In my first job, where I was working with the Telecom Manufacturing Unit of a Power Sector PSU, I had the opportunity to learn a bit about how very large Power Generation and, to some extent, Distribution Systems are managed through Automation and Control Systems.
In my second job, where I worked with a GSM Operator, I was part of the team that designed and implemented the Network Operations Centre to monitor and manage the network and unmanned facilities. We have seen a number of cases where the activities of such Operations Centre has been outsourced and, in some cases, even offshored – in recent times.
Thus, I was prepared mentally to think of the need for Operations Centre in these contexts. However, in the last one year, I have been in conversations with a number of people where similar mechanisms are being envisaged – some logical and some wild too!
The first interesting requirement came from a Civil Administration of a city. They had set up a number of security cameras and other monitoring gadgets across the city using private & public means. They had also implemented some sophisticated software for face recognition and had plans to setup large analytics solutions that can detect a few other conditions – like abandoned bags, unexpected movements etc.
All this was capable of creating actionable alarms in a central Operations Centre! While presently the Operations Centre was expected to be manned by the Civil Administration, I could envisage a long-term requirement where multiple cities can be managed together from a single Operations Centre – which could be outsourced to a Private Organization with established accountability.
Once again, all of us are familiar that in Civil Aviation there is something called Flight Control that manages the movement of airplanes.
A year back, I came into a discussion with a Product Manager of an Automobile Manufacturer. In the course of the conversation, we understood that he deals with both individual car buyers and enterprises (taxi companies & chauffeur services companies).
In the context of the former segment, especially for high-end cars, he wanted to be able to monitor the wear and tear of the cars using devices in the car and be in a position to proactively prevent potential breakdown. This would be done without monitoring the location of the user to protect their privacy. The expectation was that the data pertinent to the high-end cars would be monitored in a fashion similar to the Operations Centre!
For the enterprise segment, apart from similar services as individual users, the location of the vehicle would also be tracked. This was for safety of passengers (we had a few cases of crime by drivers of vehicles of vehicles ferrying Call Centre personnel at that time), as well as, for preventing abuse of the vehicle by the drivers. Once again, the requirement sounded like that of an Operations Management Centre!
Recently, was in some discussions with the BFSI leadership team where they talked about “Usage Based Insurance” for vehicles. The idea that was described was that the premium paid by risky drivers should be higher; like a penalty for their risky driving habit. Obviously, this meant a continuous monitoring of vehicles and analysing the data from the vehicles to identify what all can be construed as risky driving.
On the surface, it appears to be a case of automatic monitoring and employing analytics algorithms to come up with identifying risky patterns. However, what if the drivers sabotage the device in the vehicle? Can there be value additions from the insurance agency to collect additional data should a vehicle be involved in a crash or is used in a crime? There appears to be a possibility of an Operations Centre concept here too!
Oil & Gas
In a discussion with the Energy & Utilities leadership team, I got to know that the biggest challenge for the Oil & Gas companies is the business uncertainty arising out of fluctuations in production volumes and price of Oil and Gas. Production of oil & gas happens in oil fields that can be very far away from the refineries. Again, from the refineries, the refined products have to be taken to the numerous points of sale / retail outlets.
Thus we see that the products are stuck in transportation across various stages from unrefined to refined (ships, tankers etc.). Any breakdown in vehicle movement would expose the company to market fluctuations. To cut a long story short – this too is a candidate for an Operations Centre!
The wackiest of candidates for an Operations Centre was what I heard from a thought-leader from Europe. He was talking about the ageing populations in Europe and the demand for technology in this context. He was talking about the ability to monitor vital signs of patients with Heart conditions, metabolic disorders etc. from a central location! This would enable the patients to be living as close to normal life as possible with ability for rapid response should any misfortune befall them. Like –humans are just a set of managed objects in the Operations Centre!
Where is all this leading…
Observation #1: In various industries, as automation reduces tasks to a set of observations from a central location, the activities to be performed can be broken up into two parts – the routine activity of monitoring and the expert response to abnormal situations. The routine activity becomes eligible for Outsourcing in due course!
Observation #2: As time progresses, the ability to leverage best practices across industries, economies of scale and diversification by players who specialize in the Outsourcing processes will force creations of xOCs – Operations Centres where simultaneous monitoring of one or more of Utilities, Telecom, Security, Automobiles, Transport and Humans will happen.
Coming to my questions to readers…
So – what are your views? Do you think that it will be possible for such xOCs to come up in the future?