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EditorSpeak: SMEs have more open field to experiment

Prof. Arup Dasgupta
Managing Editor
[email protected]

The energy sector is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. Development needs energy but conventional energy sources are not renewable and extremely destructive of the environment. Non-conventional sources which are environment friendly are unfortunately not as efficient as conventional non-renewable resources. This paradox poses a huge problem for developing countries who would like to use the cheapest forms of energy for their needs. This paradox also presents a great opportunity for geospatial technology and applications.

Quite apart from the applications in resource exploration, mine design and management, environmental planning and disaster management, there are tremendous opportunities in managing power generation and distribution, in integrating conventional and non-conventional power generation and in optimising distribution networks. The term ‘smart grid’ encompasses all these areas. The element of geospatial planning is a very important part of the smart grid. As cities grow, industries expand and traditional activities like agriculture get modernised, the demand of power increases. Smart grid provides a way of planning optimum distribution, integrating different sources, reducing losses and balancing loads. These activities have a big geospatial component that needs to be integrated into the existing CRM, ERP and DMS of power management systems.

This is also a golden opportunity for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are the foot soldiers of the geospatial world. The big corporations look for big clients and mega projects. It is the SMEs that meet the needs of the local bodies and other small enterprises who would find the big corporations too expensive and also perhaps not too small user friendly. The SMEs can provide innovative solutions and bridge the gap. Large corporations may find it easier to offload such work to the SMEs.

However, SMEs need to plan ahead. They may start at the root of the value chain but today’s data conversion work may peter out. Conversion technologies may change. End users may demand more complex solutions and decision support systems in place of simple query tools. While corporations get locked up with their own proprietary technologies, SMEs have a more open field and can experiment with emerging technologies. The open source solutions are an indicator of these trends.

A disturbing trend is the insistence that SMEs show sizeable past business and certification at ISO and CMMi levels which are expensive to say the least. None of these are necessarily guarantees of future performance. In fact these limits may shut out innovators. Let us not forget the origins of hugely successful innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates or industrialists like Dhirubhai Ambani.