SLASSCOM’s People Summit 2018 – Transforming The Way We Think, Work & Connect

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The SLASSCOM People Summit 2018 will be conducted for the seventh consecutive year on the 20th of February 2018 at the Shangri-La Colombo. It aims to provide leaders at all levels with innovative talent management insights and perspectives from renowned global leaders, along with prime networking and experience sharing opportunities. The event will bring together over 300 HR professionals and business leaders representing IT/BPM and other industries.

The summit’s objectives are two fold – firstly, to expose the audience to international best practices,cutting-edge trends and insights delivered by renowned HR practitioners within the region. Secondly, to provide an excellent networking opportunity for participants to meet and share experiences.

This year, the SLASSCOM People Summit 2018 will be held under the theme ‘Transforming the way we Think, Work and Connect’ in keeping with current trends and focusing on what are known to be the biggest issues in people management, globally. Areas such as building collaborative organisations, data analytics and leveraging automation & AI based technology to build future ready organisations will be delved into.

The summit will comprise of two main sessions: The CXO Breakfast Forum and the General Conference. The conference will have three parallel breakout sessions focusing on gathering insights through data analytics to create value, creating future ready organisations using AI & Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and building collaborative workspaces through concepts such as work-out loud and design thinking.

Experienced speakers from renowned organisations around the world will be conducting these workshops with the keynote address being delivered by Oracle Corporation Asia Pacific HCM Cloud Applications Head, Yazad Dalal. Other speakers include Virtusa Executive Vice President and Global COO Keith Modder, Microsoft Asia Pacific Human Resources Director Kathy Tingate, University of Columbia Economics Professor Prof. Lalith Munasinghe, Great Place To Work India CEO Prasenjit
Bhattacharya and Great Place To Work Sri Lanka Director and Oracle Corporation HR Asia Pacific Senior Director Rachna Sampayo.

Tickets for the SLASSCOM People Summit 2018 are available now and can be purchased online here. If you’re a SLASSCOM member, tickets are priced at LKR 15,000/- with group tickets for five available at the discounted price of LKR 67,500/-. For everyone else tickets are priced at LKR 17,000/ with group tickets for five available at the discounted price of LKR 76,500/-. It’s also possible to attend only the CXO Breakfast forum for which tickets are priced at LKR. 8,000/-.

We are excited to see the new ideas and concepts that will be presented at this year’s SLASSCOM People Summit. After all, human capital is probably the most important capital of all and the most easily mismanaged. Better, more modern management practices will result in better places to work and thus increased productivity, job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Will you be attending this year’s People Summit? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Caught Red Handed: Apple Is Purposely Slowing Down iPhones

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Have you ever wondered if your iPhone was becoming slower? Well, wonder no more! Older iPhones are becoming slower but not because they’re old. Instead, it appears that Apple is deliberately slowing down old iPhones through software updates causing the phone’s processor speed to be limited. Apple was forced to officially admit to this practice after a Reddit post about slowing iPhones went viral. While Apple’s reasoning for this practice is sound, it still sounds very much like ‘planned obsolescence’ a practice where manufacturers intentionally mess around with old devices so that users will be forced to buy new ones.  In the aftermath of the official admission by apple 26 lawsuits have been filed against the company.

 

Early last year iPhone 6, 6S and 6 Plus users complained that their phones were suddenly shutting down, even though there was sufficient battery left. This tended to happen during peak current demands when users would be doing something on their phones that required a burst of power like playing games or downloading apps. It’s this issue that apple tried to remedy through the deliberate slowing down of older iPhones. The reasoning goes that the phones were shutting off as a result of ageing batteries not being able to provide peak power when required. The solution to the problem was to limit the processor speed on older devices in order to prevent the phone from drawing peak current from the battery.

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Here’s Apple’s official statement: ‘Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

‘Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.’

John Poole the founder of Primate Labs and Geekbench took matters into his own hands even before Apple’s confession and pulled together and compared data from the performance testing Geekbench had done on users’ iPhone 6s and 7 devices. His analysis revealed that processors did slow down after the software update meant to fix the shutdown problem, that the problem was widespread, and likely to get worse as phones (and their batteries) age. He also noted that iPhone 6s users who replaced their batteries had faster phones.  According to his analysis even the iPhone 7 was being slowed down by the update.

All of this is quite upsetting because while Apple appears to be doing something for the benefit of its users, it shines a light on the potential for manufacturers to tamper with old devices in order to force users to buy new ones. Apple has faced a barrage of criticism about the issue, huge social media backlash and even some lawsuits. We think that the response is not only reasonable but also good because if users are not going to hold their device manufacturers accountable, there’s no telling what they might get up to!

What do you think? Are you one of those affected? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

The Fake WhatsApp: Why You Should Think Once & Read Twice Before Downloading Apps

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It seems incredible but, believe it or not, a cunning app developer has managed to spoof over a million users into downloading an advertising app that masquerades as the globally popular messaging app, WhatsApp. The app is called Update WhatsApp Messenger and does a very convincing job of looking like the real thing, even pulling off a clever trick to ensure that the developer’s name appears legitimate.

Fortunately, this particular developer wasn’t exactly malicious and their only intention seems to have been to generate ad revenue by tricking users into downloading the app. The app also didn’t require too many permissions and turned out to be an ad-loaded wrapper which is designed to have a blank icon and title so that users don’t see the app once it’s installed. This has left novice users helpless against the app’s intrusive ads and unable to uninstall it. For added measure and to encourage more people to download the app, the developers used a clever, digital ‘sleight of hand’ to appear as the genuine developers of WhatsApp. They achieved this by using what is known as a Unicode character space after the developer name which read, in computer code, as ‘WhatsApp+Inc%C2%A0.’ but appeared to Android users as ‘Whats App Inc.’ just like the real deal.

Google has now removed this ‘fake WhatsApp’ from the Play Store but this is not the first time such apps have been spotted on Google’s official app delivery platform. The Play Store has often been plagued with these kinds of incidents but this one is particularly significant given the number of downloads and the lengths to which the developers had gone to appear genuine. It’s very sad and even shameful that Google wasn’t able to pick up on this scam early on and put an end to it, even as more than a million users downloaded the app.

Despite efforts on Google’s own part and their security incentive programs such as Bug Bounty, the Play Store is awash with malicious apps that manage to fool security mechanisms and affect Android users in the millions. While this is to be expected given the Android Platform’s open nature as opposed to its competitors, it’s high time that Google stepped up its efforts to stop this kind of exploitation of its services.

Still, common sense is the best and first line of defence in the world of cyberspace. Despite the lengths to which the developers had gone to appear legitimate, there were a number of tell-tale signs of ‘fishiness’ to anyone with common sense and anyone who took a bit of time to read before they tapped install. First off the name, ‘Update WhatsApp Messenger’ is a dead giveaway. Why would What’s App issue an ‘update app’ when updates to the app are delivered via the Play Store? Then, the number of downloads. It’s common knowledge that, What’s App has over a billion users so the app having only one million downloads should look suspicious. A cursory reading of the reviews may also have alerted users to the nature of the app they were downloading. For more knowledgeable users, the ‘contains ads’ under the install button would also have been a huge red flag as WhatsApp does not display ads.

The lesson to be taken from this episode is that ultimately, you alone are responsible for your security online. It is very unlikely that you can be infected, affected or in any other way intruded upon without your authorization. Therefore, we strongly encourage everyone to think once and read twice before they click or tap on anything.

Nations Trust Bank Hosts Sri Lanka’s First Fintech Hackathon

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The Kaffeine Lab, Nations Trust Bank’s innovation centre at Gregory’s Road, came alive recently as the Bank hosted the first annual Nations Trust Fintech Hackathon. More than 150 teams from across Sri Lanka put forward their applications to contest in the Hackathon and the best 16 were selected to compete. The Hackathon kicked off with a short opening ceremony on the evening of the 10th of November 2017. Beginning at 6.00pm the teams hacked away through the night and finished up by 6.00am the next day. After the judges had made their decisions, the winners were announced at a ceremony on the morning of the 11th of November 2017. Top bank officials were present throughout the event, providing the teams with all the support they required.

 

Speaking as the Hackathon was in progress, Thilak Piyadigama – COO of Nations Trust Bank said, ‘In Sri Lanka we fail to provide young people with platforms to come up in life and showcase their ideas and talent. That’s why this is such a great initiative that makes us feel great about what’s happening here and proud of what we’re doing. It’s also a way to encourage competitiveness and boost productivity, when you have to deliver a functional solution in 12 hours. Traditionally, banks are quiet, conventional, full suit people, so this is a major step forward not only for us but for the whole sector. We are setting a trend here and I’m sure other players in the sector will follow.

‘We’ve found some really bright young kids and as a bank we want to help them take their ideas to the next level, mentoring them and providing them with start-up capital if we really like their ideas. Most start-ups tend to fail but with the right nurturing they have a better chance at succeeding. We have committed to making this an annual event and tonight’s event is only the beginning of an amazing journey. I would like to say a big thank you to all our partner universities and institutions, organizers and most of all the contestants for coming out here.’

The Nations Trust Fintech Hackathon 2017 saw some vibrant talent and enthusiastic participants competing in an electric atmosphere all through the night and the wee hours of the morning. Teams had projects ranging from an Island-wide Bus Route/Positioning Collator with trip planning features, a Handy Person Aggregator to put users in touch with plumbers, mechanics and other handymen closest to them, a VR Based Car Sale Experience and an ambitious project to introduce direct P2P energy trading between producers of excess solar power and consumers, along with many other fascinating and possibly game changing ideas.

Dinesh Thomas, the Chief Innovation Officer at Nations Trust Bank and one of the key organizers of the event added that, ‘I think what sets the Nations Trust Fintech Hackathon apart from other hackathons is that we are not after participants’ intellectual property. We are not buying or taking anything from them. We want them to own their ideas and develop them. We want to be partners and collaborate with them on this journey.

‘Our endgame is to collaborate with others and create new possibilities for fintech in Sri Lanka and may be even the world at large. Collaboration is a win, win proposition and we can help grow our businesses together. Most of these young guys and girls have no limit in terms of technical skills to deliver but when it comes to business skills to take their product to market, they’re often lagging way behind. We can help them here, guide them, finance them and mentor them to increase their chances of success. ’

The team, ‘Tech Devs’ were the ultimate winners of the Nations Trust Fintech Hackathon 2017 and walked away with a cash prize of LKR 250,000 and an interest free business funding plan. The runners up walked away with handsome cash prizes of LKR 150,000 and LKR 75,000 respectively.

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It’s great to see banks undertaking major initiatives like this to encourage the immense talent we have in this country to reach for the stars and bear fruit. We hope that we will see many more such initiatives in the future.

What do you think? Were you part of the Nations Trust Fintech Hack? Would you be, next year? Let us know in the comments below.

SimCentric Technologies

Quietly Creating World Changing Solutions

Software development companies are not a new thing in Sri Lanka nor are they in short supply. However, this week we had a lovely chat with Haridhu Abeygoonaratne, the General Manager of SimCentric Technologies, which is a R&D company specializing in advanced simulation add-ons and behaviour control modules, located at the Orion City IT Park in Sri Lanka that creates and sells simulation based products to the great militaries of the world.

SimCentric does not do any business in Sri Lanka at this time but the company is a Sri Lankan start up and not a part of any other organization and all its intellectual property rights are held in Sri Lanka. It was set up by two PhD holders from Oxford University, one of whom is a Sri Lankan.  Their work is exciting because the software that they develop allows militaries to train soldiers for missions using computer simulations without having to do real world training.

SimCentric works in partnership with Bohemia Interactive Simulations (BIS). BIS is the developer of the highly complex and versatile Virtual Battle Space 3 simulation engine (VBS 3) and SimCentric designs the add-ons and the Application Programming Interface (API) for that engine. The engine has everything from intricate maps to military units like battle vehicles and troops. Maps are detailed based on GPS and other geotypical information and can be used to run life-like simulations of battle field operations.

SimCentric sells two main off the shelf products, one for artillery fire training and the other for close air support. When training for artillery missions, according Haridhu, the artillery guns remain far behind enemy lines and scouts are sent forward to relay information back. This information is used to target the attack. A real world training exercise for an operation of this nature would require vast tracts of land, arms, ammunition and financial resources and would be extremely time consuming to set up. Instead, the world’s major militaries use solutions developed by SimCentric to run life-like training simulations for such operations.

The second product is Close Air Support, which is used when troops on the ground call in an air strike or for aerial assistance. Haridhu used the example of the Transformers movie where sequences like that can be seen, to illustrate. In this case too it is very complicated and resource intensive for militaries to conduct real-world training exercises. In some cases, it may actually be impossible to do so and this is where simulation based training comes in, allowing training for these exercises to be conducted at a much lower cost and with the added benefit of being able to run through them as many times as necessary.

In addition to these benefits, simulation based training is also very flexible in that troops can literally be trained anywhere and the equipment is portable which means it can even be taken onto the battlefield to provide onsite training. Using the solutions that SimCentric develops it is possible to adapt the software to any kind of simulator to provide training in diverse environments, vehicles or equipment. These products adapt easily and can be used by flight simulators or even battle tank simulators for any training purpose.

Generally such training exercises are conducted in large computer lab environments which make it difficult for one instructor to monitor exactly what each trainee is doing. Based on this, SimCentrics has developed yet another breakthrough technology branded TrainingMate. TrainingMate allows militaries to maximise the efficacy of VBS3 in battle lab training environments. It is a tool which allows an instructor to monitor trainees’ performance, easily launch and conduct training scenarios and to provide real-time feedback or instructions to trainees during a scenario all without moving around a classroom.  It also allows the instructor to operate from a remote location, which gives even more flexibility. This has resolved a lot of problems for training, especially on the part of the instructors who need not move around a classroom anymore and can clearly see exactly what every trainee is doing through screen share, remote assistance and other features.

After spending years on military simulation solutions, Haridhu now says they are working on adapting the TrainingMate platform to the education sector with a product branded Oxspire Classroom. The applications for such technology in education are vast and possibly ground breaking especially in a computer lab environment. Imagine attending computer classes and being able to receive one-on-one instructions from the best instructors who need not even be at the same location as the students or even in the same country. According to Haridhu, SimCentric is not looking to profit off of this technology from the Sri Lankan market and is happy to offer this to the local education sector at a very affordable price, as a way of giving back to their homeland.

Speaking about what sets SimCentric apart from other software companies at Orion City and in Sri Lanka, Haridhu had this to say, ‘What sets us apart at SimCentric is our people. We truly have an exceptional team.  It’s a young team and we don’t believe in unnecessary hierarchies and encourage an open environment where everyone can contribute. We have a healthy mix of staff from different ethnicities, genders and from state and private universities. Diversity is essential for innovation. We also encourage responsible behaviour amongst our staff, for example during the recent flood situation in the country, our team collectively decided to cut down on some entertainment expenditure and contribute that money towards relief efforts. This was not a management decision but a collective decision made by our employees. This is not to say that we have absolutely no hierarchy. We do, but for administrative purposes only.

‘We largely like to keep to ourselves, particularly because of the sensitive nature of our work. But I think now it’s time to let people know about our start-up success story. People in Sri Lanka and investors abroad both need to know that our country has a well-educated, sophisticated workforce and vast amounts of untapped talent. It’s not only a good place for basic software development but also for more sophisticated software products. This is very well supported by the plans laid out by the Sri Lanka Association for Software and Services Companies or SLASSCOM. I myself am part of SLASSCOM and this gives me a platform to encourage entrepreneurship and share our story so others can be inspired.

‘I want people to understand that Sri Lanka is a great place to set up shop and I want Sri Lankans to know that this is a great place to be an entrepreneur. SimCentric is a wonderful example of this where we started from scratch. I myself have been here from day one and have been involved in everything from ground up. That’s the typical start-up culture. I hope that our story will inspire others to do great things because there’s so much potential right here in Sri Lanka to make a big impact around the world.’

Visit SimCentric Technologies website and Facebook page to learn more about their work.

The Millennial: A Tough Customer

There is some argument as to exactly where Millennials begin and end but it’s safe to say that, almost without anyone realizing it, the kids of the late 80s, the 90s and the very early 2000s have grown up to become the largest group of consumers in the marketplace today. The Millennial Generation, especially the early ones, have grown up with the internet, literally.

They were born into and live in the information age and see it as natural to get any information they want on demand, usually within seconds to a minute. They have become accustomed to real-time responses from their favourite brands with online shoppers claiming that valuing their time is the most important thing a brand can do for them. Add social media into this merry mix and things have become extremely complicated and demanding for marketers.

Constantly switching between laptop, phone and TV has become habitual for most of us, yes even the non-Millennials. So, brands need to market and connect with consumers across multiple devices and social channels. In addition, as a result of being bombarded with information, the Millennial attention span is minimal, with some quipping that a competition with goldfish is in the offing. This means that websites and other digital platforms need to have clean, easy to use interfaces with tons of information displayed in an uncluttered fashion. Millennials don’t fall for the marketing gimmicks of yesterday and they expect brands to have an informal and honest attitude when dealing with customers.

Millennials like to engage with brands and their peers through tweets, texts, posts and Instagrams and not in any traditional manner. So, as a marketer, if you’re not speaking to your Millennial audience on their preferred platforms, in their native tongues and with complete authenticity or at least the air of complete authenticity :-P, then you are sure to be out of luck because say, ‘hello’ to the Social Warrior. They’re the armchair generals of the age only with the ability to inflict actual damage by weighing in on ‘social opinion’, even directing it.

While all of the demands that Millennials place on their brands of choice have made the marketplace a battlefield for marketers, the demanding nature of Millennials means that plenty of good is coming out of it as well. They’re socially conscious and really want to make a difference or at least feel that they are part of a movement that is making a difference. This means a healthy scepticism of overt sales tactics and a demand that their brands of choice act responsibly and become intimately involved in addressing the social issues of the day. For this reason, a brand that wants success in the marketplace will do well to choose and align themselves with a good cause, donating portions of profits or fundraising through promotional events.

All of these new demands might seem gloomy at face value, but there’s a very positive side to it too. You see, Millennials are a paradox. They are sceptical to overtness and fakery but they are by far the generation most open and receptive to advertising, partly because of their own voracious curiosity and also because the digital platforms with which they engage are a marketer’s dream. Whether they like it or not, Millennials can be reached.

Products and services today are more saleable in the market place than ever been before. In addition to this, post campaign launch, the audience themselves will do a lot of the work for you through content sharing, which has become a new kind of proclamation of self and values. Through it, consumers express their beliefs, who they are and the image that they want to project to the world.

Millennials, unlike generations before them, were largely brought up to believe that they can do anything and that they are special. This means a serious need for personalization of marketing content for this demographic and this is now easily achieved through various social platforms and a little bit of ingenuity on the part of the marketer. They value success, happiness, curiosity, enjoyment and passion and this drives how they engage with the brands of their choice. They want fun and engaging content and it never hurts to throw in a bit of wit and humour.

With the changes that we have seen in the last 30 years, the marketplace has evolved and changed. It has become simpler and more complex at the same time. While this means that it has never before been more difficult to market a product or a service. It also means that it has never before been easier to do so. The marketplace today, especially the Millennial demographic, is more ripe and receptive than it has ever been before.

Are You Ready For The Disruption?

Disrupt Asia 2017 Kicks off July 12th 2017 @ Hilton Colombo

Disrupt Asia is a startup conference organized by ICTA, which was held for the first time in Sri Lanka in 2016 and saw many innovative startups and influential personalities in the tech scene come to the fore. Last year, being the first time the event was held, expectations were high and the event managed to surpass expectations and deliver an exciting glimpse into Sri Lanka’s brilliant minds and vibrant startup scene.

The event is scheduled to be held on the 12th of July 2017 at the Hilton Colombo and a number of talented speakers are scheduled to share their life experiences and talk about the tricks of their trades. Disrupt Asia 2017 will provide a great platform through which the people behind the tech startups of the day and industry experts from all over the world can share ideas and gain insights from each other, with a key focus on how to make a start-up successful.

Disrupt Asia will also provide an opportunity for any startup that is interested to attend the event as an exhibitor, be part of the Startup Exhibition and exhibit their products and services. Visitors to the event will get a chance to meet with these pioneers and share ideas.

Along with the panel of speakers, an investor forum will also be held to give potential investors an opportunity to clearly understand the investment opportunities that are available in this area. Encouraging investment and the ability for new comers to appeal to investors is essential if we are to see the Sri Lankan startup scene flourish and make globally resounding waves.

In addition to the investor forum, there are many workshops that are planned on various topics from mastering the lean canvas, becoming investor ready, digital marketing and understanding legalities as they pertain to startups. An academic workshop targeted at the management teams of public and private universities is also planned.

The most thrilling spectacle of Disrupt Asia 2017 is likely to be the Startup Battle, which will be hosted this year by Hemas Slingshot. The competition will see startups get up on stage and pitch ideas to a panel of judges through multiple rounds of the competition.

The startups that are shortlisted will be invited to participate at the semi-finals to be held at the Edulink International Campus. The three finalists at the semi-final will pitch their ideas at the Disrupt Asia 2017 itself and the winner will receive a cash price of LKR 200,000/- and a co-working space for 6 months. The runners up will receive a cash prize of LKR 100,000/- and a co-working space for 3 months.

Registrations for the Startup Battle and slots for exhibitors are still open and it’s still not too late to send yours in. For more information about the event, tickets and how to be a part of it click here.

Disrupt Asia 2017 is set to be a smelting pot of talent, ideas, passion and drive. If you have even the slightest interest in tech businesses, products and services then this is a not-to-miss event. We can’t wait to see what this year’s event has in store and be a part of the action.

Tell us what you think about Disrupt Asia 2017 in the comments below.