ABB helping industry players achieve a successful digital transformation journey

ABB helping industry players achieve a successful digital transformation journey

/ News & Interviews / Wednesday, 18 December 2019 12:04

ABB is a pioneering technology leader that works closely with utilities, industry, transportation and infrastructure customers to write the future of industrial digitalization and realize value. It operates mainly in robotics, power, heavy electrical equipment, and automation technology areas. Energy Review was able to conduct an exclusive interview with ABB’s Hub Digital Leader in the IMEA region, Ikshvakoo Vaid, to share his insights about industrial automation, latest innovative technologies, cybersecurity and other key topics.

Industrial automation is a big deal for companies going through their digital transformation journey, what are the services offered by ABB to help them to do so?

ABB is making big steps to help support industrial players within our energy segment and within different industry segments, like process industries, to adopt the industry 4.0 initiative. We are coming up with a lot of solutions, we are trying to prove a lot of use cases for them. We have adapted ourselves to be very close to customer requirements. So, there are different scenarios, there are different problems and those problems are being picked up as specific use cases. So what could matter to one industry could be something else for the other industry. So depending upon the priorities that the customers have and the objectives that our industrial customers are setting up for themselves, we adapt over solutions and services for them.

Having said that, ABB has developed its own IoT platform to help customers integrate, contextualize, make use of and convert data into actionable items. People have been also talking about prescriptive maintenance, so we are working heavily on those elements, bringing our services in various forms. Let's say if somebody said that we want to have Onegram deployment where they want to make sure that their work forces are being fully utilized. Alternately if they are more interested in XaaS kind of model where the infrastructure or the platform or the software are completely consumed on the service-model basis, they can utilize these services in different formats depending upon how they want to do that. So we start our journey with the consulting engagement; we help them through agile methodology and principles to define objectives for themselves, define a road map and how they want to adopt the digital transformation.

One big factor in these transformations is how people are accepting this because there are changes in the workflows in the business processes, so we really work together with them in making those engagements and helping the clients and their own teams understand these changes and adapt to them. And eventually we prove concepts, we scale those concepts and lead them into a digital transformation journey.

With technological innovations, how do you ensure a safe energy distribution?

When we talk about energy distribution specifically, I think one big question here is balancing the demand and supply. What we see here is that the world is going through a phenomenal change where the dependencies on the conventional energy sources are primarily based on polluting technologies and that has to go down. Already people have made certain successes so if you look in today's scenario, I think in the UAE, 20% of the generation is now happening through renewable sources. On the other hand, there is a clear vision, that by 2050 this percentage has to go up to almost 50%. So there are a lot of initiatives from the government's side to make sure that there is an option available now.

One big challenge here is that when you are going towards transforming the way you produce energy, you are shifting towards more solar. However, there is a huge demand to balance the investment and that's where the distributed generation is coming into picture. People are talking about solar rooftops where the whole idea is that the consumption becomes also kind of production. So from a producer and consumer market, it is changing to a consumer market: people who are producing are consuming, and those who are consuming are also producing, so this is a kind of complete dynamic that’s coming into the picture.

One big question remains which is how you manage the complete energy flow, how do you make sure that the energy distribution is reliable, how do you make sure that the balance of the source and the consumption is the most optimum? So ABB has been really a pioneer in this technology. We have done a lot of implementations with something called virtual power plants. It is primarily a complete automation platform where you connect all your energy sources, both the production sources, as well as the consumers and on a very real time and dynamic basis you ensure that there is a balance, and an optimum balance between the demand and the supply. So I think virtual power is something that is going to be the next disruption in the energy market and ABB is fully geared to support our clients on that.

Between using virtual plants, IoT, and all these technologies, aren't you concerned regarding cyber-attacks?

Security is definitely one of the key challenges that you have to overcome when you are connecting more and more devices. Practically you are on the internet, so naturally every time you say the word internet people get scared because of the security threats. You don't have to ignore these threats because they are very much real and ABB as such has been very aggressive in terms of addressing the security concerns, right from the software development. The procedures that we follow are certified and compliant to the global security standards and even during the implementation phase, we are making sure that all the compliances to the security policies and regulations are completely taken care of.

So I won't say that you will be 100% secure all the time because the landscape is continuously changing. You have to make sure that you are secure all the time and you keep yourself updated and making sure that whatever vulnerabilities that are coming across are being blocked. However, at a fundamental level, at an advanced level, and from the initial deployment phase, we are definitely taking care of even that. So it is not that the threat is not there, it is wrong to question whether there will be any cybersecurity threat, because of course there will be. You have to deal with it and manage it. What I always say is that the best way to protect an umbrella is not to use it in sun and rain, but then you are not using an umbrella at all. So we are not here to stop using the technology because there is the threat of Internet, we are to make sure that those threats are mitigated.

In your opinion what's the future of AI in the energy industry?

AI is going to have a huge role in the energy industry. I think everybody is talking about how data is the new oil, or data is the gold. They are really linking the value of the data, so what this data is going to tell you is where the principles of AI will come into picture, because AI does not work unless there is data available. It is an intelligence which is artificially built and that artificial intelligence is built around the strength of the data that you have. As we are moving more and more in the energy industry, I'm thinking all these fears whether it is operations, management, or the other business functions around the energy business, AI is definitely going to make a lot of impact, people really want to make use of the knowledge that they have gained and built around many years of being in the industry which is now transforming in a way that it is able to help them predict events before they happen. I think whether it is related to people, their finance, HR, logistics, supply chains, or any function which is practicality required for running any industry, AI is definitely going to have a big growth.

In which regions do you consider expanding your projects to?

Here we are talking about the Middle East and Africa, and for that matter, if you speak about Asia, Middle East, and Africa, these are definitely the growth regions for ABB, and we are definitely penetrating in all these different economies and countries, aligning ourselves with the individual goals of the organizations, so there is no specific country that we would work in or not. Eventually, we are a business and we are looking at our short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Today we are working with early adopters, and I'm sure there will be more players in the market who would like to be part of the transformational journeys, so we will be even more mature to support them at that time. I think we should remain absolutely focused on the market in terms of growing.

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