Bath-based tech startup Aria Networks has today announced a significant funding award from the UK government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

The award comes in the same month that Aria’s pioneering use of Artificial Intelligence for telecom networking was recognized with a separate industry award from Pipeline Magazine.

The funding will support research & development of new software applications that will enable networks to intelligently configure themselves in real-time, responding to current and predicted factors such as traffic load, service quality, network failures, security threats or energy consumption.

Aria’s founder and Chief Technology Officer, Jay Perrett, told us: “Large communications and content providers face huge challenges in keeping up with growth and change in their networks, especially for video and looking ahead to 5G. Artificial Intelligence is the key technology to continuously adapt the entire network’s configuration to deliver the best service to customers, while meeting other business objectives.”

Aria Chief Executive Officer, Steve Newton, told us: “This funding award recognizes not only Aria’s pioneering work to date, but also the global, industry-changing potential of our vision.”

Last month in Nice, Aria was awarded Pipeline magazine’s prestigious “OSS Innovation” award, by an independent panel of judges including senior technical executives from AT&T, BT, Windstream, Telenor and telecom industry analyst firm ICT Intuition.

Also during May’s TMForum Live! event in Nice, Aria held a special briefing session along with senior representatives from Vodafone and BOCO Inter-Telecom, on the use of AI within SDN/NFV operations.

Perrett added: While the use of AI is well established in certain areas such as customer analytics, the application of AI to networks is still highly innovative, yet is critical for telecom growth strategies. It’s something that operators are really starting to recognize.

Aria Networks is a pioneer in the application of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to the optimization of large, complex communications networks. With the communications market growing and changing faster than ever, service providers need new, more intelligent and automatic ways to predict demand, design services, and adapt and optimize their networks to take best advantage of both existing and new technologies such as SDN and NFV. Aria’s customers today include BT, Level3, and several of the world’s best known social networking and content companies. Based in the UK, the company is owned by private investors including Seraphim Capital.

It’s become the norm that we think about innovation as an input with a high tech output. But it’s much more than this, it’s related to new ideas and a new way of doing things; it’s definitely not all based on complexity or new technology. In fact, innovation can be a new way of doing things within an established traditional paradigm. Put another way, you can have innovation without the constraint of technology.

We are creating an excuse landscape around our businesses. Too often we fall in to the trap of saying we don’t have access to a certain technology, therefore we’re out of the innovation game. It’s not true, innovation can come in many guises and can spring out of the most constrained, unlikely places.

In addition to the excuse landscape there a number of common fears and barriers that put the brakes on innovation within our organizations. The fear of failure, a risk averse senior management, a fear of sharing ideas or a mismatch between company vision and company leadership.

There can be a misalignment between strategic direction, new ideas and management execution practices. There is a real need for companies to self-reflect on their own behaviors and look at where they are encouraging or creating barriers to innovation.

The key question for business is, can we systematically continue to deliver the core business whilst creating an environment that fosters innovation? this is the tricky balance at the heart of businesses seeking more innovative practices. Leaders need to find a way to continually deliver systematic and methodical results for their business whilst generating new ideas.

There are real challenges here for business leaders as the Bi-Polar Challenge. Businesses have to focus on the key drivers of scale; efficiency, repetition, process, and hierarchy while also getting comfortable with wasted efforts associated with searching for new ideas and taking risks. Embedding innovation can be seen as a process of self-destruction with self-undermining results, meaning a company needs to commit time and resources to self-reflection, playing with new ideas and taking risks. It’s here where business can become unstuck, but it’s also where businesses can learn a lot from the research and those who’ve successfully juggled the demands of scale, stability, and innovation.

The first step towards success is to create a dedicated innovation function with a framework that fosters new ideas and innovation. There is not a one size fits all framework here, rather a group of principals from which business can build their own framework that suits their business model and culture. One such principal is the need to build a network that transfers and shares information openly within an organization. Networks within businesses are pivotal to the sharing of ideas but are also crucial when it comes to picking the good ideas and investing in them. Ideas are like signals and signals can get weakened or strengthened within a network.

There’s a powerful message here for senior leaders as the success of these networks largely comes down to how they are managed. If senior managers are effective at identifying ideas and exploring them then innovation will start to blossom, but if the opposite is true and managers either don’t have the time, inclination or ability to support the network then the innovation project will quickly wither on the vine. So a couple of starting questions for any senior leader looking to innovate should be how healthy are your information networks and how good are you at picking up the signals.

Big data and the Internet of Things is set to transform industrial processes, but it’s an open question which companies will ride that wave.  Across the globe, industry is about to change. Big data and the Internet of Things are going to transform industrial processes over the coming decade in the same way that the consumer world was transformed by the internet over the past decade. In this process, there will be leaders and then there will be followers.

There are already concerns that Europe will miss the boat on the industrial internet, in the same way it missed the boat for the consumer internet, because of imperfect regulation on this continent. The industrial internet is set to transform sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, energy, health care and transport. But if Europe doesn’t strike the right regulatory balance, those innovations will be developed not here but in North America and Asia.

One of the biggest regulatory concerns in Europe is about the portability of data, and the barriers that exist in this still fractured digital market.

When we are talking about the Internet of Things, we are talking about machines that will be able to communicate with each other and perform some activities through this communication. In this process, when we cross the borders of a country, we expect all the digital services we were receiving in one country, we should receive in the other. Europe should be able to guarantee the continued provision of services, without any dependence on location.

European legislators are hearing this complaint a lot from companies. Ensuring the free flow of data in the EU is crucial if we want to keep pace with Asia and North America. Data localization rules in different member states inhibit growth and are a barrier to the much-needed investment in infrastructure and innovative products and services.

Data protection is another thorny issue of EU legislation that could hold back innovation in this field. EU’s increasing data privacy legislation runs the risk of stymieing growth.  We don’t buy the premise that legislation drives companies to innovate. We see legislation doing the opposite. The first thing we need to do is legislate less. We need a less complex general data protection regulation, one that ensures more certainty about data flows. That data needs to come freely within the EU and into the EU, so that companies aren’t told where they can keep their data centers.

Data security is a real concern. Data portability is an important issue, but so is data privacy. The question is, how can we harmonize these tools so that we have the confidence to feel safe.

When it comes to digitalization, there is much fear among the public that it will lead to a loss of jobs – especially in sensitive industrial areas. Worker protection is another legislative area in the EU that companies are concerned could hold back innovation and actually end up killing jobs.

The risk of losing jobs is there, and it is serious, because robots can replace people. But it depends how we are defining a job. Technology brings new opportunities for employment, and in the first preliminary steps in this era we have already seen a lot of new forms for getting income.

Some job losses may be inevitable, but can be replaced by new opportunities. digitalization is an opportunity rather than a threat. We have gone through changes before – look at the rise of information technology in the 1980s and 1990s. These have been for the better in the long run in terms of job creation. Maybe some low-skilled jobs will become replaceable, but there will be different jobs in their place.

The government’s role then is to make sure that workers are appropriately skilled up to be ready to slot into those new jobs. One of the key things we need to do legislatively at member state level is make sure there’s proper training at schools, so that everyone who enters the work market is skilled up.

European legislators will continue to grapple with the thorny issues of data portability, data privacy and worker protection. But it is important that they get it right quickly. Because if the legislative playing field in Europe is not prepared for the coming industrial internet revolution, Europe could miss the boat once again.

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