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Knowledge & Information Technology
No. 284 - 16 March 2021
Build vs. Buy vs. Rent: the Umpteenth Case Study

Over the last couple of weeks, we prepared and promptly lost a bid to set up a Community of Practice environment for an international project on improving air quality. And in fact, we're almost happy that we lost.

The solicitation asked for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration capabilities, including setting up and facilitating international conference calls with simultaneous translation, an e-mail forum, a document repository, and more. "No problem!" was our first reaction -- we know how to do all this, directly or through partners and suppliers. But in fact there were two problems. One was that the budget is too small to really do the job well. The second one is that the wording of the Request for Proposal clearly indicated an assumption that we would develop a custom system and transfer it to the recipient organization for ongoing operation. This made no sense (unless there was a hidden agenda to provide some IT work to the organization). Therefore we proposed to use cloud services for the entire system: without prejudging the selection, we said that a platform such as Notion could support the required knowledge sharing at a reasonable cost, and for teleconferences with separate channels for two languages, we could use Kudo or ZipDX. By doing this and carefully pruning some activities, we could barely fit within the budget.

The proposal was rejected as "not technically compliant" within days. We're now curious to learn, in a few months, if the winning bidder will have been able to develop a solution that works, fits within the budget, and can be supported. Of course, if that's not the case (and we bet it won't), there will be no money left to fix the situation then. But some contracts are just not worth winning.

During last week's meeting of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), one of the best presentations was given by Daniel Olivier and Will Hamilton of the Port of Montréal about the CargO2ai project. The goal is to speed up the processing of shipments of medical equipment related to COVID-19. Ships send their entire cargo manifest to the port about 4 days before arriving, but because most of these inventories are in free text, natural language processing is required to distinguish between, say, different items containing the word "glove" -- is it sterile gloves for hospitals, or baseball gloves? Then the offloading sequence can be optimized to ensure that critical shipments reach their final destination within 24 hours of the mooring of the ship. A solution was developed and deployed in 10 weeks, and the Port is now planning to scale it up and offer it to other ports.
An Internal App Store for Robotics and Analytics

At the Edge Computing World Conference on March 10-11, Velt Hammerstingl of BMW talked about the "edge store" they set up to share Industrial IoT tools developed locally in any one of their 31 factories. Some of the applications that have been shared are:
  • analysis of dust particles in the air in a paint shop,
  • an autonomous box transporter that communicates with loading mechanisms and with doors,
  • protocol translators between various machines that need to communicate.
BMW is now working with a number of industry partners to create a global exchange for such tools.
Cybersecurity Law and Policy

The first annual Cybersecurity Law and Policy Scholars Conference (CLPSC) will take place at the University of Minnesota Law School on Oct. 1-2, 2021. The conference plans to accommodate both in-person and virtual participation, subject to evolving social-distancing guidelines.

The paper workshops will be modeled after the Privacy Law Scholars Conference. Each paper will be assigned a discussant, who will introduce the paper and provide comments. This will be followed by comments from the audience. The conference only provides an opportunity to workshop the papers; the conference will not publish papers or other proceedings. 
Seen Recently...
"IoT solutions need to be OT-trusted and IT-approved."
-- Jason Shepherd (ZEDEDA), explaining the necessary collaboration between Operational Technology (OT) and IT
during a session on "Edge Use Cases and Stakeholder Complexity" at the Edge Computing Word 2021 Conference.