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Energy sector wrestles with youth

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As the older generation of trained energy specialists approach retirement age, firms must look at attracting younger replacements. But, says MARTIN RICHARDS, Senior Director for Energy Industry Solutions, OpenText, that is not so easy with more enticing companies looking for the same talent.

The ‘Great Crew Change’ taking place in today’s energy sector creates numerous challenges. As an older generation of highly trained specialists approaches retirement age en masse, energy firms must attract and train large numbers of talented young replacements. That’s not easy when ‘hotter’ companies such as Facebook, Google and Uber want to recruit the same talent.

Forty years ago, running a nuclear power plant or exploring for oil and gas offered high-tech career appeal to many young engineers and PhDs. Today’s bright new graduates, though, have other cutting-edge options. So what’s an energy company to do when it faces the loss of many decades’ worth of knowledge and experience all at once?

One solution – digitalization – might not seem obvious at first. But by updating and digitalizing how they manage, store and share information, energy companies can preserve the knowledge of soon-to-be retirees and improve their ability to recruit a new generation of skilled employees. At the same time, such transformation can also help those organizations become more efficient, effective and ready for future change.

New ideas about data

While every business in the energy industry is unique, many have long relied on old-fashioned, paper-based documentation. In quite a few companies, this information is also distributed across various silos, with different teams or departments jealously guarding ‘their’ information from other groups. Such attitudes, however, are alien to today’s up-and-coming generation of professionals.

One story I heard recently clearly illustrates this divide: A senior engineer in his 50s recounted discussing a technical problem with a much younger co-worker, whose response was to promptly go to WhatsApp to ask former classmates for help. Within minutes, one of his friends had come back with an answer to the problem.

This is a far cry from how many energy companies are used to managing information. Up until recently, for instance, many firms employed teams of document controllers who were in charge of managing requests for records. If you needed a printed report or maintenance guide, you would turn over a written request to one of these controllers, who would then disappear into a maze of filing cabinets to retrieve the document.

That’s hardly an efficient system for a mobile, digital age, is it? So bringing in a new generation of employees who grew up with iPads, smartphones, tablets and WiFi will require companies to adopt new ways of working as well.

Preserving knowledge digitally

As they move into new digital working practices, energy firms must also work to preserve the knowledge of older employees approaching retirement. This means digitalizing large volumes of information from a wide array of sources – paper reports, books, memos, handwritten notes and more – and then bringing order to that information so it can be more easily searched, shared and kept up to date.

Technology can help with much of this. For example, advanced scanning devices and character recognition software can quickly and efficiently transform printed materials into digital data. Sometimes, though, hands-on human help is also needed.

Consider one company OpenText worked with that had acquired an oil platform from a large energy firm selling off aging assets. Before taking over, the company received all of the documentation it needed to operate the platform… in the form of 16 pallets of paper delivered to its parking lot. The business ended up having to employ a team of people from the original energy firm who understood how to make sense of those records.

Preserving old knowledge for a new digital era can be even more challenging in the nuclear energy sector, which has traditionally disaggregated critical information into multiple documents for security purposes. In many cases, one document won’t make sense unless it is read alongside several other related documents. It’s a system the older generation understands that won’t make sense to younger incoming employees.

Transformation in action

So how does a company make the transition from paper to digital?

OpenText has found the process is best managed in four stages. First, content must be brought under control. This means bringing information into a single, digital repository and eliminating silos. Along the way, files and metadata are standardized so content will be searchable, sharable and usable in a variety of formats.

The next step involves optimizing the newly digital content for accessibility. This requires adding advanced search capabilities, as well as security controls for sensitive documents, version control and support for mobile.

After that, additional changes are made to build in processes for content reviews, approvals and audit trails. This stage also involves enabling automatic notifications to be distributed whenever information is revised or updated.

Finally, in the last stage of transformation, content is integrated with other systems for operations, maintenance, project management and more. This process, for instance, could enable an employee reading an SAP work order on an iPad to also receive location-based information about where a particular piece of equipment is located and get temperature data to know whether the equipment in question is cool enough to be safely touched.

For one nuclear power provider that OpenText has worked with, such a staged transformation enabled the company to add built-in support for industry-standard regulatory compliance, making information management easier and more efficient for thousands of employees.

Building for the future

In addition to the dramatic generational shift in their workforces, many companies in the energy sector today are also confronting the need to replace aging infrastructure. Here, again, the right technology can help them accomplish this faster, more efficiently and more cost-effectively.

For example, one mining company in South America recently faced a difficult challenge: how to quickly bring online several new mines to replace those that were nearing depletion. It hadn’t developed a new mine in 20 years or so, which meant all of those past development processes had been paper-based and not designed for today’s needs and modern efficiency. To ensure faster results this time around, the company engaged OpenText to help it deploy a new system that provided hundreds of suppliers with centralized, online access to project information. By enabling orders, changes and other information to be managed digitally, this system allowed the company to reduce errors, improve communication and speed up every stage of new mine development.

Improvements like these not only help businesses move faster and become more efficient – they also make them more attractive to young employees who expect to work this way. Look, for example, at the utility sector, which is undergoing rapid change with the introduction of things like smart meters, rooftop solar and net metering. To enable their customers to manage such new services, utility companies are deploying new information technologies and advanced capabilities such as smart mobile apps and Big Data analytics. This will also help them recruit new generations of professionals to take over when the older generations hit retirement.

Conclusion

Managing change is always challenging and when changes are large and sweeping, there are plenty of opportunities to fall down and fail to meet those challenges. That’s especially the case in the energy sector, which has traditionally had a reputation of being resistant to change. Energy companies that are serious about successfully navigating the Great Crew Change will need to embrace new technologies and new processes, ideally with help from experienced partners who know how to manage and deliver transformation.

Those that can reinvent themselves in this way will be better positioned to deal with future challenges too. We’re already seeing new kinds of energy businesses emerging – smaller, more nimble businesses that are cloud-based digital natives from Day One. Legacy companies will have to adopt similar ways of thinking, working and managing information if they wish to remain competitive in the years ahead.

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Auto rivals team up for connected car demo

Rivals BMW, Ford and Groupe PSA, maker of Peugeot and Opel cars, have teamed up with the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), Qualcomm Technologies and Savari for Europe’s first live demonstration of C-V2X direct communication technology operating across vehicles from multiple auto manufacturers.

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The live demonstration also featured a live showcase of C-V2X direct communication technology operating between passenger cars, motorcycles, and roadside infrastructure. C-V2X is a global solution for vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication in support of improved automotive safety, automated driving and traffic efficiency.

The demonstration exhibited the road safety and traffic efficiency benefits of using C-V2X for Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) collision avoidance, as well as Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) connectivity to traffic signals and Traffic Management Centers (TMC). C-V2X was operated using real-time direct communications over ITS spectrum and demonstrated its ability to work without cellular network coverage, and underscores its commercial readiness for industry deployment as early as 2020. Superior performance and cost-effectiveness compared to other V2X technologies, along with forward-compatibility with 5G, make C-V2X direct communications a preferred solution for C-ITS applications.

Six demonstrations were shown including: Emergency Electronic Brake Light, Intersection Collision Warning, Across Traffic Turn Collision Risk Warning, Slow Vehicle Warning and Stationary Vehicle Warning, Signal Phase and Timing / Signal Violation Warning and Vulnerable Road User (pedestrian) Warning. The vehicles involved included two-wheel e-scooters provided by BMW Group, and automotive passenger vehicles provided by Ford, Groupe PSA, and BMW Group, all of which were equipped with C-V2X direct communication technology using the Qualcomm® 9150 C-V2X chipset solution.  V2X software stack and application software, along with roadside infrastructure, were provided by industry leader, Savari.

C-V2X is globally supported by a broad automotive ecosystem, which includes the fast growing 5GAA organization.  The 5GAA involves over 85 global members comprised of many leading automakers, Tier-1 suppliers, software developers, mobile operators, semiconductor companies, test equipment vendors, telecom suppliers, traffic signal suppliers and road operators.  

Cellular modems will be key to the C-V2X deployment in vehicles to support telematics, eCall, connected infotainment and delivering useful driving/traffic/parking information. As C-V2X direct communication functionality is integrated into the cellular modem, C-V2X solutions are expected to be more cost-efficient and economical over competing technologies, and benefit from accelerated attach rates.  C-V2X direct communication field validations are currently underway in Germany, France, Korea, China, Japan and the U.S.

C-V2X currently stands as the only V2X technology based on globally recognized 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) specifications, with ongoing evolution designed to offer forward compatibility with 5G.  C-V2X also leverages and reuses the upper layer protocols defined by the automotive industry, including the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) organization. C-V2X includes two complementary transmission modes: 

  • Direct communication as shown in this demonstration for V2V and V2I use cases
  • V2N network communication, which leverages mobile operators for connectivity and delivers cloud-based services, including automated crash notification (ACN, as mandated by eCall), hazard warnings, weather conditions, green light optimal speed advisory (GLOSA), parking spot location, and remote tele-operation to support automated driving, to name a few.

“This demonstration builds on the successful C-V2X showcase we organised with our members Audi, Ford and Qualcomm in Washington DC in April, said Christoph Voigt, Chairman of 5GAA.

“We are excited to witness the growing momentum behind this life-saving technology and to see our members working together to deploy C-V2X, and to make it hit the road as soon as possible.”  

“The BMW Group introduced the first C-ITS use cases already in 2013 with the market introduction of the BMW i3. Today most of envisaged C-ITS use-cases are already institutionalized. With the implementation of C-V2X, the BMW Group accomplishes the last set of the puzzle with a practical path to C-ITS showing quick benefits,” said Christoph Grote, Senior Vice President Electronics, BMW Group. 

“With its ability to safely and securely connect vehicles, along with its evolution into 5G, C-V2X is integral to Ford’s vision for future transportation in which all cars and infrastructure talk to each other,” said Thomas Lukaszewicz, Manager Automated Driving, Ford of Europe. “We are very encouraged by preliminary test results in Europe and elsewhere which support our belief that C-V2X direct communications has superior V2X communication capabilities.”

“We’re moving forward with seamless communication between cars and their environment for enhancing road safety, as well as our customers’ safety,” said Carla Gohin, Group PSA’s Vice President for Research and Advanced Engineering. “Following the first European C-V2X direct communications demonstration we hosted with Qualcomm Technologies last March, we’re pleased to work with leading automotive and technology companies today to highlight that C-V2X interoperability is a reality.” 

“This demonstration of interoperability between multiple automakers is not only another milestone achieved towards C-V2X deployment, but also further validates the commercial viability and global compatibility of C-V2X direct communications for connected vehicles,” said Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president & president, Qualcomm Europe and MEA. “We look forward in continuing to work alongside leaders in the automotive industry, like the 5GAA, BMW Group, Ford, Groupe PSA and Savari, to help advance the automotive industry’s shift towards a safer, connected and more autonomous future.” 

“As one of the V2X pioneers, our company is extremely pleased to continue to help enable the next step in the V2X revolution that we helped start back in 2008,” said Ravi Puvvala, CEO of Savari. “For the last year and a half, the Savari team has worked diligently alongside the dedicated C-V2X engineers in the 5GAA partnership. The resulting string of increasingly impressive demonstrations is continuing to convince the world that C-V2X will soon be deployed around the world.”

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entires via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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