Living in Exponential Times

Bill Miller, CIO, EMS USA, Inc.
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Bill Miller, CIO, EMS USA, Inc.

Looking back at Moore’s law, which stated that processor speeds would double every 18-24 months, one can easily observe how quickly technology is advancing. Virtually every aspect of technology is evolving concurrently, and at ever-increasing, exponential speed. Computing capabilities that used to fit into a large room now fit in your pocket, and may someday fit into individual blood cells.

One area we see this phenomenon very clearly is in the fusion of operational and information technology under the banner of energy management. We can observe the rapid development of technological tools, and the promise of evermore powerful advances that have automated most, if not all, energy management systems. From mainframes, to client-server, to internet/cloud/fog computing, the pace is not slowing, it is quickening.

In the EMS control center, we utilize these operational tools on a daily basis, and they exemplify the immense speed and power available to energy management operators. With merely the push of a button, control room operators can literally move thousands of barrels of oil or gas to a different location. They offer a real-time view to a complex myriad of energy platforms, from pipelines to pump stations to entire refineries. The advancement of mobile computing is adding even more complexity to already significant capabilities, and is extending substantial computing power “into the field.” The synchronization of these technology platforms is enabling us to deploy world-class systems to manage highly-complex tasks.

‚Äč  From mainframes, to client-server, to internet, cloud and fog computing, the pace is not slowing, it is quickening 

However, there is much more than just technology advancing at exponential speed. The risks we face, be it from standard IT protocol lapses, all the way to cyber-terrorism, are similarly increasing. While we strive to reduce the cost of energy management, we have to face the reality of these risks as part of the critical cost management equation. The recent attacks in France serve as a salient reminder that some want to attack us where we least expect it. Energy infrastructure is a prime target, and companies in this space need to be increasingly diligent with all forms of security and risk management.

As a result of these risks, IT professionals need to equip themselves to be ready for any eventuality. Our ongoing vigilance in the energy management security arena is not just a job, it is a central responsibility in our commitment to protect not just our own companies or roles, but also to our communities and the environment at large. Energy security and safety must truly become a core value, one that is central to how we work as professionals and leaders. In short, we have to actively work to predict and prevent cyber-attacks, and work closely with security professionals to ensure these risks are properly mitigated. It is time to be bold, and rise to the challenge and meet the pace of exponential change and risk, while forging new strategies to combat these threats.

The future of technology in the energy management space holds tremendous promise. Twenty years ago, it would be nearly impossible to imagine where we would be today. We can reliably look forward to the increasing pace of change for the foreseeable future. Hopefully, at some point, the risk side of the equation will subside, but that is hard to imagine today.

It is certainly a challenging time to be a technology leader! Not only do we need to keep up with the latest from Apple, Microsoft, Google, and every other tech leader, we need to carefully monitor the bigger picture to accurately assess and address significant risks. Those who are up for the challenge will surely find extensive amount of opportunities. Are you ready?

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