IT Innovators at SoftExpo. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir
An innovator is a special person. It takes dreams, hard work, intellect and risk-taking with no guarantee of wealth or fame. Innovations can range from “gem” paperclips to Java programming language. Being an innovator is not for everyone.
Then again, where would we be today without innovation?
At this year's SoftExpo - the annual software and IT services fair organised by BASIS - I met ten IT innovators (individuals and teams) who had competed with many to win a place here.
Some projects had a technology flavour:
A remote-controlled robot's movement caught the public's attention, but at its heart is a new voice recognition technology developed by F. A. Siddiky, Masters student at United International University. He spoke commands into a mobile phone, and the robot understood and obeyed him. Siddiky won innovation first prize.
Live Motions, developed by a team of animation engineers, speeds up production of three-dimensional animation by capturing movements of a real-life person using a low-cost kinetic camera and transferring those movements to an animation figure. Normally such speedups require expensive “marker” hardware.
Change, an Android phone application by BRAC university students, allows users to enter information into a Dhaka map, shareable by anyone with this type of phone. For example, a user can flag a spot with high-crime. Others can check the map for this warning.
Some projects addressed specific needs:
Talking Assistant is a small box which can speak one of twelve pre-programmed phrases. It assists those who cannot speak, either from birth or due to illness. For the elderly, making simple requests such as “I am thirsty”, or “Need toilet” becomes difficult. The product includes remote voice capability and is in Tk 4000 range.
An online library for the blind provides a database of audio books - especially school texts - which can be used by blind people.
Doctor Software is a comprehensive patient management and diagnosis programme developed by a physician. It integrates many aspects of a doctor's work, including, for example, possible diagnoses based on information entered. Originally running on desktop computers, there is now a mobile version.
Tomorrow Computer Vision is a marksheet programme for maintaining student marks in government schools. Today this work is cumbersome, requiring a massive ledger. The product is being used in several primary schools in Dinajpur.
Other projects had a general target audience:
A burglar alarm system from Jewel Super Technology alerts the owner via mobile phone when a house is broken into.
A comprehensive database on medicines, including drug information and health news, is offered by bddrugs.com. Team members are pharmacist alumni of North South University.
A social networking site, bartavubon.com, is all-Bangla and developed by Jagannath University students.
Several innovators were not computer scientists or engineers, but came from other professions. Finding problems or opportunities in their field - or, in one case, moved by a family tragedy - they learned IT and used it as a tool for building solutions.
BASIS deserves congratulations for organising this. Now, is the nation ready to embrace and reward its IT innovators?