Fusing Drones And Software, A Killer Combo To Manage Assets

New technology is allowing firms and governments to maintain, check and optimize assets and operations at minimal costs.

Drones will reshape the future of enterprise asset management.
Drones will reshape the future of enterprise asset management.
Rubén Belluomo

SANTIAGO — If your work has anything to do with using technology to provide more intelligent and efficient services, then now is the best time to be working in the public sector. A mix of disruptive systems and services that include the cloud, big data, analytics and drones are changing the public-sector workplace like never before.

The existing options and possibilities would have been unimaginable five years ago, and are already becoming basic work tools. This is a moment of innovative technologies evolving together at an unprecedented rate. At the heart of this transition is the IT column in any budget that gives organizations visibility, transparency, digital security and operational control to monitor big departments and functions, make full use of existing assets, and provide citizens with the high-quality services they expect.

In recent years, government agencies have become increasingly familiar with Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) or managing physical assets with a system that includes a database of all physical and financial data relating to those assets. This means barcode IDs for all assets, and extensive use of mobile technology in field auditing for day-to-day maintenance.

An example is the city of New York, which has about one million buildings, some 2.7 million vehicles entering it daily and an infinite amount of minor tools and devices in its inventory, all managed by EAM software. Efficiency in public sector operations has never been so important, with a need to optimize each asset to maximize its utility, anticipate flaws and minimize delays.

That is why EAM software is being transferred to the cloud, to make better use of its potential for optimizing operations on a slim budget. The cloud also ends the era of local modifications, freeing "on premise" technology equipment to devote itself to more specific areas.

Cloud-based EAM is the glue that keeps all this together. The system identifies, follows and analyzes the organization's physical assets and proposes planning and decision-making tools needed to optimize their performance. By generating precise maintenance programs that minimize unexpected halts, EAM maximizes operational efficiency and ensures the best use of the workforce and materials at hand. Adding to it the Internet of Things, one may create a web that covers all critical systems and can foresee maintenance and repair needs before they appear.

Drones provide a 360-degree view of assets, literally.

The latest technology is a powerful synergy of EAM software and drones. An organization's installations and assets can be on land, at sea or in the air, and particularly in difficult and even dangerous locations or those barely accessible by road. Maintenance operations may often depend on older equipment and devices that are costly and difficult to transport.

Drones provide a 360-degree view of assets, literally — and offer essential data that allow planning for the efficient management of physical assets. With trains, shipyards, planes and pipes, and buildings or bridges, the synergy of drones and EAM helps improve inspection procedures, boosts the assets' performance and helps ensure that work norms are met.

There are two points the cloud and drones share, namely that both emerged fast and are becoming essential tools for the public sector. If your organization faces the short-term challenge of providing a top-level service in managing infrastructures on a limited budget, the first step is to optimize management of assets under your control. And that means using cutting-edge technology.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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