At AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas this week, Amazon Web Services announced AWS Ground Station, a new service that makes it easy and cost-effective for customers to download data from satellites into AWS Global Infrastructure Regions, using a fully managed network of 12 ground station antennas located around the world.
Once customers receive satellite data at a ground station, they can immediately process it in an Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance, store it in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), apply AWS analytics and machine learning services to gain insights, and use Amazon’s network to move the data to other regions and processing facilities. Getting started with AWS Ground Station takes a few clicks in the AWS Management Console to schedule antenna access time and launch an Amazon EC2 instance to communicate with the satellite. AWS says there are no up-front payments or long-term commitments, no ground infrastructure to build or manage, and customers pay-by-the-minute for antenna access time used.
Satellites are being used by more and more businesses, universities, and governments for a variety of applications, including weather forecasting, surface imaging, and communications. To do this today, customers must build or lease ground antennas to communicate with the satellites. This is a significant undertaking and cost, because customers often require antennas in multiple countries to download data when and where they need it without waiting for the satellite to pass over a desired location.
And the antennas are just the beginning of the infrastructure requirements, because customers need servers, storage, and networking in close proximity to the antenna to process, store, and transport the data from the satellite. And then customers must build business rules and workflows to organize, structure, and route the data to employees or customers before it can be used to deliver insight. All of this requires significant capital investments and operational costs to build, manage, and maintain antennas, compute infrastructure, and business logic at each antenna location.
Using AWS Ground Station, customers can save up to 80 percent of their ground station costs by paying for antenna access time on demand, and they can rely on AWS Ground Station’s global footprint of ground stations to downlink data when and where they need it.
The recency of data is particularly critical when it comes to tracking and acting upon fast-moving conditions on the ground. This timeliness depends on frequent communications between ground stations and satellites, which can only be achieved with a large, global footprint of antennas maintaining frequent contact with orbiting satellites. For example, as fast-moving environmental, geopolitical, or news events unfold on the ground, AWS Ground Station customers can downlink current data to any of the 12 AWS ground stations around the world and quickly combine the data with other AWS services to process, store, analyze, and transport the data to keep up with rapidly evolving conditions. Users can get timely data sooner, rapidly experiment with new applications, and deliver products to market faster without buying, leasing, or maintaining complex and expensive infrastructure.
“Satellite data is incredibly useful for building a wide range of important applications, but it is super complex and expensive to build and operate the infrastructure needed to do so,” said Charlie Bell, Senior Vice President of AWS. “A few years back our customers asked us if we could remove that cost and complexity, and the more we thought about it, the more we realised that AWS with its global footprint was uniquely positioned to solve this challenge.
“Today, we are giving satellite customers the ability to dynamically scale their ground station antenna use based on actual need. And, they will be able to ingest data straight into AWS, where they can securely store, analyse, and transmit products to their customers without needing to worry about building all of the infrastructure themselves.”
AWS provided the following information:
“Hello BMW” – Now we’re talking, with X5
BMW brings impressive safety features and a built-in voice assistant to its 4th generation X5, writes BRYAN TURNER.
Marking 20 years since its release, the BMW X5 has been given a substantial redesign for its fourth generation. A major revamp of aesthetics and functionality affirms this luxury Sports Activity Vehicle’s (SAV) position in the market.
New safety features not only make it safer but also more comfortable to drive. The redesigned headlights utilise laser lighting, which eliminates glare on reflective objects like signboards in dark driving conditions. The laser lighting technology also extends the distance of bright lighting to about 500 meters, 200 meters further than the previous generation.
The Driving Assist Professional package, an option for the SAV, comprises a steering and lane control assistant as well as a lane keeping assistant. These assistants work closely with a smart collision evasion system, which helps avoid collisions with vehicles or pedestrians suddenly appearing in the driver’s path. As soon as an evasive manoeuvre is detected, the system assists the driver with steering inputs to direct the vehicle into a clear, adjacent lane.
BMW Operating System 7.0, the latest version of the car’s software, focuses on customisability. This means that more aspects of the vehicle can be set up in a way that is most comfortable for the driver. For example, the 12.3” infotainment panel features a home screen which uses a three-tile layout, where one can have one large tile and two smaller tiles. These tiles can be swapped around and configured to the point where drivers no longer have to search through menus to get what they would need, as their favourites sit on a customised home screen.
The X5 gets a voice assistant with the BMW Assistant Professional. “Hello BMW” will wake the onboard voice assistant for voice commands. These voice commands could be anything from “Play rock music” to “Is my tyre pressure okay?”. Renaming the voice assistant’s wake prompt is also possible if the driver has named their car something other than BMW.
Keeping in line with the latest technology, the X5 features options for a wireless charging tray in the front and two additional USB Type-C ports. Other features include an adaptive navigation system, a hard-drive-based multimedia system with 20 GB of memory, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
BMW’s attention to minor details goes a long way with massage seats and thermo-cupholders. Electrically adjustable and heated sports seats are fitted standard. Additional options include seat massage functionality and ventilated seats. The thermo-cupholder option allows a driver to keep a beverage heated or cooled during a drive.
Unlocking the X5 with a smartphone will soon be a reality with a planned update to the BMW Connected Drive app, in the second quarter of 2019. BMW Digital Key brings functionality to lock and unlock the car with a smartphone’s NFC chip, which eliminates the need for a traditional car key. The driver will simply hold the smartphone to the door’s handle and the car will unlock. Once the driver is inside, the smartphone can be placed on the built-in wireless charging tray, and the NFC chip will register again to verify the driver. From there, the engine can be started.
Overall, exciting technology features come with the new X5 and even more impressive features will come with software updates in 2019.
ERP needs asset management
A single, integrated EAM and ERP solution can power an asset-intensive business into the future, says MOHAMED CASSOOJEE, MD and Country Manager, IFS South Africa and Africa.
Most Enterprise Resource Planning software originated in the manufacturing sector as materials resource planning (MRP) solutions for organisations that needed to manage a lot of inventory. From there, they were rapidly developed into solutions for every industry imaginable.
But these roots mean that most standalone ERP software isn’t quite enough on its own to address the needs of organisations in asset-intensive industries such as metal foundries, mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper, energy and utilities, and construction and engineering.
Companies in these sectors are not managing inventory as much as they are managing the capacity of a fixed asset over its lifecycle as well as handling large-scale infrastructure projects with long planning cycles. This is where enterprise asset management (EAM) comes into play, offering capabilities that are not found in typical ERP systems.
EAM systems are built to help organisations manage assets such as plants, heavy machinery, pipelines and industrial-class vehicles. These solutions enable organisations to track the location and status of assets and asset objects in real time, schedule work orders to maintain and fix the assets, and manage the storage of spare parts required to service them.
As Africa’s governments, state-owned enterprises and private sector step up infrastructure investment, EAM has a vital role to play in ensuring that organisations drive the highest possible value from their new assets, whether these are telecoms networks, railway systems, ports or power plants.
According to the World Bank, Africa needs to spend around $93 billion a year over the next decade to address its infrastructure backlogs — about one-third of that cost is for maintenance. In 2008, World Bank found that about 30% of the infrastructure assets of a typical African country needed rehabilitation.
These numbers point to the urgent need for organisations across the continent to take a more proactive and preventative outlook towards maintenance of their key infrastructure and assets. Implementation of EAM can enable organisations to better track, manage and maintain assets to prolong their lifespan and enhance return on investment.
From asset planning to construction to operation to decommissioning and replacement, EAM allows organisations to maintain, manage and optimise assets over the entire asset lifecycle. By helping companies to increase asset productivity and availability – while reducing total cost of ownership – EAM can have a direct impact on profitability and financial sustainability.
Good EAM solutions can also be paired with corporate performance management and analytics tools to let organisations analyse operation disruptions and determine and address the causes, such as maintenance issues, inadequate training, or design faults.
Technological advances, along with the associated price drop for smart products being developed for the Internet of Things (IoT), now make it possible to monitor almost any asset in real-time from nearly any location across the globe. This further boosts the power and usefulness of an EAM solution. It is imperative that the EAM solutions that are implemented are built on robust, newer technologies that can easily support IOT, AI and smart bots.
EAM and ERP: a critical partnership
To sum up, ERP manages business operations, while the EAM system manages all the monitoring and operations of the asset. That means for most companies it isn’t an either-or choice because they need both EAM and ERP to drive optimal business performance.
Some organisations opt for so-called ‘best of breed’ EAM and ERP solutions from different providers. Yet integration can be a headache. The challenges include master data synchronisation and transaction integration. The company may also need to consider whether the ERP or EAM system is the better fit for a particular transaction or asset type.
However, for most organisations in asset-intensive industries, the ideal solution is an ERP system with extensive EAM capabilities: a system built from the ground up to manage not only basic business functions but also assets and their maintenance. Such a solution provides one complete solution spanning key processes and data.
This approach enables the organisation to truly manage and maximise value over asset lifecycles. It also empowers the enterprise to organise operations around the assets and individual asset objects it uses to create value for stakeholders, customers and the community.
For most asset-intensive companies, delivering EAM capabilities as part and parcel of an integrated ERP solution, simplifies their business systems landscape, giving them a single source of truth. The same arguments apply to project management and workforce management systems.
Organisations seeking to transform their business by standardising processes and leveraging reliable, real-time data will benefit from an ERP system with all of these capabilities, setting them up to adopt IoT, artificial intelligence, or whatever other new technologies are coming up next.