Why regulatory compliance offers a win-win situation

by Tej Sembi, Business Development Sopra Steria

A number of scandals in recent years, like the flawed reporting of hip replacement devices leading to huge compensation payouts and fines, suggest that the medical device industry has a problem. Do the big players really care? Well, with the work we have been doing shows that all concerned in this industry do care – patient safety is their number one concern.

The world of regulation is changing and catching up with technology. New standards and medical device directives are being introduced worldwide – from the US, to the UK, Europe and beyond. These make it clear that the industry must behave more responsibly. For example, ISO 13485 2016 extends the previous edition of the quality management system requirements for medical devices and risk.

A driver for differentiation

While this is clearly great news for the end user, there is also another positive outcome from these changes. I believe new regulatory regimes present a fantastic opportunity for medical device and implant companies to radically change the way they use and interpret product data to provide business benefit. In fact, with the right mindset, they represent a driver for differentiation and increased competitiveness.

Let me explain. Companies have to comply with the legislation, which means that they are committed to spending in this area, so does it not make sense to maximise this investment?  The data will need to be collated and managed, so why not look at how it is also used by other business areas and tap into this much underused resource?

On average, companies are said to base decisions on around 20% of available data so what could be achieved if they could harness more? These untapped sources of data contain a whole myriad of information.  Complying with the new regulations will give companies the opportunity to have better visibility and control over clinical outcomes and supporting data which could be used across the organisation to enhance patient safety, improve portfolio management, and improve sales and marketing alongside its vital role of compliance.

Reducing exposure to risk

Ultimately the right solution to the compliance challenge should deliver a better understanding of  customer/patient needs and outcomes, gaining clarity of validation, verification and design activities and support the prediction of product lifecycles in terms of maintenance, performance, end-of-life and potential usage-based issues or damage.

The more an organisation knows about each of these areas of its business, the better able it will be to reduce the company’s exposure to litigation, improve operational efficiencies and sales opportunities and, crucially, enhance product development and patient outcomes.

Thus, regulatory compliance becomes a win-win situation all round: healthcare providers have confidence in the efficacy of the medical devices they procure, patients trust that the devices they depend on are safe and robust and manufacturers gain the customer and product insight they need to differentiate and protect their brand reputation.

What do you think, am I mad to suggest compliance is really an opportunity? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How deep learning is advancing AI in leaps and bounds

by Michel Sebag, Digital Practice, Sopra Steria France

Nature has given human beings an amazing ability to learn. We learn complex tasks, like language and image recognition from birth and continue throughout our lives to modify and build upon these first learning experiences. It seems natural then, to use the concept of learning, building up knowledge and being able to model and predict outcomes and apply that to computer related processes and tasks. The terminology used to describe the technologies involved in this paradigm in computing are Artificial Intelligence (AI).

It’s just a game

In the late 1990s, a defining moment in the world of artificial intelligence happened. In 1996 chess master Garry Kasparov played IBM’s Deep Blue, originally built to play chess using a parallel computer system, and won 4-2. A year later, Kasparov and Deep Blue played another match – this time, Deep Blue won. This win created a sea-change in the attitude towards the idea of AI. Chess masters minds have to perform highly complex calculations, evaluating multiple moves and strategies, on-the-fly. They can also take their own learning and apply novel moves. Being able to mimic this process, even if applied to a specific task like chess, opens up real potential for the technology.

Out of this success, new developments in AI have brought us to the point of maturity and sophistication. DeepMind, now owned by Google, uses deep learning algorithms. These algorithms are based on the same idea that allows human beings to learn, i.e. neural pathways or networks. Again, AI has been applied to gaming to prove a point. DeepMind has taken the idea of ‘human vs. machine’ and this time used it in the highly complex game of ‘Go’. DeepMind, the company, describe the game of Go as having “more possible positions in Go than there are atoms in the universe”. So then, this is the perfect challenge for an AI technology. DeepMind uses deep learning algorithms to train itself against known plays by expert players. The resultant system is known as AlphaGo and has a 99.8% win rate when pitted against other Go programs, and has recently won 4 out of 5 games against the Go pro player, Lee Sedol.

It may seem that it’s just a game being played, but in fact, this is proving the technology, showing it can learn how to model and predict outcomes in much the same way that a human being does. In almost 20 years AI is already 10 years ahead of what was anticipated of the technology. The games have proven the capability and now the technology is entering a stage of maturity where it is being applied to more real-world problem solving. Following the AlphaGo success, Google has understood the benefits of these technologies and has promptly integrated AlphaGo technology in its cloud based Google Machine Learning Platfom.

Some definitions in the world of Artificial Intelligence

At this juncture, it is worth looking at some of the terminology and definitions of AI technology.

It can be viewed as this: Deep Learning is a sub-set of Machine Learning; Machine learning is a sub-set of Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial Intelligence: This is a general term to describe a technology that has been built to demonstrate a similar intelligence level to a human being when solving a problem. It may, or may not use biological constructs as the underlying basis for its intelligent operations. Artificial Intelligence systems typically are trained and learn from this training.

Machine Learning: In the case of the games we used earlier as examples, machine learning is trained using player moves. In learning the moves and strategies of players, the system builds up knowledge in the same way a human being would. Machine learning based systems can use very large datasets as training input, which they then use to predict outcomes. Machine learning based systems can use both classical and non-classical algorithms. One of the most valuable aspects of machine learning is the ability to adapt. Adaptive learning gives better accuracy of predictions. This, in turn, facilitates the handling of all possibilities and combinations to provide the optimal outcome from the incoming data. In the case of game playing, this results in more wins for the machine.

Deep Learning: This is a sub-set of machine learning, a type of implementation of machine learning. The typology of the system is vital; when learning, it’s not so much about ‘big’ but it’s more about the surface area or depth. More complex problems are solved by larger numbers of neurons and layers. The network is used to train a system, using known question and answers to any given problem and this creates a feedback loop. Training results in weighted outcomes, this weight being passed to the next neuron along to determine the output of that neuron – in this way, it builds up a more accurate outcome based on probabilities.

Real world applications of AI

We’ve seen the use of AI in gaming, but what about real-world commercial applications? Whenever it comes to predict, forecast, recognize, clustering, AI is being used in a multitude of processes and systems.

At Sopra Steria, for example, we use AI components in industry solutions, including banking and energy. We are integrating Natural Language Processing (NLP) and voice recognition capabilities from our partners’ solutions such as IBM Watson or Microsoft Cortana. NLP, voice recognition – and image recognition in a near future – are now widely used and integrated in a multitude of applications. For example, for banking industry, text and voice recognition are used in qualification assistants for helpdesk and customer care services. More generally, some of the best-known modern applications include everyday use in our smart phones. Voice and personal assistance technologies like Siri and Google Now brought AI into the mainstream and out of the lab, using AI and predictive analytics to answer our questions and plan our days. Siri now has a more sophisticated successor named VIV. VIV is based on self-learning algorithms and its topology is much deeper that SIRI’s more linear pathways. VIV is opening up major opportunities for developers by creating an AI platform that can be called upon for a multitude of tasks. Google recently announced a similar path to its widely acclaimed assistant Google Now becoming Google Assistant.

Machine Learning is also used in many back-end processes, such as the scoring required to allow things like bank loans and mortgages. Machine learning is used in banking to specifically offer personalization of products giving banks using this method a competitive edge.

Deep learning is being used in more complex tasks, ones where rules are fuzzier and more complex. The era of big data is providing the tools that are driving the use cases for deep learning. We can see applications of deep learning in anything related to pattern recognition, such as facial recognition systems, voice assistance and behavioral analysis for fraud prevention.

Artificial Intelligence is entering a new era with the help of more sophisticated and improved algorithms. AI is the next disruptive technology – many of Gartner’s predictions for technology into 2016 and beyond, was based on AI and machine learning. Artificial Intelligence holds the keys to those unsolvable issues, the ones we thought only human beings could do. Ultimately, even the writing of this article may one day, be done by a machine.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below, or contact us by email.

Building the contact centres of the future

by Bernard Gissler & Ernest Gbehi, Sopra Steria France

The boom in digital technology (smartphones, tablets, internet of things, etc.) results in an increase in remote communication channels between customers and companies. Customer behaviour becomes almost compulsive to get a satisfactory answer in real time, regardless of the request made to customer services. Companies need to constantly rethink their positioning. How should they prepare themselves for future changes? What strategies should be implemented? How will future customer relationships be integrated into these business strategies? How will current contact centres, which are the pillars of customer relationships, evolve in order to address these changes? Two things are certain: technology will continue to evolve and customers will be increasingly more demanding.

How will a contact centre of the future look?… Let’s go back to the future

This question results in a different answer depending on the person asked.
For some, contact centres will become organisations in which processes will be fully automated and “robots” will do the work of humans. The organisation will be perfect, faultless and completely self-managed to satisfy all types of customer demands at any moment. In this way, humans will be confined to non-automated tasks or tasks without high value-added, so as not to “spoil” the fluidity and efficiency of the processes in place.

In our vision of this future, “robots” will not replace agents in contact centres (except with regard to opening hours, low value-added tasks, etc.).

The agents in place will have more advanced skills and will be immersed in a highly digital culture.

These future agents from generation Y and Z, who were born and raised to “be” digital, are extremely comfortable with the technology and are multi-taskers. Thanks to their DNA, these generations naturally have the ability to switch from one application to another or to find information quickly. They will be able to simultaneously manage, for a single customer, interactions from various channels or interactions with several customers over a single channel.

The communication channels available to agents will be considerably more developed, in line with technologies on the market, at least at the same level as the customer’s equipment.

A new generation of agents, digitization of processes, use of data interpretation tools in real-time … all of this will enable companies to anticipate customer needs.

On the other hand, contact centres will be extended and fully virtualized with the development of “home agents”, who will be capable of working from anywhere and able to be activated on request.

“Home agents” will experience a serious boom, as they enable very significant savings to be made.

Internet of Things: an ENORMOUS volume of interactions to supervise

A multitude of interactions from both customers (humans) but also, and above all, machines (as is the case of connected objects) will have to be dealt with by contact centres.

A transformation already adopted by trailblazers and which will continue to grow

In the digital age, customers have more decision-making power and the ability to discredit even the biggest of companies through comments and hashtags #. Customer services are a key way to differentiate between (offers made by) companies. Contact centres must therefore be positioned at the heart of the customer relationship and e-reputation strategy.

How can we prepare them to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers?

The first transformation to take place relates to the tools available to agents and customers. It is no longer acceptable for agents to be obliged to “juggle” between several applications before obtaining valuable information to deal with customer requests.

  • What is the last interaction with the customer, taking all channels into account?
  • What was the customer’s experience?
  • Is there any important information that the agent should know about the customer?

Agents must be able to quickly access relevant information in order to be proactive and be different. It is important to keep in mind one basic thing: to offer a seamless customer experience, the agents’ interfaces must be accessible and fluid with up-to-date information available for all channels. The customer must have a 360° view of products and services.

In 2015, only 17% of companies offered a consistent response between several channels (email/Chat, Facebook and Twitter). In the future, companies will have to offer fully omnichannel solutions as a minimum. To achieve this, companies should already have implemented mix-channel solutions as a minimum.

Surveys show that we are still falling far short of the mark. Proposing an offer of readable, coherent, omnichannel services must provide a 360° view of customers and vice versa. This transformation requires old architectures to be abandoned in silos for the benefit of architectures more suited to the current digital revolution. The 2nd transformation concerns customer interfaces. They must be smart, rich and accessible at any moment in a secure manner.

The customer journey will be more fluid thanks to innovative interfaces, capable of incorporating the latest technological developments (video, voice biometrics, social networks, geolocation, cognitive science, etc.).

Some companies have already started this transformation. This is the case for Sopra Steria who launched a prototype of a virtual assistant with IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence tools. Thanks to conversation analysis, the prototype makes it possible to capture information about the customer and how they use products and services. It also retranscribes the conversation in order to:
• Offer an advisor a qualification
• Highlight the management application (or action) responding to the context
• Go further with extended services. It reveals the dialogue with a virtual advisor up to the use of internal banking production services.

The integration of smart intelligence and increased intelligence in self-services will improve their performance and make them able to continually learn and therefore adapt to even the most complex customer demands.

These highly evolved tools know how to stand back, when necessary, to give way to human involvement providing added value.

In our vision of the future, accident reports will no longer exist. In fact, vehicles will be able to send information from their black boxes to the owner’s insurance company.

In the event of an accident, insured parties will exchange information with their insurers (contact centres) orally but also, and above all, using geolocation tools, on-board videos in smartphones, etc. To monitor these transformations, tools must be implemented in order to use the masses of customer information in real and non-real time.

New indicators such as the quality level of customer experience (and therefore its measurement) must be defined and implemented.

To conclude, we are only seeing the first signs of how tomorrow’s remote customer relations are transforming. These strategic transformations will impact all organisations at every level.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact us by email.

Biometrics: the death of the password?

by James Holt, Senior Consultant, Financial Services

Passwords… passwords have been around since the dawn of computing, and used even before then to allow or prevent access. The concept of a password is simple but the more our personal data is moved online, the more value this shared secret protects. In the early days of the internet, a password might have granted you access to a simple message board, but now passwords protect vast databases of your personal information: from family photos to medical records, via bank accounts and cloud storage.

Passwords… upon reading that word your brain probably jumped to fussy sign-up screens asking for an inane combination of special characters, numbers and letters, with requirements differing from website to website. You probably thought back to countless password resets and security questions which could be bypassed with a quick Google search. We have been told we shouldn’t use the same password for multiple sites, but we do. Companies mandate a password change for employees every few months, with the same stringent requirements each time.

So what do we do? We make patterns, we reuse or – whisper it – we write down. All behaviours which might make life easier for us but which circumvent the very thing complicated password requirements are trying to create – security.

In their current form, passwords give the illusion of security; it is something we know, something we are familiar with. The starred out field cloaking our favourite sports team, the asterisks covering our last holiday destination. But what else is that field hiding… it is hiding an uncomfortable truth – passwords are hard for us to remember, but easy for computers to guess.

Hackers can attempt to crack passwords using dictionary words and previously leaked passwords to speed up the process. To make matters worse, most passwords are not unique – from a survey by SplashData in 2015 the most popular were “123456” and “password”.

Even if a strong password is chosen, advances in computing power mean they can be cracked in a diminishing period of time. We are playing into the hands of the hackers. But there is another way, a better way…

Biometric authentication is the process of controlling access using something you are: something you always carry with you and something that is unique to you. This could be your face, your voice or your fingerprint, or a combination of these.

Signing in using a biometric identifier is quick, taking a second or two. This is especially relevant in a mobile environment, where typing out a password on a small or virtual phone keyboard can often be slow and inaccurate. Biometrics also offer flexibility to the user – different identifiers can be used in different situations. You wouldn’t want to use voice recognition on a crowded train, and you wouldn’t be able to use face recognition in a darkened room, so by offering multi-modal biometrics, the user can stay secure without any inconvenience.

Multifactor authentication is the process of using more than one identifier to log-in. This is often implemented as a password plus a one-time code sent to your device. This approach significantly improves security and is increasingly being adopted by online services and corporations. Biometrics can integrate perfectly into this multi-factor approach – with a biometric being either the primary or secondary authentication factor. In addition, thanks to the speed of the biometric authentication process, customers could be asked to ‘step-up’ security to perform certain functionality. For example, a customer could log-in to online banking using a 4 digit PIN, which would provide only simple functionalities: the account balance and last transactions. However, to make a payment or set up a new payee, the customer could be prompted for a fingerprint, voice or face sample to provide the required additional security.

A customer’s biometric can also be combined with behavioural analytics to further strengthen security. Behavioural analytics takes user metadata like location and typical log-in times to determine the likelihood that an action is genuine. But more on that in another post…

Biometric authentication has applications beyond simple integration into a mobile application. A voice recognition function could be introduced in a call centre environment to verify customers before they are put through to an advisor, removing the need for lengthy security questions. This technology is smart too: analysing different aspects of a customer’s voice – pitch, emphasis, pronunciation, even throat and mouth shape. In addition, this technology can detect if the caller is speaking under duress or panic. It can be implemented in a passive and non-intrusive way – a customer is authenticated in the background whilst having their conversation with an advisor.

Biometric technology also has a significant use-case for authorising online payments. Currently, just knowing the card details can be enough to defraud a consumer, with a ‘3D Secure’ password prompt like SecureCode (MasterCard) and Verified by Visa only happening in certain situations. According to a MasterCard survey of 10,000 people, 53 percent of shoppers forget crucial passwords more than once a week, losing more than 10 minutes while they reset their accounts. As a result, more than a third of people abandon an online purchase, while 60% said that having to reset a password led to missing a time-sensitive transaction like buying concert tickets. More than half of people want to see passwords replaced by something more convenient, but which still delivers the same levels of protection and peace of mind.

As verifying your identity using a biometric is so quick, it is a natural fit for online transactions. Furthermore, with many modern phones featuring biometric hardware such as a fingerprint sensor, consumers are already comfortable with the process. MasterCard has recently announced their ‘IdentityCheck’ app which authenticates payments using either facial or fingerprint biometrics. Pilots in August last year proved successful with a global rollout happening early 2017.

When new technology reaches consumers, is it often adopted by the young, tech-savvy demographic who are more accustomed to learning abstract interfaces and complex operations. However, with biometrics, the process is intuitive and simple, making life easier whatever your age group or background. There is also the equality and accessibility angle – biometric identifiers provide options for those who are unable to remember passwords or struggle to type on their mobile devices.

If the user experience is slick and easy, customers are more likely to use a service and access it more frequently. With registration/signup commonplace on many websites, users have lots of passwords to remember: this represents a substantial opportunity for a biometric authentication solution.

At the end of 2014, USAA – a Fortune 500 company – offered biometric authentication to 1.4 million customers and by October of the following year, over 1 million had registered to use it. Their headline statistic shows how popular the option has become – 80% of customers have now chosen to authenticate using a biometric identifier over a PIN.

User expectations of banking are changing. Consumers expect functionality to be available using mobile apps, without the need for traditional, face-to-face banking. Security guards and vaults provide peace of mind in the physical world, but maintaining security in the digital world is more challenging. Biometrics provide the means, the assurances and the simplicity for better authentication, safeguarding our future.

What do you think?  Leave a reply below or contact James by email.

Read more about Sopra Steria’s Biometrics offering.

 

Innovation: it’s at the heart of Sopra Steria’s DNA

by Eric Maman, Innovation Management, Sopra Steria

Thanks to a robust innovation policy, Sopra Steria devises innovative solutions for its customers using cutting-edge technologies. This policy fulfils two main missions: to anticipate new uses of technology and expand our range of offers. To achieve this, Sopra Steria deploys numerous resources both internally and in collaboration with its partners.

An innovative ecosystem

We provide daily support to our colleagues in the field of innovative research and development. Through investment, internal events and competitions, the group develops increasingly novel products and services. All of our colleagues are at the centre of the design thinking process.

Thanks to a policy of heavy investment in new technologies, Sopra Steria has the essential funds required to promote innovation. Furthermore, all of our colleagues work on researching and developing innovative technologies and services on a daily basis.

The creation of Digilabs supports the development of innovative projects within the group. Following the work undertaken by the teams, innovative projects are launched every year in various fields related to the digital transformation. We encourage colleagues to develop new projects which are awarded at internal events.

Each year, colleagues within the group are able to take part in competitions in order to present their ideas and projects. Thanks to the Innovation Awards, for example, teams have the possibility of presenting novel projects in terms of processes, services or products. A panel of judges determines the three most innovative projects and offers teams the option of developing and incorporating their project into the group’s solutions.

We also organise the “Innovation Crossroads” where colleagues from all countries and all professions are invited to discover and participate in discussions focusing on the group’s latest innovations. At each gathering, a Sopra Steria business unit or a country is honoured in front of colleagues from across the globe; one of our customers is also asked to present an innovative project conducted in collaboration with the Sopra Steria teams. In addition, one or our strategic partners is invited to present their latest innovations.

Numerous collaborations with our strategic partners and/or with start-ups are also created to share expertise on innovation. In the interest of offering an innovation with high added value, we forge partnerships with innovative companies in a variety of sectors. Thanks to these available resources, Sopra Steria is committed to offering state-of-the-art services and products.

Adding value through innovation

Because innovation adds value, our innovation policy also focuses not only on using technology, but also on reinterpreting processes and methods of working. Our sense of innovation today enables us to advise our customers both on strategic priorities in professional development and on processes.

Co-innovation and co-creation are concepts implemented on a daily basis in partnership with our customers to create value and invent the solutions of the future. Thanks to the sharing of knowledge, experience and resources, this method of co-creation enables both parties to develop innovative products.

Personalised customer support

Our colleagues are at the centre of the group’s innovation. The various actions and investment policy or events organised internally enable Sopra Steria to employ a large population of engineers and to deploy innovative projects.

Innovation is not only a question of technological breakthroughs. The company’s structure, its business model and its various operating processes are impacted. Professional knowledge and the co-creation process between Sopra Steria and its customers is the source of innovation and consequently the source of value.

 

 

Digital security: battening down the hatches in a sea of data

by Torsten Saemann, Sopra Steria GmbH

Digitalisation without the use of modern technologies? Inconceivable! With cloud computing, the Internet of Things is rapidly becoming part of our everyday life. It seems like magic that we can call up practically everything known to man with tools that fit in our pocket. With a few clicks we can summon items to our front door that are produced at the other end of the world. So far so good. However, nobody seems to be interested in the fact that the technological structures of the digital world are shaky and insecure.

This is precisely how Frank Rieger of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) sees things. On Spiegel Online he explains the fragility of the foundations of Industry 4.0 by means of the following comparison:

The pillars of the world in the dawning digital age are crumbling. The technologies on which the networking of everyday life and the flows of information that drive the economy are based are more like temporary wooden frames than solid steel constructions. Generally everything functions – provided no-one jolts on the boards or saws through a beam.

Avoid flying blind during digitalisation

These digital wooden frames result in all sorts of security loopholes. They are the result of poorly written software. Programmers make errors – this much we know. However, it is frequently the case that IT management in German companies is, consciously or sub-consciously, heading towards unknown risks. Our study on the topic of digital security proves this. One third of all IT decision-makers in Germany are even implementing technologies when the IT risks are completely unknown.

Dr. Gerald Spiegel, Head of Information Security Solutions at Sopra Steria Consulting finds this insight shocking: “The fact that such a large number of IT decision-makers are, as it were, flying blind in their approach to digitalisation is worrying. The behaviour within the manufacturing sector is particularly rash – and this in spite of the fact that industrial plants increasingly fall victim to cyber attacks.” The prospects facing a digitalised economy are far from good if German companies are exposed to the danger of cyber attacks, in some cases with no protection whatsoever.

Digital negligence in German companies

The lack of initiative in many companies when it comes to protection against cyber attacks is disastrous. According to our study, this is the opinion of 85 percent of IT decision-makers. The fact that it is in particular board members and managing directors that play down the risk of cyber attacks is, given the liability risk, incomprehensible. Here the companies are fully aware of the digital weak points. And it is conceivable that their dependency on digital systems will continue to grow exponentially. Maintaining a high rate of innovation while simultaneously reducing IT costs just doesn’t work.

Adjusting investment in digital security to suit the rate of innovation

But how can you convert wooden structures into steel? When driving forward the digitalisation and automation of processes, companies should err on the side of caution. This includes pushing the introduction and implementation of a company-wide IT security strategy. This strategy must lay out the most important information security objectives and the principles for their implementation.

The IT security strategy should also address trends and new technologies. And this must take place on a continuous basis. The IT department must ensure that a security concept is submitted to the specialist department prior to an application or IT system “going live”. Furthermore, security-relevant programming errors can be avoided through the use of secure programming languages. Penetration tests for applications and IT systems – following a release change for example – are another important security component.

Digital excellence built on digital security

The digitalisation of the economy brings with it new and far-reaching challenges regarding the digital security within a company. Cyber attacks on IT infrastructures are becoming increasingly more complex and professionally executed. And they happen on a daily basis. Defensive measures are costly and require time. However, they are beneficial and necessary. Promoting a slower, but more digitally secure approach within IT departments and in front of board members certainly isn’t cool, but in the long term it is definitely the better strategy.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

Discover more about our experience in delivering secure services to protect information, applications, infrastructures and people.

The future of transport is digital: infrastructure management

by Philippe Clapin and Didier Le Guirriec, Sopra Steria France

In our third and final look at the future of transport we are exploring how the use of digital technologies within infrastructure management can be used to improve overall maintenance and efficiency, ultimately lowering costs and improving user experience.

At the last European Logistics Platform meeting in Brussels this year, the white paper outcome from the meeting stated that:

“Digitalisation remains the most important aspect when it comes to innovation in the field of freight transport. The cost of a lack of interoperability in multimodal transport in Europe is as large as €12 billion per year. If Europe wants to remain competitive, we have thus to ensure that we as policy makers provide the right framework conditions that will stimulate the digitalisation of the transport sector.”

Analysts McKinsey have predicted that the world needs an investment of $57 trillion into transport infrastructure by 2030 to keep up with world GDP. That’s an increase of 60% over the past 18 years. Managing this challenge is one where we can utilise information technology – digital techniques and tools can certainly help to optimise services and minimise costs. McKinsey, in the same report, suggest that one way to optimise delivery of transport systems is by investing in early-stage planning and design to help mitigate some of the costs. The digitisation of transport is about creating new paradigms in the visualisation and capitalisation of data of a given system and to use that knowledge to build more optimised and maintainable infrastructures. There are a number of techniques involved in this emerging area of transport management. Here, we’ll concentrate on 3D modelling techniques.

3D modelling within a transport infrastructure context

The goal of infrastructure management should be one of optimisation of available spaces and systems whilst managing constraints. Creating integrated infrastructures today includes making sure those infrastructures are part of a wider eco-system and are fit for purpose within it. There are a number of drivers that are pushing the need for a more sophisticated and more ‘real-world’ view when designing these new systems. These drivers include environmental constraints, such as seismic activity and rainfall, as well as contextual design considerations based on existing and expected structures around the transport system. We may also see more of a green impact on the design of transport infrastructures, especially in light of the recent events at the Sustainable Innovation Forum in Paris this month, where the future of transport was discussed at length. A report from the conference entitled ‘Transport @COP21 Paris’ goes into detail about how climate changes are impacting infrastructure design and development.  It is in the optimisation of design of transport infrastructures and their progressive management, where 3D modelling comes into its own and gives transport and logistics projects a technology that can truly deliver the right design.

The optimal use of a transport system infrastructure impacts across many levels of society – from transport and logistics efficiency, to productivity and economic output of a given region. The building and continued management of transport infrastructures can be difficult, requiring financial backing, policy decisions, as well as public acceptance. The current row over the expansion of Heathrow airport in the UK has shown how infrastructure decisions can have wide-reaching impact and draw enormous financial, socio-economic and political resource into the equation.

Digital technologies, such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and 3D modeling techniques, can help in the management of new or improved infrastructures. The advantages that using 3D modelling can confer on the management of transport infrastructures are far reaching. Done well, they provide an intelligent way of conveying the (often) complex nature of an infrastructure design and 3D output can be used to provide insight. And modelling, based on the underlying structured data, used to build the 3D model.

This can then be used to offer visualisation logistics around site planning, predictions based on geospatial requirements and climatic conditions, as well as a way of communicating the ideas and plans to the stakeholders – a vital part of any user-centered design-based project that requires buy-in from a wide audience, some of whom may have negative feelings towards the plans.

3D modelling offers a more intuitive way to not only design a project, but handle the extended needs of the project as it passes through the various gates required to execute and deliver.

3D optimisation through Agile working

Agile working and 3D modeling go hand in hand. PLM is enhanced by incorporating the tenets of Agile work practices. Companies like La Poste Online use these methodologies and tools to provide a better service to their customers. Visualisation of processes can help to show customers possible innovations, and working with these technologies in an agile and innovative way, can break molds and offer better and more attractive products.

Transforming infrastructures through digital technologies

3D modelling is a transformative technology. It is a tool that not only gives your audience a glimpse of the possible, but it is powerful enough to allow designers to generate optimal infrastructure plans, based on real-world constraints. 3D modelling must be used as part of the wider Product Lifecycle Management process, drawing in all of the actors in a given project to create a multi-disciplinary approach to infrastructure design and management. In this way, the digitisation of transport will benefit from state-of-the-art tools which will give us a more efficient transport system, that utilises resources in a world that is becoming increasingly urbanised, where populations are expanding and requiring more integrated transport systems and where climatic constraints are creating challenges we could not easily plan for without the benefit of sophisticated and powerful digital means.

Discover more about our experience delivering intelligent transport solutions.