April 2013

A research oriented institute

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Prof S Sadagopan
Director, IIIT-Bangalore

Prof S Sadagopan provides a succinct overview of the educational, research and social activities that the IIIT, Bangalore, is involved in. In conversation with Aparajita Gupta

Please provide us with an overview of the courses that are being taught at the IIIT. What are the ways by which the institute ensures that the courses that are being taught are in line with the needs of the industry?
We are primarily a post-graduate institution. We offer two-year M Tech, MS by research, which is two to three years and PhD programmes are between three to seven years. In addition to this, we teach IM Tech, which is for student who have passed XIIth Standard. We ensure that what we teach to our students is relevant to the industry. It is done more by our colleagues who have worked in the industry. Many of them have one to 10 years experience in the industry. As we are a post graduate institution we aim to make our students ready to take on the industry not only in near future but for the next several years to come. They should be able to sustain the industrial needs. We are not a finishing school, we only expect to make them tech-ready for the next several years.

The Centre for Public Policy and IT at the IIIT  has been promoting new ideas in e-Governance. Please tell us about some of the new ideas that you have developed. In your opinion for a country like India, what are the main challenges in  e-Governance?
Let us take a step back and look at many of the e-Governance projects those were executed earlier. Many of the projects use cutting-edge technology. But does it address the need to sustain the long term benefits of the citizens? For example, lets take the Bhoomi Project. We should be focusing on long-term impact of e-governance projects. It is not enough to do things well; it must be ensured that good things are done. The idea of e-Governance is not only to solve the problem of  today, but to see how technology can make a difference. Government has to take care of citizens; technology has to look into how far it can  take care of the citizens of the country. How it can make the system malpractice proof. The emphasis of e-Governance must be more on governance and less on ‘e’.

The IIIT is also involved in doing research work. Prof GNS Prasanna has been granted a US Patent.
Prof Prasanna was a product of MIT and he also received gold medal at IIT Kanpur. Everyone knows chess. Normally people say chess is an intelligent man’s game. What Prasanna has done, suppose one has reached the tail end of the game, where one is doing checkmate, now from that point can you take back all its coins back to the original position? That is inverse chess, that is, you start at the last position and then use normal rules of the games to get back to the starting position. Obviously, it is more demanding than playing chess in
the normal way. It has multiple uses, one is, it has novice value. The second thing is playing inverse chess will enhance the mental ability of people. If chess is a treadmill, inverse chess is a super-treadmill!

Tell us about the other research that is being done at IIIT.
A team of student researchers led by one of our professors, Prof Debabrata Das, have made key contributions to next generation wireless standards. We all use the phones, and as we make the phones compatible with more features, one of the problems is the battery life. Now the question is, how do we get the same service, with much smaller amount of battery usage? They have found out ways by which at least 5 percent energy can be saved and battery life can be increased. And if we can do it for billion of handsets, it will make a huge difference. I would also like to point out that we have put up three 15 kilowatt solar panels. This is purely for research purpose. You generate solar power and connect to the main electricity grid, so that the excess solar power, which is not been consumed is passed on to the main grid. The electricity companies buy this and give certain discounts. One of the main problems in this, is you need control circuit, which connects the solar panels to the main grid. This thing must be done with sophistication. The main function of control circuit is synchronization. We are trying to make this control circuit with sophisticated electronics, so that the synchronizing is done smoothly and more efficiently.

CEEMS – Centre for Electronics & Embedded Systems, has led to the creation of several award winning projects. Tell us about these projects.
We have two electronics laboratories – one is Centre for Electronics & Embedded Systems (CEEMS) and the other one is Next Generation Wireless Technology. I will give you the example of an award-winning project called ‘Intel-embedded challenge’. All the malls have this parking problem, when you enter the mall you have to go to the parking and search for a free slot. What the students did was, they used a fairly low priced technology. They did experiment with it in one of the parking lots in Bangalore. The idea is to place a small electronic circuitry in the parking lots of the malls. When you enter the parking lot, a slot will be assigned to you and you will get an SMS (you have to register with the system first) and after you have parked it locks your number. So that you don’t have to remember where you have parked, it is already been SMSed to you. And when you take your car out, it will send you an SMS saying you are taking out your car. This type of technology has been used somewhere else also. But that is fairly expensive and many of  them need a gadget in the car. But in a country like India, you cannot expect people to install another gadget. The only assumption over here is, everybody has a cell phone. This does not need a high-end cell phone. A normal cell phone which can receive SMS is good enough for this. This project was developed by CEEMS.


The IIIT is also engaged in incubating nine companies, one of which, Kolabia, has done some interesting stuff in the collaborative music creation space. Please provide us an overview of this project.
Kolabia is run by one of our students, who graduated about two-and-a-half years ago. Today you can collaboratively create a word document. It is called collaborative document generation. What Kolabia does is, can we do the same thing with music? In music the flow is very genuine. Each person puts their music in  any channel and finally, the composer decides which one to use and which one not to use and finally the whole thing gets the shape. This is how music is produced. Now that we are all staying in the internet age, what Kolabia says is can we create music over the internet? May be one artist is sitting at Singapore, the second one at San Francisco and another in Bangalore. All of them have access to internet and in internet there are various devices easily available. Then the artist A is creating something and putting it in the cloud and similarly the other two are also doing the same thing. Finally, the master comes in the scenario and from it he is picking up what he likes and finally he is producing the product. At this time it is little farfetched to produce a Hollywood or a Bollywood number. What is immediately possible is using for college functions. At present, Kolabia is used for fun. Luckily Kolabia is working with some Bombay-based artists. Kolabia provides with lot of tools. Kolabia is a tool with which people can collaboratively create music and in some point of time, even to sell music.

The IIITs have been initiating quite a few projects to promote green and environment friendly ideas. Recently the institute has commissioned 3 solar panels. What is your experience with these solar panels?
We look at green from three points of view. One is physical green–every inch of the campus is full of greenery and water resource. The second one is from energy point of view and we use natural light as much as possible, so that in most part of the campus, in the day time, we do not need electricity. For cooling also there is sufficient natural air. Three years from now, we are planning that our campus be quite a bit green and completely powered by solar. The third thing where we wanted to look at green energy is ecological form. Instead of putting the sewage water in the drains, we try to treat it and recycle it. We need a lot of water to maintain the greenery in the large lawns inside our campus, instead of using the clean water we use the treated water. We feel it as our social responsibility.








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