Sudhir Pai, TCC: On the parallels between energy, space and medicine for digital transformation
The Internet of Things (IoT), as many in the industry say, is not a tool for business transformation on its own. It has to be combined with additional technologies, as well as the right tools for data analysis, and put in the right cultural context.
Yet as technologies converge and can benefit from different perspectives, so too can industries. The Technology Collaboration Center (TCC), based out of Houston, Texas, focuses on three key verticals within the city; energy, medicine, and space.
Three fairly disparate industries on the surface, one may think. But to look under the surface may be the same as looking far above it.
Sudhir Pai (left), a 30-year veteran of oilfield services giant Schlumberger, is chairman of the board of directors at the TCC. He notes the analogy between what occurs in space and what occurs in a subsea environment; both are areas humans have restricted access. “Everything has to be done remotely, using automation and digital technology in areas where a human being could not go,” Pai tells IoT News. “It is about the challenges in diverse environments to drive innovation – and challenges are an integral part of driving innovation.”
The most interesting facet of all this, however, is when Pai notes how he drew these parallels. Working in nine different countries in 26 separate roles for Schlumberger – some being business and technology leadership including managing director – it was only a relatively recent concept. “I’ve been fortunate to admire, now I’ve had this opportunity to be able to step back a little bit, these three industries,” he says. “I’ve tried to see places where they differ, but more importantly, how they converge – and there are a lot of lessons to be learned across three industries on the work that has been done.”
Another aspect key to all three industries is that there is no second chance. “Herein lies a very nice connection between what happens in the medical and energy industry – but equally important is the kind of testing which is necessary and the fact that failure is not an option,” says Pai. “The goal that the space industry takes in is equally adopted and respected in the hydrocarbon industry, because the cost of things going wrong could be a disaster.”
The irony is that Pai had originally dreamed of becoming a heart surgeon. Yet if he was not to be a doctor of human beings, he would instead be a doctor of machines in the oil and gas industry, as he puts it. While some areas, be they far above or below the ground, cannot be touched by humans, Pai insists full automation is not the way to go.
“At the end of the day, nothing can replace human beings,” he says. “But some of the things we’ve learned by doing, like the annual maintenance check-ups where a human being detects issues very early, [we] make sure that cutting edge technology comes in to make the right balance of human intervention and the right level of using robots and assistance where optimal.
“No matter how far the technology goes, the human expertise will never, ever be compromised.”
One area in which Pai sees notes being compared across industries is through imaging. Answering six questions from the IoT Tech Expo event – at which Pai is speaking later this month – he noted the importance of AI and machine learning, and initiatives such as imaging and robotics going cross-industry.
The TCC held a conference in September where stakeholders from energy, medicine and space discussed the collective benefits. One example was by using what Pai called ‘deep imaging’, using a sporting analogy. “If there is an injury with a player on the field, the issue might be something which happened years ago,” says Pai. “It’s just when an X-ray got done at that time, the technology wasn’t strong enough to identify a micro-fracture.
“Just because you don’t see it does not mean it’s not there a lot of the time.”
The same analogy can be extended to motorsports – in particular Formula 1, of which Pai is a huge fan. “The challenges with computational fluid dynamics are similar in an oil well,” he says. “Oil racing against gas is the same as on the race track with two cars racing against each other.”
This is useful advice across all industries. At IoT Tech Expo North America Pai will look to draw upon his experience to provide a different perspective. “A lot of technology is being developed in various streams – but if we just looked across the fence, the answer to your problem maybe in the neighbour’s toolkit,” says Pai.
You can find out more about Sudhir Pai's session, 'Innovation Through Technology Collaboration', by visiting here.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.
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