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Articles Talent Acquisition - Assessments

Employee Recognition Program 3 Reasons Why it Works

A well designed employee recognition program results in higher levels of engagement have proven, repeatedly, higher levels of employee satisfaction, greater increase in productivity, greater company loyalty, higher profits, and better customer satisfaction.

Let’s look at the facts. In 2013, a poll conducted by Gallup found that 87 percent of workers surveyed in countries all over the world were disengaged with their jobs. Only the remaining 13 percent stated that they were satisfied with their jobs and felt deeply engaged with the companies they worked for.

One of the best ways to increase engagement is to make sure that employees feel appreciated and that hard work is suitably rewarded both financially and in some other ways. Having a strategic employee recognition program in place is one of the most effective ways to get results and take advantage of the following three key benefits:

Employee Recognition Program Improves Business

 

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that happy and motivated employees are better equipped to address customer concerns. Staff members need to feel that they have personal stake in selling the brand and its products and services, while also offering impeccable customer support. Around 40 percent of companies that have adopted a peer-to-peer employee recognition program claim to have increased customer satisfaction.

Many senior managers consider them an investment rather than an expense. People want to be rewarded for good work and they’ll be mentally far better equipped to face the monotony of modern corporate culture if they know there’s a good bonus and other rewards waiting for them.

Decreases Employee Turnover Rate

 

While money is obviously a primary motivator in almost any job, offering a pay raise isn’t the most effective method to hold on to employees. In fact, studies have shown that about half of employees leave within two years after accepting a raise, a statistic that clearly indicates that salaries and job satisfaction don’t always correlate.

Often as important is employee recognition, which has proven to lower turnover rate significantly. Employees who are widely recognized and rewarded for their work are about 30 percent less likely to leave the company.  Other benefits of an employee recognition program include increased happiness and productivity and reduced stress and frustration levels. A lower turnover rate also saves money, since a direct replacement cost up to half the previous employee’s annual salary.

Increase Engagement and Productivity

 

An employee recognition program is all about clear communication, transparency, and having a solid rewards-driven system in place. Such a strategy leads to greater employee engagement, since it makes members of staff feel like they’re a part of something bigger.

Employee-Recognition-Program-300x184

An employee who has a personal stake in the direction the company is heading will be genuinely concerned about the day-to-day operations of the business.

By contrast, someone who counts themselves in the 87 percent of people who claim to be disengaged with their jobs will be more likely to sleepwalk through each workday while looking forward to nothing more than the paycheck at the end of the month.

Additionally, the Gallup survey showed that two-thirds of employees considered praise from managerial staff to be the top motivator.

Final Words on Employee Recognition Program

 

There are many ways to implement an employee recognition strategy and most of them don’t require a huge investment. Some of the most popular methods include publishing the company’s greatest achievers in email newsletters, using staff meetings as an opportunity to include praise, or preparing regular status reports. However, a more original and engaging employee recognition program might include an achievement- or score-based system complete with rewards and prizes for top workers.

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Articles Internet of Things

Industrial Robotics Cyber Security Challenges in IIoT

The line is blurring between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). As more industrial robotics equipment is connected to the industrial internet of things (IIoT), the vulnerabilities increase. Among the many devices being added to networks are robotic machines. That’s raising red flags for some experts. And it has many people worried. What are the risks associated with connecting an army of robots? It’s the stuff of science fiction.

 

Industrial Robotics Cyber Security Concerns on the Rise

 

The World Robotics Report 2016 gives us some insight into the scope of global automation growth: “The number of industrial robotics deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019.” It says that the strongest growth figures are for Central and Eastern Europe. The report cites China as the market for growth, and says that North America is on the path to success. “The USA is currently the fourth largest single market for industrial robots in the world,” according to the report.

TechCrunch contributor Matthew Rendall says “Industrial robotics will replace manufacturing jobs — and that’s a good thing”. He writes that the “productivity growth” behind 85% of job losses is all about machines replacing humans. Luddite and famous poet Lord Byron would not have been pleased. But Rendall is not bothered. He says that “more is getting done” by industrial robotics that are safer and more reliable than human beings.  And he believes that this robotics revolution will be beneficial to workers and society in the long run.

All this rush to automation might be the best thing since jelly doughnuts. But one question could make all the difference between abysmal failure and glorious success:  Can we keep them secure?

Challenge in Industrial Robotics Cyber Security

 

We probably don’t need to worry about robots taking over the world any time soon. (Let’s hope, anyway.) What concerns security experts is that our computer-based friends can be hacked. Wired Magazine reports how one group of researchers was able to sabotage an industrial robotics arm without even touching the code. That’s especially worrying when you think that most industrial robotics have a single arm and nothing else. These devices are made to make precise movements. Hackers can change all that.

Industrial-Robotics-Cyber-Security-300x225German designer Clemens Weisshaar addressed the issue in a form at Vienna Design Week in 2014.  “Taking robots online is as dangerous as anything you can put on the web,” he said. In a video from the forum, Weisshaar talked about how even his company’s robot demonstration in London had been hacked within 24 hours. They even tried to drive his robots into the ground.  “If everything is on the internet,” he said, “then everything is vulnerable to attack.”

Industrial robotics cyber security challenges are only one part of what many are calling Industry 4.0. It’s a trending concept — especially in Germany — and it’s another way of referring to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To understand what this is about, we should first reach back in the dim recesses of our minds to what we learned in history class in school.

The Industrial Revolution, as it was originally called, took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. It started in Great Britain and involved the harnessing of steam and tremendous advances in production methods – the 1st.  Next came the 2nd roughly from 1870 until World War I in the USA. This involved the use of electricity to develop mass production processes. Th 3rd brought us into the digital age. Part four is upon us now.

A video from Deloitte University Press introduces us to the Fourth Industrial Revolution — Industry 4.0. It gives a good summary of the four “revolutions”, and it talks about some of the new technologies that now define our age:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Machine Learning
  • Augmented Reality
  • Mobile and Edge Computing
  • 3D Printing
  • Big Data Processing

“These technologies,” says the narrator, “will enable the construction of new solutions to some of the oldest and toughest challenges manufacturers face in growing and operating their business.” They also make up the environment in which hackers flourish.

Industrial Robots Cyber Security Challenges for IoT

 

In this space we have already discussed the security vulnerabilities of IoT devices. We told you how white hat hackers proved that they could commandeer a Jeep Cherokee remotely by rewriting the firmware on an embedded chip. Imagine what hackers with more sinister motives might be planning for the millions of robotic devices taking over the manufacturing shop floor — supposing they are all connected.

Some researchers tackled the issue in a study called “Hacking Robots Before Skynet”. (You will remember from your science fiction watching that Skynet is the global network that linked robots and other computerized devices in the Terminator movie franchise.) The authors had a lot to say about the current state of cybersecurity in the industrial robotics industry.  We can borrow directly from the paper’s table of contents to list what they call “Cybersecurity Problems in Today’s Robots”:

  • Insecure communications
  • Authentication issues
  • Missing authorization
  • Weak cryptography
  • Privacy issues
  • Weak default configuration
  • Vulnerable Open Source Industrial Robotics cyber security Frameworks and Libraries

Each of these topics could probably merit a full article on its own. The researchers explained further: “We’re already experiencing some of the consequences of substantial cybersecurity problems with Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are impacting the Internet, companies and commerce, and individual consumers alike,  Cybersecurity problems for industrial robotics could have a much greater impact.”

What might that impact be? Well, to start with, robots have moving parts. They tell how a robot security guard knocked over a child at a shopping mall. A robot cannon killed nine soldiers and injured 14 in 2007. And robotic surgery has been linked to 144 deaths. It’s not Skynet yet, but connecting robots has its risks.

How we communicate with machines and how they communicate with each other are matters that require significant attention. Arlen Nipper of Cirrus Link Solutions talks about MQTT, which is a protocol for machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging. Manufacturing designers and operators send instructions to one-armed industrial robotics, who work in a variety of industries from automotive to aerospace to agriculture to packing and logistics. All this talking back-and-forth with industrial robotics cyber security has to be regulated. NIST’s Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security has a few references to robots. But maybe not enough.

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Articles Artificial Intelligence

Ai in Nanotechnology for Biomedical Usage

Nanotechnology has been slowly treading into the field of biomedicine for almost a decade now. Owing to the fact that nanotechnology for biomedical usage is still a relatively newer technology surrounded by many ethical debates, its footsteps are a little slow and careful. So what is nanotechnology? As the name would suggest, it is the putting of nanotechnology to medicinal usage and that is where aI – aka artificial intelligence comes to light.

You can put about a thousand nano-particles side by side in the cross-section of a singular hair and disseminate them into the bloodstream to be in motion with the same fluidity as a red blood cell.  Many biomedical scientists and researchers have managed to apply nanotechnology productively. In 2016, a DNA nanorobot was created for targeted drug delivery in cancerous cells. The National Center for Nanoscience and Technology, Beijing, China recently created a bactericidal nanoparticle that carried an antibiotic and successfully suppressed a bacterial infection in mice.

However, the most remarkable innovation in this field was in 2017, when biomedical engineers designed and created small-scale locomotive robots mimicking the structure, mobility, and durability of red-blood cells. These nanobots developed by AI architects exhibit the ability to swim, climb, roll, walk, jump over and crawl in between the liquid or solid terrains inside the human body. Scientists expect that with the creation of these nanobots, they will be able to freely circulate around the body, diagnose malfunctions, deliver drugs to the disease, and report back by lighting up while performing their drug delivery.

As amazing as that may sound, many find it equally as invasive; hence the ethical debates surrounding nanomedicine.  However, taking a completely neutral stance, we will try to give the readers a brief overview of what Ai in nanotechnology for biomedical usage is all about, what strides it has made and where it stands currently.

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NanoTechnology for Biomedical Usage Methods

 

 

Owing to these characteristics, nano-particles have found their effective uses in the medicinal field. Some of these Ai in nanotechnology for biomedical usage methods include the following:

  1. Targeted drug delivery and consequentially minimal side-effects of treatments.
  2. Tissue regeneration and replacement, for example, implanting coatings, regenerating tissue scaffolds, repairing bones via structural implantation
  3. Implanting diagnostic and assessment devices, nano-imaging, nano-pores, artificial binding sites, quantum dots etc.
  4. Implanting aid like retina or cochlear implants
  5. Non-invasive surgical nano-bots

Ai-in-NanoTechnology-for-Biomedical-Usage-MethodsThis involves nano-particles that are constructed of immune-system-friendly materials, implanted with drugs and sent to the targeted areas of the body. Owing to their small size, they can effectively target only the areas that are disease-ridden; dysfunctional parts of the cells as opposed to the entire cells, or whole organs.

This essentially means minimal side-effects because it lowers healthy cell damage. This can be demonstrated by the example of NCNST creating nano-robots that carried a blood-coagulating enzyme called Thrombin.

These thrombin-carrying nano-particles were then sent to tumor cells, essentially cutting off tumor blood supply. Another example of drug delivery using nanoparticles is of CytImmune, a leading diagnostic company that used nanotechnology for precision-based delivery of chemotherapy drugs – it published the results of their first clinical trials, while the second one is underway. Many such methods of drug delivery are being used for cancer, heart diseases, mental diseases and even aging.

Regenerative Ai in NanoTechnology for Biomedical Usage

As per the National Institutes of Health, the procedure encompassing regenerative involves “creating live, practicable tissues to repair or replace tissues or organ functions lost because of a slew of reasons, which may be chronic disease, increasing age or congenital defects.”

Just as nano-bots mimic the structure of red blood cells, they can mimic the function of auto-immune cells and antibodies in order to aid the natural healing process. Because the natural cellular interaction takes place at a micro-scale level, nanotechnology can make its uses known in multiple different ways. Some of these include regeneration of bone, skin, teeth, eye-tissue, nerve cells and cartilages.  Ai is able to collect and direct and modify regenerations.

You can read about the Ai in nanotechnology for biomedical usage based cell repair by in the following article; The Ideal Gene Delivery Vector: Chromalloytes, Cell Repair Nanorobots for Chromosome Repair Therapy.  While such a powerful and innovative technology has its innumerable advantages in the medical field, it must be used within certain ethical perimeters for long-term applicability. Nano-technology brings with it many risks that need to be kept in mind by researchers.  If you need help to identify and recruit senior executives or functional leaders in artificial intelligence technology, consider the experienced team at NextGen Global Executive Search.

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Articles Leadership - Ethics

Leadership Ethics Inspires Others Following Good Habits

Leadership ethics inspires others to follow you by looking at your decision making style and your listening habits.  In 25 plus years I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great executives who leadership ethics inspires others to follow whose characteristics separate these individuals from the rest.

One of the most compelling definitions of a leader is an individual whose mere presence inspires the desire to follow. When asked if leaders are born or bred, the general consensus is that leadership can be taught. Few have had the opportunity to be formally trained or mentored in proper ethics.  NextGen  Global Executive Search specializes in identifying and recruiting senior executives and functional leaders have the highest ethics in leading others.

Leadership Ethics Inspires Others to Follow

 

In today’s turbulent world, the type of leadership ethics inspire others to follow are present at a number of executive managers who devote their time and energy to leading the process of value creation.  It is this part of an individual that inspires others to follow.  We see character as the summation of an individual’s principles, values, and core beliefs by which one anchors and measures their behavior in all roles in life.  If character is the summation of our principles and values, then leadership ethics are the application of them.

leadership-ethics-inspires-otherBusiness Leadership Ethics, according to Aristotle, is moral virtue that comes about as a result of habit. Ethics has as its root “ethike,” formed by the slight variation of the word ethos (habit). Aristotle explained that moral virtues do not arise in us by nature; we must accept them, embrace them and perfect them by habit.

Leadership consultant and author Linda Fisher Thornton in her book “7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership” (2013) stated that “ethical leaders have a tremendous impact on how people in their organizations behave and what they achieve,” Thornton said. “Effective leaders focus on what’s right and exemplify to their people that they are there to help, and not to exploit the vulnerabilities of others.”

Training for Leadership Ethics Inspires Others

 

Leadership ethics training in business emphasizes understanding leader values and attributes is only the first step in development. In the business development role, success requires a fusion of who we are as an individual, along with our principles, values, ethics, and their application.

One example is Lockheed Martin, where annual training starts at the very top of their organization.  Chairman, President and CEO, Marillyn Hewson, trains her staff who themselves then train their respective teams, and this pattern continues until all employees have participated in a training session facilitated by their manager.

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Articles Internet of Things

IoT Medical Devices Transforming Healthcare

IoT medical devices transforming healthcare by changing every aspect of our social and professional lives as billions of pervasive devices enable the acquisition of timely and accurate information about our personal context, the data gathering transforms what doctors can do with actionable knowledge.

The healthcare sector provides an excellent example of the way in which the future billions of IoT devices will introduce disruptive transformation and new paradigms. In an era where population is aging and incidents of chronic diseases are proliferating, healthcare solution providers are increasingly looking into internet connected devices for remote monitoring of elderly and patients’ conditions.

This remote monitoring facilitates preemptive medical interventions, while at the same time increasing the patients’ independence, reducing hospitalization needs and alleviating pressures on the healthcare system. One of the most prominent classes of IoT Medical Devices transforming healthcare today is wearable devices, which are personalized and provide rich and real-time information about an individual’s healthcare related context, such as heart rates, activity patterns, blood pressure or adherence to medication schedules.

Wearable devices play an instrumental role in monitoring patients’ diseases and recovery state, as well as adherence to prescribed practices and medication. A large number of relevant wearable devices are already available in the market such as activity trackers, smartwatches (e.g., Apple or Garmin Watches), pedometers, sleep apnea detector and smart pills (e.g., AdhereTech’s smart wireless pill bottle).

Implant IoT Medical Devices Transforming Healthcare

 

A less widely known class of wearable IoT medical devices transforming healthcare are implant devices, i.e. devices that are placed inside or on the surface of the human body. The concept of such devices has been around for several years prior to the rise of the IoT paradigm, as prosthetics that were destined to replace missing body parts or even to provide support to organs and tissues.

Therefore, implants were typically made from skin, bone and other body tissues, or from materials (e.g., metal, plastic or ceramic materials). While the distinguishing line between conventional IoT medical devices and wearable / implant devices can sometimes be blurred, we consider as implant medical devices those attached to the skin or placed inside the human body, instead of devices simply worn by the patient.

Impressive examples of implant devices are: (i) Brain implant devices (i.e. electrodes along with a battery empowered devices) used to manipulate the brain and alleviate chronic pain, depression or even schizophrenia; (ii) Electronic chips implanted at the back of the retina in the eye, in order to help sight restoration.

With the advent of IoT medical devices transforming healthcare, implant devices can also become connected and deliver information to cloud computing infrastructures and other applications. In this way, they can become part of the IoT infrastructure and enable the transmission of medical data from the patient to the practitioner on a regular basis. Moreover, with IoT implants patients no longer need to visit their doctor in order download data from their device or even in order to configure the operation of the implant device.

For example, by enhancing devices such as the electronic chip for vision restoration (outlined above) with a small handheld wireless power supply, one can adjust the sensitivity, contrast and frequency as needed in order to yield optimal performance of the device for different environmental settings (e.g., lighting conditions).

Risks with IoT Medical Devices Transforming Healthcare

 

Despite their benefits, the adoption of implant IoT medical devices is still in its infancy. One of the main reasons is that the development and deployment of implants is associated with several challenges and risks.  In particular, implants are associated with surgical risks concerning their placement and removal processes. Although generally safe, these processes could lead to infections or even implant failures, which makes patients reluctant to adopt them. Moreover, several patients have reported allergies and reactions to the materials comprising the implant devices.

Beyond these adoption challenges, there are also IoT technological challenges associated with the need to understand and optimize the placement and operation of the device. For example, there is a need to optimize radio communications between the implanted device and the receiving devices where the information of the implant is destined. In this respect, low power operation is very important as a result of the need to economize on power capacity, while at the same time complying with applicable laws and regulations, including security and safety regulations.

IoT-Medical-Devices-Transforming-HealthcareFrom a technology viewpoint, implant solutions have to resolve trade-offs associated with efficiency and accuracy against antenna size, power use, operating bandwidth and materials costs. Moreover, implant devices should be appropriate for various body and skin morphologies, while at the same time offering security and data protection features that render them immune to malicious parties that may attempt to compromise their operation.

The above-listed factors render the design of cost-effective implants that adhere to regulations and optimize their operation very challenging. In order to alleviate these challenges, vendors and integrators of IoT implants resort to simulation. Simulation is an ideal tool for modelling the operation of the device and understanding its communication with the body and other devices of the surrounding environment such as gateways or even other implant devices.

Furthermore, vendors are implementing services that aim at increasing the operational efficiency of the devices, such as preventive or predictive maintenance of the device, as well as remote diagnostics and software upgrades (e.g., remote patching). The last batch of challenges concerns the important business issues with IoT medical devices transforming healthcare, especially implants, which are not confined to selling devices.

Rather, it is about innovating digitally and offering a whole range of services as part of the device’s industry ecosystem. Specifically, vendors and integrators of IoT implants need to find novel ways and business models for sharing their data with healthcare services providers and other stakeholders, while at the same time creating new value chains in collaboration with other device vendors, health professionals, home care services providers and other business actors.

The evolution of IoT medical devices transforming healthcare with implants will gradually signal a shift from the offering of an optimal IoT device to the offering of a pool of optimized and personalized healthcare services that will be built by the device’s industry ecosystem. Implant IoT medical devices are here and expected to play a significant role in the on-going IoT-driven transformation of the healthcare landscape. Stay tuned!.

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Articles Power Electronics

Distributed Power Generation Balance Evolving Utility Grids

Distributed power generation and other distributed energy resources (DERs) in the modern power grid is undeniable. It seems that electric distribution companies have two options: fight the inevitable rise of DERs or embrace them and benefit from new opportunities. After years of resistance, the time has come to enable the deployment of DERs by restructuring not only grid infrastructure and technology but also rethinking utility revenue models.

Don’t Resist, Restructure Distributed Power Generation

 

With the pace that DERs are being deployed it makes sense for utilities to embrace new technologies and their associated challenges, but there are still battles to be fought. It is unlikely that utilities will ever be comfortable with net metering policies that reimburse distributed generators at their billing rate.

Many states are changing their net metering policies to either add fixed fees to net metering customers or to reduce reimbursement to the wholesale distributed power generation rate, but that fight is far from won. It is obviously unsustainable and unacceptable for utilities to lose massive revenue streams to distributed generation and energy efficiency while also being responsible for maintaining an increasingly expensive system to support these DERs, but fighting net-metering and government subsidies doesn’t have to be the solution.

Although revenue is lost to power generators, there is also untapped potential from DERs that is not being exploited because of the way that utilities earn on capital investment. While utilities dismiss net metering as unfairly shifting costs, a similar argument of unfairness could be made for guaranteed return on capital investments.  Currently, utilities are incentivized to build distributed power generation infrastructure because they earn on those projects, but they are not incentivized to solve problems efficiently. Using grid-scale storage to offset an 18-million-dollar transmission investment is a nightmare for utility revenue despite being a simpler and cheaper solution. Perhaps it is time that utilities earn on the services they provide rather than the infrastructure they build.

Electricity as a Service

 

Electric power is bought and sold as a product. Customers pay for how much power they use. This model works very well until customers start making their own product. While utilities understand that they are providing the infrastructure that enables the customer to utilize their power, customers and legislatures rarely understand or care to see the difference. Since many of us already see grid infrastructure as a service that enables the consumption of power, it is only natural to formalize that notion and create new business models that align with selling a service.

Can control be localized based on utility specifications or should it be centralized? Will locational marginal pricing be calculated on a decentralized system and how will that impact the economics of DERs?  These are difficult questions, but utilities should play a critical role in answering them.

Adapting the Utility Workforce

 

Distributed-Power-Generation-and-Distribution-MextGen-Global-Executive-SearchNot many utility engineers have experience analyzing terabyte sized data sets and implementing drone-like distributed power generation control systems.

The skillsets of utility engineers and analysts need to adapt in order to keep up with these changes. How can we expect a utility to transform into a DSP without a workforce that can help build and maintain the platform?

With such a massive disconnect between traditional utility operations and the way a modern grid full of DERs must operate, it makes sense for utilities to invest in tech startups. While larger companies are investing in these startups, it makes sense for any size utilities to utilize their skills and platforms.

Regardless of how much the utility workforce may evolve, there will still be an increased dependence on these third-party tech companies to enable many of the advancements that will allow DER integration. We will still need a traditional workforce to design substations, size equipment, manage projects, and maintain GIS records. Partnerships with startups and tech companies can help close the gap between the keeping-the-lights-on workforce and the grid-of-the-future skill sets.

Take a company like Enbala Power Networks, which enables utilities to “aggregate, control, optimize, and dispatch distributed power generation energy in real time”. Partnering with companies like Enbala to perform demand response, peak load management, and a multitude of other services can allow utilities to maintain a focus on their traditional skills while still enabling a completely modernized grid.

Distributed Power Generation in Disruptive Technologies

 

Disruptive technologies such as DERs are often seen as the downfall of the industries that they disrupt. But unlike many other industries, the role of the utility in the power grid is so critical to society that it is unlikely utilities will ever go extinct. However, it is up to utilities themselves to decide how to respond to the changing grid.  Is it possible to resist new technologies and revenue models and instead continue to focus on capital investments and regulated business?

Would it be better help enable these new technologies and reap the benefits provided by a paradigm shift in the industry?  Certainly, utilities will mitigate risk by combining these two strategies. Duke Energy, for example, continues focusing on its regulated business while ramping up investments in renewables and new tech. It is transitions like these that will allow utilities not just to survive, but to thrive in the modern distributed power generation industry.

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Articles Wireless - Telecom

Network Function Virtualization What NFV will do for Operators?

Network function virtualization, as Dylan would say, the times they are a changin’.  Network Function Virtualization has come to the mobile operator, and according to strategic business advisor Northstream. It will be part of a “natural evolution of existing infrastructures” bringing greater efficiency and lower costs. But the key will be the creation of new services. “NFV in 2017 will be driven by services such as VoLTE, Carrier Cloud, Wi-Fi calling, service chaining, resource sharing and network slicing.”

Network Function Virtualization, aka NFV, was introduced to the world through a white paper that was delivered at the 2012 SDN and OpenFlow World Congress. Authors from thirteen different telecom providers contributed to the work. The paper highlighted several benefits of NFV, including reduced equipment costs, lower power consumption, faster time to market, scalability of services, and vendor interoperability.

The traditional approach to networking involved the dispatch of personnel, either to the data center or to the customer premises, to install the physical devices and cabling required to make the network services function. This sometimes involved a number of “truck rolls” until the network appliance was fully operational. But an implementation that might have taken weeks or even months through the traditional method might only take a few minutes with Network Function Virtualization.

Common appliances that can be replaced by virtualized network functions (VNFs) in the NFV architecture include routers, firewalls, switches, load balancers, and media servers. Instead of physical installs, Network Function Virtualization software can be used to simply “spin out” new services as needed. As traffic volume increases, the system may automatically create VNFs to meet the demand.

When things slow down, the infrastructure will automatically be reduced. Malfunctioning virtual devices will be detected and traffic will be rerouted through a new VNF created just for that purpose.

Replacing infrastructure is fine, but the real potential is in the expanding service portfolio of the NFV architecture. “By enabling service chaining and resource sharing,” says Northstream, “NFV allows operators to deliver network services to customers and enterprises through software instead of dedicated hardware devices. This represents a major step towards meeting the new demands of industry verticals that are just around the corner.”

 

Network Function Virtualization is not without challenges

 

 

While the hardware part has become simpler – many implementations are using off-the-shelf blade servers – there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome. RCR Wireless News explores the key challenges facing ongoing SDN, NFV and cloud deployment models in an interview with Frank Yue, director of application delivery solutions at Radware.

Yue believes that the biggest issue telecom companies need to deal with is orchestration, the automatic deployment of resources in the cloud. Trying to bring things together is “still very targeted and piecemeal”. Providers seem to be in a rush to bring services to market. “Really to get orchestration and everything right,” says Yue, “you need to have all these tiny projects come together in one big cohesive unit, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”  Real time and automation are the key words, according to RCR Wireless editor Dan Meyer. For Frank Yue, the keys are agility and elasticity, terms associated with cloud computing.

Another major challenge is security. How do you maintain the privacy and integrity of your data across the cloud infrastructure? Industry standards have a bearing on security. Yue calls the situation a “big administrative mess”. Without proper standardization, particularly in multi-tenant environments, the potential for security breaches remains.

 

Network Function Virtualization Standards

 

 

One standards body, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), announced NVF Release 2 on September 27, 2016. The statement includes remarks from Telefonica’s Diego Lopez, the newly appointed Chairman of ETSI NFV ISG: “This represents another major step towards our objective of defining a comprehensive set of specifications that will facilitate the deployment of Network Function Virtualization throughout the telecommunication industry, with significant benefits being subsequently derived in many interrelated sectors.” Lopez says that the ETSI NFV Architectural Framework will form the basis for the security, reliability, and integration of NFV going forward.

Network-Function-Virtualization-300x200How quickly will NFV revolutionize the networks of the world? That remains to be seen. It’s being looked at as a potential framework for 5G mobile deployments. Will service chaining fueled by NFV resources make large-scale network installations a simple point-and-click operation?

How will Network Function Virtualization be used in the development of self-healing networks? What other innovations await us in the field of network virtualization? Get ready, because the virtualized future everyone dreamed about is well-nigh upon us.

 

Does your company plan to deploy NFV any time soon? What do you think about this new technology? How do you think it will affect telecom companies and their customers in the next few years? Please share your comments on Network Function Virtualization below.

 

Expanding NPV services for MNOs

 

Tier 1 and Tier 2 mobile network operators are expanding their 4G services as it is at least 5+ years before 5G networks are ready for early deployment.  ARPU, expanding data services, lowering power consumption – these are all needed to be competitive and maintain a healthy profit ratio.  If you require an expertise recruitment team to fill a key sales or engineering role or perhaps product management or a strategic leader, you can rely upon Nextgen Executive Search to not only meet, but exceed your expectations in delivering a candidate shortlist that is ideal for new hires.  Click the image below for more information on our mobile network, digital media, telecom services, and wireless connectivity recruitment and to contact us directly.

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Articles Talent Acquisition - Assessments

Comprehensive Background Checks best practices

Comprehensive pre-employment background checks are an absolute necessity.  Your time is a valuable commodity. When you consider taking on a high-touch candidate destined for executive placement it is of even greater importance, as the time you spend performing comprehensive background checks may be considerable. Above all, you don’t want to lose on your investment.

Knowing what potential dangers lurk before you put a lot of effort into somebody makes good business sense. If it were a business acquisition, you would be performing the same sort of due diligence on the company you intend to purchase, so why not apply this to your human assets also?

Conducting comprehensive pre-employment background checks prior to in-person interviews is one of the surest ways to confirm that your candidate is representing themselves with verity — your brand reputation and the company’s future depends on it. When it is a leadership, management or customer-facing role, it is even more important to know exactly who is sitting on the other side of that desk. In this age of lawsuits and litigation, being armed with verified, up-to-the-minute information is your best protection.

Performing comprehensive pre-employment background checks before you hire is important. Performing a background check during the course of the recruiting process is just as crucial.  The more you know about a candidate, the better you will be able to predict their success or lack of it.

Making sure you are placing the right person in the right position is so much more than just job experience and having the appropriate demeanor: ensuring that your candidate will meet all expectations and does not present a danger to you, the on-boarding company, their brand or their staff assures a return on your investment. It also gives you a stronger platform to work from when negotiating the deal. If you are committed to presenting the best candidate for the job, having a thorough background check in place is not just an option – it is a necessity.

Most HR departments, hiring managers, and recruiters ask their candidate to supply several references.  Let’s be honest – these are peers, friends, and by and large 50% are therefore biased. Retained executive search firms like NextGen dig up and cold call references we find who are past internal customers the candidate interfaced with, vendors, external customers, and those who reported to him/her, as well as his/her former superiors.  These names we dig up are caught off guard, are honest, and really do help to provide an accurate balance of professional references in comprehensive background checks.

Define comprehensive pre-employment background checks

 

SSN trace, search and validation: This verifies your candidate’s identity. A social security number is specific to the state and city where it was obtained, and can tell you a great deal about an individual, such as their residential history. A verified SSN can also help to verify other information that the background check might reveal.

County criminal record searches: This will reveal if they have been in trouble locally.

Current and previous residences: Frequent moves can be a harbinger of trouble to come, revealing transiency or any kind of trouble in holding down a residence.

National criminal file: This is a validated result that is cross-referenced to known addresses. Care must be taken to verify this information against a known quantity, such as an individual’s SSN. There are likely thousands of William Smith’s in the world, for example.

Federal criminal record searches (last 7 years): Any federal criminal offence will appear here. Federal offences are far more serious, and include many ‘white-collar’ crimes such as fraud.

Federal civil records searches (current and previous residences): this will illuminate problems with money, handling money, securities and bad debt–very important in hiring for fiduciary positions. It will also reveal past marriages or any civil proceeding that the candidate has been involved with.

OFAC terror watch/sex offender check: It probably goes without saying, a history that includes terrorism, violent crime or a sex offence has the potential to cause a great deal of harm to your company, your customers and your workforce.

Education verification (2 highest degrees): Education verification to prove your candidate’s claims.

Employment verification (last 3 employers): Verifying past employment, positions held and more proof of claims.

Professional character references (past superiors, direct reports, internal/external customers as applicable): How your candidate interacts with others should be of great interest to you. This is the trickiest part as most HR departments lack the skills to conduct job references pertaining to those whom the candidate interfaces with. It’s not just the interactions, but the mentor and coaching capability, listening skills, ability of the candidate to sell their ideas,  examples of conflict resolution, and teamwork.

Social media reputation reports: Many people reveal their true character online in ways they never would to your face. It’s not about the kids, the cottage or the kittens, but if your candidate is a drunk or has a tendency to bad-mouth their employers or even worse – their customers – online, you’ll want to know.

PEER credit report: A PEER credit report takes an individual’s personal credit, residential and employment history into account and is a little more detailed than a standard background check. The PEER report is more a gauge of dependability than credit worthiness, and does not result in a credit inquiry for the candidate. Use for C-Suite level, VP and fiduciary roles.

‘Ban the Box’ laws impacts comprehensive background checks

 

In states or municipalities where a ‘ban-the-box’ law is in place, access to your candidate’s criminal history in comprehensive background checks could be limited until later on in the hiring process. You might think that this legislation has limited influence with regard to executive search and placement, but it still has the potential to lead you down a blind alley every once in a while. You might, for instance, spend a great deal of time on a candidate during the on-boarding process only to find that there were some legal or ethical issues that you just cannot afford to take a chance on.

comprehensive-pre-employment-background-checks-300x163The legislation itself applies to federal government job applications, some private contractors and companies operating in specific regions that have adopted the policy. While it is arguably a useful and constructive way to level the playing field, it could still impede your process when hiring mid-level to senior management.

Since the legislation can be enforced at the state, county or municipal level, it is important to find out what the laws are in your area, and understand what you can and can’t legally ask up front.

Most ban-the-box laws do not prohibit an up-front comprehensive pre-employment background checks, but some do require the employer to wait until after the first interview or even later in the hiring process.

Running comprehensive pre-employment background checks

 

Your HR department can check references and social media, but a verified background check ensures the information you obtain is bona-fide and that the person whose life you are looking into is actually the one you intended. Additionally, there is a lot of information that cannot be uncovered in a limited search.

Some data can only be accessed by a licensed firm that specializes in comprehensive pre-employment background checks. Such companies have the experience to get you what you need in an expedient manner, and will help to prevent you from looking at personal data that might put you in violation of state or federal law. If you are in doubt, consult your legal department first. Most states require that you obtain a written consent from the candidate prior to conducting a search. You should also expect to provide a copy of that search to the subject in addition to any related communications or recommendations.

Above all, look at a broad spectrum of information. Don’t just look at the negative, and don’t focus too closely on any one thing. The sum total of your candidate’s data should tell a story – hopefully a good one – that will help you decide how best to proceed.

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Articles Power Electronics

Trends in Geothermal Power Generation

Trends in geothermal power generation is technology has some promise  as being proven to be a clean, renewable resource providing energy around the world for centuries in various forms of hot springs.  Keeping special areas with signs like hot springs aside, the heat of the earth is available for everyone everywhere.

Modern use of geothermal energy include electricity production, heat source applications for industrial purposes, and commercial as well as residential HVAC purposes through geothermal heat pumps.

Trends in geothermal power generation shows that plants use geo-fluids extracted by drilling wells into a geothermal reservoir. Such plants pose three main challenges in exploiting geothermal energy for power generation:

  1. High cost and risk of exploration and drilling of a well (around USD 10 million per well)
  2. Low temperature (typically in the range of 80 – 300 degree C)
  3. Disposal or re-injection of toxic brine that comes out of geothermal reservoir

Whenever high temperature super-heated steam is directly available from geothermal wells it can be used with steam turbines for power generation. But this is not the case with low temperature geothermal reservoirs.  Low temperature geo-fluids require use of Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbines through heat exchange mechanisms. This adds to the cost of geothermal power plant as compared to those using steam-turbines, in addition to the cost of wells. However, the high cost of drilling a well can be avoided by selecting abandoned oil wells which have depleted hydrocarbon reserves.

Trends in Geothermal Power Generation since 1989

 

US Department of Energy (DOE) test operated such a plant in 1989 demonstrating depleted reservoir conversion to geo-pressurized thermal power plant as part of its geo-pressured-geothermal energy program. The program aimed to utilize the heat brought to surface in the form of produced hot water (thermal energy), burning any entrained hydrocarbons on site for generating electricity (chemical energy) and high well head pressure (mechanical energy) to generate electricity. Pleasant Bayou in Brazoria County in Texas was chosen as the site for the power plant.

The plant generated electricity from the geo-fluid and separated the natural gas to test the production of electricity from combustion in an on-site hybrid power system.

Trends-in-Geothermal-power-generation-and-renewable-energyThe binary power plant with a design output of 905 KW (541 KW from ORC turbine, 650 KW from gas engine and subtracting an operational load of 286 KW). The plant operated at only 10,000 bbl of water per day with small volumes of gas flow.

Bottom hole temperature was given as 154 degrees C, with a maximum brine T of 136 degree C. The overall plant availability was 97.5%, at par with many other geothermal plants.

BP Statistical Review 2016 reported total consumption of coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, hydro-power and renewables as 13147.3 MTOE in year 2015 to produce electricity.  The renewable sources including geothermal power generation contributed 364.9 MTOE (on the basis of thermal equivalence assuming 38% conversion efficiency in modern thermal power station) which is less than 3%.

The representative of Enel Green Power Innovation Department has following views on the future of geothermal power plants:

 “Renewable sources can interact between each other in order to fully exploit the characteristics of the single technologies and to use Balance of Plant to increase utilization factor,”

Hybrid among Trends in Geothermal Power Generation

 

Enel Green Power has taken lead where 33 MW Stillwater geothermal power station in Nevada was commissioned in 2011, got paired with 26 MW of photovoltaic facility in 2014 and another 17 MW CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) facility in 2016. The triple hybrid power plant has been reported by National Renewable Energy Laboratory to achieve 5% reduction in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).

Like solar energy, the resource is indefinitely available with demonstrated potential of these trends in geothermal power generation via hybrid power systems as reliable source of green energy which is now receiving the attention of engineers, technologists and investors in proportion to the benefits that it will deliver.

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Articles Artificial Intelligence

Augmented Reality Virtual Elements to Physical World

Augmented reality virtual elements, virtual reality, artificial intelligence- exactly what are they and how do they interact with one another? Every moment of our waking lives, we use our five senses to learn about our world. In our daily reality, we see people and cars moving on the street, or hear a colleague talking with a client in the next cubicle. We can smell something burning or peculiar fish smells or our morning bacon cooking. Our senses can tell us a lot — but we may still be missing some very important information. If today’s innovators have their way, augmented reality virtual elements will soon fill in those sensory gaps for us.

 

Four Categories of Augmented Reality Virtual Elements

 

An online guide to augmented reality describes four different categories of AR. Marker-based AR (also called Image Recognition) can determine information about an object using something called a QR/2D code. It uses a visual marker. Markerless AR is location-based or position-based. GPS devices might fit into this category. Projection-based AR projects artificial light onto real world surfaces. And superimposition-based AR puts a virtual object into a real space, such as IKEA’s software that lets you see how a couch might look in your living room.

Augmented Reality devices in various stages of development include:

  • sensors and cameras
  • projectors
  • eyeglasses
  • heads-up display (HUD)
  • contact lenses
  • virtual retinal display (VRD)
  • handheld

A Second Intelligence

Your curiosity about this subject is a sign of your own intelligence, but computing machines offer us something different. Artificial intelligence (AI) uses the computing power of machines to perform tasks that are normally associated with intelligent beings. Those tasks include activities related to perception, learning, reasoning, and problem solving. AI can add to our personal experience through something called augmented reality (AR).

We should not confuse the two terms, although they are related. You might compare them to what we know as perception and reason in human beings. We perceive the world through our five senses, but we interpret those perceptions through our reasoning powers. Augmented reality uses devices like smart glasses and handheld devices to provide us with more data and add to our perceptions, but it is artificial intelligence that makes sense of all that information.

What is Augmented Reality virtual elements without AI? It is like eyes without a brain. Tyler Lindell is an AI/ AR/ VR software engineer for Holographic Interfaces, as well as a software engineer at Tesla. In an article called “Augmented Reality Needs AI In Order To Be Effective”, he says that most people don’t realize that “AI and machine learning technologies sit at the heart of AR platforms”.

Another Set of Eyes and Ears

There are some larger questions about the meaning of intelligence and the role of computers that are always good to trigger research and deep conversations. I have written about the history of artificial intelligence and whether machines can actually think. Recently I took another look at J.C.R. Licklider’s vision for man-computer symbiosis. But for those in the business world or in a production environment, you may just want to know what these technologies can do. An article from Lifewire tells us that augmented reality “enriches perception by adding virtual elements to the physical world”.

Just as our eyes and ears need the brain to interpret the sights and sounds that are presented to us, Augmented reality virtual elements depends on AI to provide pertinent information to the user in real time. Imagine taking a walk through the city. You see buildings and landmarks. If you looked through an AR device, it could give you more information, such as the name or address of the building, or some history about the landmark.

Technology in Transition

The potential of augmented reality virtual elements backed by artificial intelligence is only now being realized in the marketplace. Tech evangelist Robert Scoble and his co-author Shel Israel believe that we are only in the beginning stages of technological development that will have an enormous impact.  In their 2016 book The Fourth Transformation: How Augmented Reality & Artificial Intelligence Will Change Everything, they say that we are on the cusp of a new stage. The four “transformations” in their theory can be summarized with these headings:

  • Text and MS-DOS
  • Graphical user interfaces
  • Small devices
  • Augmented reality

The technological revolution is already underway. Google’s experiment with smart glasses was an early entry into the consumer AR market. Now augmented reality is being introduced into a broad spectrum of industries, from construction to military. IKEA and other retailers have seen the value of augmenting the views of customers who may potentially place furniture into their homes. Architects and builders are using AR to visualize how new construction might fit into current settings. AR solutions are being developed for technicians in a variety of fields to get analytics in real time. Soldiers with AR visors will be able to get battlefield data as fighting occurs.

The Ironman movies from Marvel Comics give us an illustration of augmented reality. In his high-tech suit, the character Tony Stark sees constantly changing data that he would never have perceived on his own. An artificial intelligence in the suit searches its vast data sources and offers split-second assessments based on immediate events. Like Ironman, AR devices in the coming years will be highly dependent on AI and its resources to aid us in our tasks

Challenges in Augmented Reality Virtual Elements

 

It takes a while for applied science to catch up with the imaginations of science fiction. There are such limitations as physics that prevent the speedy invention and implementation of the devices on our wish list. The flip mobile phone reminded some people of Captain Kirk’s communicator, but it took a lot of technology to get us there. Ironmen’s augmented reality has a lot more challenges.A short cartoon posted by The Atlantic shows how augmented reality will change tech experiences.

Augmented-Reality-virtual-elements-with-food-300x201The company Niantec offers a smartphone app that gives you information about the places you visit. “The application was designed to run in the background and just to pop up,” says the narrator.

The next Niantec project was Pokémon GO, an augmented reality game that went viral. The company’s CEO, John Hanke, says that “AR is the spiritual successor to the smartphone that we know and love today.” However clever our ideas, the obstacles can be overwhelming.  What happens when Ironman or Captain Kirk lose connectivity? How much bandwidth is required to transmit all that data, and what do we do when transmission channels become congested?

How can AI access the pertinent data quickly enough to be helpful when we need it? And how can we manage all that information?

 

Conclusion

 

There are so many potential use cases for augmented reality that go beyond the scope of this article. In the hands of police, the military, or rescue personnel, AR devices could help catch criminals, win battles, or save lives. Devices embedded with image and speech recognition capabilities could become our eyes and ears. Repairmen could use AR to find leaks or diagnose defective equipment. The wonders of augmented reality virtual elements, along with artificial intelligence, will become much more apparent to us in the next few years.