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CompareNetworks, Inc, a Silicon Valley technology company is hugely enjoying collaborating with the Sri Lankan Web, Mobile and Cloud services provider Calcey Technologies. In an exclusive interview with diGIT, Mr. Andy Miller CTO of CompareNetworks, discussed their clientele and how they have enjoyed working with Calcey.

CompareNetworks, Inc. delivers media and platform products both in web and mobile formats that drive revenue for science and healthcare manufacturers. Their partnership with Calcey started off as the latter was given the responsibility of managing the content for the websites handled by the San Francisco based firm back in 2005. From there on in, their partnership prospered and now Calcey manages the engineering projects of CompareNetworks, in-house in Colombo.

When we asked why not look for Engineering talent in Silicon Valley, Mr. Miller explained that it was really exhausting and time consuming, since most of the talent is attracted by the big players like Apple and Google. So in order to look for proper talent, they have shifted their focus to Sri Lanka, where quality and creativity is considered utmost in the software industry.

Calcey® Technologies

Calcey® Technologies is a boutique professional services firm providing a comprehensive set of online services including web, cloud, and mobile solutions for enterprises worldwide. Among their services, Calcey provides,

  • Software Development [Web apps, mobile apps, cloud solutions, mash-ups]
  • Software Quality Assurance [Test planning, testing, test automation]
  • Business Analysis and UX Design [Wire-framing, user interaction specification]
  • BPO/Knowledge Services [Online research, data scraping, content development]

It is very inspiring to witness, Silicon Valley, the birthplace of technology based services,  reaching out to Sri Lanka in search of talent and professional services. This curious case of Calcey Technologies is indeed a success for the rest of the industry as well as an inspiration for the tech start-ups eagerly waiting to blossom.

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2013 will go down in history as the year of inevitable change in the mobile industry. Yes, according to the latest report by Gartner, the Information Technology research and advisory company, annual smartphone sales surpassed the sales of feature phones, for the first time in 2013.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales 2013

I still remember the day I got hold of my Nokia 3120c. Having access to mobile internet and video calling was a huge thing for me back in 2008. BlackBerry devices were being used by an elite group of people. iPhone was the new kid and costed a fortune. Android was not a thing yet. Five years later, it’s a different story. According to gartner’s report, smartphones accounted for 53.6 percent (968 million units) of the overall mobile phone sales in 2013 (1.8 billion units). Compared to 2012, 968 million units is an increase of 42.3 percent, which is a remarkable change.  Smartphones accounted for 57.6 percent of the total mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter of 2013.

According to the report, this high sales record became possible with the increasing growth in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, Asia/Pacific and Eastern Europe. India exhibited the highest smartphone sales growth among the countries tracked by Gartner. China also contributed significantly to worldwide smartphone sales in 2013.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales

Samsung took the number one spot as the vendor with highest number of mobile phone sales, with 31 percent of market share. But it is also noted that that the competitiveness in the high-end device market is on the rise and Samsung faces a huge challenge. Apple took the second spot, thanks to strong sales of iPhone 5S. Huawei was placed third in the list. The manufacturer has shown strong sales records in Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific region.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales

In terms of mobile phone operating systems, Android once again showed the dominance by taking more than 78 percent of the share (see statista.com article for full details here). This was also confirmed by a recent report from IDC. It is also notable that Android share for 2012 stood at little over 65 percent. In 2013, Apple’s iOS took the second spot with 15.6 percent of market share.

Worldwide Smartphone Sales

Even though there’s no surprise in that, it should be noted that iOS had around 19 percent of market share during 2012. With the huge challenge, Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS managed to end up at the third spot with just over 3 percent of share. It’s highly unlikely that 2014 will see any huge change in the report. But we can expect to see growth for Windows Phone OS with new high and low end hardware options. Even though 2013 was sort of a disappointing year for Mozilla, we may see some good performance from Firefox OS too.

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Yes, you read the title correctly. For the first time in history, global smartphone market has shipped over one billion units in a single year. International Data Corporation in their Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker report states that vendors shipped a total of 1,004.2 million smartphones worldwide. That is a staggering 38.4% increase  from the 725.3 million units in 2012.

Ramon Llamas, Research Manager with IDC’s Mobile Phone team says ”The sheer volume and strong growth attest to the smartphone’s continued popularity in 2013. Total smartphone shipments reached 494.4 million units worldwide in 2011, and doubling that volume in just two years demonstrates strong end-user demand and vendor strategies to highlight smartphones.”

The premier vendors have, as anticipated earlier have performed well during the last year. Samsung ended the quarter the same way it began the year: as the clear leader in worldwide smartphone shipments. Apple posted record shipment volume during the last quarter of 2013, driven primarily by the addition of multiple countries offering the iPhone 5S and 5C, and sustained demand from its initial markets that saw these models launch at the end of 3Q13. Huawei maintained its number three position worldwide, attained the highest year-on-year increase among the leading vendors. Lenovo, despite having no presence in North America nor Western Europe, finished the quarter in the number four position. LG though, finished just behind Lenovo and edged out ZTE for the number five position, with just five million units separating the two companies.

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 (Units in Millions)

Top Five Smartphone Vendors, Shipments, and Market Share, 2013 (Units in Millions)
Source: IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker, January 27, 2014

About IDC

International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,100 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries worldwide. For 50 years, IDC has provided strategic insights to help our clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world’s leading technology media, research, and events company.

Source : Business Wire

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Tracking is big business, and with the availability of GPS technologies, there are literally thousands of suppliers and applications around the world that enable individuals or companies to track everything from cars to pets to people and watch where they move on a map.

But until recently, there’s been a gap in the market.

Not everyone has a GPS enabled phone. In Sri Lanka, smartphone penetration is estimated to be around 15%. So, what about the rest of the population who are still more than happy to use their feature phones – low cost phones for example, that enable them to make calls and send and receive SMSs?

Track-Them-All or TTA is a tool that can track the location of any mobile phone as long as it is turned on.  Here’s how it works.

If you want your location to be shared with others, you send a SMS to a short code and join the system. Once you have registered your mobile number with the TTA platform, you can join existing groups, or visit the platform via any web browser (from any device) and create your own group, and add the registered mobile number to the group. After that you can see the locations of mobiles that are part of the group on a map.

TTA2

TTA is perfect for tracking your friends, or finding the location of your preferred group of trishaw drivers or taxis.  If they are near your location, you can send them an SMS through the platform and organize a meetup, or have them come pick you up. The platform can also be used companies that want to track where their staff is. For example, a sales force might be travelling across the island conducting promotions and the platform can give a birds eye view as to where everyone is at any given time.

The platform is not as accurate as GPS tracking systems, because it relies on the mobile tower data to identify the location of the phones. However, for hundreds of cases, knowing the approximate location is more than enough. GPS can be accurate to a few meters, and our research suggests that TTA gives an accuracy of approximately 200 meters. While you may not be able to tell if someone is at your door step, you’ll be able to know if they are in close vicinity.

Right now, TTA is in beta and we would love to see you give it a try. It is operational and the tracking and mapping features fully work. The platform is compatible with any dialog mobile number, and in the near future, we will be forming relationships with the other telecommunication operators in Sri Lanka.

Go to www.track-them-all.com for more information. We would love your  feedback.

- by Sam Silva

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Sri Lanka’s IT/BPO industry has set its vision to achieve USD 5 billion in exports by 2022 while generating 200,000 jobs and creating 1000 Start-ups in this process. Various stakeholders have put various plans into place to achieve these goals. Considering the plans of the government, vision for IT/BPO and Knowledge Service Industry (KPO) is set to promote Information Technology (IT) as a major industry in Sri Lanka.

This will include reforms in the education system to emphasize science and technology subjects and a fast-track skills development programme, together with fiscal concessions for IT and IT related products. Budget 2014 has brought in various benefits for the development of IT/BPO and KPO industry and SLASSCOM has published a report together with PwC explaining these benefits. Some of the benefits granted for IT/BPO/KPO industry, as explained these report are given below.

Branding Sri Lanka as the “Fast Emerging South Asian Knowledge Services Hub”

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With many efforts being taken to position Sri Lanka as a knowledge service hub, the government has brought various initiatives through this year’s budget. One of the key elements in this is the proposed ICT Zone in Hambantota which is expected to take the IT/BPO industry out of the Colombo city. The proposed ICT Zone is expected to attract many foreign investments as well as the local investment while generating many employment opportunities. In addition to setting up the ICT Zone, the government has also unveiled plans to expand Nenasala center programs with an investment of LKR 1,000 million and this plan is also expected to improve the IT usages in the rural Sri Lanka.

Retaining Human Capital and Sustaining the Growth

The human resource availability is seen as a crucial element for the sustainability of the IT/BPO industry, since the country is heading towards a brain drain resulted through high level of migrations. There are various initiatives taken by the industry to bring back the Sri Lankan professionals who are working abroad in order to create the brain gain in the IT/BPO industry. To support this aspect of the industry, the government has a tax incentive on income taxes of professionals where the maximum income tax rate applicable to employment income of professionals such as Software Engineers, Accountants of a recognized professional body, Researchers, etc. will be reduced to 16%.

Incentives to Nurture New Tech Start Up

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The entrepreneurship in the IT industry is booming where there are many entrepreneurs starting up their tech startup ventures based in Sri Lanka. One of the major challenges faced here is that the lack of a conducive eco-system for startups, which combines various stakeholders related to tech startups. Nevertheless, the industry has set the target of reaching 1000 startups by 2022 and as a measure to support this growth, the government has proposed a 5 year half tax holiday for new partnerships or firms engaging in international services in the field of Accountancy, Commerce, Finance, Law, IT, Engineering and Architecture.

Employability Training

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Because Sri Lankan IT/BPO industry positions itself to be quality focused as opposed to cost leadership, the government has taken various initiatives to develop the quality of the human resources. The funds allocated to fast track skill development programs are expected to expedite with the establishment of a technical college affiliated to Moratuwa University in Homagama and an Information Technology center in Kelaniya University. Furthermore, the government has also decided to increase Science and Technology subjects in the main stream tertiary education to meet demands of the ICT industry.

SLASSCOM PwC Budget Proposal Summary – 2014 IT/BPO and Knowledge Services industry can be downloaded here

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Dumindra Ratnayaka, Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Lanka (Pvt) Ltd will retire at the end of March this year.

He became the CEO of Etisalat Lanka (Pvt) Ltd in 2009, when Tigo was acquired by Etisalat UAE. He completes 25 years of service to Celltel, Tigo and Etisalat, in which he held the CEO position for nearly 14 years. He was one of the pioneers who introduced mobile telephone technology to the country.

Under his guidance, Etisalat Lanka reached the hearts of the Sri Lankans and within a very short time period, managed to emerge as a Telco giant in the country. Sunday Times reports he will be succeeded by a Board Director.

All of us here at diGIT wish Mr. Dumindra Ratnayaka all the very best.

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Aeturnum Lanka, a provider of enterprise software development solutions and services to emerging technology vendors and Global 2000 organizations, celebrated its Seventh Anniversary recently. The company was established in 2006 as a subsidiary of US-based Aeturnum Inc, which is headquartered just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. ‘Being part of Aeturnum for the last 7 years was a great experience, especially to see how we grew from just a handful of engineers to where we are today’ said Mr Menuke de Silva, Vice President of Engineering at Aeturnum Lanka.

He further said, ‘Thanks to the hard work of our teams, we have progressed steadily on a vertical growth while providing great career opportunities to young and talented engineers in Sri Lanka. We now want to focus more on continuously improving the quality of our services to our customers which will help us grow the business even further.’

Among the number of projects handled, Aeturnum is reputed in venturing out with clients that create innovative products to help their customers around the world. One such client sought Aeturnum to provide an in-store marketing solution that capitalized on a shopper’s changing behaviour and differentiated its retail customers and also to cut development time / costs by leveraging best practices. Aeturnum is also proud to be the development partner that enriches the experience of senior citizens at various customer communities on behalf of a client who brings together more than 35,000 senior citizens, their families and friends. Team Aeturnum was also behind the development of an open and secure smartphone-based mobile wallet and payment solution for one of our clients. Another longstanding project has been an agentless software that analyses and models a server network to understand how application workloads, utilization levels and resources interact, thereby providing much-needed infrastructure-wide intelligence.

Aeturnum has continued to excel by accelerating innovation in number of technology domains. We have begun deploying Oracle eCommerce solutions and are also providing our home-grown mobile-first Marketing, Loyalty and Offers solution, Incentivio as an integrated and comprehensive solution. Aeturnum also supports the development of its team by way of its active participation in the Sri Lankan IT community. Mr Hussain Shabbir, CTO and Head of Operations at Aeturnum Lanka, is the Founding Vice President of the Sri Lanka Software Testing Board (SLSTB) and Aeturnum is a Council Member at the Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS) – Software Chapter (formerly SLASI). Aeturnum also has memberships in the American Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka (AmCham), the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies (SLASSCOM), the Indo Lanka Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ILCCI), and the Lanka Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS (LBCH).

Aeturnum is a firm believer in contributing and lending a hand for the betterment of society by investing in communities to help people thrive in life. Aeturnum also advocates protecting the Environment and reducing the adverse impacts caused, by promoting green initiatives among the employees.

Aeturnum Logo - Latest

More information is available at www.aeturnum.com

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Qboo Prototypes

“Bringing computing power to everyday objects” was the futuristic vision of Lahiru Priyadarshana, a Sri Lankan born software engineer with special interests in Human Computer Interaction, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Sensing and Machine Vision . And today, he and his team at Kreyonic (where he is a co-founder),  are on track with achieving this goal with an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for their newest project – “Qboo: Smart Plush Toys for Children”. The ambitious aim of the Kreyonic team is to raise $25000 to support the manufacturing cost and development of the product.

QbooLogo

Qboo

Gone are the days when kids used to run around in the gardens and play with physical objects. Change in modern lifestyle has shown it’s effect on the learning patterns of children whose brains undergo vast development during early childhood days. Sadly, children these days spend their lazy afternoons in front of TVs or playing computer games. “The time children spend in front of a display screen of some sort is increasing rapidly as well. However, apart from keeping them busy this passive and non-active screen time alone will not aid in their brain development.” notes the Kreyonic team.

“It is imperative for kids, particularly in their early ages to play with toys. Active play involving pretend-play and imaginative-play is a major part of healthy brain development as often stressed by child psychology experts.”

And thus, the Kreyonic team came up with Qboo! We at Digit were fascinated by this new product, and had a an exclusive interview with the team behind the idea.

What is Qboo?

Qboo is the first in the line of Kreyonic products. According to the Kreyonic team, “Qboo is a set of farm animals from the magical farm land far far away”. The Qboo characters are made of fabric (plush toys) and they come to life through an interactive educational tablet application which is bundled in the package. The team is planning to release the application for tablets running both iOS and Android. “With the use of actual toys, our products can make screen time more meaningful and fun for children.” Lahiru says while talking about this new project.

Qboo Final Version - Sample

Qboo Final Version – Sample

How does Qboo work?

Once you get hold of the Qboo toys and install the bundled application on your tablet device, all you need to do is to place the toys on the screen. And the magic will unfold in front of the little kids. The tablet app automatically detects the type / character of the toy and presents a variety of activities on the screen!

“Qboo toys do not have any electronics inside. Current toys are passive and use multi-touch technology on latest capacitive sensing tablet screens. Each toy has a uniquely identifiable pattern embroidered with a special thread; when kids place toys on the tablet screen, each toy registers a unique multi touch pattern that our application can use to recognize the type of toy being used” explains Lahiru.

Now, we have got a question. The toys need to be placed on the tablet screen for the stories to unfold. Will the toys damage or scratch the tablet device / screen?

“No. This is one of the main things many parents are concerned. We take this extremely seriously and that is why we wanted to create a toy, which is both kid friendly and tablet friendly. The toys are completely made of fabric (plush toys) and no matter how hard your child use it on your tablet device… Qboo toys will not damage or scratch the tablet screen.” assures Lahiru.

The most creative part of Qboo is that the application encourages non-structured, open ended game play, unlike any other game stories that end in a short time. Thus children can choose which characters they want in their stories. Qboo also allows kids to control the flow of the stories based on their own imagination. So, every time the kid starts to play, a different story unfolds in front of his eyes. This means the kids will never get bored with Qboo.

Another interesting thing about Qboo toys, is that they can be used as a regular soft toy, when there is no tablet around. “At Kreyonic, our main goal is to encourage physical play for kids without restricting their access to technology. The toys and stories are made carefully so that kids can continue playing with them even there is no tablet around! Qboo toys are not electronic toys so kids can do pretend-play and imaginative play in the real world just as they play with other plush toys.” adds Lahiru.

Qboo is targeted at the age group of 3-5

Qboo is targeted at the age group of 3-5

What age group is Qboo targeted at?

“The current application we are working on is targeted for kids from 3 to 5 years. The stories are developed under guidance and instructions from educators, early child development experts and parents. We are raising more funds so that we can add an educator and a creative story writer permanently to the team very soon!!” notes the Kreyonic team.

How can you become part of the exciting Qboo journey?

Well, you can use this chance to get something unique to the little ones in your family, while helping this team of Sri Lankan youth kick-start their business on a global scale. The Qboo project is currently in crowdfunding stage at Indiegogo. And, anyone around the world can start backing the project by contributing as low as CAD$ 10 (which will earn you exclusive Qboo merchandise). The real deal starts at CAD$20. Yes, as an early bird offer, you can pre-order the Qboo starter pack along with 3 stories for as low as CAD$20 (around Rs.2500. Add CAD$15 for international shipping). This offer is limited to the first 50 backers; so hurry! More other contribution plans can be seen from the official Indiegogo site here. The funding ends on 3rd of January 2014 and then the team will proceed to manufacturing and you’ll receive your product by next April, in time for the Avurudu! (There you go, perfect Avurudu gift idea for the little cousin!) :)

Meet the team!

“We love technology and we love KIDS!” says the team that includes Lahiru Priyadarshana, Dasun Priyankara and Amani Soysa. And the talented Isuri Hewage (Art Of Isuri) is the illustrator and designer behind the project.

Kreyonic Team. From Left: Lahiru, Amani and Dasun

Kreyonic Team. From Left: Lahiru, Amani and Dasun

Why did the team choose Canada? “We chose Canada because we knew that our initial target market is in North America…we wanted to be as close as to our target market. So we moved here in last August. We find Canada, specially Kitchener-Waterloo to be very exciting and active in the start-up space. It is the community here that makes all the difference! You are surrounded with passionate, inspirational entrepreneurs and you really can feel the energy that keeps you moving forward!” says Lahiru enthusiastically.

Qboo will be in the hands of little children. So the toys need to be safe and from a trusted manufacturer. “We are partnered with a local manufacturer based in Kitchener, Waterloo. They are working with a factory in China, which is where the final product will be made. The factories are operated in safer environment under toy safety regulations. All the toys will go under proper testing and will have an internationally approved toy safety certification.” assures Lahiru.

Isuri: the designer.

Isuri: the designer.

Adding further, “Current toys are passive and we have plans to release active toys with more electronics in future. So this is just the beginning” says he.

Even though Lahiru and his team are based in Canada, he is very much interested to see more similar startups emerge from his motherland. “We all at Kreyonic are very happy to see that a lot of great things are happening in the Sri Lankan IT sector…specially in the startup scene.! We are also just starting… still a small startup, and there is a long way to go. So with all the budding entrepreneurs out there, I would like to share one of the best advices we were given during our time here. “All the best things happen outside of your comfort zone; so step out right now!” :) ” – he says with a smile; the enthusiasm in this young man’s smile cannot be described in words. We at Digit are also proud of this young man, for he is one of the previous employees at GTS!

So, everyone reading this, do spread the word and help this budding startup to achieve their innovative goal by backing them in their Indiegogo campaign here: http://igg.me/at/qboo

Qboo: Smart Plush Toys from Kreyonic from Kreyonic on Vimeo.

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Fashion Bug, one of Sri Lanka’s leading retail clothing stores with over 17 outlets island-wide, completed yet another project by donating a computer unit, under its present Social Sustainability platform titled ‘Sisu Dirimaga’. In contributing to IT literacy at a regional level, the project was completed for Thumbe Kanishta Vidyalaya, a school with just over 200 students representing all ethnic groups, situated in the rural surroundings of Kamburupitiya, belonging to the southern Sri Lanka.

Shabier Subian, Director of Fashion Bug, said ‘‘children are our future and with that in mind we are very delighted to touch their hearts by providing the little things that matters the most for them. With the computer unit presented students will be able to prepare themselves in entering into technological workplaces.’’

Improving the computer skills of students is earmarked as a primary goal by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Sri Lanka, with initiatives taken to provide computers and online access for children to improve their learning with educational software. Just like many other rural schools, Thumbe Kanishta Vidyalaya was in need of a small computer unit with internet access. Mrs. Pushparani, Principal of the school, happily stated ‘‘we reached many organizations that visited us and noted down the shortcomings but never really did anything about it.’’

‘‘Fashion Bug responded to our request within a week and two weeks later we were presented the computer lab. The students are very excited as they haven’t even seen a computer in their lives before.’’, she further said.

With the Government, Public and Private Institutions taking a series of initiatives to develop the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Sri Lanka, it’s with no doubt that the country will be able to increase its computer literacy  to 75 percent by 2016 from the present 30 to 35 percent.

About Fashion Bug (Pvt) Ltd

Having commenced its operations since 1994 as a partnership business with 4 partners and a staff population of just 15, Fashion Bug today has over 17 stores throughout the country with a workforce of over 1200 employees, and stands among the leading clothing stores in Sri Lanka catering with the fashion motto of ‘Changing life Styles’. The Company’s mission is to ‘provide society with superior products and services with affordable price by developing own brands, cater to changing lifestyles of the people which improve the quality of life and satisfy customer needs, and to provide employees with meaningful work and advancement opportunities.’