What We Saw at Google I/O Extended Sri Lanka 2017 By Mobitel

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They say Christmas comes only once a year. Well, Google I/O is pretty much Christmas for anyone who’s a fan and follower of anything Google. For those who can’t make it to the man conference in San Francisco, there exists an event called the Google I/O Extended programme. These can be organized by anyone and this year Sri Lanka had two Google I/O Extended 2017 events, one by Dialog and one by Mobitel.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

Held on the 17th of May 2017 from 5.00 PM to 5.00 AM on the 18th of may 2017 at Stein Studios, Rathmalana, Google I/O Extended Sri Lanka 2017 organized by Mobitel boasted a number of interesting sessions such as the finals of the Inspire Sri Lanka competition, speeches from some leading industry experts, a fully-fledged coding competition, and several performances by musical celebrities and dance groups. We covered what we saw at Inspire Sri Lanka a few days ago and yesterday was the Finals for the top 5 teams.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

They were:

  • DataCon
  • Hustlers
  • Verzion
  • Agro Inventors
  • Nuron Labs

The teams had 12 minutes for their final presentations and a further 8 minutes for Q&A from the judges. The judges were quite thorough and pinpointed and flaws that the teams might have, to ensure that they improve their products. At the end of the presentations, the judges took a small break to calculate their scores to pick a winner.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

Saman Perera, Group Chief Information Officer for SLT Mobitel was up on stage to deliver the welcome speech. He spoke about the history of Google I/O Extended and the strides that Mobitel has taken to make it an event that is both exciting and knowledgeable.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

Following that, we had Akalanka de Silva on stage to talk about some new and upcoming products of Mobitel. He explained that for any product, there’s always a buyer and a seller. This is an age old pattern that has a number of new market dynamics. Digital sales too are by and large the same. What’s missing is the platform. This is where Inzspire comes into play. A platform to build Sri Lanka’s first digital eco system, Inzpire offer a three-fold combination of being empowering, being an enables and also exchanging.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

Next up was Lahiru Hettiarachchi to talk about Code Blooded. An initiative to promote coding among Sri Lankans. It’s also aimed at promoting FCC (Free Code Camps) in Sri Lanka and also to build a collaborative community of coders. Lahiru also gave a brief background about FCC and encouraged the audience to join and seek available opportunities. He then spoke about the “codeCampChallenge”, a coding competition for those attending Google I/O Extended 2017 Sri Lanka organized by Mobitel. Whoever finished the most number of challenges during a given period of time would win a ticket to CommunicAsia 2017. Codeblooded.mic.lk

The first speaker for Google I/O Extended 2017 was Manju Gunawardana.

His topic: Drones, their revolution and evolution. He started off by giving a brief history of Drones all the way back from about 10-15 years ago. Nowadays, most people harness the potential of drones either for cinematography or weddings. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it is a bit of a waste of their true potential.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

According to Manju Drone Service Providers, Agriculture, Surveying, Construction, Education are the top 5 drone adoption leaders. He used the Meethotamulla tragedy as an example to showcase how autonomous drones were of service. Because they’re autonomous, there was no interaction required Manju and his team could take the first geo referenced image to gather information to take decisions such as rescue and search plans. Using multi spectral imaging, they could calculate various types of indices which helped them make various important decisions. Manju went on to explain the steps that they took to fully analyze the Meethotamulla situation and see exactly how deep the problem is.

He then moved on to his next topic which was Precision Agriculture. This more or less dealt with how drones are used for agricultural purposes. Agriculture is very important to this country. Using drones, you can perform better field level observations on crops to monitor crops and reduce your maintenance costs. You can even use the drones to monitor fertigation and fertilizer levels of crops and even perform targeted weed killing.

In conclusion, Manju left us with a number of takeaways such as the fact that a small drone that costs around LKR 250,000/- can solve problems worth millions. Because of the sheer height advantage of drones, once you go up, you end up seeing a different setup entirely. He also emphasized that unnecessary complexity is very bad. If you can reduce complexity on your design, you have a great future with your invention. A big mistake that people make is that they judge a product by quantity or size, rather than quality.

With those words of wisdom, Manju’s session came to an end.

We learnt about 5G from Gobinath S. Govindasamy

Gobinath, the Chief Technical Officer at Ericsson Sri Lanka, spoke to the audience on 5G for Digital Society. If you recall, a couple of months ago, the ITU released a specification for 5G. The most important fundamental element of 5G is ultrahigh bitrate. Imagine if you can just click the Netflix icon and start watching your favorite TV series immediately, with no lag. That is pretty much what 5G would be. You will also need high capacity to cope with the data that is transferred across a 5G network. Reliability is also a key benchmark to see if your network is performing as expected. 5G would be a real game changer for things lie VR and AR, fixed wireless broadband and remotely operated robots such as medical robots.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

Throughout his presentation, Gobinath emphasized that 5G is not hyped, but rather quite a reality. It gives users connectivity to anyone, anywhere at any time.

And the Winner of Inspire Sri Lanka is

The winner of Inspire Sri Lanka 2017 was Team Agro Inventors and their product Safe Agri. They would receive a chance to attend CommunicAsia from the 22nd to the 25th of May 2017 in Singapore.Truly a deserving win. The remaining teams were given certificates of participation.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

We learnt about the Startup Journey from Chalinda Abeykoon

According to Chalinda, there are 5 success factors such as funding, business plan, your idea, the team and time. Whilst most people would think that funding is the most important factor for your startup, it is in fact, Time. Time is the only element that you have no control over. It goes hand in hand with the market, and it’s really good to focus on a small but rapidly growing market.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

With regard to the team, all team members need to see the opportunity and they all need to feel the pain. Pick people from different disciplines. For your idea, make sure you have a few people who love it rather than many people who simply like the idea.

Following Chalinda’s speech was what we were all waiting for

You could feel the excitement in the room. Yes, it was the livestreaming of the Keynote Speech of Google I/O 2017, essentially what everyone was here for.

Mobitel
Image Credits: Avishka Senaratne

The livestream was shown via a large display in front of the audience and everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen in eager participation. You can find the details of everything Google announced at the I/O 2017 keynote here.

We had Fathhi Mohammed on stage

Fathhi’s (Co-Founder of PickMe) presentation was about how people began changing their outlook when a service such as PickMe is made available. He also spoke about the concepts of “Right” and “Right Now”. “Right” would be making sure elements such as the user interface and back-end processing are working as they should, whereas “Right Now” deals with adding as many features as you can to make the product look more attractive. Essentially at the beginning at the startup, you just need to ensure that your product is in operation and everything else will fall into place.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Mahesh de Andrado

Fathhi then spoke about how they developed a website with a good UI. At the beginning of your startup, you’ll have a person who just wants new features added, but later on, you’ll find that simply adding functions would mean that you have to check the architecture of your product. Mindset is everything, Fathhi sad and you must have a startup mindset. In order to get the best experience of a startup, the best option would be to work at a startup.

What is Sri Lanka’s future in e-commerce? Dulith Herath explained

Dulith, the Founder and Chairman of Kapruka started off by explaining how 100 years ago, the world was controlled by Emperors and Kings. 30 years ago, the world was controlled by around 60,00 global companies. Fast forward 10 years from our present data and the world may be controlled by Internet companies.

Using the example of a USD $50 pen, Dulith explained how rather than pay that much, people could go and order goods online and have it shipped to their doorstep without paying for taxes, thus doing away with the need to go to brick and mortar shops. He then showed the audience how they could get into e-commerce. You can build a website, get stuff to sell, get a payment gateway and also work on a marketing budget. He then spoke about Grasshoppers, another venture by him after he stepped down from Kapruka as CEO. This is Kapruka’s unique delivery fulfillment arm that promises to offer the cheapest and the quickest service in door-to-door delivery in Sri Lanka. The company has 20 people. Speaking of delivery, the topic then shifted to drones. To that extent. Grasshoppers is working on setting up delivery points along the beach as it makes it easier for them

We learnt about success from Lilan Priyashantha

Lilan, the Project Director at Millennium Surveillance at MillenniumIT started off his segment with a humorous skit where he plays the part of both Interviewer and Interviewee. He uses it to explain how candidates for a position in a company have set high goals for themselves.

10,000H is what you need for success –  Lilan Priyashantha

He then spoke about Creative destruction. Think of it as a process through which something new brings about the expiration of whatever existed before it. The term is used in a variety of areas including economics, corporate governance, product development, technology and marketing. He also encouraged entrepreneurs and basically anyone, to keep on practicing what they do, be it a startup or anything in life

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Mahesh de Andrado

“Practice improves your probability of success”

Nissanga Warnapura of 3D Concept Studios was up next.

The next speaker at Google I/O Extended Sri Lanka 2017, Nissanga started off by explaining some of the concepts of 3D printing (much like the name of his company). He also showed examples of various 3D printed projects such as the Light Rider Electric Motorcycle, an all-electric 3D printed minivan which is a collaboration between Honda and Kabuku, to a 3D printed aluminum gradient chair and even the World’s 1st free form 3D printed house and a full functional 3DP 35mm Film Camera.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Mahesh de Andrado

Nissaga them spoke about some of the key disruptors in the field of 3D Printing. These companies have taken great strides in the field of 3D printing in terms of innovation, creativity and efficiency. For example, HandSmith is a nonprofit company based in Roanoke, Virginia that 3D Prints prosthetic hands for amputees. His other examples were Saphium Biotechnology, a company that produces bio-based plastics with the help of microbes.

In conclusion, Nissanga left us with an experience he had where when he first started 3D printing, people would want object to be duplicated. This slowly moved on to people adding or removing elements from an object they wanted printed, more commonly referred to as an iteration and finally to the present stage where people actually come up to him and say that they have an idea but they can’t show what it looks like and they want him to create it for him.

The last speaker at Google IO Extended Sri Lanka 2017 was Ganidu Nanayakkara

Ganidu, the creator of the famous “iHelmet” spoke to us about how to take our product and make it big. In order to do that, you must first cultivate 3 skills.

Google I/O Extended 2017
Image Credits: Mahesh de Andrado
  1. You must be innovative

Its important to think global and act local. You may be having features that global giants have in their products, but always make sure you act locally. In addition, you must also disrupt or be disrupted, making sure you disrupt your field to gain a competitive advantage, else you will be disrupted. More importantly though, you must possess a thorough understanding of the fundamentals, be it programming to design or pretty much anything in life. Having a thorough knowledge of the basics will help you in more advanced features of your product or service. In terms of improving your product, rather than being just 10% better than your competitors, aim for being 10x better than them. Develop your product with the most basic features (AKA a minimum viable product), and launch it to see how the market reacts to it.

  1. You need to be a great presenter

You will need to work on your presentation skills as this will determine how your audience perceives your product. Rather than just shooting out random numbers and specifications, when showcasing your product or service, show how the product can improve your life. In addition, tonality or the tone of your voice and your body language are key elements in being a great presenter. No one wants to look at a stiff person droning on in a flat tone about a product. Trust me, we’ve been there and heard and seen it.

  1. Business and financial skills

You need to be competent in your finances to make sure you have enough cash for your startup. If yoy blow all your money on a Ferrari the moment you get profits, then your business is very likely to suffer as money spent on that is not be reinvested into your business. Capital intensive/low initial investment businesses. With those words of wisdom, Ganidu’s speech came to an end and that was the end of the sessions for Google I/O Extended 2017 Sri Lanka, organized by Mobitel.

That wrapped things up at Google I/O Extended 2017 Sri Lanka

All that was left to do was to name the winner of the Coding competition. The winner of Code Blooded Code Camp Challenge at Google I/O 2017 Extended Sri Lanka was Ashan Beruwalage. He was awarded a travel Package to Singapore.

With the vote of thanks delivered, Google I/O Extended 2017 Sri Lanka, organized by Mobitel officially came to an end. Overall, Google I/O Extended 2017 Sri Lanka organized by Mobitel was quite successful. The presenters kept their session nice and sweet and rarely strayed off topic. The knowledge they shared as well was quite helpful aid I too learned quite a bit from what they had to say. Performances by Lahiru Perera and Shuhaib Ali also served to keep the participants awake especially towards the early hours of the morning. Hats off to Mobitel for organizing Google I/O Extended 2017 Sri Lanka. Now, what about 2018? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see

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