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May 30, 2018

Bringing Connected Transportation to India

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as a concept, has revolutionized the way different industries have been operating, tremendously improving the operational efficiency and hence the productivity. The integration of sensors into the existing industrial environments helps in the remote monitoring of the systems, thereby reducing human intervention and facilitating real-time, non-real-time and near real time interventions. By introducing sensors into conventional systems and using the Cloud platform to gather all this voluminous data and analyzing it, the age old industrial assets can be turned into building blocks of a connected Smart Community.

One such area is the railroads network. This blog post by Vinod (http://www.infosysblogs.com/engineering-services/2018/01/all_aboard_the_smart_train.html#more ) gives an overview of the potential of such as platform. Among the different modes public transport, railways would be the best bet to implement an IIoT solution, since we already have a dependable and exclusive infrastructure in place and only a specific type of traffic to tackle, unlike the road transport.

Consider the Indian Railways, one of the largest in the world, yet one of the least safe. The official report for 2015-16 reveals some shocking statistics ( ). Let's try and fit an IoT solution in the context of Indian Railways and try to analyze what it takes to turn our Indian Railways into a smarter system, prioritizing passenger safety over anything else.

There are two aspects of passenger safety - one is about the train itself (with all the passengers and their baggage) reaching the final destination safely and the other is about each passenger having a safe and comfortable journey inside a coach. Let us consider the different factors leading to both these aspects of passenger safety -

1)      A safe journey

Every year hundreds of lives are lost in train accidents, and the sad fact is that most of them are due to recurrent mistakes and human error. A majority of these accidents are due to -

a)      Manual signaling errors
b)      Unmanned level crossings
c)       Lack of timely track maintenance
d)      Sabotage

All of the above can be effectively tackled by using an integrated Cloud platform solution (E.g. EdgeLINC from GET https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171024005536/en/GE-Transportation-Unveils-EdgeLINC%E2%84%A2-Software-Advances-Industrial). The locomotives would have sensors that continuously gather information about different parameters like speed, position, temperature of different parts etc. and send it over to the Cloud where rule based analytics is run on this data, resulting in signaling information. This information would be more accurate and can be used to automate the signaling process, with zero human intervention. It can also be used to control the unmanned level crossings. The locomotives can also have a crash hardened system (something like a black box in an aircraft) that can be used to save all the event logs for further analysis. These will give meaningful insights into the actual cause of the accidents in cases where the root cause is difficult to ascertain using the existing means.

The record of the health of tracks can be used for preventive maintenance of tracks, minimizing the chances of derailment.

2)      A comfortable journey

The safety of the passenger and baggage within a coach is another important aspect because most of the trains operated by Indian Railways run for more than 24 hours through different vulnerable areas. Major security concerns are -

a)      Theft
b)      Air quality within the coach
c)       Medical/Police assistance with minimal delay etc.

One solution could be to have cameras in the coaches that would inhibit thefts. Given the number of coaches and that there are numerous compartments within a coach that have to be monitored, the choice of cameras and their numbers should be decided considering the trade-offs. This would generate huge volumes of data, and so the duration of syncing them with the Cloud etc. has to be considered.  Cameras can also be used to discourage unsafe passenger movement in and out of moving trains.

Air quality sensors that would help check the levels of harmful gases should be installed within the coaches. The data from these sensors could be used by simple rule based analytic engines onboard the locomotive, to warn about the likely presence of smoke or poisonous gases and other potentially dangerous pollutants.

All this information about the safety features within a coach and SOS services of doctors or Police can also be made available to every passenger via a mobile app.

Safe modes of public transport is the need of the hour especially in a growing economy like ours. We already have advanced technology packaged into a solution that can be applied to railways. GE Transportation (GET), one of the world leaders in railroad transportation, is working on the idea of Transportation Intelligence which is suite of a number of IoT solutions aimed at making railroad transportation more efficient and safe. Infosys is collaborating with GET on many of these cutting edge solutions. It includes equipping the locomotives with hardware capable of storing different events, cameras to continuously monitor the surroundings and the loco pilot's cabin, high performance computing platform to connect with the Cloud, event and rule based analysis of real-time data etc. More details can be found at https://www.ge.com/digital/industries/transportation .

With proper planning and political will, we definitely can turn Indian Railways into one of the safest in the world. 

May 22, 2018

Will ACES transform the future of our mobility?

ACES - is the new acronym on the block in the automotive industry. It stands for Autonomous Connected Electric and Shared mobility. Of course, these trends are already reshaping the industry in many ways. When you think about each of these trends - they are undergoing a transition or maturity. For instance, Autonomous driving has been evolving through Passive Driver Assistive System such as seat belts to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as Forward Collision Warning, Pedestrian Detection and such. Connected systems have evolved from basic safety systems (think OnStar) to advanced infotainment systems that are integrated with a larger ecosystem. Hybrid electric to fully electric vehicles, with advances in battery technology to combat driver anxiety. Shared mobility continues to evolve from ride hailing to car sharing to ride sharing with variants in each one of these models as well. 

The perspective is very different depending on your vantage point in the value chain however one thing is for certain that the future presents a tremendous opportunity landscape for all the players. The value chain itself is the palette on which many of the non-traditional players are differentiating to design and amplify the value delivered to the end 

There are some key shifts that are happening in the automotive industry across the ACES dimensions and a quick look into scenarios of today and tomorrow will provide us the canvas for assessing how car makers must adopt their strategies in the future. The top 5 automakers list has gone through a dramatic upheaval in the last 15-20 years, with Renault-Nissan (RNW) and Hyundai-Kia displacing Ford and Daimler Chrysler. There is disruption in the horizon, driven by technology, demographic, and regulatory changes. Back to our 4 ACES, and the shifts happening. These are based on reports from various analysts. 

  1. By 2025, Level 1 to 3 autonomous vehicles will be mainstream and Level 4/5 from 2030 onwards
  2. Electric and hybrid vehicles will dominate new car sales by 2030 
  3. Connected vehicles will be mainstream i.e. available by default starting 2020
  4. Shared mobility will mature into shared autonomous riding services i.e. the current car sharing, and ride hailing will evolve into fully autonomous by 2030
While the numbers, and timelines are estimates based on modelling - the underlying message is that there are dramatic shifts happening. Some observers argue that legislative changes will accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles. It is apparent that ubiquitous connectivity, a steep decline in battery and sensor costs are fueling the ACES adoption. Of course the digital natives have a paradigm shift towards vehicle ownership. 

So, what does it take for auto OEMs to navigate their next in this fast changing paradigm of mobility as service. My view is that many OEMs have started thinking in this direction and need to accelerate their investments to transform into digital businesses catering to digital consumers. It always starts with the user, and their personas which will drive their needs. Once the needs are understood, what does it take for OEMs to address these needs and how do they transform to address these needs. Let's now understand each of these dimensions further

  • The end user view is being largely shaped by a plethora of digital services that is being consumed, so it will be no different for integrated mobility services that combine the vehicle, software and services in a seamless, intuitive and personalized manner. The consumption patterns will be driven by holistic experiences, that may or may not be focused on the device. Auto OEMs need to accelerate their transition to a world beyond the vehicle

  • The second aspect that will drive the holistic digital experiences is an ecosystem of providers that are connected digitally through a web of structured and ad-hoc contracts. The ecosystem when expanded globally requires partnerships at multiple levels, with different customization requirements and monetization models. Auto OEMs needs to fasten their transition to a world of thousands of digital partners beyond their traditional supplier base
There are clear parallels with the consumer electronics industry where there is commoditization of hardware, with software and electronics being the differentiator amplified through an ecosystem of services. While the connected services evolution pushed the auto OEMs and the entire value chain into this new world, ACES will accelerate the transformation. The fundamentals of this new way of running business are quite different from the traditional ways such as - real time interactions with customers through direct interactions without intermediaries, instant feedback amplified through social networks, services - in essence a fully digital business that is integrated with the devices. Of significance, is that the core manufacturing process to produce a safe and sturdy vehicle where the services are integrated is also being impacted through IOT based technologies

This transformation has implications across the entire industry including the suppliers, insurance companies, the financing arms, and after-market. Specifically, the OEMs have to make changes in their operations to succeed in their services portfolio. Let us now take a look at some of these changes

  1. Encourage, accelerate, adopt and scale innovation - there is rapid innovation happening in the ecosystem with digital first businesses. Adopting the ecosystem innovation is key, because there is migration in the value chain - players developing competencies to differentiate in the services domain. While doing this, automakers must have the right amount of control to ensure that fundamental safety aspects are not compromised. A platform based approach that integrates with the ecosystem will help in providing integrated digital services

  2. Organize to deliver faster - embracing agile, interdisciplinary teams that define the product, build it, test and ship it are mantras by which the digital first companies live by. In some cases, automakers have hived off newer "startup" like environments and increased their Silicon Valley presence to accelerate their capability to deliver faster driven by a new way of thinking. Decisions around owning strategic functions, while partnering for non-core functions have to be made. The second aspect of organization is to build capabilities to run end to end operations - given the new paradigm of services that provide integrated digital experiences. This includes onboarding new services, partners, customer provisioning and privacy, service delivery and customer care. Maintaining the brand oneness across these multitude of customer touch points is crucial 

  3. Scale up investment on R&D - it is essential for OEMs to continue to invest and scale up on R&D. Areas such as autonomous, and electric vehicles require significant investments from design, development and of course lots of testing. There's also a need to revector some of the investments into services and software. Investments have to be hand in glove with organization structures, and innovation. In addition, these investments have to be done looking forward into the future and to balance the ownership paradigm changes. Automakers may have to relook at their investment philosophies but scaling up is inevitable. 

  4. Lead and engage in the industry transformation - transportation and mobility is an integral part of our lives. Given the rapid technology evolution, much of the standards are yet to be defined and there is a clear opportunity for the automakers to engage with regulatory authorities, city planners and other technology partners to define and chart the way. Despite the lack of precedence, there's a need to explore new partnerships and learn quickly. The auto industry is known for establishing rigorous manufacturing practices, and standards and this now needs to extend into the services domain as well. 
These are exciting times and we are at the inflection point witnessing industrial shifts at a scorching pace driven by multiple influencers. Organizations that are resilient, adaptive and innovative will lead through these times - while I have discussed some key points in this commentary, I am certain there are dynamics that are ever changing forcing the companies to adapt quickly 

May 11, 2018

Hannover Messe 2018: Observations, Thoughts, and Learnings


Co-author: Ramchandra Kulkarni - AVP, Head of Engineering Services, Europe

Hannover Messe Industries (HMI) is the world's leading trade show for industrial technology. And we were glad to be there. The recently concluded event displayed an undeniable emphasis on the convergence of IT, complex mechanically engineered systems, industrial IoT platforms, and new business models. Despite an overwhelming bias favoring open collaborative systems large technology providers continued to push single technology integrated solutions. We wondered if this would cause monolithic systems to re-emerge and whether security challenges would stymie open collaboration. We came away with a perspective informed by our conversations with decision-makers and influencers, thankfully, in favor of open systems.

Solutions were the trend at the show. Though most exhibits were only technology and concept demonstrators they attempted significant integrations across the value chain. Most provided clear evidence of collaboration between technology OEMs, domain experts, and system integration partners. The emphasis was clearly on digitization which was showcased using themes that involved integration, connectivity, and collaboration. We saw exhibits that dealt with Industrial Automation, Digital Factory, Platforms and Integrated Energy Systems. Unsurprisingly, servo and autonomous drive technologies emerged as key drivers of digitized and integrated manufacturing. Smart energy systems focused on energy efficiency were also on display. An exhibit that truly impressed us was one involving a robot that worked in conjunction with a couple of 2D cameras connected to a CAD data system. Though simple in appearance this system proved the concept that digital (CAD) data could be used in real-time to direct a robotic system to retrieve physical objects recognized on the basis of their digital CAD geometry. Similarly, we saw the use of additive manufacturing to repair a large industrial die driven completely by information from the die's digital CAD data. These exhibits were fully integrated, connected, and showcased collaboration of cyber-physical systems in achieving non-trivial manufacturing results. We call these 'Hello World' applications of digital concepts - applications that bring to life, with simplicity and clarity, a complete digital interaction.

The exhibits at HMI 2018 displayed an urgency with regards to digital transformation that begun tentatively but promises to accelerate rapidly. And though this transformation cuts to the heart of how products are conceptualized, engineered, manufactured, sold, and maintained - the accelerated nature of this transformation will present bountiful opportunities only to those who are "ready" to participate. The solutions on display underscored the realization that technology is not an end, but a means to an end; it is an enabler. When used to integrate, connect, and collaborate, technology has the potential to help unlock value.

Attending HMI gave us a few interesting ideas on how we should present ourselves at future events. One is that we should bring together various horizontal service lines to develop complete and compelling digital threads. These threads would provide evidence of integrating processes involving product selection, definition, engineering, manufacturing, after-market operations, and maintenance. Such a thread will involve multiple technologies and thus multiple service lines. These jointly developed concepts can be the start of a 'go-to-market' strategy developed in collaboration with service lines, and such internal collaboration will drive success. Some themes around which these collaborations could be imagined are:

  • Solutions that address challenges of the installed base of a particular industry: The business objective here is to extend the life of past investments; also known as brownfield.
  • Solutions that demonstrate connectivity, collaboration, and integration of open technologies: Bringing together next generation user interfaces coupled with engineering and business analytics based on AI, ML and augmented by RPA can be powerful demonstrations of problem solving and our systems integration prowess.
  • Solutions that are built in a consortium approach: Next generation solutions that have business merit will be mostly built in partnership with technology partners, consulting partners, and domain experts. Exhibits that showcase partnerships demonstrate our ability to think laterally and work collaboratively. Tangible evidence to potential buyers of our evolving maturity from a pure play service integrator to a true partner.
  • Solutions built in participation with students from partner institutes: This has far reaching optical and soft implications. It showcases our investment in reskilling the work force of tomorrow. When done in geographies like the Americas and Europe we can expect a multitude of returns in the future.
  • Solutions that demonstrate new development paradigms: We must exhibit the end result of our approach to unpacking and solving problems. Each exhibit should include the outcomes of Design Thinking, the elements targeted and managed in discovery and developed in sprint, and a hierarchical view of architectural constructs like cloud, micro-services, industrial platforms, and enterprise systems. At a trade show, this demonstrates competencies at play.

We look forward to the next Hannover Messe in 2019, where we can truly showcase our brand proposition, 'Navigate Your Next' for industrial manufacturing.

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