The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

The THREE “R”s as outcomes of Automation!!

By Sairam Bollapragada

IT has been predominant for its people and associated costs. People have been the epicenter of all the transformation/automation and the benefits measured have always hovered around the people, the efforts, their packages and associated costs.

These are the days of automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and introduction of robotics. We are creating digital workforce, in a big way to transform the way we deliver solutions and services today.  Due to cost pressures, many times, evidently the quantitative savings take advantage over the qualitative ones. The more demanding clients do not budge on either.

The bi-modal approach on what you can do better with our existing work in your scope as well as what else you can do with our other work with other vendors is becoming a natural ask by clients. This then creates the platform to compete and who brings what to the table matters. While everybody seems to be selling the concepts and ideas, the rollouts from adoption is slow as indicated by a recent report. Hence, the benefits slowly reflected in the books.

Many a times, the teams are not able to articulate the savings and calculate on how do we arrive at the magical savings number and translate that to dollars. The efforts thus required to deliver the same service with the productivity improvements should lead to benefits that can needs to be captured and reflected.

All the benefits can be thus, categorized into THREE R’s that relate to the people aspect as follows:

  1. R1: Resize: when transformation/automation saves engineering effort and hence the cost of solution/delivery drops, you can release few team members. This resized team can deliver the same volume of work or keeping the same team size can take up more work. In typical annuity projects, one can re-plough the saved effort to create additional work in terms of additional tickets or CRs, either with no drop in revenue or additional revenue.

 

  1. R2: Restructure: while betting big on outcomes of automation, one can expect the productivity of the team as a whole to gain upward momentum. This should lend the capability of the higher end of the pyramid to delegate the some of, if not all their tasks to the lower band teammates. This is a true indicator of productivity improvement.

 

  1. R3: Resite : In all engagements, many times we come across mandatory set of tasks that should be done onsite or at client’s site. Transformations/Automations can also bring in the capability to move those tasks offshore bringing down the cost of solution or engagement. This may add to your bottom lines or you may choose to pass on the benefits to the clients. Whichever way, more presence of tasks at offshore has always been a strong indicator of confidence levels of delivery as well as capability of the team.

However, when it comes to benefits @ R1 or R2, there is strong feeling that it only leads to job loss. Positively put, it can aso mean the higher band resources can be released (and if they are very capable) where they can be deployed for account mining or/and other transformational consultant roles to demonstrate technical prowess or thought leadership in different areas – both  focused at increasing the footprint from growth standpoint.

If we don’t embrace automation/transformation, somebody else may move your cheese. Till the outcomes hit the financial books, the last mile is not accomplished….so, we must compel ourselves to drive these market-mandated changes, as long as the choice is still with us….

The Need for Intelligent Command Control Center for Robots (IC3R)

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

It is predicted that the industry economy whether IT or non-IT, will go full throttle in the upcoming FY 2017-18 to create a financial realization called autonomics – unlocking the potentials  of robots that are being conceived. Over 2.5 billion people have at least one messaging app installed, within a couple of years that will reach 3.6 billion, about half of humanity. (Source: The Economist) However, the outcomes as suggested by many big market research houses have not been up to the desired expectations. With the things heating up around automation and artificial intelligence/RPA, we can foresee that we will be very soon seeing an increasing need to have some solid controls in place.

The Industry economy in the coming days will create a financial realisation called autonomics – unlocking the potentials of robots that are being conceived and driven towards this direction. However, the outcomes as suggested by many big market research houses have not been up to the desired expectations. With the things heating up around automation and artificial intelligence/RPA we can foresee that we will be very soon seeing an increasing need to have some solid controls in place. Today, the market is focused on Industrial Networks, Industrial Robots, Machine Vision, Control Valves/Devices, Field Instruments, Enclosures and Cables.  Each of these components have an IT and a Non-IT element with technology landscape consisting of SCADA, PLC (Programmable Logic Controllers), PAC (Programmable Automation Controllers), RTU(Remote Terminal Units), DCS (Distributed Control Systems), MES (Manufacturing Execution System), PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), HMI(Human Machine Interface), and above all Safety.

While creating new technical solutions every day and getting excited with it, we are probably too casual on the flip side of the consequences. Lets focus on the negatives for a moment – what if an unmanned vehicle had a bad bug? or what if the programming in the automated manufacturing plants were intercepted/hacked altering the desired behavior or leading to disturbing outcomes?, it can become a nightmare!! For example a recent crash involving Uber Technologies Inc. driverless car suggests autonomous software sometimes takes the same risks as the humans it may one day replace. While we are creating bots at an unprecedented speed and passion, we may also need to secure these advancements through a control mechanism, which will help us to have the desired outcomes, intact. The technological singularity will compel us to start thinking on automatic recovery with deep machine learning capacity.

Hence, are we talking about having a Command Control Mechanism to protect the desired outcomes of all the automated bots whether Soft or hard? The answer is yes. We need to soon develop and establish command control centres for a set of digital work force you want to monitor on a continuous basis to ensure they are aligned to the expected behavior patterns. In fact, there should be a proper set of guidelines issued by the state agencies before allowing any robot to go commercial in the market. The audit and strictures will help control the release of un-certified or Rogue robots. This would be especially true with the craze of smart cities catching up like around the globe. The creation of the digital twin space is also something that must be looked into seriously for potential disruption.

A command control center will help in creating a centralized monitoring service which will track monitor and report the behavior of these bots while positively looking at it, it could also lend performance improvements towards the desired outcomes. What with the introduction of aggressive mind-control technology and Drones we should have a proper access control on this technology based robots. A C3 with an end-to-end visibility across robots with real-time rolling view to help us have a central control of work schedules, job cards, execution, and support for various robotic activities

While the support for high availability/disaster recovery and network load balancing is the intent, the central control mechanism, will be mandated to have a cyber-cop kind of functionality. For example, while monitoring the bunch of UV Cars, suppose an unmanned vehicle on road was malfunctioning, one should have the ability(or create one) to monitor it in real time and stop the functioning of the engine remotely to avoid any major disaster.

A secure central monitoring system laced with analytics, could be enabled through the log base where robots pass on every information pertaining to each activity they are instructed to perform. With this much of an information being logged, one can get a deep insight into the business and the activity patterns being conducted by or through robots. With so much of information at our disposal one can really create a very good analytics use case to understand and comprehend the behavior of these robots as they are unleashed into the market.

The global industrial automation market is extremely fragmented due to the presence of several players in the global market. Some of the leading players operating in the global market are ABB Ltd., FANUC Corporation, Honeywell International Inc., Toshiba Machine Corporation Ltd., Yokogawa Electric Corporation, Emerson Electric Company, General Electric Company, Yaskawa Electric Corporation, Rockwell Automation, Inc., Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Voith GmbH.

However, while doing a cherry pick of the best of the lot or robots to make their organizations more productive and efficient, we hope that the focus will begin from creating a solid Intelligent Command Control Center upfront to monitor, maintain, track and continuously do course correction for these disparate bots – soft and hard alike. The industrial control and factory automation is projected to reach USD 153.30 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 4.88% during the forecast period and hence the emphasis. The state agencies must work towards evolving policy guidelines within and beyond for all entities looking to employ the automation-Digital bots effectively.

IoT Security is everybody’s business!! – Part 1

By Sairam Bollapragada

With the Digital wave, the structure of the IT organizations, especially those racing to embrace new technologies and IoT is poised for a paradigm shift. Every brilliant side of technological revolution comes with a darker patch as well. With so much of data slated to being generated via connected devices, the Cyber Security can no longer be the forte of IT folks ONLY.

While technology brings in convenience, it also comes at a cost (read flip side).

In the recent past in India, we have started seeing mobile wallets increasingly being used for payments and other financial transactions to another device or account. The connected wallets also create opportunities for hackers to break in and creatively lay their hands on the information pertaining to transactions, account details, the payee details, their numbers, the payment patterns, sources of funds, and many such confidential data which one would not like to divulge.

Cyber security, will don a new hat with the advent of new technology and devices working in tandem. Trying to stop break-ins will need a lot more intelligence and smart techniques to be devised. The provisioning of security to these mushrooming applications and connected devises will need to be really understood well so that people know they are secure while transacting with gates to personal data. The approach itself requires comprehensive techniques.

The mobile channels will provision more incentives with increase in volumes of both devices and transactions. The global reach of the mobiles have opened standard techniques for the hackers across the global hacking communities. Ubiquity and connectivity are vulnerable and enables folks to get to mobile devices. The incentives are more for mobiles which use financial transactions, undoubtedly. It may not be hard for hackers to know which user uses which number to carry out financial transactions.

The richer the features of the mobile, the more it becomes a target for the hackers.  The concern about the privacy invasion by advertisers is rising steeply with these smarter devices. In 2010-11 Wall Street conducted a test for 101 Android/iOS applications and found that more than half sent device information, 47 shared location data, and 5% users –  personal information to advertisers without the consent of the users.

More than 1000 malware target mobile devices globally. An instance of worm attack can infect mobiles rapidly to the tune of millions of handsets.  As mobiles are getting more advanced so are the worms accomplishing more sophistication – raising their quality of attack as well.  As technology carriers are improving the device capability, the blue-tooth and Wi-Fi is also becoming airborne contaminators. Some viruses dial international numbers while the subscriber is sleeping.

The mobile computing increases the data loss as well. With the connected devices expected to transmit data across applications and other devices, the hackers would try means and ways to create opportunities in the chaos. Mobile banking has also brought in rogue applications which are smartly working their way to gather financial information from devices through even legitimate applications topped with these malware at app stores.

Over all this, it is said that more than 37% of the service providers do not have any threat intelligence programs.

Impacting Scenarios

As hackers take control of the connected devices, the very capability for which the IoT was brought in (efficiency, productivity, ease, etc) will be compromised.  It is scary to even think what if the folks are unable to stop machines, controlled by connected devices for convenience- large ones at that. IT security itself will not stand ground here.  The extended knowledge across applied industrial controls and production processes would become mandatory to put the checks and balances in place. (What if one is not able to stop a blast furnace in steel plants?…)

Water Management:  Anything which is scarce and essential comes under the cloud of threat and catches attention for disruptive opportunities. Water management through connected devices is becoming a lucrative offering from many vendors ensuring appropriate water quality, controlled water supply, water treatment, metering and other features. Water consumption, like electricity is also vulnerable where automatic vaults and control mechanisms for pressure and flow are devised to be controlled through technology. A loss of control would create wastage of water across and lead to a water crisis.

Patients Health Records (PHR)

The PHRs of patients are too personal a data to be privy to. These personal health records reveal several confidential parameters of personal health profile of an individual with historic ailments, health issues in the recent past, blood group info, and many more data which can lead to people either playing with or destroying the data for obvious reasons or holding the same for ransom. Very dangerous but true, not because we need to be scared, but the awareness of such a threat is missing till the first casualty occurs.

The Nuclear plants, used for positive reasons, like generating power can be a huge source of risk – if they were to lose hold over the control process of nuclear reactors.  If IoT based controllers were deployed in these plants for the purpose of analytics and other accompanying research advantages, there should be exhaustive sets of checks and audits built in – plus multiple approvals at multiple governance decision points to ensure disasters would be at least minimized.

Likewise, hacking connected or smart cars can lead to road disasters.  This includes the hacking of smart traffic management – feature of smart cities. Insurance transactions can be blocked and claims disabled or diverted, where insurance segments are moving from statistics to individual fact-based policies.

Cloud is another source of vulnerability. The plethora of data being stored on cloud will require tighter secured solutions, and hence the cloud data security will only become more crucial.

It is said that M2M communications will themselves generate about $900 billion in revenues by 2020.

Dependency on the connected devices for various aspects of the futuristic work-style like improved real-time decision making, better design of solutions, reliability on the so-generated data analytics (what about data quality?), driving future product conceptualization, fleet management,  and many others could be a challenge if the systems malfunction due to malware or cyber-attacks.

The above are potential scenarios where the flip side of technology, if misused, can create disasters and can cause unimaginable disruption. However, it is not too late to create a strategic security blueprint and get the awareness levels in the public embracing these newer emerging solutions in future.

We will discuss the potential next steps on what we should do, what the state agencies should do and what the general users should know in the sequel to this blog shortly. Till then happy reading….