In a recent conversation with CXOToday, Mr. Sachin Deshmukh, Managing Director, Softdel, a part of UNIDEL group, discusses how Softdel has been shaping the world of building and industrial automation. He also shared in depth insights around how Softdel is using its decades of experience and leveraging technology, connectivity, data, and analytics to build robust, digitally empowered products to protect businesses and customers.
- How is digitalization helping organizations in reducing redundancies by building smart factories and enhancing productivity at manufacturing units?
A: By 2025, there will be more than 40 billion connected devices installed in smart buildings and factories. These devices will need seamless integration and the ability to communicate with each other to offer real-time actionable insights. As we enable this digital transformation, we are creating an ecosystem where Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) can work together. The data generated from these integrated devices through the Internet of Things (IoT), in turn, are aggregated in the cloud (Public or Private – depending on the specific use case) and can be leveraged for providing deeper business insights. Marrying IT and OT into a digitally cohesive whole helps organisations scale up efficiently and keeps them innovating with current trends. The evolved interaction has resulted in streamlined industrial processes that lower manual intervention, increased people productivity, and result in a safer work environment, thus efficiently reducing organisational redundancies.
- How are solutions like Gateway development, Device Engineering, and BACnet assisting clients in diversifying their value chain?
A: Customers in today’s digital-first world are spoilt for choice. Technology-led services like BACnet integration, device engineering, cloud services, and gateway development are reducing the time to market and enabling customers to introduce cutting-edge products in a smart and connected world.
Device engineering, a solution that encompasses everything from electronics hardware development, to connectivity protocol implementation, and software development, helps build new products and re-engineer legacy products that are smart, connected, and interoperable – all essential elements of being IoT-ready.
Gateways, too, offer customers a serious competitive advantage – the adoption of IoT gateways combined with edge computing improves autonomous decision-making for devices, lowers bandwidth usage, and simplifies data management. These gateways enable critical decision-making, analytics, and machine learning at the Edge, helping customers solve the problem of aggregating data much like Softdel’s Buildings-IoT gateway platform, EdificeEdge, which is capable of computing and performing analytics at the Edge.
As for BACnet, whose sole purpose was to define an open standard for a building-wide control system network, the protocol enhanced interoperability among smart building devices and provided a mechanism to connect everything reliably while also offering the flexibility to customise the solution as per specific use cases.
In the end, all three solutions solve the challenge of inaccessibility of data. They enable successful data aggregation, allowing customers to gain maximum value from every solution.
- What is your take on automation subsiding the workers on industry shop floors and its future? Also, what is your understanding of digital manufacturing, and is the industry evolving?
A: Over the years, technology-led transformation had been gradually changing the employment landscape and has only picked up pace since the pandemic. A new age of automation – marked by advanced robotics, machine intelligence (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI) – widens the range of tasks machines can perform and has the potential to further transform the entire world of work as we know it. In my years as a change-maker, I have noticed that any transformation of this scale has contributed foremost toward worker productivity and human wellness. New technologies are not built with the aim to replace workers, but with a vision to improve work and optimise worker productivity. Today’s technology, whether it is IoT, cloud, edge computing, or AI, is assisting humans by giving them an in-depth look at the data behind the machines.
The situation is the same for digital manufacturing, where technologies enhance traditional processes, products, and workforce to create a connected and fully integrated workplace. Digitisation had already been sweeping the manufacturing landscape for many years, but the pandemic became the biggest driver of change for this industry. Multiple leading manufacturers are now using a variety of Industry 4.0 capabilities, including advanced production methods such as additive manufacturing and the use of renewable energy, the Internet of Things, big data, and advanced analytics. The impact on the value chain has been revolutionary – they have experienced faster speed to market, a better range of future-proof solutions, and increased flexibility to meet customer demands while providing employees with safe working environments.
- What type of disruptive technologies are helping in implementing this digital shift?
A: In my view, the true definition of transformation is ‘staying relevant’ to the current landscape and future trends. As we stand in 2022, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud technologies are being inexorably linked to digital transformation. These ‘big three’ already are and will continue to propel organisations and industries through the digital shift.
Data and its efficient usage is the real game-changer here, and companies powered by data analytics are said to be 19 times more likely to be profitable. This area is where the ‘big three’ are most being deployed, although their usage is not limited to this field. Today’s systems are less about transactional data and more about the quality of said data. In this cohesive ecosystem, data points are varied, and marrying data from different IT and OT systems with myriad devices is key. How we receive this information and sanitise it decides how much the technology can securely help organisational processes. And this enables the journey around AI, ML, and the cloud to drive value.
AI and ML, paired with cloud technology, allow companies to innovate quickly and safely, scale more efficiently, and capture real value for an accelerated digital transformation.
- How beneficial have Softdel’s solutions been to address issues related to cybersecurity and sustainability?
A: In an interconnected world, the very systems engineered to enhance wellness and productivity, drive growth, partner with connected ecosystems, and frequently collect data are the systems that need cyber resilience built in from the very start. As innovation disrupts the organisational space, cybersecurity also needs to evolve at the same pace and with the same disruption.
For over two decades, Softdel has been shaping the world of building and industrial automation, leveraging technology, connectivity, data, and analytics to build robust, digitally empowered products, and has helped us create trusted environments to protect businesses and customers. We developed a new IoT protocol stack leveraging the ‘BACnet Secure Connect (BACnet/SC)’, a building communication standard that provides the means to create secure communication connections between various Building Automation System (BAS) devices within smart buildings and facilities. BACnet SC provides necessary controls for data protection at the communication protocol level, while Softdel’s additional cybersecurity solutions help our customers build secure and robust tech ecosystems. Softdel’s core expertise in handling varied device protocols, myriad data points, and seamless product and technology integrations helps organisations scale efficiently and keeps them innovating with current trends. All products and services across our product suite – the ‘Convergence Suite’ – are built to cater to customers’ sustainability and transformational needs, keeping in mind our passion to make the world better, one ‘green’ solution at a time.
- How does Softdel innovate with its customers? What is the company’s vision and strategy for the next few years?
A: Softdel connects devices, enterprises, and people. Our two-decade-long product engineering experience of serving global leaders in the automation & controls industry has catapulted Softdel to an enviable position in the Industrial and Buildings IoT value chain. We are the preferred partner for global product companies, including many of the Fortune 500s.
Instead of simply operating in silos, we co-create innovative solutions with these partners. Our customers entrust us to set up IoT Labs at our delivery centers that effectively manage all stages of an IoT solution’s life cycle. This process enabled our own transformational journey and has helped us identify further areas of innovation.
IoT is shaping the future, today, and this convergence will change how the world operates. Softdel is presently on a rapid growth path; we are enabling digital transformation in tomorrow’s IoT and cloud-enabled buildings and factories by forging connections with real-time data trapped in machines and equipment. We aim to focus our attention on IoT solutions and cement our position as leading IoT providers globally. The current climate of sustainability and responsible business models has reinforced our dedication to the smart buildings and smart factories segment. We aim to leverage technology to help every citizen, business, and industry make data-led energy-efficient decisions, for the sake of our planet.