By Rajkumar Jain, VP of Software Engineering, Maps, TomTom
Every year, India celebrates Engineer’s Day on September 15th to honor and remember the birth anniversary of one of India’s greatest engineers, Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya. He is known for his pioneering work on many technical projects, including the designing of automatic barrier water floodgates, which were installed at several dams across India.
Throughout the history of India, we have seen the rise of several engineers who have used their expertise to solve practical problems. E Sreedharan, popularly known as the Metro Man of India, is another example of a fine engineer, who has executed some of the biggest projects known to contemporary India. From the mammoth and extremely difficult Konkan Railway project to the design and execution of several metro projects including Delhi Metro, Kochi Metro, and Lucknow Metro, all projects were known for their fast completion.
Who can forget Professor Satish Dhawan, whose pioneering efforts have led to India’s current strengths in satellites! Professor Dhawan’s work led to several innovations such as the telecommunications satellite, INSAT, the remote sensing satellite, IRS and the PSLV launch. Another name that immediately comes to mind is Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, who played a pivotal role in the development of ballistic missiles. Dr. Abdul Kalam was also responsible for the development of India’s first Satellite Launch Vehicle, which successfully deployed a satellite in near-Earth Orbit. This helped India secure its own place in a highly exclusive club of nations.
India’s current dominance in the field of software services is due to the efforts of a few engineers, who decades ago, decided to form their entrepreneurial setups to create software service companies. Pioneers like Nandan Nilekani, NR Narayan Murthy, and Azim Premji, are household names today. Thanks to the efforts of such engineers, the Indian IT industry contributes 8% to the country’s GDP, providing employment to lakhs of people. The legacy of these famous engineers is now carried forward by the increasing number of startups that are headed by engineers. If we think of almost everything that has been made our lives easier, there is an engineer to thank for.
A global hub of engineering talent
Over the years, India has steadily risen to become one of the most sought-after location for quality engineering talent. India’s ability to scale with quality has made the country one of the biggest talent hubs. According to NASSCOM, India is home to more than 1700 Global Capability Centers (also known as GCCs) that provide offshore product development and product engineering services for their parent companies. The fact that some of the parent company’s largest or significant R&D centers are in India, speaks a lot about India’s capabilities. A significant percentage of these centers are focused on high value IP-creation, while some are even involved in the entire development of products.
Engineering the art of mapmaking
From our perspective, as a leading provider of location technology products and services, our success depends on providing highly accurate maps, navigation software, and real-time traffic information to enable smart mobility. To do this effectively, we rely on our teams of software engineers, cartographers, and developers who are based in Pune. These teams process petabytes of data every day, optimizing our maps to solve global mobility challenges.
Mapmaking is an engineering marvel, which requires intense collaboration and teamwork. Production and engineering teams are co-located to create the best user experience for navigation.
Technology plays a huge role in map making, to constantly update digital maps with high accuracy. This is a challenging task, as the real world keeps changing. To ensure that our maps are updated, we use a blend of different methods. Firstly, feedback from users of our maps and technology helps us refine our maps. Globally, we also have our mobile mapping vans that travel more than three million kilometers every year to ensure that the maps are precise. We also actively use inputs from local governments and thousands of qualified authorities to identify changes in features, which is then reflected in our maps.
TomTom also uses AI and machine learning to process and analyze large volumes of data. This allows us to understand the subtle changes in maps quickly and identify and annotate maps with the desired descriptions in a much faster way. AI is also used to extract highly detailed map features from satellite images. An AI-led model helps us to create a standardized and more consistent process which eventually leads to a cleaner and more accurate set of data. With the increased adoption of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) it is even more critical for maps to be updated faster and accurately. This can only be possible using high level AI-enabled automation.
We have top-notch engineers who are constantly raising the bar for innovation with their excellence and passion.
The progress of the world depends heavily on the ability of engineers to keep on pushing the boundaries and make the world a safer and better place to live in. On Engineer’s Day, I salute the efforts of the millions of engineers who are helping mankind solve some of its biggest challenges.
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