Network Dec / January 2019

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JRC most excited about? A It has to be the applica- tion of telecoms to utilities, doesn't it? Utility networks are largely 'dumb' once you get be- yond to top level. That's a mas- sive amount of infrastructure over which we have no visibility or control. What an opportunity for beneficial change! Q As an SME, what are some of the main challenges you face when it comes to engaging with the wider sector and the regulator? A Two main elements – cred- ibility and resources. No- one thinks an SME is capable of driving significant change, and persuading regulators to change their perspective is a very re - source intensive activity. I learnt computing on main- frames in university, but saw the microcomputer industry and so„ware revolution mushroom mainly out of innovators in garages. And those garages were almost all in the US. I don't think building more garages is the key to the prob - lem – we just need to believe that the geek next door may be close to developing amazing world-class innovation in his or her bedroom. Q How smart is the smart revolution going to be? A To my mind 'smart' is really the application of intelli- gence allied to telecommunica- tions and control. And if people are involved, you need to realise that they are really clever at defeating 'smart' innovations. If you're applying 'smart systems' anywhere around people, unless you employ and listen to human factor specialists, your systems may end up looking rather dumb. Nevertheless, if delivered correctly their impact is likely to be profound. Q Why do UK utilities need to evolve? A If you don't evolve, you die. The automotive firms I worked for in the 1970s didn't evolve fast enough, and so now they don't exist. Q Can regulation be a barrier to innovation? A Regulation can stifle in- novation, but unregulated innovation can kill and maim. Thalidomide reminds me of what appeared initially a won - der drug which was subsequent- ly discovered to have devasting side effects. Yet if medicine regulation is too strict, people die for lack of new medications. Regulation needs a careful risk- based approach. Q What are the biggest disruptors facing utili- ties? A The trilemma of greenhouse gas reduction, energy secu- rity and affordability. Address- ing these challenges will require creative innovation aligned to significant investment both in systems and people. Talking telecoms This section features regular interviews with small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) to highlight the work they're doing with networks and the types of technologies that are driving innovation forward. This month, Adrian Grilli, chief technology officer at JRC, is the focus. GET IN TOUCH If you're interested in being featured in the new Supplier Side section, or know of someone who might be, please get in touch with the editor at "No-one thinks an SME is capable of driving significant change, and persuading regulators to change their perspective is a very resource intensive activity." l JRC manages radio spectrum for critical utility telecommunications. Control engineers sit in control rooms staring at an array of screens showing the current status of a network, acting on what they see. Without telecommunications, those screens would all be blank and the control engineer powerless to act. A proportion of these telecommunications are transmitted via radio, and that requires access to radio spectrum – a role JRC facilitates. Q How did you get to where you are today? A I trained as a mechanical engineer in the automotive sector but have always been interested in applying electron- ics to improve control systems. At that time, the motor industry thought the only place for elec- tronics in vehicles was the radio in the dashboard. I ended up in the civil service in the days when they recruited scientists and engineers from industry. A„er 20 years in government regulating and setting policy for industry, I've now had 20 years on the other side of the fence applying engineering solutions in a sector with two regulators – Ofcom and Ofgem. Engineer - ing is a fascinating industry, but very different now than when I started work in a factory in Leyland in Lancashire. Q What is the best way to try innovations on a huge customer base/na- tional operation? A Most people are hesitant about change, and only see the problems with innovative solutions. Personally, I like to find a small part of the organisa - tion with an enthusiasm for try- ing new ideas and demonstrate the concept there. The sceptics will always want the innovation to address the most challeng - ing areas, and that's not the best place to start. Showing how a new concept or product can work in a small test area highlights problems which can be remedied effectively before rolling out to the world at large. Q What cutting-edge technologies are you NETWORK / 30 / DECEMBER 2018 / JANUARY 2019

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