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Stanford Engineering Symposium India Emerging Trends in Networking Infrastructure and Related Technologies
si Team
Monday, January 5, 2009
India creates an innovative environment for emerging technologies due to unique consumer demands and a large market with rapid adoption rates. These factors will greatly impact network architectures and protocols, which support social networking, security, and e-commerce. "There is enormous opportunity for innovation in terms of scale, cost, and ease-of-use in the Indian context that could then emerge as solutions in other geographical regions. Those executives and professionals who understand these emerging trends could be the next major players in the networking industry," says Andy DiPaolo, Executive Director, Stanford Center for Professional Development, and Senior Associate Dean, School of Engineering, Stanford University.

It is against this backdrop that eight eminent professors from Stanford University flew down to India and provoked thoughts of Indian technical leaders on innovation and research developments at 'The Stanford Engineering Symposium - India', organized in association with siliconIndia on December 18 and 19, 2008 in Bangalore.

The focus of the symposium was on innovations and research developments in the Internet, data-center networking, wireless, social networking, and enabling technologies such as silicon design and manufacturing. The program also featured thought provoking panel discussions and feature keynotes by Indian business and technology leaders.

Aravind Sitaraman, Vice President and Managing Director, Cisco Development Organization, Cisco Systems India during his inaugural address said, "The time has come for the initiation of solution based technologies in place of product based technologies. We are looking at networking as a means of transforming technology based solutions."

Over 180 delegates attended the two-day symposium, which also saw participation of technical leaders from companies like Intel, Wipro, Infosys, TCS, Texas Instruments, Cisco, Sun Microsystems, Akamai, Adobe, and McAfee among others. "What I like about this conference is the depth of the content. I would like to see more of such conferences happening in India," said Viswanathan Ramaiyer of RSA Security.

"It's quite amazing to have gathered the best minds in Stanford with the best minds in Bangalore to talk about the future of networking. I am particularly pleased with the kind of interaction, engagement, and exploration that faculty and industry experts had with each other and with the audience. After the presentations, it was great to see how the audience clustered around the faculty and talked among them about the new ideas, lessons they were learning, and how that might apply to future of networking. It is indeed quite stimulating," noted DiPaolo.

Industry – Academia Partnership

Apart from Symposiums such as these, Stanford routinely works with academic and corporate partners from around the world and close at home in the Silicon Valley area on important research projects. In the Indian context, a recent partnership with Tata Consultancy Services on data privacy and a project in transportation with Infosys are two examples.
Tata Consultancy Services is increasing its focus on research in the data security space and has tied up with the Stanford University for a research project to develop a HIPAA compliant platform, which will be used to service its healthcare clients. TCS is committed to spend $1 million over five years on the project. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a privacy rule that has made implementation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 obligatory. The rule addresses the disclosure of individuals’ health information as well as standards for individuals' rights to understand and control how their health information is used. "Any service provided to the client in the healthcare segment should be HIPAA compliant," says Sachin Loda, Scientist, TCS. The Stanford team is involved in efforts to improve Web authentication, prevention of identity theft, managing privacy, supporting privacy-preserving database operations, and improving network and computer system security. Privacy of customer data is gaining prominence, especially for TCS, as more and more customer-related activities span the geographical boundaries. The strong collaborative relationship between Stanford and TCS stemmed from a visit to TCS by Prof John Mitchell in early 2005.

INSTANT Project:

Infosys Technologies and Stanford University are working on a collaborative project called The INSTANT Infosys Stanford Traffic project. It is all about offering monetary incentives to Infoscions to report to work early.

The project, launched in October, works on a system of credits that could be accumulated by employees to earn weekly. Apart from saving on fuel worth Rs 20,000 every day, the project has triggered an increase in early comers at the Infosys campus in Electronic City, says Balaji Prabhakar, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, Stanford University.

"The project attracted about 3,000 new early commuters," says Prabhakar, who devised the incentive mechanism.

Background research for the project between January 2005 and June 2008 revealed that the number of early commuters (starting time before 7.15 am) in Infosys buses had come down from 29 percent to 16 percent. The buses, typically, have a seating capacity of 49. Infosys runs about 240 buses on four major routes, from 120 starting points. GPS tracking of Infosys buses plying between Jayanagar and the Electronic City campus revealed that the 7.15 am buses were at least 30 minutes quicker than the 8.15 am buses that were invariably caught in the choking traffic points on the route.

In a survey done on employee response to the INSTANT project, 26 percent of respondents said they would start reporting to work earlier. Prabhakar says plans are on to extend the project till March 2009, with changes based on feedback. Other companies in Electronic City can tap into this idea. "INSTANT may not be the only solution but it can work as a complementary model, along with better signaling systems and infrastructure. What makes the system successful is people's participation," says Prabhakar.

There are several interesting research opportunities unique to India. "Growing nations like India have a vital role to play in the development of emerging technologies", said Professor Mark Horowitz, Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, adding, "We are very keen about strengthening our ties with India."

"The amount of intellectual horse power in India amazes me. There are several people who are smart and are trying to look at big challenges India has and how technology might help solve those challenges. Stanford could be a catalyst in strengthening ties between the universities and industry. Indian and American universities can work together with industry in India," said DiPaolo.

On the sidelines of the two-day symposium, siliconIndia spoke to the Stanford faculty to probe their mind about the research opportunities that interest them, especially what intrigues them in emerging economies like India.
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