Posts Tagged With: Technology

The Innovators: A fascinating history of the digital revolution

The InnovatorsTitle: The Innovators
Author: Walter Isaacson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 2014)
Pages: 560
ISBN: 9781471138799
Genre: Non Fiction, Computers & Technology, Business
Rating: 4/5

Long before the advent of the computer and internet as we know it now, long before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were beatified as idols of computing and Apple and Microsoft became household names, scores of scientists and engineers had been busy decoding the principles of science, seeking to understand the ways of the machines. Almost a century of discoveries, innovations and generating and executing ideas that helped create the “digital age” is what biographer Walter Isaacson has explored with great zeal and attention in ‘The Innovators.’

But here there are no individual heroes, brilliant thinkers and visionaries who stood above the rest. For Isaacson places teamwork as central to innovation. Elaborating how creativity is a collaborative process, he writes, “The digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding ideas handed down from previous generations.” The best innovators are those who understood this trajectory of technological change and all of Isaacson’s characters, be it engineers, scientists, hackers and entrepreneurs, took the baton from other innovators.

When a dream was envisaged by Charles Babbage, his ideas were borrowed and galvanised by Harvard Aiken for his Harvard Mark I. To understand how the first transistor came about is to learn of the collaborative efforts of Walter Brattain and John Bardeen. Steve Jobs built on the work of Alan Kay, who was in turn inspired by Doug Engelbart, who built on JCR Licklider and Vannevar Bush. Yes, this book isn’t a book of lone geniuses and Isaacson, ever so powerfully attests to the romance of collaboration rather than individual effort.

Throughout the book, he singles out the creative genius of the various visionaries and through their stories weaves a wonderful tapestry of human-human and human-machine symbiosis, how each in their own way contributed their share to create a world where new technologies thrive.

The book begins and ends with the story of Ada Lovelace, celebrated as a feminist icon and a computer pioneer, who had a propensity for the marriage of the poetic realm with math. Assisting Babbage on his ‘Analytical Engine,’ she dreamed of a world where “machines would become partners in human imagination.” The saga of the digital age that is ‘The Innovators’ — cataloguing how the digital universe evolved, how technology progressed from transistors and  microchips to personal computers, video games, internet, et al — has amusingly reinforced this idea. Innovation after all happens when you understand the relationship between humanity and technology.

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Going the ‘tech’ way…


It has been five years since the technology-equipped traffic management system was introduced in the City and the traffic policemen are heaving a sigh of relief as it has eased their work to a great extent.

Sophisticated: The traffic monitoring system.

Sophisticated: The traffic monitoring system.

With automated traffic control system and real-time information streaming in, their main aim is to bring the traffic in the City under control. Metrolife finds out more about this.

This is part of the B-Trac Project, which is a five year programme implemented at the cost of 350 crore by the government-owned Karnataka Road Development Corporation (KRDCL) and other private stakeholders.

Under this, they had introduced a traffic wireless system, traffic surveillance system, traffic signalling system and traffic helpline. Presently, the City has 180 surveillance cameras and five enforcement cameras at various junctions. All the cameras are connected through cables with the control room.

Says Vasanth Bhagath, “These cameras can be rotated in 360 degrees and zoomed in upto 1.5 kilometres to see any point on a particular junction with the help of which, even pictures of the number plates of erring vehicles can be captured. The various artery roads in the City are divided into 20 corridors and each one is monitored by a person at the centre.”

They also aim to control the traffic congestion. They have prepared a database, based on video analysis, which is used to control the duration of the green lights at the junction depending on the traffic. Says Vasanth, “This technology is called Traffic Logic Control (TLC) through which, we calculate the maximum time of every signal light.
This varies according to the traffic flow at a particular time of the day. Only in case of VVIP movement or heavy rains, it is shifted to a manual mode.”

The policemen on the roads also carry BlackBerry phones and bluetooth printers (linked to the Central database) to penalise an offender and also check on previous cases. Says Vasanth, “At the time of any law-breaking, the convict is checked for previous offences by entering the vehicle number which is recorded in the database and a printed receipt is given.”

Has this system actually helped the police? Says S A Pasha, Assistant Commissioner of Police, “With the introduction of technology, there is less scope for errors while booking a case. Also, it has created a sense of wariness among the citizens to follow rules and hence, has resulted in lesser accidents over the years.”

The general public too feels it has been put to good use. Says Pallav Ghosh, an IT professional, “The initiative is quite good as it keeps things error free. As the violating drivers are given a receipt right then, there are less chances of people taking bribe. Even the way the signal lights are managed has brought respite to the traffic woes we faced a few years back as everything is computerised.”

The Traffic Management Centre is located on Co­mm­issariat Road on the first floor of Ashok Nagar Police Station and is open to the public.


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