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OPINION: Bridging the Digitisation Gap

Alan Seery has an extensive history in solving business connectivity challenges. He is responsible for leading technology strategy for Aqura and supporting customers to overcome their connectivity challenges.

In this opinion piece, Alan Seery shares some insights from recent presentations to a diverse range of technologists across the APAC region.

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It’s interesting to reflect on some of the feedback we have been getting recently from presenting at a number of conferences.

My sessions talked about the gap that is appearing at the edge for communications in remote operations whether they be a mine or an infrastructure project.

One thing that struck me was the feedback from many attendees is there is still a lack of cohesive approach by many organisations to resolve edge connectivity challenges to support digital transformation initiatives.

As a business we are focused on resolving business challenges. Whilst we have been focused on creating value through ubiquitous, reliable high-performance networks at the edge, we view our work as the foundation of digital operations. Without a reliable, high-performance network from field to core, the path to digitisation is compromised.

As we grow our business to new segments and markets, we’re finding commonality between enterprises, whether they are resources, oil & gas or infrastructure, in they are all challenged in being able to justify and define the value that a high performance, edge network can deliver to achieve broader business goals.

Many attendees at the events wanted advice on how to make a start to prove value to justify to moving to something like a Private 4GLTE edge network. It’s hard to provide the silver bullet answer as every operation is different, but here’s a few ideas to get started.

  1. Get a picture of what is currently in place. When I started on the journey of LTE over a decade ago, I stood at the top of a hill overlooking a mine, and I counted over 8 different communications networks, each serving a different business use, with a team of people that have to maintain and keep that network operating. This cost is not understood. Start with what it’s costing you to deliver your current connections, and then compare your business case against that.
  2. Surface your plans internally. You will be surprised how many others will jump on to justify the value to the business. Map out others in your organisation who could leverage a high-performance, large coverage edge-network. We have seen countless smaller projects bubble-up through the business to become strategic when others started to realise the benefit one, high-performance edge network could offer to their use case.
  3. Understand the risk of not investing – calculate the value of not predicting one asset failure. What’s the annual cost of autonomous equipment slowing or stopping whilst reconnecting? Compare the value of do nothing, versus the benefit. Investing on edge connectivity is no longer just the cost of the infrastructure. Recognise the cost of not investing and that is the value that is being lost to the business.
  4. Challenge the acquisition model – capex is tight…everywhere. Challenge your communications provider to offer an OPEX option for your edge network. For underground operations, this is critical as business costs are typically on per metres mined. Moving to OPEX/aaS reduces demand for scarce CAPEX and enables the organisation to realise value immediately and preserve CAPEX for other activity.
  5. It doesn’t need a lift-and-shift. Moving to LTE doesn’t require everything else to be switched off and migrated on Day 1. Concentrate on a few core applications to start, and then once you’ve got your feet, start to look to move across new applications.

It’s not easy to take the first step to lead an organisation in what can be considered a major change, but I hope at least one of the above gives a way forward.

And if you need more help, just drop me a note and we can see if there is another approach that may help.

towers hill

The plethora of Communication Infrastructure in a Pilbara mine that sparked Alan Seery’s journey to help businesses move towards ubiquitous, high-performance edge connectivity.

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