Charter Engage: Know IT

The Secure Connected Worker - Think Big

March 09, 2023 Charter Season 1 Episode 1
Charter Engage: Know IT
The Secure Connected Worker - Think Big
Show Notes Transcript

💭FREE Charter Engage: Know IT Podcast Series – The Secure Connected Worker - Think Big

This podcast series highlights new innovations, developments, and technologies in the IT Industry. In episode 1 of this 3-part series, we hear from Roland Plett, the Global Lead of the Energy and Mining industry solutions group for Cisco; Tim Workman, the Principal and Strategic Business Consultant for Presagient solutions; and for Charter,  Ronnie Scott, the Chief Technology Officer, and Mark George,  the Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets as they discuss the Secure Connected Worker and how research, business drivers, and technologies can dramatically improve the way we execute work in the field to make workers and organizations more efficient and future ready.   

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[Victoria, BC, Canada – March 13, 2023] 


[ 0:10] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Welcome to Episode 1 of Charter’s new podcast series, called Charter Engage: Know IT. I’m your host, Mark George, the Director of Energy, Resources, and Industrial (ER&I) markets for Charter. 


[0:25] For the past 25 years, Charter has built a very successful business as a reseller of networking, IT, security, and collaboration products and services. Recently we made the strategic decision to invest and build a much broader systems-integration business, focused initially on companies in the Energy, Resources, and Industrial or ER&I markets. To do this, Charter will take responsibility for customers achieving business outcomes, leveraging Best in Class technology and a comprehensive portfolio of Professional Services to integrate and optimize across the traditional IT and OT infrastructure. To put these comprehensive solutions together, Charter will partner together with third parties to help our clients achieve their digital transformation and business objectives. 


[1:27] We've chosen to begin our podcast series by focusing on one of the top initiatives within a corporate digital transformation strategy - the Secure Connected Worker. We will examine this business imperative over a cross-section of industries, but today we're going to focus on primarily the mining industry. 


[1:51] Over a series of three episodes, Charter, and our strategic partners Cisco and Presagient, will highlight solution elements that address workforce productivity, worker safety, and worker quality. We will discuss the pros and cons of the different technology options that are available to provide Enhanced Dosimetry, Site Management, Hazard Management, and Emergency Response. We will also share lessons learned through real-life customer scenarios where the integration of people, processes, and technologies provides real value in transforming the business while delivering on corporate ESG initiatives. 


[2:38] It's absolutely my pleasure to welcome three industry interceptors to lead our podcast discussion Roland Plett. Roland is the Global Lead of the Energy and Mining industry solutions group for Cisco. Tim Workman. Tim is the Principal and Strategic Business Consultant for Presagient solutions. And, Ronnie Scott, the Chief Technology Officer for Charter. All three have worked extensively across the globe helping companies enhance operational performance, productivity, and safety to improve bottom-line results and have successfully transformed their businesses. 


[3:22] Our first episode is entitled Think Big. You'll see why, over the next 15 minutes. So, let's begin our discussion with a question. “What is a Secure Connected Worker”? 


[3:38] Tim, why don't we start with you? What is a Secure Connected Worker


[3:43] Tim Workman, Presagient Group, Principal and Strategic Business Consultant

Hey Mark, thanks for that great question. I want to give you two perspectives. The first is going to be an organizational perspective and then I want to talk about it from the workers’ perspective. 


[3:51] I want to take an organizational view first, by going back in history to think about the time of Aviation. When we first started coordinating aircraft coming in and out of airports, we had one tool - radios. And they would have to manage those aircraft very carefully because all they could go on was the radio information. And then we invented radar, and the radar allowed the operators in the airport to understand the proximity of the aircraft to each other, to the airport, and how those aircraft were moving in a coordinated fashion. If you come forward to today and think about modern Air Traffic Control, you see the efficiency, the effectiveness, the volume of work that we can manage because of that situational awareness. Now, imagine if you lost your radar how inefficient would the airports become? 


[4:32] When you think about Fleet Management, like dispatch trucking, fire departments, [&] police departments - years ago, they used to coordinate all of their work by radio, and so they would have to call out “What is your location?” “Where are you now?” And they would have to do all these manual calculations. And then, 15 to 20 years ago, we introduced GPS tracking. And suddenly, they now had a geospatial correlation of where their fleets were in real-time. And suddenly, you saw this increased productivity and performance through enhanced dispatching, automatic routing, this situational awareness of how to optimize those positions and fleets. Now, imagine if we told a Dispatch Center today, from Amazon or your local Police Department, “No more locational awareness of your fleets?” Imagine the inefficiencies that would creep back into that system. 


[5:19] So, when you think a lot about our industrial field sites today, we predominantly rely on one tool to communicate with our Connected Worker - and that's radio. And so, when we start talking about an organizational view, what if we could look at that same type of productivity opportunity to understand where our people were, where our equipment is, [and] what's happening in real-time? Well, I understand the proximity to hazards, and I understand the proximity to work. How could I change the way that we optimize entire fleets of people the same way we optimize today’s fleets of aircraft or fleets of vehicles? So, from an organizational perspective, that real-time situational awareness can be massive in helping transform the way you work. 


[5:58] Now, if we take the worker’s perspective, they have a radio and a toolbox, and typically very limited resources today, in some of these field sites - which means when they run into a problem that they don't have specific information for, they will struggle. They will be less effective, they may do things wrong, [and] you'll see a propensity for human error increase. But, using the same technologies that give us that organizational situational awareness, now I can use that Connected Worker capability to give that worker access to a volume of resources that I can't give them today over a radio. I can give them video support from technicians, I can give them drawings, I can give them ways to reach out and help their colleagues, [and] I can give them situational awareness that they are walking into an area where safety hazards are present. 


[6:42] So, by feeding both the organization the information on the body of work as a whole and by helping individual workers get real-time situational information that impacts their performance at a point of need, we can dramatically improve the way we execute work in the field. 


[6:57] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Tim that was awesome. Roland, how do you want to [respond?]


[7:03] Roland Plett, Cisco, Global Lead for Energy and Mining

Wow, that's an amazing summary of, really, what Connected Worker is all about. And it's an interesting perspective on the time shift right, that we're dealing with. But yeah, we've done a lot of these things in other industries, right, but they haven’t really hit the mining industry, for example. In the same way that we had the cultural-shift issues, that, in some of the other transitions you talked about, we experience a lot of that same friction - even today. Like, even when you draw that parallel, for some reason that isn't enough, really, to completely erase the friction. 


[7:42] And, if I'm the guy out in the field who's done the same thing, the same way, over and over again, I'm not really going to want to change my way. So, we have to understand that cultural issue, with the introduction of these really helpful tools. So yeah, that evolution is there. 


[8:02] I mean, you talked about fleet. I talked to a minor just a few months ago that, really up until now, is still using radios to dispatch trucks in a mine pit. And they're thinking it's hugely forward to get to that fleet management. But, then to take it one more step. All these steps kind of get you closer to that vision, and I think that vision is kind of what we want to talk about in terms of the “Think Big” idea, and then we'll get into more of the details of that. But, a great picture, Tim. I like that.


[8:32] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Tim and Roland have given us some excellent perspectives on why Secured Connected Worker? [Ronnie,] what are your thoughts on this topic? 


[8:41] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

Thanks, Mark. I think it's good to round out just a little bit of the technical context that we're talking about. So, there are really important messages around the three words we are using – Secure, Connected, Worker. And so, let's be very clear here. It's about the Worker. And while it’s the third word in the sentence, it’s about your people.  And if you don't consider those people, and we don't consider how it's going to affect their day-to-day lives, you're going to potentially end up with disruption and dissatisfaction wherever those workers have to be. So, it's good to have that in mind. 


[9:21] The second part, though, is it's all about this first word, which is Secure. And I think the Secure term is one that's very easy for you to pigeonhole very quickly. We're not just talking about Internet security, although that is absolutely critical. But we're also just talking about “How do we make our workers more secure?” We've already heard the term alluded to, Safety, and “How we keep those workers safe out in the field by using tracking and tracing and those kinds of things?” We are also talking about the ability to keep their data private. And it is one thing for us to have put these kinds of insights into a person's location and what they're doing and so on, but we do have to remember that that can affect their safety out in the field. Just think of the police body cam. So, I mean that's changed the world. It's changed how police are looked at, and how they’re monitored, and how they're assessed. And so, we have to be very conscious that the Security can be both positive and negative, and we need to take that into account.


[10:21] And the last part of it is Connected. I mean, just putting a camera on a person and being able to record that, that puts some validity on it later on. Just putting a GPS on them, that gives us the ability to get insights where they are. But it shouldn't be just about one way, it's two ways. “How can we get real, useful information to those people where they are, when they need it - to solve any problem, or to give them insights that their eyes, and their ears, and their noses can't actually give them out in the field,” because we don't have the sensors that we can now get out of digital and electronic sensors around the environment? 


[11:00] So, I think it's really important that we put those three things together - that it's the Secure, it's the Connected, and it’s about the Worker.


[11:08] Tim Workman, Presagient Group, Principal and Strategic Business Consultant

If I can just reinforce on that. There’s something that both Roland and [Ronnie] both alluded to. It's my bias, in that, with the complexity of the things we talked about with the Connected Worker, I would argue the most complex part of that system is the human component. As we've talked about here briefly, the technologies that are associated with the Connected Worker have been proven. They've been deployed for decades in other sectors, so this is not a new technology question. There's absolutely technical complexities, which we can overcome by looking at current infrastructure and future infrastructure. Both the point that Roland made, and [Ronnie] as well, this type of information is a completely new way to make decisions. It's a completely new way to influence behavior. There will be legacy patterns of work that will be impacted positively. There may be potential risks created because of the new way of working. So arguably, one of the most complex things that needs to be addressed in the design of a Connected Worker approach is the worker-centric perspective. 


[12:07] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well, one of the things that drove this topic and the focus of our podcast today has been conversations we've been engaged with, with our clients not only in Canada but across the globe. And obviously, organizations like IDC (The Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited, [1], who've just come up with their worldwide mining 2023 predictions have said by 2025, “one in four underground operations will monitor the precise location of personnel, improving the safety of the operational environment and providing guidance assistance to rescue teams.” [] [2]


[12:48] So ultimately, when you start to look at some of the other research being done in the market, what are some of the thoughts and things that you've seen, Tim, that have influenced your thinking about this topic?


[13:02] Tim Workman, Presagient Group, Principal and Strategic Business Consultant

One of the biggest trends that we've seen that has influenced this is the transition of industrial-to-consumer technology and how that’s changing behaviors. Years and years ago, in the early 90s, when I was working with organizations that were implementing map-based and GPS-location technology, it was driven by an industrial change. It was trying to force it through the work. And, trying to put new tools in the hands of legacy workers was really, really tough. In the generation since, consumer electronics used the smartphone, [which enabled] the proliferation of technology, the on-demand consumption of content, the ability for people to live their lives now - on their phone, using maps, using positional data, using data synthesis. In their private lives, they've become very dependent on these tools. And, where corporations haven't kept up with that in their connection to those workers, in some ways, now you're almost disadvantaging the workers because you're bringing them into a legacy environment where, now, they don't have access to the core tools. So, where there used to be an industry push to change worker behavior, now it's actually a consumer technology pull, where people want to see the types of capabilities that they've absorbed into their personal behaviors as something that’s now available to them in the workplace.


[14:13] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

And Roland, that really must be helping drive some of the innovative new products and services that Cisco's building in the background to support the whole notion of a “Secure Connected Worker”?


[14:26] Roland Plett, Cisco, Global Lead for Energy and Mining] 

Yeah, absolutely. One of the things that kind of strikes me through this process, as I've been watching the maturity grow, with the “Connected Worker” is the first thing that us, as technology product innovators, want to bring to the table is cool stuff, right. Probably the best example I can give is companies that came out with helmet-connected cameras. And they would say “oh, you need this helmet-connected camera to make video calls”. And they were showing examples of how this could be incredibly efficient, and yet no one really was buying them. More recently, I've actually seen partners of ours come to the table with ways to connect that to what workers are doing today - being able to actually integrate that into workflow that workers are using today. All of a sudden now, the connected-helmet cam starts to make sense, because it's part of what they're doing, it's not something brand new. So, I think when we're developing products, it has to be integrated into what people are already doing today. 


[15:35] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

And then, obviously Ronnie, from your perspective, I suspect you're seeing some of the business drivers that are out there influencing what Charter’s trying to bring to the marketplace - and working with the Cisco Leading Edge Technology and the tremendous work that Presagient is doing in advising some of their clients in this space?


[15:59] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

We’re obviously seeing very business-driven requirements which suggest, “okay we've got this person and we want to track them, we want to take the person, and we want to track them, and we want to get the best efficiency out of them.” And, by being able to know where they are, and what they're doing, and what times, we can certainly plan and structure better. 


[16:15] But what's more interesting to me, actually, is that we see these unintended consequences or unintended coalescing of information that we weren't expecting. So, we see the idea that if we know we are tracking what’s moving around a mine, and we know where a minor is working, he can begin to plan for when that tracker is going to be there - he doesn't have to stand and wait for the tracker, thinking “it should be here soon.” He knows that it's three minutes away. That gives him three minutes more to plan his day out a little bit better. Likewise, when the tracker gets there, the team will be ready to go. 


[16:32]So these efficiencies aren't just strict “this equals that,” it's “this plus this plus this” equals a sum that's greater than the parts. And, that's where Cisco, and Charter, and Presagient working together are able to do some really interesting things. When we bring that data together, we're able to then push out solutions that have unintended, but significantly beneficial, consequences.


[17:18] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well Tim, I know that some of the work you've been doing in the market even starts to capture things like a worker doesn't have to spend 20 minutes of their day wandering around trying to find a specific piece of equipment because ultimately, they're going to be directed there - much as Ronnie was alluding to.


[17:38] Tim Workman, Presagient Group, Principal and Strategic Business Consultant

Yeah. Two of the big cases that we often refer to are one that's around worker productivity and one that’s around worker safety. 


[17:47] From a productivity perspective, a lot of organizations struggle during shift changeovers because you're doing a wholesale swap out of people. They may not know where the equipment is [from which] they're supposed to be doing their tasks. They may not know where their co-workers have left certain key pieces of equipment. They may have to travel and transit between different tasks. And so, you can end up with a lot of non-productive time that creeps into your work schedule simply because people spend time trying to figure out, “hey, it’s the start of my shift - where is the forklift, where’s my job caddy, where’s the walk-out tag-out security kits”?  A lot of time could be lost incrementally simply by wandering around trying to find things. And to Ronnie's point, three or four minutes here and there may not sound like much, but if it's three to four that stretches to 5 or 10, and that's happening multiple times in a 12-hour shift and a 14-day rotation, suddenly those productivity times really start to add up to a big number. 


[18:46] From a worker safety perspective, similarly, if you know where hazards are, and we'll talk about risk exposure as we get into this a little bit deeper, having workers preconditioned to understand “there is a new hazard that wasn't here when I was here yesterday,” and being notified about that changes their personal situational awareness. It might change their personal protective equipment that they bring. But more importantly, it makes sure that you're not sending someone into an incident where there's simply a lack of communication because of what happened between shift changeovers. 


[19:17] One of the use cases we've talked about with a lot of folks, not just mining, but all the industrial sites that have wildlife exposure risks. Let's assume that there is a bear that's been sighted in an area around the plant and you've got one of your environmental teams working near the fence line. For the team that's on shift, it's great because somebody can say “Hey. There's a bear. Everybody be aware of that”. And someone might carry that into a shift changeover that says “Hey, we saw a bear three hours ago”. Great. “Where did you see the bear?” “Where do we think the bear is now?” “How do we understand what the geographical proximity is going to be from the team that's going outside the fence to where the bear was three hours ago?” “How am I making an assumption?” And part of what happens, and this is why the digital capture of these events becomes important, is that whether it's where I've left a piece of equipment or where there's a safety hazard, the information that is captured today on shift is typically done through the radio logs. The ability to now carry that into a digital format means all that information is carried over as part of that worker situation awareness, which means the improvement of productivity, the improvement to safety, is carried forward in each consecutive shift.


[20:25] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

And can I even add that, if we take that bear example, I mean obviously, you can tell everyone on the radio, live, that there’s a bear. But you can't then look over the next week and see that there’s a trend - that the bears are always in this part of the organization. It may even warrant having a camera out there. And, without having that historical information and awareness, it's very, very hard to, again, correlate all that information into something that's valuable.


[20:50] Roland Plett, Cisco, Global Lead for Energy and Mining

Yeah, one thing I love about this conversation is just the way you can see the stacking of value. Often when I see someone who has a great idea of how they can improve things on a site, they'll try and make a case for building out infrastructure using that one great idea they have. Like, even the unintended consequences conversation already indicates that there's a lot more value there than the one big idea that someone has. And I think taking a systematic step back, like what Presagient does with a lot of their customers, and Charter is to really document some of those other values with multiple stakeholders involved so that the case for a new infrastructure or changed infrastructure gets a lot stronger. And I think systematically thinking through some of that is really, really helpful upfront. 


[21:39] One other example of unintended consequences comes to mind when we did some work up at a northern mine. And the primary purpose for deploying “Connected Worker” was to make turnarounds more efficient at this plant. And, interestingly enough, it was just a matter of months later, this same system was still in place and a forest fire came through. And they were able to evacuate their site and confirm that everyone was in a safe location. The system wasn't designed for that necessarily, but it had a huge safety benefit. And I think stacking some of those things together can be really helpful upfront.


[22:20] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well, Roland, Tim, and Ronnie, this has been an excellent way to start episode 1 of our “Secure Connected Worker” podcast. What I'd like to do just before we tell our listeners what to expect in Episode 2, let's just do a quick recap. Because we've covered some amazingly broad business drivers today, and I’d just like to do, maybe, a quick round-the-table summary of what you think the most impactful business driver is, that you think is important to our audience. Roland, do you want to start?


[22:55] Roland Plett, Cisco, Global Lead for Energy and Mining

Yeah, sure. I mean, for me, I think the most compelling one is the KPI that every single company has, and that’s safety. We see that when digital projects get driven into the operations organization like this “Connected Worker,” we consistently see a very tangible drop in safety incidents. Some reports I've seen have it dropping by as much as three times. And that's significant. That’s the tangible KPI that every company has. This is important to companies. 


[23:26] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well, and the observation I'd make is that it's not about the technology, it's about what the workers see, what the business sees - and that's the intent of our discussion. Tim, do you want to add something next?


[23:39] Tim Workman, Presagient Group, Principal and Strategic Business Consultant

No, I think that's very close to the mark. This is not a technology conversation. Thinking big about the “Connected Worker” is around how you're improving the operational conditions of how the workers execute work, of how we maintain their safety and their security, to Ronnie's point earlier, and how that adds value to the way the business operates. 


[23:57] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

And Ronnie? 


[24:02] Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer

Yeah, I think the Think Big thing that we’re trying to get across here is you need to start from “One of my problems that I need to solve today”. And then, ask really interesting questions that might start with “What if?” And we're really trying to suggest that, although some of these technical questions, and we'll talk about that a bit more later, might be hard to solve - but if you don't start with the big questions, the fun questions of “What if?,” and “How can I solve this problem?,” and “How can I make this better?” then you're never, ever going to get to anything really interesting. But, if you can think outside, then you’re going to find all these incidental learnings and capabilities you never thought possible. And that's when we see customers get really excited.


[24:47] Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets, moderator

Well, I want to take this opportunity to thank Roland, Tim, and Ronnie for the contributions you've made to this podcast and for the insights you've provided to our audience. 


In Episode 2, we're calling it “Solve Smart.” And, the same group of industry leaders will provide a recap of the use cases, the value propositions, and some of the common challenges we see as we work together with our clients across the globe.




[1]IDC: The premier global market intelligence firm. (n.d.). IDC: The Premier Global Market Intelligence Company.

[2] IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Mining 2023 Predictions. (n.d.).







 |  Roland Plett,
 Cisco, Global Leader for Energy & Mining | Roland leads the Oil & Gas and Mining solutions practice at Cisco Systems. In that role, he brings together the products of Cisco and its partners in the Oil & Gas and Mining industries. He loves moving valuable business data from the dirtiest and most hazardous environments on earth to the operator screens and applications of Cisco customers. Over the last 25 years, Roland has been an active part of the data networking industry including 8 years at Bell Canada and 13 years at Cisco Systems.  |  Ronnie Scott, Charter, Chief Technology Officer | Ronnie Scott has over 35 years of broad IT experience, including programming, network architecture, as well as senior consultative roles for Financial Services, Internet Service Providers, ILEC Carrier Networks, and large enterprise customers across New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.  Ronnie is currently the CTO at Charter Telecom Inc, a Value-Added Reseller specializing in IT service delivery. As CTO, Ronnie brings his extensive technological background with a strong Business and Service Delivery lens to Enterprise IT Infrastructure solutions.
|  Tim Workman, Presagient Group, Principal & Strategic Business Consultant | Tim is a strategic management consultant with 30 years of experience across government and multiple industry sectors; with a focus on oil, gas, and other natural resource companies over the past 14 years. He typically helps clients improve operating performance, productivity, and safety in both their corporate and field/ operational workplace environments. Recent past projects include program design and delivery support to a Fortune 100 midstream company headquartered in Houston for strategic optimization initiatives that span their Operations, Engineering, Supply Chain, and technology functions, and a field operations performance enhancement project for a Canadian mining company. He has significant expertise in developing and delivering successful "digital transformation" programs that improve work execution and organizational performance through the adoption of digital technologies. |  Mark George, Charter, Director - Energy, Resources & Industrial Markets | Mark George is a proven business leader with global experience across multiple industries. He currently serves as the Director – Energy, Resources and Industrial Markets for Charter. Prior to that, he worked for five years as Managing Partner and Founder of EdgeMark Capital and Advisory Services Inc., a capital markets and financial advisory services firm.  Mark’s in-depth energy markets experience developed through leadership roles with Environmental Refueling Systems Inc. and with PricewaterhouseCoopers.  From 2000 to 2010, he served as the Founder and President of the Cielo group of companies, a fully integrated residential and commercial construction and real estate development company in Arizona.  Mark has an intense interest in emerging technologies, having spent 15 years with Nortel, Bay Networks, DEC, and Honeywell in progressive sales, management, and executive roles throughout the Americas and Asia Pacific.   Mark proudly serves on the boards of several privately held companies and not-for-profit organizations.



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