Welcome to the world of Infosys Engineering! It is a half a billion plus organization that takes pride in shaping our engineering aspirations and dreams and bringing them to fruition. We provide engineering services and solutions across the lifecycle of our clients’ offerings, ranging from product ideation to realization and sustenance, that caters to a cross-section of industries - aerospace, automotive, medical devices, retail, telecommunications, hi tech, financial services, energy and utilities just to name a few major ones.

February 23, 2021

Next-Gen Managed Services Delivery Model for Operational Technology Systems

Next-Gen Managed Services Delivery Model for Operational Technology Systems)

Meet David, the factory manager who is accountable & responsible to run the operations at its optimum performance aligning to organization's plan and strategy.

His performance KPIs are linked to performance of a factory. For example: Continual increase in production while reducing the cost per unit production, 100% conformance to quality with zero waste and/or re-work, improved safety with zero accidents in factory etc. It is critical for a factory manager to balance 5 core functions of manufacturing operations including Production, Quality, Maintenance, Inventory and Safety to meet factory's performance KPIs.

 

Figure 1: Factory Manager's Problem Context


Inevitably, he gets involved into many supplementary functions and/or activities of the core functions making his job stressful deviating his attention from his core KPIs at times. For example: Maintenance comes with burden of multiple services vendors management, license management, End of Life (EOL) management, skilled people management etc. whereas a KPI of maintenance function is to ensure availability of systems, assets to the business. He is not finding time for providing and implementing business value, vision and  leadership to his factory.

There is a need of reducing burden of some of his supplementary functions and/or activities allowing a factory manager to focus on core functions of factory operations meeting factory's performance KPIs to keep the business ahead in the market over their competitors. 

The fundamental building block for all core functions to perform to its optimum level is availability (100%) and performance (to its target capacity) of all systems in factory including machines, OT and IT systems.

Now let us first understand the systems in a factory. Where does IT and OT systems fit in the factory landscape?

Figure 2: OT and IT Systems Mapping 



ISA95 provides simplified view of systems in any factory or enterprise.

 

Level 0 represents actual physical manufacturing process in the plant. e.g: machines.

Level 1 represents instruments sensing data of physical processes. e.g: instruments manipulating the physical processes (sensors and e.g actuators).

Level 2 represents the programmable controllers controlling the physical processes like PLCs, DCS or SCADA.

Level 3 represents all software applications supporting in optimizing manufacturing processes like MES /MOM.

Level 4 is an enterprise IT applications layer.

The systems dealing directly with manufacturing processes are termed as OT systems whereas systems managing flow of digital information are termed as IT systems. Historically, OT and IT systems landscape were being looked as separate entities in an enterprise. OT systems are production & time critical, following proprietary architecture requiring skilled team from diverse OEMs mandating on hands & feet support services.

IT Services Management

OT Services Management

IT are Cyber systems enabling to troubleshoot remotely.

OT are Physical (Hardware + Software) systems requiring hands and feet troubleshooting.

Response & Resolution time (MTTR) is less critical compared to factory applications.

Response & Resolution (MTTR) time for factory applications are critical as these applications are directly integrated to physical processes (production).

Diverse COTS product vendors with dependency on them for troubleshooting  because of proprietary architecture.

Products following standard IT protocols and open standards.

Systems working in silos limiting transformation.

IT Services Management model is well established (ITIL).

Systems working in harmonized processes helping to drive transformation.

OT Services Management model is not yet industrialized like IT.

 

Managed Services with E2E ownership with support vendor.

No managed services; ownership lies with factory to manage diverse OT landscape.

Table 1: IT and OT Services Management


The OT support services do not have and/or follow any structured support service processes like ITSM (IT Services Management). We all know, IT landscape have realized the benefits of reduction in incidents, system stability, automation & innovation driving business benefits after following ITSM framework like ITIL for over past 2 decades.

So, the question is, can we leverage ITSM processes & tools in OT landscape to realize similar benefits? The answer is yes, in fact it is a need of business now. The boundaries  between IT and OT systems are disappearing  day by day with the IT and OT convergence for enabling single source of truth across the enterprise. It can no more be envisioned  as separate systems and/or landscape from support & governance perspective for business benefits. The integrated systems and operations would require harmony in support processes as well. A traditional approach of looking both IT and OT through two separate lenses limiting the business transformation opportunities will be surpassed. 

Further, would it help in reducing the burden of supplementary activities of a factory manager by outsourcing and/or handing over an end-to-end ownership of availability & performance of all systems in factory including machines, OT and IT systems? Managed Services Delivery with Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) !!!

Managed Services Delivery with TCO is very well practiced in IT, Network & Infrastructure area of business landscape however it is not cascaded yet to OT landscape. It may not have been cascaded because of inherent risks involved with nature of business and/or around people, processes, technology, strategy and security aspects of OT landscape. It may be appearing as very long in futuristic vision or strategy for many industries for now however "Think Big and Start with Small".

Here is our recommended approach for running OT landscape as managed services delivery with TCO. Start with small, define the next-gen outsourcing managed services delivery model, validate through pilot implementation at single factory, refine & industrialize it and then further roll it out to other factories. Initially, define conceptual delivery model and execute a pilot in one of the factories. The learnings gained during the pilot should be infused back into the delivery model to further strengthen it and thereafter we can publish our industrialized model to roll it out to rest of the factories.  

Figure 3: Managed Services Delivery Implementation Approach for OT


We suggest taking stage-wise incremental & iterative approach for taking over OT and/or factory systems support services as managed delivery. The factory systems will be logically classified into 4 different stages.


Figure 4: Stage-wise approach for managed service delivery of OT services

 

Stage 01 will cover the factory systems built entirely on IT platform /services; manufacturing operations applications, SCADA, Historian systems etc.

Stage 02 will be next logical stage where system complexity & business criticality will increase stage 01 systems. The systems having hardware and firmware running on it with programming ability like PLC (programmable logic controllers), microprocessor /microcontroller based IIoT Gateway devices etc.

Stage 03 will cover electro-mechanical systems like actuators, sensors, control panel, control system I/Os etc.

Whereas stage 04 will focus on mechanized assets like machines which are the backbone of running manufacturing processes.

IT services framework of Transition /Transfer, Run, Elevate/Transform and Innovate can very well be followed within each stage. The objective of RUN phase will be supporting business as usual (BAU), with zero disruptions to business during and after the transition /transfer. Elevate and Transform phase will focus on bringing in optimization and business transformation ideas in the OT landscape. Innovate phase will continue to explore opportunities of enabling next-gen digital transformation solutions in the OT landscape.

It is advisable to retain incumbents (and/or system integrators) as business de-risk strategy for stage-02 /03 & 04 systems. The identified managed services providing vendor will write back-to-back contract with these incumbents as per the KPIs, services expectations set by the end customer. This delivery model will impose complete accountability with the vendor (one neck to choke) while reducing the burden of managing (following up) with multiple vendors and getting required business value. In multi-vendor support delivery model, performance looks like watermelon, looks green from outside however still red from inside. It should have been other way around.

The comprehensive integrated visibility of entire OT landscape to one single vendor will also provide ample amount of opportunities for business transformation, vendors optimization, OT landscape architecture simplification & standardization opportunities performance benchmarks etc.

How TCO of services will be managed? The as-is factory /OT systems purchased by customer will remain with them until those are due for refresh /replacement. Vendor will borne the CAPEX cost at the time of license renewal, EOL replacement, machine replacement and/or at the time of modernization programs in brownfield landscape. Thus over a period of time, both CAPEX and OPEX will be borne by vendor helping business to focus more on their core functions.


Conclusion:

The fundamental building block for manufacturing operations to perform to its optimum level is availability (100%) and performance (to its target capacity) of all systems in factory including machines, OT and IT systems. Adoption of ITSM (ITIL framework) in OT landscape will help in realizing the benefits of reduction in incidents improving availability, system stability improving performance, and automation & innovation driving business transformation benefits. Stagewise, incremental & iterative adoption of managed services delivery model for OT landscape will help in bringing in one single comprehensive view and thereby next-gen business transformation opportunities. The TCO of OPEX and CAPEX will offer altogether different level of competitive benefits to an enterprise aiding them to focus on their core manufacturing functions.


January 21, 2021

4 Steps to Build & Operate IoT Solution in Edge Cloud

Let's start with a primer on edge cloud. Edge cloud is the extension of cloud capabilities closer to the physical systems generating data. To understand why it is important, let's look at a few data points. 50 billion connected IoT devices generating 80 ZB data daily will be a reality in a few years. The round trip cloud latency will be at best one fourth of a second given the overwhelming number of variables affecting latency. IoT is already responsible for one third of cyber threats worldwide.  The data points surface four fundamental concerns in IoT landscape -

  • How can I keep my mission critical operations not impacted by latency variation?
  • How can I take out bandwidth cost?
  • How much autonomy will I have on my devices and data?
  • How can I keep my environment secured when it is tethered to the cloud?

Building and operating IoT solution leveraging edge cloud is the answer for all of them. Four steps to build and operate IoT in the edge cloud are - Create Edge Governance for IoT, Select Edge Location for IoT, Build Edge Centric IoT Architecture and Transform existing operations to IoT Edge Operations. They are intertwined and influence each other.

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Step 1: Create Edge Governance for IoT: It is the most critical factor as it ties together multiple thread around security, devices and data. Edge cloud is a mesh of different types of device, network and protocol. A comprehensive security policy covering all aspects of device and data is the most important part. Device governance with policies for device management and device onboarding is the bedrock for managing agile edge software lifecycle. Data governance plays a central role from compliance perspective. 

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Step 2: Select Edge Location for IoT: Edge cloud is topology driven. The strategy should aim to have right data at right place at right time. Edge location has many names to it such as near edge, far edge, network edge, enterprise edge etc. However, all boil down to the IoT use case characterization that decides the best fit hosting location in a distributed way. 

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Step 3: Build Edge Centric IoT Architecture: It is driven by strategic alignment towards choice of infrastructure and choice of technology. Infrastructure is available at various sizes from micro to macro level. Technology must be aligned with key considerations such as edge-native approach. Edge solution is primarily built upon the interaction among business, things and people. The design must include the people experience and business experience as well..

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Step 4: Transform to IoT Edge Operations: Operations at edge is a challenging task when it comes down to DevOps, observability, reliability, security and scaling. Edge devops needs to handle complexities arising from different capability sets of devices in the fleet and aligning them into a holistic continuous integration pipeline. Siloed observability for each edge component can be consolidated by channeling monitoring telemetry to cloud. Edge needs horizontal scaling. A repeatable recipe for new devices, new sites is important.

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An edge cloud solution must be built on a resilient foundation layer touching upon all the above aspects. This foundation layer helps in quickly realizing the business values envisioned by the IoT strategy without worrying about the concerns of latency, bandwidth, security and autonomy.

January 8, 2021

Get ready for test driving your connected vehicle - Part 2

In the first part of the blog we discussed about how vehicle drive testing is becoming an integral part of current automobile industry. Let us now talk about various model of drive testing,

The traditional vehicle major model may take anywhere from 2-4 years from inception to launch. There are various important stages before the vehicle is set on the assembly line for mass manufacturing. The drive tests are amongst the longest-running test phase conducted at various developmental stages. Various OEM incorporates different strategies for their drive test, but in general, there are two primary modes of drive testing connected services. The first one incorporates testing the system for end-user scenarios multiple times, in various geographical, GPS, and network conditions with several functional arbitration paths. For instance, what would happen while a navigational route is being generated (online) in a low (2G) bandwidth area, and a phone call comes through, or, subscription (e.g. Spotify) gets expired with the change of the midnight clock, while it is still being used during the drive, or take the instance of how much of the data can be cached on the vehicle system before service degradation has to gracefully stop the application, without distracting the driver and ensuring a safe operation. There are numerous other scenarios related to functional, performance, security, operational, 3rd party/Tier-2 dependent services, government safety regulations, etc. that get planned, executed, re-executed, and endurance tested by multiple teams of qualified test teams backed by developers in real-time. The tests are conducted in multiple stages. The short drive test with around 100-150 miles of driving per day, with each day having a specific functional area being tested, and long drive tests with a team of 4-5 test engineer and qualified drivers (special licensing requirements for driving prototypes in several countries) and support vehicles for 5-20 days with cross country travels testing all aspects of the infotainment/connected systems. The systems are logged and observed through various, embedded, IoT, DevOps, and monitoring tools, corrective actions are taken, and scenarios retried over serval cycles.

The second mode of testing happen generally on the early production trial vehicles by real users (supported by dealerships, the member of the select trial groups and company members). By this time, it is expected that all the major issues and specification related problems have been fixed and the connected vehicle systems meet or exceed the functional and non-functional requirements. The users continue to use the applications and services while using the vehicles and provide continuous feedback and their experience. Some feedback and issues get their place in the final product releases and some are tabled for future releases.

The strategy for the drive testing could be numerous, but the expected outcome for the end customer is the same- a safe, personalized, and lasting vehicle experience ensuing a forever brand loyalty. The auto industry is seeing a tremendous shift and the future looks exciting. The concept of vehicle ownership, mobility, and personalized vehicle experience is disrupting the traditional models. Drive tests would continue to become more important than ever before.

December 24, 2020

Get ready for test driving your connected vehicle

An urban legend talks about a story of one Mr. Fred in the '70s, who once complained to Ford about his vehicle not starting when he goes out in the evening to buy vanilla-flavored ice cream but works fine when he buys any other flavor. The vehicle was not field-tested for fuel vapor issues in cold engines.

Since then, the automobile industry has grown considerably, relying on computers and data more than ever. The newer vehicles come connected out of the box. With an average of 600 pages of the user manual and another 300 pages of supplemental infotainment manuals, it is indeed getting exponentially complex with each generation. It is estimated that the current modern automobiles have around 100 million lines of code and it may be more than 300 million lines of code in the next decade. To put it in perspective, a commercial aircraft has around 15 million lines of code!

Over the past decade, the customer shift has moved from vehicle reliability to the overall experience of the vehicle. Engine refinements have reached a level where almost all the leading OEMs deliver reliability. The focus is now more towards the cockpit design, intuitive, informative yet simple meters and HU consoles, and more tightly integrated human-vehicle connection as if the vehicle is an extension of the driver's personality. The advent of artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented realities, hardware-agnostic software architecture (SDAs), versatile, intelligent, and powerful sensors and ECUs, etc., need to be foolproof than ever before. This has started becoming visible in some of the recent JD Power IQS and other leading industry surveys. All this adds a tremendous need for multiple user-friendly services on the vehicle, huge but efficient bandwidth requirements, futureproofing the platform's flexibility to launch new services, and a very strong backend servicing millions of multi-generational vehicles in real-time. All this while, ensuring safety, convenience, and comfort.

Vehicle drive testing has become an integral and important factor in the current automobile industry. The infotainment/connected features drive tests critically augment the manual and automated tests that the vehicle undergoes in the lab and on test benches. In simple terms, drive tests incorporate extensive tests of the vehicle in the field. Mechanically, the vehicles get tested in the test labs and test track simulating terrains and environmental conditions. However, testing connected services of modern vehicles become tricky. The accuracy of ever-changing demographics data, GPS data, readings from infrastructure and vehicle, user inputs, being situational aware with no room for error are some of the very few variables that a vehicle must understand, process, and act with multiple fail-safe systems in the place. The biggest variable in ensuring the safety and comfort of those inside and outside of the vehicle is human behavior. Mathematically modeling human behavior and action is still an evolving subject and to ensure that man and the machine work synchronously to each other makes drive test one of the utmost safety requirement.

Look out for the next part which will talk about the various strategies employed for the drive tests.

August 31, 2020

5G and IOT will transform emergency management

Emergency response is critical and in many cases the speed and quality of response leads to life or death situation. Such is the nature of emergency services that even small improvements in efficiencies in the life cycle would lead to significant outcomes and save lives. Technology in general has been a game changer in the field of emergency services. IOT technologies further enhances the ability of first responders since there is access to real time information through sensors and video streaming, 5G catalyzes the information availability by providing highly reliable, low latency and on demand connectivity. While sensing technologies have been an integral part of emergency response, 5G provides certain unique capabilities that accentuates the impact. Here are a few examples of how 5G and IOT will transform emergency services in the future

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May 10, 2020

5 technology trends which will see faster adoption in a post COVID world

These are unprecedented times, and impact of COVID-19 is clearly seen around the globe. The situation is forcing governments, communities, industries, citizens to change their lifestyle and the way they work. We can clearly see technology, and process innovation being embraced by everyone in responding to the circumstances. Globally, there will be changes across the political, social and economic fabric in the post pandemic world. Industries will respond and define their new normal which will be influenced by a bunch of external factors. I strongly believe technology will be a great leveler and will act as a catalyst as enterprises navigate through post-pandemic journey. Here are my top 5 technology predictions that will transform industries and firms, these technologies are not new however their adoption rate will significantly increase

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April 29, 2020

Future of Operational Technology (OT) security - A Cognitive Approach

We are on the cusp of the fourth Industrial revolution where machines talk to each other, robotic process automation is at the forefront of repetitive processes, machine learning & artificial intelligence are opening new avenues to how things can be done more efficiently, reliably and in a cost effective manner.  
In the era of digital transformation, it has become exceedingly cumbersome to separate industrial control system networks from corporate networks. While industries started appreciating the importance of the OT security, there is immense scope to address the underlying technology challenges. 
At present, industries are making attempts to bring together experts from IT and OT, merge OT with IT, and redefine security policies which will cater to OT. However, these will not reap benefits if efforts are not put in place for continuous improvement of security systems.

Understanding IT security vs OT security 

Eventually IT & OT security would overlap as both deal with fundamentals of data encryption, authentication, reliability & quality.  As per a Gartner study, 80% of the security issues faced by OT are almost identical to IT, while 20% are unique, not to be ignored, and critical. Let's understand the key differences between IT & OT. 
OT (Operational Technology) or commonly known as Industrial Control Systems (ICS) is a general term that encompasses several types of control systems including: 
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems / Human Machine Interfaces (HMI)
Distributed Control Systems (DCS) / Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) / Safety systems
Embedded or any legacy controllers and related firmware / OS and application software
Telematics 
Robotics  
Facility management and building automation services

The below figure highlights the differences from a business requirements point of view

Figure 1: OT CIAC

Control System1.jpg

Figure 2: IT CIA

IT1.jpg

IT

OT

Dynamic but not Real Time Critical: There may be loss of data at times

Real Time Critical Systems: There is possibility to loss of production time which is more serious compared to IT system

Recovery / Reboot: It is comparatively easy and system can be rebooted with little precaution and planning

Recovery / Reboot: This is not easy considering safety and production loss. Lot of planning and testing is required before such decisions are implemented. Fault tolerance is essential.

High delay and jitter is acceptable

High delay and/or jitter is a serious concern

Reliability: Most of the time this is a scheduled operation

Reliability: This is always a continuous operation

Beta testing on field is sometimes acceptable

Thorough, foolproof and multi-level testing is expected before the system can be put in production.

Connectivity: IP base corporate networks.

Connectivity: Multiple plant specific networks are possible with legacy protocols or even IP base protocols.

Most of times Interfaces are

Web Browser, PC, Mobile or any other computing device or application. This is limited to server or workstation base applications and OS.

In OT systems, there are different interfaces. It can range from embedded systems or direct sensors to any MES system or to any other IT applications


Present situation:

Cotemporary standard practice regarding OT security among mainstream companies are typical IT centric steps to protect the OT systems. Followings are few examples. 

  • Network Segmentation: Network segmentation is the practice of splitting a computer network into subnetworks, each being a network segment.
  • User privileges Policy: Effective user management policy and policy to limit the number of users with specific access level.
  • Application remediation: Keep applications updated with secure versions and latest patches
  • Incident management: Establish an incident management system including disaster recovery, root cause on certain incidence along with long term solutions, etc.
  • Monitoring: Log checks, unusual behavior monitoring and alarms, event trigger and checks, etc. 

Nevertheless, these all are good steps to start with OT security, but this is certainly not the end. Specific approach and thoughts in this landscape is key to define appropriate security policy which are OT explicit. Accordingly, it should be implemented.

Challenges in Legacy OT Systems

Many enterprises still rely on legacy OT infrastructure that are beyond the scope of compliance regulations. Do not assume that these older systems are safe and risk free. Rather these systems become more risky, as with time changes happen and systems get exposed to external world, sometimes without knowledge of the stakeholders. These systems are now in the open, unprotected by the data center, and vulnerable. Legacy systems can range from simple single node terminal systems, to client-server systems to the modern internet-ready systems. Below are some of the common reasons why security weakness got injected in Legacy systems while doing any system or program level changes to make this IOT compatible. Knowledge: There are very niche programing skills required to understand and do changes in legacy systems. These skills are challenging to find in market. This  results in improper handling of the system. 

  • Access to other networks:  Business are trying to make systems IOT ready. This is challenge as most of these systems have limited ports available with OEM specific protocols. Most of stakeholders offers this protocol development work to companies without detail analysis of security threats. Incorrect way of writing protocols to get data from the legacy system is major threat for security
  • Poor patch management: Most of these systems run in smooth way handling specific intended operations in plant. OEM comes with new patches and system updates. Due to regular production pressure often these patches get ignored and system is not updated to new patches . This is concern a for security.   

There are few others challenges like lack of sufficient protection while opening legacy system data over IOT, cross site scripting, improper access control etc. 

Future of OT Security - Cognitive (Feedforward) Approach

Before explaining the cognitive approach to OT security, I would like to give an analogy of "Feedback" and "Feedforward" controls. A feedback controller responds only after it detects a deviation in the value of the controlled output from its desired set point. On the other hand, a feedforward controller predicts the disturbance directly and takes an appropriate control action in order to eliminate its effect on the process output.

Along similar lines, today's OT security is more like feedback controls. The action happens only if a threat is detected and the focus is on remediation. This limits scalability with the evolving threat landscape, changing trends for overall data flow and resources. A cognitive security approach can be the solution to some of these challenges.   

What is Cognitive approach

Imagine a real life scenario where we are travelling away from our homes. As a safety precaution, we lock the doors, secure the windows, enable electronic security surveillance systems, inform key stakeholders and ensure adequate security measures. We do this intuitively without any formal training and even when there is no imminent threat. 

Can we build such intelligent, responsive and experience based capabilities in security systems? This is nothing but the approach towards defining cognitive security. By definition, Cognitive systems are self-learning systems that use AI, Machine learning and human machine interactions (By Control SCADA commands / trends / history). It is more of intelligent data driven security systems 

How this will help

  • Reduce human intervention: Consider a classical scenario where an incident is reported in production. Enterprises assign analysts to diagnose the issue based on its severity and criticality. Analysts would make an assessment based on their prior knowledge, access to automated tools and their understanding of the situation. The delays caused by this approach can further aggravate the problem. An AI based system can diagnose the issue, provide insights on possible root cause and suggest remedies based on AI driven analysis
  •  Increase accuracy: A cognitive approach can improve accuracy in multiple ways, some of which include:
      • Eliminate human errors
      • Reduce dependency on knowledgeable workers
      •  Analyze more sources of data, , validate with historical data much faster and provide timely information. These multipoint analytics results in better accuracy.  
  • Increase system up-time: The threat landscape is expanding at an unprecedented pace. People with malicious intent are investing on new technologies. In order to safeguard our systems and win the race we need to have cognitive security system in place.. This is still in early stages of enterprise adoption and will improve over time. This will help to increase the overall up-time by predicting well advance, make quicker diagnosis and help human to take quicker remediation thus reduce the down time.  

To conclude, in this blog, we trust a systemic and cognitive approach for OT security which can be represented by a technological ecosystem in combination of OT centric process will be useful. This will be the need of IOT 4.0 and digital systems design. 




August 5, 2019

SAFETY - Is it really our TOP Priority ?

SAFETY - Is it really our TOP Priority

If not, let's do it


It was yet another shocking and distressing incident happened that caused a number of fatal casualties and countless injured persons. Referring to the recent accident occurred due to landslide in a Coal mine in Odisha, India on 23rd July 2019. Many mining personnel's and equipment's buried under the thousands of metric tonnes of rock. And this is not for the first time, a number of such incidents/accidents were witnessed by the industry in the past all over the world and still we are not able to provide a safe working environment for the community.

mine accident-21.jpg


Although there are no accurate figures, but estimates and statistics suggest that almost 12,000 to 15,000 people loses their life in a year in such accidents worldwide.

While industry experts say the number of fatalities has decreased considerably since the early 20th Century, there has been no shortage of tragic mining accidents in recent years. ( ref: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-11533349 )

The news flashes for a couple of hours on news channels, papers, followed by rescue operations, few suspensions and putting some inquiry commission for further investigation. But do we really need another investigation? Or some strong steps to follow the safety norms and recommendations which may have been provided during prior such investigations.

On one side we are making proud moments for ourselves and country by establishing milestone in the technological advancement in all the sectors including space technologies, which is also being recognized throughout the world, but at the same time on another side, we are not even able to leverage the existing technologies to provide a better and safe working environment for workers and the society. That too for the industry like mining, which is the back bone for the growth and up-liftment of all other industries as well as for human beings.

Being a mining professional and serving the industry for almost last 13 years across various countries, and more specifically working on technology side since last more than one year with Infosys, I couldn't stop myself to bring and highlight this point again that we have to take some strong decisions and necessary steps to eliminate such un-wanted incidents, and it is possible by adopting proper technologies which can ensure the safety measures, which is doable and need not require any rocket science to implement.

"We have to inherent the safe working practice among ourselves as a practice & culture and not by force for doing so just for the sake of records".

Considering the volume of material handled by mining projects and cost associated with it, loss of a single shift without operation/production is significant in nature. The occurrence of such accidents plays significant role in loss of production and revenue. If we take the example of the above incident, where we lost the life of few workers, injured many others which off-course can't be measured and re-covered against any cost, but as a fact the project was shut down for a couple of days after the accident, and it cost millions of dollars. Both such losses could be saved by just adopting some technologies to ensure safety measures. And the cost associated with this may be a very negligible fraction comparing the overall loss. And this is applicable to more or less in all such incidents.

How Technology Can Help?

The technologies which are readily available for us can play very crucial role for improvising the safety standards in such working conditions like mining and construction sites, plant operations etc.

In most of such cases, incidents can be avoided if the key parameters associated with operational processes and/or working plans/designs are being monitored properly. Capturing the data in real time or near real time, analyzing the current and historical data for any specific trends, etc. can  help in predicting any  failure or unsafe working conditions well in advance. The technologies like AR/VR, AI, ML, Automation, Image processing, etc. can  help in providing early predictions of such unsafe conditions which can save not only the money, but more importantly the lives of individuals. It is very unfortunate and hard to believe fact, that people are using technologies for fun and entertainment like in gaming, film industries, and other such sectors, which not bad at all, but at the same time unable to leverage the benefits of such technologies for essential areas where there is a risk to life.

While working with Infosys, we got the opportunity to work closely with various technologies and the good work the team has done across all the industry segments like Medical, Automobile, Agriculture, Aerospace & Defense, Industrial manufacturing, utilities, etc. Developing platform and solutions for Digital Twin, Smart Factory, Autonomous vehicle, Development of next generation self-learning AI platform like KRTI 4.0 for operational excellence, various projects on Environmental Monitoring for a number of processing plants, Autonomous haulage, Next generation Autonomous Drilling, Collision Avoidance system, Proximity Detection, Drone based real time monitoring and many such projects for world's leading companies are just a few examples from the vast projects list. 

This gives an opportunity to use the existing matured technologies from one industry segment and leveraging it for the industries like mining, construction, etc. which are still struggling to get the benefits out of it. Using the same thought process, it was observed that Drone based real time or near real time monitoring can play a crucial role in capturing the required data and predicting the failure and unsafe conditions well in advance and we can avoid such accidents as mentioned earlier. The good part is Infosys is already using this technology in other segments. For example, in the Agriculture industry Infosys developed a solution for monitoring the Crop health using Drone, soil sensors & IoT devices, and not only specific clients but the whole industry started getting benefits out of it. The same concept can be applied for monitoring such mine sites where it is very difficult to get the required data using manual method which is more time consuming, unsafe and sometime the area of interest are not even reachable. The Drone can be used for capturing the required data efficiently and quickly. Which can be transferred to concern department in real time for further processing and monitoring.

Drone Monitoring.jpg

The image captured by Drone, along with other data generated by sensors and devices like displacement, stress, pressure, etc. can be used all together for measuring and monitoring any displacement of rock or structure, development of cracks, fractures, and any unstable features like wedges, cohesion, pore pressure, toppling, etc. and predicting unsafe working conditions well in advance so that necessary measures can be taken, which greatly enhances safety and peace of mind on-site.

This is one of such example where we may need not to re-invent the wheel to solve the problem, but to use the existing technologies and learning from the good work done in the past despite of any industry segment, and leveraging the same to solve the issues. Infosys, which focuses on these aspects and committed to its clients for providing the best of the breed technology solutions to make a safer, healthier and efficient working environment. Structuring ENCAS (Engineering Consulting and Architecture Services) group at Infosys, and enabling a fortnightly connect with industry and domain specific SME's is such a great step taken by ENCAS leadership and senior management. Where all such critical resources and like-minded people come together and shares their good experience and work done in their respective domain. This enables and provides a mechanism for a smooth transition of technological use cases from one industry to another.

 

The same idea and concept can be further explored to have a consortium of various industries like railway, road, construction, mining, oil and gas, etc.on a regional or national level where people can discuss and share their industry or work specific issues, their possible solution and how the best practices, technological solution, etc. can be adopted from one industry segment to another for the overall benefit of the industry, society and ultimately the peoples working there.

 

By providing a safe and healthy working environment, we are not only avoiding such accidents, but also increasing the efficiency of individuals and the overall process. As quoted earlier, safety should be in our practice and culture and not to be adopted by force.

The life of each individual is a gift & valuable, let's allow technology to make it more safe and beautiful.

"Tomorrow: your reward for working safely today."- Robert Pelton

May 25, 2019

Evolution of connected services organization

The connected services organization structure is an important structural element as enterprises embrace IOT and deliver solutions to its customers. There are many questions that enterprises need to answer as they design a structure that scales, sustains and importantly delivers. Executive sponsorship that is driven by strong governance is crucial since the new organization will be a change from the traditional structures

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April 22, 2019

The importance of engineering cloud-native and service based architecture layers for 5G Core Network Functions

Author: Balaji Thangavelu, Principal Consultant, Engineering Services

Service Oriented Architecture is a paradigm that has been around for a long time in the IT industry. Its success through deployments across vertical-industries has proven benefits  such as an extensible architecture, loosely coupled services, parallel development, higher availability and scalability. I am glad to see it crossing the boundary and coming into Network Engineering with the advent of Network Function Virtualization(NFV). Especially, its adoption into the 5G world in the form of 'Service Based Architecture(SBA)' is going to benefit the entire network ecosystem.

cloud-native approach to deploying the 5G Core VNFs(Virtual Network Functions) that follow the service based architecture model unlocks new stream of benefits for mobile operators. These benefits would be closely associated with scale and resilience of network functions. In simplistic terms, cloud-native is an approach to building and running applications that exploits the advantages of cloud computing delivery model. The cloud-native landscape is very vast and is constantly evolving.  Let us narrow down our focus and look at it in the context of 5G Core network VNFs.

In this blog post, I have shared my thoughts on how service-based architecture(SBA) and cloud-native implementation are an integral part to the overall design of the 5G core network. I have also highlighted key reasons as to why it is important to engineer these layers carefully to achieve the right balance between scale and service availability. Let us first understand a little bit about Service Based Architecture and cloud-native in context with 5G.

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