Artificial Intelligence at IIT (BHU) Varanasi: Interview with Director Pramod Kumar Jain

IIT BHU has also signed an MOU with the Amazon Internet Services Private Limited (AISPL) on June 19, 2018 to establish an AI and ML Cloud Research Lab.

IIT (BHU), Varanasi is one of the oldest engineering institutes in India. Located in Uttar Pradesh, the institution started its life as the Banaras Engineering College in 1919, and became the Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University in 1968. The Indian Institute of Technology tag was conferred in 2012. 

Prof. Pramod Kumar Jain, Director, IIT (BHU) Varanasi was appointed as the Director at IIT – BHU from August 1,  2018. Analytics India Magazine caught up with him to understand the IIT’s contribution to the field of AI & ML in India, and the ongoing research at the premiere institute. IIT (BHU), Varanasi has 13 branches of engineering and three inter-disciplinary schools.

AIM: What are the major drivers in scientific research?

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Prof. Pramod Kumar Jain: Scientific research requires relevance of purpose, originality of objectives, reproducibility of results, and involvement of critical brain faculties. It is an original investigation directed towards gaining new knowledge through existing concepts. It is generally done in a focused area which may lead to the generation of new and better insights through creativity and critical thinking. 

AIM: Tell us about the ongoing research in the field of AI/ML and data science at IIT (BHU) Varanasi.

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Prof. Pramod Kumar Jain: IIT(BHU) has been contributing to theoretical as well as applied research in the core areas of AI/ML, with the support of various government agencies and industries. The area of Data Analytics and Predictive Technologies (DAPT) has been identified as one of the vibrant and emerging fields. DAPT refers to applying pattern recognition and inference engine as a smart decision support interface to take timely decisions and deploy necessary actuation to take holistic control of the real-life situations, either online or offline. Today, the term DAPT is used for systems involving intelligent pattern-recognition based decision support interfaces backed up by densely embedded sensors and actuators, interconnected by the Internet of Things (IoT), with computations occurring either within the network, or at the edge, or in the cloud–to observe, control, and optimise the performance of technical/societal/human systems, such as smart cities, smart energy grids, smart urban water networks, smart homes, smart farms or smart health tech. Any good progress in this area will significantly impact several critical aspects of the Indian economy, such as telecommunications, power, road transport and highways, defence research and development, and health and family Welfare. Other relevant areas under DAPT are urban smart city initiatives, including city-wide water distribution, waste management, air quality monitoring, pollution control, manufacturing, and governance at national and international levels. 

The ongoing research in the field of Analytics (AI/ML and Data Science) at IIT (BHU), Varanasi are:

  • Visual Computing and Analytics Lab led by Professor Sanjay Kumar Singh aspires to come up with real innovations in Medical Imaging using machine / deep learning methods.
  • VCALAB is utilising AI for designing better computational tools that can help wet-lab researchers to identify antimicrobial peptides for combating antimicrobial resistance using AI.
  • In Analysis of Industrial Vibration Data using AI Techniques, the  institute is performing the digital health monitoring of equipment through AI methods to improve the system’s availability and reduce financial and human losses.
  • The institute is also working on the early classification of time series data utilising AI techniques.

AIM: What are the institution’s contributions towards AI/ML and data science?

Prof. Pramod Kumar Jain: IIT(BHU) focuses on both fundamental and applied research. The research is supported through different government agencies as well as the IT industry. Recently, a path-breaking technology has been developed in IIT (BHU) that can reduce the cost of the onboard charging of Electric Vehicles by about 50 percent. This revolutionary and wholly indigenous technology will reduce the overall cost of electric vehicles and significantly impact EVs on Indian roads. Furthermore, several simple hand-held bio-sensing devices that can detect biomolecules like alkaline phosphatase, cancer biomarkers, etc., in complex biological fluids have been developed by researchers of IIT (BHU). This has a tremendous role in early disease diagnosis.

IIT (BHU) is the nodal center and a Technology Innovation Hub (TIH) for technology development and activities in “Data Analytics and Predictive Technologies” and other related areas under National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NMICPS). The activities envisioned under this mission will provide a great fillip to Indian manufacturing and societal betterment by inventing new products/processes and services. This endeavour shall catalyse the creation of skilled young engineers, researchers, technicians, and entrepreneurs, together with the human resource at all levels, besides becoming a pivotal contributor to realising the vision of “Digital India”, “Innovate in India,” and “Make in India.”

MoU with AISPL

IIT BHU has also signed an MOU with the Amazon Internet Services Private Limited (AISPL) on June 19, 2018 to establish an AI and ML Cloud Research Lab. Under the MoU agreement, IIT-BHU gains access to the resources in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Educate program and curriculum designed for higher education institutions to incorporate into their courses. The Cloud Research Lab will provide students with opportunities to use AWS Cloud technology to pursue research initiatives that focus on AI and ML innovation for India. AWS offers over 125 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, ML, AI, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management. All these features will now be available to IIT-BHU faculty, researchers and students to develop innovative solutions for India. With the resources and tools provided by the global AWS Educate program, the educators and students in IIT-BHU gain access to the latest and most innovative AWS Cloud technologies, along with open course content contributed by other top education institutions around the world. 

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