‘Prevention is better than cure’

‘Prevention is better than cure’
What role does C-DAC play in the Aakash Tablet project?
Aakash tablet has gone through multiple phases, the first phase was of a pilot implementation, it was under MHRD for educational purposes where C-DAC’s role was to collaborate with IIT Bombay to provide these tablets at the cheapest possible price and make them available to teachers and students as a pilot facility. In this particular project C-DAC’s role was primarily to conduct the testing, to ensure that the tablets are meeting their specifications and to take care of the logistics of acquiring them and sending them out to the right kind of teachers and taking their feedbacks. We also developed few applications around it including porting on Indian languages and we tried various combinations for various applications which could be run on the Aakash tablets. The second phase is that of deployment of the Aakash tablet project. C-DAC’s role has been to define the specifications, to create an ecostructure which can assist companies in India and outside to fabricate Aakash tablets and use the logo if they are certified by CDAC.

CDAC being the testing authority makes the tablets go through extensive testing to ensure that the tablets are robust and have all the applications that we specify. The specifications include the performance, mechanical strength and safety standards.

We have heard that CDAC is developing an electronic personal safety system to help the citizens. Can you tell us about its objectives and functions?

I think personal safety system is an ecostructure that technology can provide in order to support a vulnerable group of citizens against varieties of evils that exist in the society. For example an older person walking on the road meets with an accident and since our social structure does not support him on the road he can use the safety devise to connect with the police or relatives and then some assistance can be provided as quickly as possible. The electronic personal safety system has two components, one is the safety devise itself and the other is back-end infrastructure. The safety devise will be used by the individuals, the corresponding back-end system will connect to police and relatives and will provide a mechanism to track the person. You must have heard, the Ministry of Finance had already allotted a thousand crore rupees  out of the Nirbhaya fund for this kind of system to be developed, we are currently in the process of deploying it in Jaipur as a pilot project and fan it out to a large number of cities. We are trying to set up a standard on how the devise will communicate to the back-end system, to the police and to other system. The back-end system can be placed in any sort of device be it a mobile phone or a wristwatch. It will provide a mechanism to track the person who is in a vulnerable situation. There are two aspects of this system, one is a precautionary mode called a ‘track me’ so that when a person moves his or her information is made available to parents or friends the other mode is when a person is actually in distress, in that case when an SOS button is pressed all those people who are tracking, they plus the police come in the role. The dispatch centre receives a call and dispatches a police van, the police van can track this person and reach there as quickly as possible.

What are the other recent projects you are working on?
There is one interesting project that we are working on and that is supercomputing. CDAC was established for supercomputing and we have given the largest supercomputers to the country. We are taking a leap forward and gearing up for a national supercomputing mission. We’ve given a proposal to the government. The proposal is under active consideration. Together with CDAC and IASC Bangalore we are taking a leap under Department of Information Technology and Department of Science and Technology, we are trying to bring a major supercomputing focus into all scientific researches which will enable our scientists and researchers to carry out and develop applications which are societal and need supercomputing like molecular simulations, weather modelling, computational fluid dynamics, space discoveries, even in the regular entertainment space where you need to search through huge data, we will be able to do all this in supercomputing.

We are also working on many hardware activities and we are trying to see if major focus can be given to the hardware industry in the country. India is well-known for software activities, we have to move ahead in the hardware department, today’s modern hardware  design is very close to software and it requires the same thinking and same working. So, we are looking at creating an environment in the country for hardware activities. We are also working on several other projects of societal nature for example health informatics, tele-medicines, we are working on heritage computing where we can present the our heritage in digital form in front of our citizens.

Can you tell us about your contributions in multilingual and heritage computing?
I think when CDAC was established in 1998, since then a lot has happened in the representation of languages on the computer, today it is possible to type things in the Indian languages, search in the Indian languages and that has been possible largely because of the work that has CDAC did in 80s and 90s. We defined the unicode for Indian languages and that has become the defacto standard for any product whether it has been for Microsoft or any computing project. It’s because of CDAC’s effort that people can see Indian languages on the mobiles. What we are currently working on is human interfaces like speech, sound, touch, all these interfaces can be made to work with the computer using Indian languages. We are working on creating an electronic translating infrastructure which can eliminate language barrier by translating the conversation in real time, this is a huge challenge in the sense that first you hear Oriya language text and convert it into Tamil and speak it back and all this in real time. Translation has always been a major issue, we have been working on this for a long time and we have been able to achieve a lot of good results, for example  we deploy our items to translate English parliament agenda items into Hindi.

In heritage computing we have come up with systems like museum builders where you can have a virtual museum walk-through, we have installed our kiosks in many museums. For example Nizam’s jewellery,  you would like people to see them but at the same time it becomes a security concern so we use a virtual museum which provides the same look and experience but the actual thing is not there. We are working on preserving our virtual texts through digital preservation.

CDAC specialises in research and development. So, how is the knowledge transmitted in various areas?
We interact with several user agencies to take forward our R&D activities, for example we have been interacting with museums to take our museum builder around. Many of the technologies that we have developed are available to people in various places now. R&D is our mandate and therefore when research activities go to people it has to be taken along with the user agencies. We have developed a terrestrial radio system which is basically a wireless system through which people can converse in a city-like area. Our system is very compact with better handsets because we have invested a lot of R&D efforts and this technology is now under deployment by various kinds of organisations, ECIL, BEL, Caltron, through that it goes into specific user agencies like police, army and others.

We have developed various kinds of systems through which tele-medicines can be deployed, various medical hospitals and colleges deploy it and we continuously work with them, we have worked with AIMS and regional cancer centres. There are places where medical facilities are not available so we have made our technology available in those places and therefore through video and audio links they can connect through right doctors, this is in use today in various remote areas like northeast, Kerela and other far-flung areas.

Do you have any upcoming plans to strengthen the security of the cyberspace?
As the information is growing, concerns about security is growing too. We are increasingly becoming dependent on the cyber information space therefore leak of the information is a major concern. The security system that we are working on has multiple facets, one is to protect, the other is  to recover out of a security breach, to control or undo the damage to the extent possible. We have been working on forensics, we keep getting various such requirements from law agencies, courts where they need to extract information from a captured CD or acquired phones, extracting information like deleted contacts, deleted messages, figuring out evidences on the hard disk and other things. We are also working on malware protection, USB devices are very common and anyone can extract information from one’s computer through the USB so we have developed a mechanism called USB pratirodh which stops the information leaking through the USB or only allows controlled information to be transferred. We believe prevention is better than cure, so we are also working on creating a technology which will find a malicious code before the attack.

Since 2012-2013 has been your Silver Jubilee year, what remarkable technological achievements has CDAC gained so far?

One of our biggest achievements is in our supercomputing domain where we recently crossed a major milestone and started looking at petaflop per second kind of supercomputing, we launched half a petaflop supercomputer in February and it has been one of our major achievements. We have been able to launch a number of e-governance applications, we have provided various kinds of services to the citizens from the government using mobile phones, web access, we call them national service delivery gateways. We have also launched Urdu tools and techniques, Urdu is written from right to left, we came up with an Urdu keyboard where the text on the screen will appear from right to left, this was recently released by Kapil Sibal in July. We also launched an operating system which is completely in Urdu, large number of Urdu based utilities, accounting software, graphic software etc.

Can you tell us about your contributions in health and education department?
We are working a lot on medical electronics, recently we had launched a digital programmable hearing-aid, hearing-aids of that calibre are usually very expensive and they are not available to common man. This devise primarily is cost-cutting, a very high-quality hearing-aid is made available at affordable prices.

These devices can cater to anyone’s hearing profile, you can actually control the frequency response system and therefore offset the hearing imparity by this particular devise. We have already launched these, we are working with several organisations both with government and private sectors and these devices are being given to people under governmental schemes, recently we gave about 200 such devices in Hyderabad. This project is completely done in India including chip design to everything. It’s a 100 per cent Indian product and that has helped in reducing the price of the device.
Namrata Tripathi

Namrata Tripathi

Our contributor helps bringing the latest updates to you

Share it