products and their relevance to IoT. We had a short IoT quiz that brought out the latest developments in the world of IoT. Vikas and I presented some ideas for projects: interested folks can write to to know more and collaborate. As they say, there’s no better way to learn than by doing!

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The Four Stages of a Developer

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

Development is more than just writing code


Technology is changing so fast that it’s becoming hard to keep track of what’s new or where it’s going. It’s typical for a developer to invest a few weeks learning a framework, a productivity tool or a new language, only to be told to her annoyance that there’s something better and shinier that has came out just two days ago. Often there’s no clear-cut comparison to suggest that one choice of technology stack is better than another. Developer skill-sets, community support, open libraries, documentation, cost, and application requirements are some factors that influence that choice. The problem has become so acute that some developers spend days or even weeks researching and get indecisive. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place that introduces technology to beginners?

When I say “beginner” I don’t mean in the sense of someone in college or just starting his career. You could have years of experience in one technology and still be a beginner in Data Science, Big Data, Virtual Reality, IoT or any of dozens of new technologies that are coming up. I’ve found from personal experience that often initiations are in the form of Getting Started Guides, Setup & Installation Guides or Hello World examples. This fails because it’s telling folks how to use something rather than explaining what it is or why it’s relevant.

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Power and Misuse: The Case Against Aadhaar

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

An opinion

digitaleyeImage source: Kumar, M., 2013, ‘Digital Privacy, Internet Surveillance, and The PRISM – Enemies of the Internet’, The Hacker News; Security in a Serious Way.

The world we have built around us is due to human ingenuity as well as engineering skills. Tools play an important role in this. It’s not an exaggeration to say that most engineers think about the tools at their disposal before starting to give form to their ideas. To sculpt something, you need first good chisel and hammer. To build a bridge, you need precision measuring instruments. To dig a tunnel, you need a boring machine. In today’s digital economy, you need connected servers, software platforms and algorithms.

Tools improve both efficiency and effectiveness. The problem with the use of tools is the intent. A knife can be used to cut fruit or to kill your neighbour. A cook and an arsonist use fire in very different ways. Now imagine what will happen when a powerful tool is created with bad intent but the public is told that it is for their good. Aadhaar seems to be in this category.

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The AWS Alphabet Soup

Author: Arvind Padmanabhan

An opinion on the diversity of cloud services


I’ve just returned from AWS Summit held at Taj Vivanta, Bangalore. It was a busy day of multiple back-to-back sessions interspersed with networking over tea, coffee and lunch. The venue was packed. The sessions were heavy, at least for someone like me who has never used AWS in any big way. I was familiar with some of the terms before coming to this event but I was surprised how much more there is to the AWS platform. They say that as a developer you can focus on developing your application while the cloud takes care of everything else: deployment, configuration, scaling, security, access control, monitoring, etc. While this is certainly true in the long term, as developers we need to put in upfront investment in terms of time and effort to understand the plethora of services that a particular cloud platform provides.

They say there are 90+ services in AWS. It’s bad enough that developers need to aware of all these different services at their disposal. It’s worse when you consider that making the choice of the right set of services for your application isn’t trivial. This is particularly hard for folks used to only on-premise software built in monolithic fashion. We have to be really clear what we mean by the word “monolithic”, which is usually not properly explained in such summits.

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