Of late, there has been an increased uptake of ICT solutions across the IT/ITeS and BPM/BPO sectors. This trend has received a further boost during the Covid-19 pandemic with companies taking the digital route to keep their operations afloat. Companies in this sector are betting big on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain, cloud, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to streamline and enhance business operations. With a growing work-from-home (WFH) culture, automation has emerged as a key tool. However, the increased technology adoption has come with a host of challenges, such as the need for workforce reskilling and upskilling. Amit Chadha, CEO and Managing Director, L&T Technology Services (LTTS), shares his views on the uptake of ICT solutions across their organisations and the way forward…
What are the key ICT trends dominating the IT/ITeS and BPM/BPO sector at present?
The ongoing pandemic has dramatically transformed ICT considerations and the approach of technology enablers such as engineering services and IT/ITeS players. Hybrid is the way forward in the new normal as work from anywhere (WFX) becomes a standard norm cutting across industries. This requires investment in the right technologies that ensure seamless business continuity. To this end, intelligent connectivity is rapidly shaping up as a framework that allows scalability and agility to enable a range of new-age applications around edtech, telemedicine, remote entertainment, contactless manufacturing, etc. Specific to the WFH environment, it helps enable an intelligent workplace built over aspects such as workplace automation, smart facility and digital workplace training.
Another concept that has come into prominence in the Covid era is the use of digital engineering to build anti-fragile future. The notion of a digital thread that allows manufacturers to migrate to a touchless manufacturing process, by transforming the way products are designed, manufactured and serviced, has gained popularity, especially in the past year. This digital thread is already transforming the way products are designed, manufactured and serviced by inculcating a heavy element of intelligence across the value chain. Finally, with the present-day applications increasingly pushing the demand for high speed and low latency requirements, the advent of 5G is expected to serve as a saviour. Businesses are proactively working to prepare themselves for the 5G wave and even before the commercial launch, a rich bank of use cases around 5G is already available for reference. All in all, the technology industry is set for a massive overhaul in the post-pandemic world.
Highlight some of the use cases of emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, blockchain, cloud and AR/VR in the Indian IT/ITeS and BPM/BPO sector?
The pace of evolution of technology is so rapid in the modern world that concepts such as AI, IoT, blockchain, cloud and others have attained a generic stature. It all boils down to how one leverages each of these. And it is here that the next phase of evolution of these technologies comes into play, particularly against the backdrop of leaps in machine learning (ML) complemented by the ensuing 5G network availability. Early trends are encouraging as reflected by use cases available around the adoption of digital technologies over 5G connectivity. For instance, a global use case by an American telco major showcases how it has tested multi-gigabit speed – video streaming, download and conference experiences over 5G. Another mobile service provider has launched 5G-powered residential broadband services across select cities in the US. More specific to AI, among several interesting examples, a relevant one in line with the healthcare-focused pandemic times is the clinical decision support system, enabling computer-aided diagnostics solutions. This assists radiologists in analysing chest X-rays for a faster and accurate detection of critical ailments such as pneumonia, typhoid and TB.
Related to IoT and the current business demand for having cost reduction mechanisms in place, a plug-and-play IoT environment in the form of sensor node and hub is known to have capabilities that enable a 10-40 per cent reduction in industrial application maintenance costs, mainly driven by predictive maintenance and real-time monitoring. From a remote maintenance perspective, there are use cases where through digital engineering capabilities, effective use of AR and VR is incorporated to migrate to a safer, quicker and more efficient remote work maintenance environment. Thus, there are immense possibilities and capabilities of new-age digital engineering technologies.
What are some of the ICT solutions deployed by your organisation?
L&T Technology Services (LTTS) has developed and deployed several ICT solutions customised to specific industries’ requirements. For factories and manufacturing units, our engineers have developed Avertle, which is a best-in-class end-to-end predictive maintenance solution that employs ML and AI principles to monitor the real-time health of assets. It proactively notifies stakeholders about performance, potential failure and remaining useful life of their critical assets. Similarly, for the healthcare sector, we have developed Chest Rai, an AI-based chest X-ray analysis system to assist radiologists in improving the speed and accuracy of the diagnosis and it is also the world’s first cost-effective robotic endo-training kit. LTTS’s robotic endo-training kit is a surgical training robot, which provides high definition observation of the patient’s anatomy. In tune with the trend of software-defined capabilities in the automobile sector, LTTS has developed a digital cockpit system that powers a car’s digital display and information system with enterprise services, connecting the vehicle to a greater experience. This device has multiple Linux-based automotive applications and can harmonise to provide more functionality from in-car systems in an efficient manner. For the utility sector, we have rolled out LTTS nB-oN, that is, a narrowband-internet of things (NB-IoT) solution for IoT low data rate devices. The typical use cases for this platform are smart metering (for water, gas and LWM2 electricity), smart lighting, asset tracking, smart parking and smart agriculture. This reference solution is designed with low memory and a low power footprint, enabling seamless integration to custom target platforms. Our team also designed FlyBoard, a next-generation digital signage solution that radically transforms the way content is distributed, targeted and experienced. It transcends traditional content delivery limitations in terms of platform versatility, scalability, remote coverage, anytime and anywhere control, choice of content and viewer engagement.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business and operations? What were some of the key ICT solutions deployed by you to tackle the situation?
Like all other industries, the engineering services sector too was caught off-guard during the first few days of the pandemic. However, LTTS took it as an opportunity to rise to the occasion and offer a strong support to our clients by ensuring business continuity. First, LTTS conducted a business impact analysis (BIA), which was followed by surveys to collect data points on enabling employees to work from home. Being an engineering R&D and services company, our exposure to WfH environment was limited. Hence, the virtualisation of the entire work force was new for each of us. To address this, we developed a WFX App, based on our homegrown “work from anywhere” platform, enabling managers to track productivity of their employees. This initiative is one of the key investments made to enhance the company’s business continuity process readiness. In response to the new market requirement, we introduced F.R.U.G.A.L. Manufacturing, a manufacturing concept based on social distancing, business continuity and sustainability aimed at enabling remote manufacturing on the shop floor. Another solution that we rolled out globally was i-BEMS Shield, which enables enterprises to mitigate the Covid-19 spread on their campuses and indoor environments with the deployment of features such as temperature and face detection, occupancy and air quality management, as well as mask detection and contact tracing. Other innovations revolved around aspects such as cybersecurity, industrial AI and engineering-as-a-service proposition.
What are some of the key challenges faced by your organisation and the sector at large while deploying ICT solutions? How can these be addressed?
As conveyed earlier, the ICT considerations of businesses are set to undergo a massive overhaul in Covid times. This will be a common phenomenon for all. Fortunately, for innovation led pure-play engineering service players such as LTTS, this situation offers a chance to embrace futuristic technologies that we design for our clients. Technologies of the immediate future will have to factor in aspects such as remote management, scalability, relevance over the long term, secured infrastructure and democratised access to digital technologies, to cite a few. The lack of talent in emerging technologies will also need to be addressed quickly and organisations will have to undertake various reskilling and upskilling initiatives for their tech workforce in association with industry bodies such as NASSCOM.