Chances are if you’re the one driving during a long road trip, you’ve drawn the short end of the stick. This is because while you’re stuck paying attention to the road, those in the back are enjoying the ride.
However, that will all change as driverless cars are set to revolutionize the automotive industry. In the not too distant future, people will have the luxury of simply hopping into their vehicle, inputting their destination, and watching as it navigates the road autonomously.
What’s under the hood of these driverless cars?
This technology, which is already being rolled out in many places, including in Uber’s self driving car pilot program, is incredibly futuristic and has many are excited at the prospect of having more free time while being “behind the wheel”. The intention of this post isn’t to talk about how telecom networks support connectivity to driverless cars, but rather to consider the principles behind this highly automated system.
This “auto-pilot” capability is achieved by combining several automated subsystems which have been gradually added to vehicles over the years: lane departure detection, adaptive cruise control, and assisted steering, for example. These are self-regulating processes, which modify their actions based on sensors and results. Automation is then achieved by identifying errors or differences in the system, and using this information to make any necessary adjustments. This process is known as a feedback control loop.
This allows for individually automated systems to be nested on top of one another, establishing a single continuous process. This is critical, as it minimizes complexity, reduces risk, and most importantly, prevents you from ending up in a ditch.
Telecoms shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel!
So this begs the question, if we can use this automation to safely transport humans, why can’t the same be done for telecom network operations?
In the past, there has been a reluctance to automate in telecom due to the perceived risks and challenges related to bad data and complex, siloed operations. However, some of these barriers have been overcome thanks to recent innovations from the IT industry which have made it possible to process and analyse the vast amount of data produced by networks.
A growing number of service providers have begun to integrate SDN and NFV into their network as it promises improved agility, elasticity, and cost savings. While these redeeming qualities are definitely creating a buzz within the industry, automation, as it pertains to service assurance (in addition to fulfillment), is critical to realizing the full potential of this technology.
Graphic by Appledore Research Group
As highlighted in the example of driverless cars, feedback control loops are the structure required for success. The concept is simple, a single and intuitive process is established which supports a wide variety of tasks, from creating and maintaining new services, to optimizing resource utilization.
Traditionally, service fulfillment and assurance have been independent silos. However, in this new automated closed-loop environment, assurance and analytics will converge to establish an intelligent platform that guides orchestration. As networks become more complex, closed-loops provide the ability to correlate all of the relevant data, gain a comprehensive snapshot into what is happening in the network, and make a decision on what actions to take to improve operations.
In the end, this transformation allows service providers the ability to fulfill the customized services offerings to customers, which are a key differentiator in today’s competitive market. Additionally, it allows operators to shift their focus from monitoring network performance to delivering quality customer experience.