Confluent: data in motion
Setting data in motion. That’s Confluent in a nutshell. For years, companies in the commercial and public sectors have collected data, then stored it, unsure or unable to unlock its true potential. Confluent was formed in Silicon Valley around seven years ago. It’s purpose? To set data in motion and bring insight where and when organisations and missions need it. This transformational process is something Confluent helps a variety of different clients with, not least the US Air Force, a project which sits under the wing of Public Sector CTO Will LaForest.
“I would characterize the US Air Force as early adopters in government,” he says. “It’s been somewhat liberating – Confluent (Enterprise Apache Kafka) happens to be really well aligned with the needs and mission of the Air Force. They have a ton of examples where they’re handling data in motion, so they need to rapidly process and react to data events in real time and they need to do this with globally distributed operations. We have a lot of data nerds who love this sort of domain, focusing on geographic data distribution. We love this sort of challenge.”
LaForest feels there has been a sea change in the government's attitude towards technology. It has started to more aggressively adopt lessons learned from the commercial sector “working to infuse some silicon valley DNA”. It has changed the way companies such as Confluent interact with the government. “They’re embracing this new norm, where they’re working closely with technology companies on the cutting edge. There is a much more collaborative atmosphere than 20 years ago,” he says.
One of the biggest changes for LaForest and his team is cloud. But, according to LaForest, it’s not all silver linings. “Cloud is awesome, but it’s introduced a second-order problem for government: the rapid adoption of managed services.” The rise of Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) has taken Silicon Valley by storm, but it has the potential to create issues in the complex machinery of government. “We’re investing a lot of money in public sector and we have a product that runs on prem and in Kubernetes and on the edge and in the cloud. So that works for us, but there are many other awesome technology companies that XaaS only, and this makes it hard for the government to use their capabilities since current FedRAMP can only handle a small trickle of the total firehose of cloud companies that want certification. For many in DoD FedRAMP isn't even an option.”
“Getting back to the economies of scale, the experience we have of handling data in motion across complex environments that we’ve done in commercial and government should pay dividends for the various missions. It’s about continuing to build and make the joint efforts stronger.”
The difference between commercial projects and government work comes down, in LaForest’s view, to scale and scope. “Operations span the globe – land, air, sea and space – and the variety of infrastructure and networking available impose some tough challenges on how the data will flow. And then there is the critical nature of security on top of that. Confluent is really well positioned to address this because it’s at the heart of what we do.”
Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.