Mitel's communications technology powers the City of Memphis
Lot of serendipity attended the decision of the City of Memphis, Tennessee, to upgrade the out-of-date infrastructure that connected its different departments and supported the citizens in their attempts to engage with the organization. For some time, Mayor Jim Strickland and his team had been aware of its inadequacies, but of course nobody foresaw that 2020 would be a year of lockdowns to protect its vulnerable citizens and contain Covid-19.
Mitel has supported thousands of town and city authorities over the last 50 years, both in the Americas and globally. It was a clear contender to partner the City in this major project. “It was exciting to be asked to help the City of Memphis upgrade their communications infrastructure. We want to be sure our solutions are easy to implement, easy to manage and meet the needs of the City and, most importantly, its residents,” said Stephanie Ford, Vice-President of Vertical Sales at Mitel. “These were also the priorities for the organization’s decision makers, who t outlined among their critical requirements: ease of use and management, as well as adaptability.
Discussions around the upgrade began in 2019 when stakeholders, from the CIO to contact supervisors and users, convened to gain a better understanding of the challenges that they needed to address in overhauling the City’s disparate legacy systems. “We had a PBX system that was over 20 years old, and only one person in our organization really knew how to support it. We were looking for a solution that could better meet our needs. That's why we chose Mitel,”said Kimberly Bailey, the City's Chief Information Officer.
The system that Mitel designed and customized to address these needs was a MiVoice Business Solution which included an integrated contact center that lets employees and the wider community connect more easily via the device and channel of their choice. Working together with its partner CRI, Mitel enabled the City to get the new contact center up and running in time to respond to higher call volumes associated with COVID-19 related inquiries. “The contact center is the ‘storefront’ of any organization, so the impression created within that space sets the stage for the entire customer experience,” said Ford. “With a modern contact center, the City of Memphis can depend on this virtual storefront to ensure the impression it’s making is the best one possible.”
Just as importantly, the new communications platform can support the City’s employees even when they’re not working behind the traditional office walls. This feature proved especially valuable when the pandemic hit and organizations first felt its impact. While many were initially unprepared, the Mitel solution allowed the City of Memphis to power remote working and maintain operations.
“Now we have completed our contact center, the staff are so appreciative to have a system that is portable, where they can easily see metrics and access data, do training, and coach their teams. The initial implementation was very successful, so we’re continuing to deploy the Mitel infrastructure throughout the entire enterprise. Everyone loves it because it’s so much easier to use and it’s moving us into the digital space we want to be in,” said Bailey.
Dr Peng Wei: Designing the Future of Autonomous Aircraft
Air traffic is expected to double by 2037. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the world will need 37,000+ new passenger and freight aircraft, and more than half a million new pilots—unless we come up with another solution. Right now, a George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science professor, Dr Peng Wei, is starting to research autonomous electric aircraft design.
NASA will fund the research, which will study how to minimise risks for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL). As Airbus states: ‘Autonomous technologies also have the potential to improve air traffic management, enhance sustainability performance and further improve aircraft safety’.
Who is Dr Wei?
An assistant professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Dr Wei has researched aircraft control, optimisation, and AI and ML applications in aviation. Over the next three years, he’ll lead the US$2.5mn NASA grant project in collaboration with researchers from Vanderbilt, the University of Texas at Austin, and MIT’s Lincoln Lab.
Why is His Research Important?
Even though the wide adoption of self-piloting cars, much less aircraft, is still far down the road, technologies that Dr Wei and his colleagues are researching will form the commercial transport of the future. But aviation manufacturers, in order to produce autonomous aircraft, will have to meet extremely high safety standards.
‘The key challenge for self-piloting capabilities is how the system reacts to unforeseen events’, said Arne Stoschek, Wayfinder Project Executive at Acubed. ‘That’s the big jump from automated to autonomous’. In the air, AI-piloted aircraft will have to manoeuvre around adverse weather conditions, such as wind and storms, and other high-altitude risks, such as GPS hacking, cyberattacks, and aircraft degradation. And the stakes are high.
‘If a machine learning algorithm makes a mistake in Facebook, TikTok, Netflix —that doesn't matter too much because I was just recommended a video or movie I don't like’, Dr Wei said. ‘But if a machine learning algorithm mistake happens in a safety-critical application, such as aviation or in autonomous driving, people may have accidents. There may be fatal results’.
What Are His Other Projects?
In addition to the new NASA research, Dr Wei has been awarded three other grants to pursue AI-piloted aircraft:
- A 2-year grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conjunction with West Virginia University and Honeywell Aerospace to investigate “learning-based” aviation systems
- A six-month SBIR Phase I NASA award with Intelligent Automation to mitigate airspace congestion at vertiports—the electric craft version of airports.
- A 1-year collaborative grant with the University of Virginia and George Mason University from the Virginia Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) to develop anti-cyber attack technologies and aviation video systems
Research like NASA and Dr Wei’s three-year programme will help improve how AI reacts and adapts to challenging air conditions. In coming years, autonomous aircraft will likely take off slowly, starting with small package delivery, then upgraded drones, and finally commercialised aircraft. But congestion issues will worsen until autonomous aircraft are the best alternative.
According to BBC Future, by 2030, commuters will spend nearly 100 hours a year in Los Angeles and Moscow traffic jams, and 43 cities will be home to more than 10 million people. The final verdict? Bring on the AI-operated transit.