Hi, I am Samiran! Hi, I am Nilesh Hi, I am Sheetal and you are listening to 3TB Banter. 3 Techies Banter.

Hi everyone, I am Sheetal Choksi, welcome to 3TB, a podcast where 3 techies banter. It's a podcast where you can explore tech, the non tech way. It is about the tech, economics behind the tech as of today and in the future. It's full of information, fun facts, common sense actually spoken in a language that everyone understands, in plain simple English and no tech jargon. Last one we covered an interesting theme called the India stack and we covered all aspects of the India stack in great detail. This month we are picking up a new theme and this is something which impacts all our lives on a day to day basis. The theme for this month is everyday tech. What we want to really cover is things we do on a day to day basis without even realizing that there is technology behind it. We have also started another series under the 3 techies banter which is known as “Been there done that” where you will hear us in conversation with industry practitioners who have contributed to the world of technology in India and internationally. They bring their own perspective to it, they bring behind the scenes observations, and they bring in the challenges, the way they have overcome the challenges and all of that. You have already heard our episode with Pramod which is one of the first in the “Been there done that series” and over the next few months you will hear us bring in a lot more industry leaders. Anyway, jumping straight into today’s conversation and today’s conversation on everyday tech is really around smartphones. We are all used to having things right and we want the convenience of smartphones. Here’s the interesting bit, why did we choose smartphones? We know that the smartphone market is about 78 billion market and it is expected to grow to 135 billion by 2025. The pandemic really and Nilesh you can go into the history of it, the pandemic is what has really kicked smartphones even more because we have all been at home, we have all tired, we have all have been finding ways to use tech to make it more convenient for ourselves. Let's talk about the history of smartphones before we jump into how good it is for us and the environment.

So let me start with the evolution of smartphones and it's a great huge market firstly so you talk to apple, Google, Microsoft, everyone wants a pie of this and this is a market which has tremendous growth potential so definitely an important topic to cover and it affects us. It is already affecting us in base so we will talk about that in a bit. So just going through the evolution, since you know, for that era it was a great big boon and it started with essentially home appliances and all that also actually in the amber of smart home. Let me start with a vacuum cleaner. Essentially in the 1900s, I think 1901, you can see the kind of roots of the smart home kind of germinating through vacuum cleaners. This whole technology was Japanese exploited from the core. The technology in home appliances kind of takes home efficiency to a next level in various ways and I have a feeling that with the whole Japanese industrial growth, there is a whole lot of home tech behind it. Once we moved from the early 1900s, a very interesting device came in the 1960s, mid 60s and it was called eco 4. Very interesting name. Electronic, computing, corporater. Now when I read about it, when we started thinking we will do an episode on home appliances, I was so surprised at the kind of stuff this ECO 4 was supposed to do. As of today we talk about recipes, inventory of the house, supplies and all that stuff, eco 4 was supposed to help you with all that stuff. Electronic and home operator. This is the 1960s so you can understand where the level of the computer was. So it was really ambitious and it never saw the light of the day in commercial aspects. No one got to use it but you can say it was truly the first smart device and a lot of research went into it, people talked about it but it never got commercialized. I have a feeling, the technology of that era and constraints was one of the reasons why it never saw the light of the day but it had all the elements.

Let me interject. I don't get it was the technology of that era that they will see it through. Like you were talking about it, it's really the fact that it was technology which was marketed by putting down women and I think a man wrote the tagline for that. The tag line was - If she was only cook as well as a honey well can commute. That was the depth of echo for you.

I was thinking the techie in my mind that the speeds were not there, the computer was not there.

It was wrong marketing. The man must have designed it. A man must have written this.

Very interesting. I don't see it. I was not aware of their campaign because I thought it never saw the light of the day but that was the era, you have to see those ads, and they were wow.

So it was an era where there was so much objectification of women, the woman’s place in the kitchen and all of that. I think this just touched another raw nerve. My computer is better than your cooking. Anyway, I think it was an advertising campaign or a marketing campaign gone wrong. If they did it again in the right way then we'll see.

No- no and probably we have reached that stage. I will talk about Nest in a bit. This was mid 1960s and then you see 1970s, 1975 was base for this whole and this was more of a standard and it has become kind of a smart home which is extends standard. So if you know there is X11 and various internet standards for how networking would be done and extend you can say it was almost a plug and play internet which we have all used now. You just plug it and it was almost a specification for plug but this was essentially plus and play Ethernet and it did it an impetus to the whole smart home moment. So Exten was 1975. Then I will go directly to the late 1990s and I think we spoke about it in our first episode of surveillance capitalism, it was Nest. So Nest , if i am not mistaken, was started by some group from Apple and finally bought by Google and then it became the whole controversy about surveillance. This Nest was fantastic. Nest was a brilliant product; it was a very close loop system so hence it I said when Google took over it, it became a nightmare from privacy perspective but when Nest was launched it was a loop system which would manage stuff in your house. Like the name it was a fantastic product. So this is fully now getting into the whole comet of smart home technology, late 1990s and early 2000s. I missed out one interesting bit, I read about it but I didn't find that a lot of information was that somewhere in early 90s another thing called Gerona technology. I started reading about it, Gerona technology was a play on the word Gerontology and technology. So aging and technology. It is very interesting and I think work is happening on that even now. How can technology enable senior citizens to live a more comfortable life and it has barely itself so you can attribute it to a person who started this kind of a thought process but again it's a field where a lot of work is happening and we may touch upon it in our other episodes of everyday tech.

In fact Jeff Bezos is putting all his money into prolonging his life. In that sense is kind of not the pioneer but he is the one putting some serious money into wanting to live forever I suppose.

So I have my doubts, I always have my skepticism about people who want to live forever. It's almost like they want to become demi-Gods by living forever but that is my perspective. I don't want you to live forever. Move on, make space for other people on the planet.

I will end it like exten. Another thing which I found interesting and I feel that is also giving a lot of impetus, it is already being. India is behind another networking standard, it is called UPNP (Universal Plug and Play) and honestly we use it in our peer to peer network that we have created. UPNP is used widely in Europe. In India, when I was trying to do it with my router, I found out that in India it is difficult. On Airtel you can do it, on Jio you almost can't. What UPNP does is, it has a fantastic protocol. It is as the word is, universal plug and play. So if I bring an IOT device or any kind of device into my home network, it should just start working. So what it means is, I don't need to configure my router to this new device or open some ports or do all that. UPNP is a fantastic protocol for it. Somehow in India I have seen it with my personal experience that UPNP is not enabled at the personal level and in some of the ISPs like I said in Jio it was extremely difficult. It is almost impossible to get it working but UPNP would be one of the things which have helped Europe with a lot of IOT stuff and in India I am sure it will come up. So in terms of evolution when I look at it from a protocol level, exten and UPNP, when you look at how it has gone through, ECO 4 and Nest kind of took this whole smart home thing to a next level.

So in fact a funny thing is that there was a whole time in the history of science where everything was being attributed to Bell and others. Tesla was a poor fellow; he never got credit for anything. Now I think Tesla is the flavor of the month. In fact if you trace back the history of any kind of home automation, somebody who says that Nikola Tesla in 1888 created a remote that was actually able to control some toy. Now Tesla is the greatest guy that ever was, thanks to Elon Musk but the funny thing is that this whole view of the automated view, I think somewhere in 1933 there was some world fair where they came up with this vision of what automated homes will be and apparently what they talked about there is still science fiction today because they must have done something really fantastic to prove. Y’all know this whole thing of, Apple a day keeps the doctor away was actually a marketing gimmick. So even this whole thing about smart houses was a creation of the American builders association somewhere in 84. They wanted to sell homes and they don't want to call it just better constructed and all so they came up with this whole word called smart. Fortunately we have gone beyond that and done more. So as we kind of in the next section talk more about the maybe a little on the integrities’ but I just kind of end with a slight anecdote here is that when we think about smart homes, obviously we think about IOT devices and all, the simplest thing we think about are alarm systems so the big question really is, are these alarm systems really effective? So I was very curious to find out and I actually found a survey which was done for over 400 convoy who by the university of North Carolina and 80% of the burglars said that they would check for alarm systems before breaking in and if the found the alarm system, 60% of the burglars would go to another home. So I think we have kind of got it from the user community now. I think alarm systems are definitely effective but if you put a lock on your house, you are telling someone that you have something valuable to save. Till we come back in the next section.

So in the last segment Samiran you ended on a very -very interesting stories on burglars who chose to not burgle those homes which have alarms but that's a very American take on it because in India the security is the security guard at the gate and in the towers, the one in which I live, it's really not easy for somebody to come up and check. I for example would say that a lot of people within large complexes do not have the alarm systems because there are many barriers built in for burglars to reach up to your home before they can burglarize your home. So if you look at it from that perspective and you look at it from India perspective where we have tall towers. Look at Mumbai; it is proliferated with 70 story towers and things like that. Now, in commercialization, in commercial buildings we have the leap standard, we have the gold standard buildings etc. Do you think it makes sense for gold standards to come into residential towers? So security is one big thing but are there other aspects that one needs to look at in terms of energy, efficiency and all of that when we talk about large residential buildings.

So as you must be aware, for the last few years I have been beating these streets. So what I found to be at least mildly heartening is that though there is no standard, people definitely talk about this. I think what is happening is that it is appealing to the consumer that I am going into a home which is eco-friendly or saves power, electricity, so they definitely mention that and i came across a definitely cool, earthquake resistant gadgetry which are like rubber enforced pillars and Sheetal you will remember, in Bombay if it rains you shut all the windows, home gets moist. So apparently there is this Belgium innovation where there is this little panel next to the window where you can shut it on and off. So if you open that it allows air to come in from outside but no water, no dust. Whether you call it smart or electronic but that's the thing and before I kind of move forward, when you talk of anything as an India example, we truly being an Indianess to India so i know for a fact, one of the very large complexes here had installed 280 cameras in the parking lot because somebody was stealing number plates. Then the next problem they had was that it wasn't humanly possible to keep track of the 280 cameras on screen. The video on the CCTV camera becomes so tiny so you can't just see anyone. We do all kinds of weird things that get us into trouble and the other thing is that we install one kind of CCTV thing at home and for whatever details, the DVR has 4 ports and wanted more cameras, so that CCTV guy said don't worry, install some fake cameras. I said fake cameras? He said, ya ya because it's only a deterrent, don't worry. When they see the light blinking the robber will get scared. I said, is that what you do? He said ya, in malls 60% cameras are all fake because caballing is so expensive. So they said, how do you think those cables are running up and down those large elevators, it's just the camera with the light blinking. I said, great.

Samiran, if after this podcast the number of robberies in malls goes up, you and I will be held responsible.

But think about it Sheetal, the number of camera sales will go up because all those people who have saved money will now put real cameras.

I will tell you what; we have reached this state because of technology. The problem is, technology will only solve it in the end. The over dependence on technology has happened from whatever happened since 1901, we needed all those devices and then suddenly you need energy efficiency because all those devices use so much of energy and since we started with this whole alarm and lock on the house I have to tell you and this is as late as 1996, my first visit to South Korea and I was surprised, I don't know whether it is true even today, they just don't lock their houses in Seoul and Seoul is a big city. They just don't lock their houses. I don't know whether it is an invitation to all the burglars or it is a reverse psychology that if I have not put a lock, there is actually nothing.

I think there is a whole psychology in locking and all that. I remember we were changing the lock in the house and i was like, is this like this and that, all those probing questions i was asking. He said, sir this lock is only so that the thief goes to the next door, it is not to stop you. I said, I don't even want to start this conversation.

I definitely want to do a research paper on thief psychology next just to understand what drives them. I never thought of security like this.

But coming back to what you initially said Sheetal, should there be a standard for both security and energy and you are right. I am sure all of us would have seen, Amazon has a lot of home security devices launched in the US. In India we don't get all the Amazon products, all AI powered with Alexa and all. They are fantastic, big homes, large spaces, you have parameter security, you have this whole thing whereby you have this camera outside and the Amazon guy can actually deliver to the camera kind of and yet have a reciprocity that it has been delivered, so all that is there. In India it has to be thought of in a different term. So I will tell you a couple of, from a builder perspective I know for sure and Bangalore being Bangalore, being a tech city there are a lot of smart homes that came up in Bangalore which had kind of a console and cameras. We pre fitted over and above the chowkidar and gate level security. So the standards have to be there, I agree. So more so than security the energy part, over dependence has led us here but the fact that we need all these appliances in the fast moving life we have, we need the ease and efficiency but now we have to conserve and look at how we can reduce the energy footprint. So there are some fantastic devices, there are some smart meters and we also did some episodes, one of the episodes we talked about the girl who created that app.

Prachi Shevgaonkar

Prachi Shevgaonkar. Her app was how do you monitor your own carbon footprint. So I found out there are some smart meters in Europe which actually do that. So one is monitoring and second is kind of ensuring that the lights are turned off. So obviously there are sensors for even that, all of us have seen it; it's not something we are not aware of. Our light should be off and whenever you walk out of the room and things like that. So energy is a big thing. I think a certification should be there. The third thing which might help in that security energy and both is energy assistance, we heard in our GenZ podcast, one of our GenZ guests talk about it that morning starting with talking to Alexa and turning off lights or fan or whatever. So i think maybe some kind of a certification is now required because we can't go back on usage of technology. So I think AI and IOT are going to be key components in this.

So this not going back i think it reminds me again and again of our Pramod episode where he kept talking about this Plus one change. We have kind of done that plus one thing and we are at a point where we can't go back. We have to now adjust to this new normal because we have got so used to the conveniences at the flip of a button for other efficiencies but it probably has energy ramifications, some privacy ramifications and all that but i think those are the things we will have to deal with now.

So I think convenience has driven it. The fact that you can say, Alexa switch off the lights without getting out of the bed or saying dim the lights or switch off the AC or whatever, that has really made a difference. It hasn't caught up much in the Indian space but I think it's only a matter of time before all our homes become in that sense IOT enables smart homes including your rice cookers and your refrigerators and your gas and ovens going the way it is. But there are, Nilesh I feel there are downsides to so much of smart technology and so much of smart home creation. So in the next section let's come back and talk about some of the ramifications or the downsides of having smart homes.

So I think in the last section we ended with Alexa and its uses and pervasiveness in our daily lives. One of the things I find really useful is to turn on and off the music playlist for my dog when she is sleeping. For all those who are listening, did you know that Spotify actually has a playlist for dog music; it is actually supposed to sooth and calms your dogs. As we have seen that Alexa and all the others that we don't want to call them out specifically, I think that is so entwined in your daily life, obviously kind of has some downsides and ramifications for you as an individual and all of us in society. In fact i think i have said this joke before about Vegas that everything that happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas but hold on one sec, the Alexa in the room has come on. I have to go and shut it once. This is hilarious. I was wondering who is talking to me. Through all our little conversations if nothing else we managed to awaken Alexa at least. So anyway like i was saying, the old one used to be, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Then it became what happens in Vegas stays in vegas on the amazon cloud because Alexa was there in every hotel room in vegas. So you have the ups and downs of automations. But Sheetal, Nilesh, what has been your experience as regular users and what is it that you guys are hearing about?

So I will be honest with you, 2 things that standout for me - one is of course that we will say goodbye to privacy like you said, imagine while we are recording, Alexa picks up and starts to play Spotify dog music. But there are 2 things that really grab my attention and something that I always will and one of the reasons I don't have a fully smart home. One is like members of this family, not everyone gets along in the family. Till Nilesh told me about UPNP, I mean honestly, try fixing everything to everything, it's a little nightmare because amazon will tell you what gadgets are compatible with it and you are kind of now trying to find out members of the family compatibility issues. I will speak to the phuphi but I will not speak to the chachi types. It's too much for me to handle.

They literally have their own favorites, I get it.

Ya, so from our consumer point of view i am saying, hey can you find me something that allows me seamlessly bring all of it together and have one big happy family rather than this divide among members of this family. So that is one thing that definitely is a deterrent to all homes becoming smart homes quickly because when you buy a gadget, now you have to check if this gadget is going to be compatible with Alexa, with apple or whatever.

My relationship with my mc, my Macbook air is shaky, literally. I think it shakes and it goes off. That's what happens nowadays.

That said, we don't have this UPNP. That's one thing for me, when I think about smart homes and when I think about making my home smart, it becomes expensive at all 3 levels. To build it is expensive; to maintain it's expensive and to repair it it's even more expensive because now you are talking about technology. To build it you have to make sure that everybody is speaking to everybody and all of that. Then when you are maintaining it, it's like my mac, if I have to find that add on, it just costs me an arm and a leg so i am thinking of maintenance and repair I can't even dream of because now I don't know who the specialist is, who is going to come and fix this for me and what he’s going to charge me for it. So for me the 2 big deterrents for going into a smart home and I can be called old school for that is this whole thing of, I can't deal with this that everyone is not going to speak with everyone and imagine the cost of putting it all together, its crazy and then environment is a different issue. So Nilesh you can talk about it but for me every small device is an issue. So imagine the amount of e- waste we are going to create because we are going to have so many devices.

So I think before you answer Nilesh, this what Sheetal mentioned, maybe in this smart home or IOT world, there needs to be a need scape or apple moment where self-use would become. So I think today there is an issue of competence, you have to have a certain degree of literacy for what goes into what, what will work with what and if I plug all of this together then will something else blow up in the house and how do I just keep it all running, it's all a challenge. So I think it's a matter of evolution, maybe we will miss it but it is inevitable and not easy right now is the point.

So let me start with when Sheetal said, my home is not so smart home. So it reminded me of what my son calls, mine is also not a smart home. While we are doing this episode on smart homes, we have not yet reached there and the worst is, I have a TV which is LCD and it is 12-13 years old. It is a big TV but it is very- very old. So my son says it is time to give up this hardworking TV and get a smart TV because somehow I have managed to make it amazon compliant, it was not at all easy. Now actually it is all connected with an audio system and I was playing devil’s advocate here. The second version of amazon remote is really fantastic. So in its small way you have to go through a lot of steps, it just connected all my devices and now one remote works on Samsung TV and a different sound bar and third thing, all are done by this amazon remote. Supposedly this smart remote can even take your thing to a next level with the whole IOT part. So I have a not so smart but hardworking home. So coming back to your point Sheetal, you are absolutely right. That is a con. When I saw this whole UPNP thing and the challenges with it, there must be reasons why our ISPs haven't done it. I am sure because it reminds me that the team is in France so UPNP is relevant there. Once you do this UPNP, the device manufacturer also has to take care of some other stuff because your house suddenly thinks that I bought a device from outside and since it is a universal plug and play, it starts communicating with all other devices. It makes life easy but the manufacturers have to undergo very stringent checks and balances, things like even GDPR and those norms which are there in Europe where you can exploit this. So the con is always there. If we try to take away the problem that you are having and make it plug and play, then we have to put these checks and balances in place. So you are absolutely right, today we are not there. I think amazon through Alexa is trying hard to create the ecosystem. I have seen even the traditional ones. I think Wipro lights have come out with IOT lights and stuff like that. What we are looking at it as, we have kind of created a problem but as i said it was in making, we started using so many devices and now we are trying to resolve, one of them being energy and honestly speaking that energy part really appeals to me because the basic stuff i have seen, till the time you get really used to it, switching off lights and switching off fans, ideally you should do it on your own. You have to do it but it doesn't happen. I know my friend who gave his daughter a challenge that this is our electricity bill and you have to take care of those lights and fans are closed and whatever bill is reduced goes to you. You could save, she was at it, and this is sometime back. She would put off lights wherever she sees it, so she was their Alexa in a way but there was a 10% decrease in electricity bill. So the fact is that something has to be done and till we have a child who is ready to do this, we have to employ some kind of an assistant, some AI, IOT to our devices.

Ya so honestly think about it, you will never have to worry about forgetfulness. Even if you have left home and you suddenly think, all of us have this moment where you see, did I switch off the gas or not, did I switch off the machine or not, forgetfulness will be forgiven. It's almost like saying its fine, you can afford to forget, you can now do it over your phone and things like that. I think coming back to security, while we are worried about the burglars etc., it is also allowing us to monitor our own homes so you could see what's happening in your home without really being in there. So you could monitor everything from outside whether your child is being taken care of, whether your pet is trashing the house and all of that. So I think there are huge advantages to being allowed. To be able to switch on your rice cooker when you are driving back from home such that you are not wasting the time coming home and putting the rice cooker on, all of that is a big advantage, worry is that we are already struggling with e-waste with just mobile phones. Now the idea of e-waste with all equipment in the house and that to me is going to become a challenge and Nilesh I don't know if technology has an answer for it. These are solutions that we will have to find in other formats rather than just technology. So while I agree that goodbye to privacy is really something that technology can answer or compatibility is something that technology will answer or expense, everything in technology has become cheaper over time so that is something technology will answer but I think the environmental issue is not of energy but of disposal. Maybe something which the world of tech will not be able to answer but somebody else has to find and answer.

So I think the way this will maybe get answered in parts is how you incentisify the way, so while this is not a perfect solution but apple, Samsung, they take back their old laptops, give you new. They have the whole refurbished scheme so that they don't really dispose of it. It is a baby step but not that it will solve everything. At the end of the day and in a more cynical way, there is a selfish interest at the individual and societal level, I will benefit if I do this, if I do this, yeh bech ke mujhe radd ka paisa milega and there is a cycle that it will not work. So obviously people chuck and unfortunately durability has gone to the dogs, something that lasted for 20 years for our parents, you have to throw it away in 2 years. So it's that automatic cycle that has been created. So no answers but I think it has got to do with behavior, incentives and maybe some tech guy will figure out to aggregate all of this and put it all together and make road building material out of it or whatever it is, something like that.

So you are right, just to add on the e-waste part of it. I don’t have the final answers but I have heard that there is work happening and it was interesting for me to see how another technology is coming to the aid of it. I have recently seen in Europe, there are manufacturers who are actually building car seats out of this kind of a waste. Some kind of a resin is being created and people prefer that over the traditional leather material. I think Mercedes does it and many other big manufacturers are coming out with e-waste of this kind.

So Nilesh I have to mention this and we were discussing, Indians I think as a society is built for reuse of waste. I am giving you a stupid example but if you are wearing some clothes and if it gets old, you will tear it and use it as a duster. While it is a silly example but we seemed to be geared for that and to your point of reuse, I know that reliance and some other companies used to have a lot of waste coming out of their petroleum when they would do their fraction distillation and all that and that automatically used to be sold to the railways to make those mattresses in their second and 3 tier AC. so that apparently became 8,000cr business for them. So while it may be pure business but this whole thing of we will reuse everything to the nth degree, I find it engrained. You have old curtains and then you are using some other thing to soak rainwater in then you are doing something else. India probably is more pre-owned to it than the western world because of scarcity.

So Samiran since you mentioned scarcity, I don't know if you have heard but the latest email by Sudar Pichai is making rounds because he talks of how scarcity generates creativity, 3 words and how it beautifully describes the current downturn, the whole economy and all. So what you said is bang on point, Indians have been generating creativity out of captivity. It is a real problem undoubtedly Sheetal. So there are all these pros, there are these cons which will be taken care of. Electronic waste is a real problem. So on that note let us bring this episode of 3TB to an end. We will be covering this everyday tech over a couple of more episodes. So you will hear from us with different everyday tech examples. If you liked our banter, please listen to the episode. Don't forget to follow the show; we are available on major podcast platforms. If you are on an apple podcast please do leave a rating and review, it helps our podcast to grow. Until the next time, bye -bye.