May 23, 2024

Interoperability - making the most of your existing investments

Interoperability: The secret to making the most out of your existing investments

It’s a common lament of modern organisations: we are data rich but information poor. Data lakes promised to pool all our data into one place for decision making but even still, it’s the insights that elude us. What is happening here?

Statistically, it’s likely that the systems and data required to answer your question already exist within your organisation. If not, they are likely accessible to you through the acquisition of existing off the shelf systems and datasets. The challenge is that few of these systems and data are connected. They are not connected to each other; they are not connected to your assets and (more crucially) they are not connected to your people: to your decision makers who take actions every day that impact on your key performance indicators. 

The purpose of a digital twin is to connect: to connect your data and business processes into a representation of your business, and to connect that data to your operational teams that have day-to-day responsibility in your organisation. 

BEYON™ connects complex asset information through three key technological approaches: mashups, data virtualisation and orchestration. 

1. Mashups

Mashups allow you to dynamically link the front-end (user interface) of heterogenous applications together into a user experience which is both cohesive and secure. We achieve this through established industry standards for the modern web, which allows well-designed micro frontends to interoperate through the latest web standards within a composable user interface. 

A composable user interface allows the administrator configuring the solution to choose not only the front-end components to display on the user interface, but how those components will interact with each other to share data. These micro frontend components only share data and credentials you want them to share.

One of the great benefits of using mashups in this way is that for solutions where security is important and access needs to be controlled, the end user’s own identity and network can be used to access sensitive resources. This means (for example) when the user is within the corporate network or on a VPN, they can access local resources, but when on the open Internet, they can only access those resources that have been made available through those channels.

Another strong benefit is that we can combine best-of-breed technologies into a seamless and consistent user experience. It is important to use these best-of-breed tools and systems as they are designed for a specific task and do that task really well – we don’t want to, nor is there the budget, to reinvent the wheel every time. But the sum can be greater than the parts and effective mashups can break down siloes by combining data, processes, and insights into a user experience that makes our teams for effective and efficient.

A good example of mashups in action is the recent implementation of a fleet management solution for an Australasian national security client with a large fleet of highly sensitive vehicles. This client needed both an asset portfolio management solution, a fleet management solution and a vehicle booking solution. They did not identify a single solution on the market that met all their needs simultaneously, so they went with a best-of-breed approach. They chose to partner with BEYON™ to integrate several off the shelf solutions together into a seamless user experience for their fleet managers and drivers. As a result, they now use BEYON™Direct as their tool of choice, providing a “common operating picture” for managing their fleet, but with an off the shelf industry leading solution to take care of fleet management.

 2. Data Virtualisation

Data Virtualisation is aligned to data warehousing in that Virtualisation seeks to create a cohesive consistent and understandable schema or ontology that sits across all your data. It’s distinct from warehousing or data lakes in that it does not make a copy of the data from source systems. 

This allows you to maintain your operational systems of record, and to select best-of-breed solutions, then integrate the data from them into a consistent ontology that can be efficiently queried. Our approach makes use of several open standards for the web including standards from the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).

A key benefit of this approach is that aren’t multiple copies of the same data in different locations – the source of truth remains within your respective systems of record, maintained by people with understanding and stewardship of that data. With data virtualisation, only the subset of data that you need (the right information) is requested when you need it ( the right time). Importantly, this makes data governance easier, with clear lines of sight to master data and preventing the risk of shadow data.

One example of data virtualisation in action is for a multinational FMCG manufacturer which was struggling to put insights into the hands of their operators. Through mergers, they had acquired several independent Computerised Manufacturing Management Systems (CMMS) and productivity tools. They were collecting all their Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) data into a data lake, but every factory had a different methodology for metadata tagging. This manufacturer chose to partner with us to leverage BEYON™Drive as their asset information management backbone for select sites. BEYON™Drive was able to link the disparate asset naming conventions across several competing taxonomies to allow them to bring consistent dashboards and analytics aligned to their asset data, all while being true to the “ground truth” reality on the factory floor. 

This approach meant that operators could trust the system, because the numbers they saw in the BEYON direct system were precisely the same numbers they saw in their existing systems of record. It also meant that compliance and auditing procedures didn’t need to change because their systems of record stayed the same. BEYON™ simply provided a higher productivity pane of glass over the top of their existing systems, making them more productive, without requiring a significant change in systems or asset tagging conventions in each site. 

Simply providing joined-up data to decision makers on the factory floor saved our client up to 13% in terms of energy efficiency for power hungry workloads such as refrigeration. It also speeds up the diagnosis of problems as they happen.

3. Orchestration

Orchestration involves stitching together system processes to make sure that multiple heterogenous systems can operate well in concert without human intervention. This requires technology such as an event bus for event routing & queueing as well as a workflow engine for deciding the next step in the process, handing over to dedicated compute to execute the task. BEYON uses industry standard cloud native technologies in Azure to achieve this orchestration, meaning we can scale from small infrequent workloads to large, complicated, multi-step, long-duration activities. 

As an example of orchestration in action, one regional water supplier in Victoria, Australia invested in field cameras for monitoring their remote sites and reservoirs. They were interested in making sure there was no unexpected access to site, but it’s hard and expensive to maintain full-time monitoring for many small remote sites. BEYON™ was configured to ingest field camera motion events via the camera’s IoT protocol, hand off the imagery to cloud-based AI for recognition, then send a notification or email if required, before archiving imagery for future reference. None of this configuration required any “code”, simply configuring steps in the workflow to stitch together existing off the shelf solutions.

In Summary 

Interoperability allows you to maximise the value you get out of your existing investment in your systems, your data and your people. It allows you to integrate best of breed solutions to meet your business objectives, getting the most from solutions that are great at very specific tasks[SH1] [SW2] , without sacrificing coherence and intelligibility of the whole. It allows your decision makers to forget about technology systems and applications and rather focus on processes, outcomes, decisions, and actions. It allows you to orchestrate long running business-critical processes between systems, meaning you can choose the best tool for the job, rather than having to compromise on a “one size fits all” solution. 

BEYON™ has grown from a bit of kiwi ingenuity to become a truly global platform, spanning hundreds of client tenants, thousands of users, and dozens of integrations into industry standard solutions you are likely already using. Get back in control of your insights and make wise use of your scarce resources by getting your organisation, your data and your people connected with BEYON™.