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Company Culture Key to Digital Transformation

While the business world has experienced slow progress in its quest for digital transformation, the industrial sector prides itself in having almost fully embraced the transformative impact of digital technologies. Oil fields are now remotely monitored, with their assets managed and analyzed using digital technology, while the mining industry has moved forward towards autonomous capabilities by developing self-driving trucks.

Getting the two groups together and start thinking long term can bridge the cultural divide. It will build a better relationship where both the IT and OT will look at each other as partners that will complement one another.

The Logicalis Global CIO Survey 2017-2018 sought to find out how Chief Information Officers (CIOs) thought of their companies as digital innovators. Close to 900 information technology (IT) directors and CIOs from around the world took part in the survey. The survey results showed that only 5% of the respondents felt that their company was a “digital innovator,” and around 20% of the respondents thought their organization was an early adopter.

According to respondents, the top three barriers to digital transformation are: “organizational culture” (56% of respondents), cost of new technology (50%), and “large or complex legacy infrastructure.” CIOs in particular believe that complexity, cost, culture, skills and security are the main barriers to digital transformation, with 44% of them believing complex legacy tech is the main barrier.

The industrial sector benefits more from the effects of digital technology, which is asset-intensive, and the role of the IT is as a support act. It is different from the rest of the business world which needs to develop a strong customer service system or a financial management system where IT performs a dominant role.

IT departments are not alone in the industrial sector’s digital transformation, as it is important to engage both operations and engineering that are also essential components of building a digital future. Successful digital transformation requires bold actions and the convergence of the three sectors, partly by the evolution of operational technology (OT) to monitor the control system of an industry.

The popularity of operational technology is due in part to the amount of investments industrial vendors have poured into the industrial internet. The result is the rise of two separately run systems that look similar in architecture. Operational technology products now look more and more like IT products, and this is where the cultural divide becomes more pronounced.

IT in Operations

Any attempt to bring IT and OT together will face significant challenges, with the cultural differences between engineers and IT posing as the biggest hurdle. Engineers and IT people live and think differently. Engineers take safety and reliability seriously, knowing that people could die when something goes wrong in their domain. They view problem solving simplistically – determine past processes, make modifications, and optimize it for an on-going situation and lock it down, never to touch it again until a new problem comes up. IT people will not subscribe to that point of view because they are aware that most of the OT that engineers expect to be safe, reliable, and stable, use the most unstable software platforms.

The difference in points of view of IT people and OT people will become pronounced once the IT people integrate into the industrial system. The enterprise requires the IT department everywhere in the organization to update networks and implement cyber-security measures. The department is essential in safeguarding the security of plant operations.

When introducing IT people into the industrial control system environment, operations usually do not understand the need for IT people in operations because they do not have a clear understanding of the specific control environment. IT people train to perform a task, most of the time not realizing that they are part of the larger control system operation. Engineers view IT people as unable to realize the larger context. Engineers working in the industries are not very much impressed by the newest technologies. For them, if the machine works fine, they don’t care if it is old or new.

Getting the two groups together and start thinking long term can bridge the cultural divide. It will build a better relationship where both the IT and OT will look at each other as partners that will complement one another. Companies must invest in the education side of the story in order to foster harmony between IT and OT. Establishing firmly the corporate culture and establishing the communications between the two departments will ensure the success of the digital transformation in the industry.

Osso VR Wins First EdSim Challenge

The United States Department of Education (ED) announced Osso VR as winners of the recently concluded EdSim Challenge. The competition was for the design of innovative simulation tools for both technical and career education. It asked for submissions from virtual reality (VR), video game companies and developers, and technical education groups for simulations that help prepare students for real-world scenarios, as well as create an ecosystem of VR and AR tech in education.

The EdSim Challenge had a total cash price of $680,000. There were five finalists out of 250 submissions, with each finalist receiving a combination of $50,000 and in-kind prizes from sponsors.

Osso VR is the name of the platform developed by the company of the same name. It is a platform for surgeons-in-training for realistic simulations aimed at changing the conduct of medical training in preparation for actual surgery in the operating room. Users can pick up and use instruments with a high level of fidelity and accuracy to actual procedures. The VR headset immerses the student in a virtual operating room, where they hold two controllers capable of one-to-one tracking. The system uses kinesthetic feedback mimicking the feeling and control of movements and responses from performing surgical procedures.

 

The current method of training for an operation is with the use of cadavers. Surgeons go to a cadaver course at a different hospital where they get hands-on demonstration and practice on a cadaver. Unfortunately, surgeons do this only once, and then take a test several months later without any practice or refresher in the meantime.

Dr. Michael Wooten, ED’s Assistant Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education, said that Osso VR has an immersive approach which enhances the technical training student-surgeons receive.

Dr. Justin Barad, MD is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Osso VR. He is an orthopedic surgeon and a former game developer. According to Barad, surgical VR simulation brought by Osso VR allows surgeons to practice new surgical techniques at anytime and anywhere, with practice in a virtual environment. Osso VR aims to increase the adoption of novel medical techniques, leading to better surgical results, and bringing modern techniques closer to the student.

The company focuses on a surgical training platform for surgeons, hospital staff and a sales team. Highly realistic, the platform has cutting-edge procedures and their associated devices ready for use. Currently, the development team is developing orthopedic and spine procedures and will later expand these to other areas of study.

The EdSim Challenge

The EdSim Challenge had a total cash price of $680,000. There were five finalists out of 250 submissions, with each finalist receiving a combination of $50,000 and in-kind prizes from sponsors. The top prize winner, Osso VR, received $430,000 and in-kind prizes from both IBM and Microsoft.

From Samsung, finalists also received a Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy Tab S2 9.7”, Gear S3 watch, Gear VR headset, and an Oculus Mobile software developer kit (SDK). Oculus offered an Oculus Rift VR headset for each finalist. Along with the top prize, IBM gave away an IBM Bluemix package, while Microsoft offered a BizSpark Plus program.

The EdSim Challenge can be considered a bold action. It is part of a series of competitions to spur new technology development, along with innovative products and resources to prepare students for future high-demand, high-wage jobs requiring high skills.

South Pole, the Ultimate Renewable Energy Challenge

Robert Swan, OBE, is the first person to ever walk or ski to both the North and South Poles. He first reached the South Pole in 1984 and the North Pole in 1991. Since his first trip to Antarctica, the continent became his inspiration for his advocacy: the preservation of the frozen continent against climate change.

The expedition is a demonstration of current renewable energy technologies. Using only man-hauled sleds to carry their equipment, the team will use these technologies to assist them on their 600-mile journey through desolate terrain which go as cold as -40° Celsius.

The explorer is set to return to the South Pole this November as part of the South Pole Energy Challenge (SPEC). The challenge’s aim is to demonstrate the limits of renewable energy. This will not be a simple walk under Antarctica’s summer sun – it also demonstrates Swan’s faith in clean energy under the most hostile environment on earth.

Swan’s continues his advocacy with 2014, a company which he founded to help the preservation of Antarctica. He has also the author of “Antarctica 2014: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness,” a book he wrote which echoes all of his bold ideas for the future, along with Gil Reavill.

The SPEC team is made up of Robert’s son, Barney Swan, who is the leader of the expedition; Martin Barnett, the expedition guide; and Kyle O’Donoghue, documentary filmmaker. They will carry with them man-hauled sleds and wind power generators to power their electronic devices. For drinking water, they also have solar panels. For cooking and heating, Shell developed a woodchip-derived biofuel at the Shell Technology Centre in Bangalore, India.

The father and son team are no strangers to the use of renewable energy. Barney Swan grew up away from the grid and knows firsthand the use of such energy in everyday life. The SPEC starts November 15 and will last for 60 days.

A Demonstration of Technology

South Pole Energy Challenge - Map of South Pole

The expedition is a demonstration of current renewable energy technologies. Using only man-hauled sleds to carry their equipment, the team will use these technologies to assist them on their 600-mile journey through desolate terrain which go as cold as -40° Celsius. Besides the cold, other environmental challenges include the high altitudes and mercurial weather conditions. It is not the first polar expedition to solely use man-hauled sleds; however, it is the first to use only renewable energy sources including solar, wind, and advanced biofuels.

The dangers they encounter are real. The team is ski to the South Pole dragging their equipment on their sleds. Frostbite and hypothermia are constant threats. The expedition will stress the human body to its limits, with health dangers including respiratory distress and depressed immune system brought about by environmental stress. This makes the use of renewable energy a challenge and a demonstration of current technology.

According to Robert Swan, there is no silver bullet in solving the challenges brought about by climate change. For him, people must meet the challenge by collaborating with all the stakeholders and active participants, which include businesses, industry and the public sector, to make cleaner energy solutions and a low carbon future. This will entail the use of more renewable energy source, required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. By testing these technologies in Antarctica, the expedition aims to prove that these pieces of technology are ready for deployment anywhere, and are important in helping the world to transition to renewable energy leading to a low-carbon future.

Singapore Solar Energy is aiming to be a Sustainable Country

Singapore, an island nation with a 5.6 million population, is dependent on natural gas for its electricity production. 95% of its energy requirements come from natural gas plants. Up to 2013, it imports liquefied natural gas (LNG) via pipelines from Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2013, an LNG terminal opened, allowing the country to buy gas from Australia and the United States.

Singapore’s unique location makes it an ideal energy and transportation hub. It has allowed for better access to international LNG markets, besides traditional partners, Indonesia and Malaysia.

To meet the country’s Paris Agreement quota, the country has to diversify its energy production capability. As a tropical country, solar energy comes to mind. Recently, the country launched the world’s largest floating solar energy testbed at the Tengeh Reservoir. To better use this technology, it is developing distributed energy grids which will improve access and use of renewable energy sources. It will also keep the working energy grid stable.

Sustainable Energy and Supply

In a recent study by the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), Singapore solar energy may meet around 25% of the country’s energy requirements in 2025. However, to reach that level, today’s 140-megawatt peak (MWp) capacity has to double every two years, to meet 2-gigawatt peak (GWp) by 2025. This may not be possible, considering the size of the country. Since its independence in 1965, Singapore has engaged in land reclamation and that the total land area has increased by 23%.

To solve its energy problems, Singapore is making a bold move via the Smart Nation program. Here, energy companies aim for performance improvement with the use of data analytics, remote sensors, and value-added applications for consumers. This initiative is part of a more extensive program to develop and use new technology and other innovations to meet increasing power needs and sustainable energy development goals. Singapore’s Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan allocated $375 million for research and development efforts in energy concerns, including solar energy, smart grids, battery storage, and green buildings.

Innovations, Pricing, and Pledges

Singapore has a liberalized gas and electricity market segmented via transmission, distribution, generation, and retail. Also, Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) has a pilot project called OptiWatt, allowing users more information about their electricity use and to enable them to use power during off-peak periods. Aligned with this, the independent electricity retailers offer new pricing plans for various customer preferences and needs. The EMA has also announced that by 2018, all electricity users (including households and businesses) can choose flexible and innovative plans from different electricity retailers to suit their needs. To comply with its Paris Agreement pledges, Singapore will include a carbon tax on fossil fuel use starting 2019.

Singapore’s unique location makes it an ideal energy and transportation hub. It has allowed for better access to international LNG markets, besides traditional partners, Indonesia and Malaysia. As tropical countries located near the equator, Singapore solar energy production is twice as efficient as those in temperate countries.

Singapore aims to keep its status as a financial and high-tech center. To do that, it has to keep its power running. It has to be part of global energy discussions and work with companies from everywhere in the world. It joined the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2016. It will also assume the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) energy ministers’ chairmanship in 2018, where it will play a vital role in driving cooperation and capacity build-up for ASEAN power concerns.