BharOS ready for launch; govt, private firms do a reality check


Both government organizations as well as private sector enterprises, that require stringent privacy and security infrastructure are in talks with IIT-Madras-incubated JandK Operations Pvt. Ltd, which developed India’s first indigenous mobile phone operating system, BharOS.

“There is a lot of interest not only from government sectors, but even from private sector organisations. We are moving towards working with them,” Prof V Kamakoti, director, IIT Madras, said in an interview.

JandK was incubated at IIT Madras’ non-profit establishment Pravartak Technologies Foundation,which is funded by the central government.

Minister for telecommunications and information technology Ashwini Vaishnaw and education minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Tuesday successfully tested BharOS, making video and audio calls. The indigenous OS is another step towards Atmanirbhar Bharat. as India looks to localise manufacturing, supply chains and applications besides establishing a robust infrastructure for key industries like electronics and semiconductors. The government is increasingly focussing on data security and privacy, and offering production-linked incentives on made-in-India hardware.

BharOS, in effect, provides an alternative to the Apple iOS and Google’s Android. In fact, the Competition Commission of India had imposed a fine of 1,337 crore on Google allegedly for exploiting Android’s dominant position with a 95% share of the market and asked it to remove all restrictions on device makers for loading apps outside the Google Playstore. The search giant is working with the CCI to change the way it markets the app store.

“As a country we are looking for an Indian mobile operating system which is secure. This essentially means it executes only authorised software on it. Even if there’s a small change to the authorised software, the system should not execute it. Through such high assurances we can control malware and other privacy- and security-compromising actions. Both IIT-Madras and IIT-Madras- incubated firms are working on it for quite some time,” said Kamakoti. The next step will be to enable organisations to have their own app stores and give them control on permitting the apps used on phones. It will be part of the commercial launch of the OS, even though it would be available for a closed or captive group of users now.

“Interested companies can install the BharOS on devices given to their employees. We will provide the organizations access to a private app store, and it can then have control on all apps that are uploaded on the store. Only apps from that store will work on phones and others will not,” he said.

“BharOS can be installed on any commercial phone, provided the vendor gives us the development manuals and some features. This is not just porting an operating system, but is about porting a complete secure stack on a handset,” he added.

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