Making telecom tower automation consumable: Journey from data to decisions

Whilst remote monitoring and site management systems have the capacity to generate a wealth of data, turning this into actionable intelligence remains key. TowerXchange speak to Infozech to understand how the company is helping tower owners move from data to decisions.

TowerXchange: What do you see as the biggest pitfalls in data collection and what are Infozech doing to help circumnavigate these problems?

Ankur Lal, Founder & CEO, Infozech: When we talk about data collection, two key aspects are (i) collation from multiple points of origin and (ii) the sanctity of the received data. The biggest challenge is to have a federated view of data and to manage the “single source of truth”. Another issue of increasing concern is missing and incorrect data.

Infozech’s systems address these challenges by providing a strong fundamental structure for data management. Our systems provide the necessary platform to collate data from multiple interconnected or remote sources and act as the data management warehouse that becomes the foundation for single source of the various data elements in the network. We understand that data organisation alone does not serve the purpose and to have a single reliable data source it is imperative to have data sanctity checks that our systems provides.

To maintain a single version of sanitized data, Infozech utilizes reconciliation of data at various levels:

Data Validation: Infozech’s platform has been designed in a way that it automatically eliminates the repetitive inflow of same data, selecting the same value and capturing it. The captured data is verified against permissible ranges and likely values based on business logics. Every raw data packet and its value is validated against its defined type

and threshold value to filter out the garbage values, what we term as noise associated with the data. The data discrepancies are highlighted and filled in using Smoothing Algorithm and Fill-In feature that Infozech has developed.

Reconciliation: multiple channels of data coming up from machine sensors and the manual data feed from mobile applications are all reconciled and a clean version is achieved. This enables the user to interact with the single version of data, post all the vendor negotiations. Data for grid energy usage is also reconciled with the power bill and a final version is maintained in the system. This verified data now serves the purpose of providing insights on how to plan and make relevant decisions.

TowerXchange: What steps have Infozech made to increase automation in remote monitoring and maintenance and what noticeable impact has this had on optimising costs?

Ankur Lal, Founder & CEO, Infozech: Towerco’s and operators have invested a lot in intelligent RMS and monitoring systems but either the RMS is not sending the data or the data received from the sites is incomplete and erroneous. As such, it becomes difficult to draw critical insights from the data which can translate into action. Infozech’s Remote

Monitoring Platform (iROC) helps to address these issue by:

Site Visibility: There is no single platform to show the unified status of all the sites. If the RMS is not sending data packets then site visibility becomes difficult. Our monitoring platform gives a 360

degree view of all the sites which are Online or Offline. It has helped our customers to identify sites with recurring problems and after correction of those problems, almost 95% of the sites are brought to online. This has increased the visibility of sites to the people operating at the NOC.

Data Management: Infozech’s system is hardware agnostic and collects real time data from diverse RMS. This data can have noise which translates into wrongful actions. Infozech has developed a proprietary algorithm which filters the noise and helps in deriving meaningful insights from the data. The meaningful data is action oriented and infers real insights for critical issues. Thus correct actions can be taken on critical issues at the right time which helps Towercos reduce site downtime.

Towerco’s face the biggest challenges in maintaining the site that provides high quality services to maintain site up-time at a cost that doesn’t erode profitability. That is why many Towerco’s are turning to Infozech for help in transforming their field force for maintenance activities at the site.

Infozech’s maintenance module enables last mile usage with access to data (Energy, Trouble Ticketing (TT), Preventive Maintenance) from different devices like mobile, tablet and web. We have enabled our customers to follow a mobile first approach to capture data from the field in real time. Our algorithms deliver logic for predictive maintenance based on the energy consumption pattern of the site. This ensures that the equipment is serviced well on time before any failure happens. This reduces maintenance cost and decreased truck roll.

TowerXchange: How does Infozech help partners track and manage energy more efficiently?

Ankur Lal, Founder & CEO, Infozech: With large number of towers across different geographies, consolidating data for tracking and managing energy consumption has become a nightmare for passive infrastructure providers. With variable power supply at these sites it is more difficult to track energy usage. Energy usage data is collected manually and tabulated in Excel sheets and then sent to senior managers for decision making. This process involves a long cycle and often data is changed before any actions can be taken. It is difficult to validate the energy consumption data which leads to reconciliation issues between the customers and the fuel suppliers. This time consuming process leads to long billing cycles.

In order to help partners track and manage energy efficiently, Infozech has developed an innovative mobile solution for last mile usage by the technicians and fillers. All energy parameters like DG, Grid and battery are captured from the mobile. We have multiple checkpoints in the system to deal with inconsistent and wrong data. The quality of data ensures that meaningful insights can be drawn from the data. Our platform captures energy data sent from the RMS. We also have a portal to upload fuel filling data, therefore we have three data source (Mobile, Sensor & Portal) for comparison. This provides the energy managers with more information and they can approve or reject a particular set of data based on the trend.

Infozech’s intelligent iETS (Energy Tracking System) platform predicts fuel filling of sites based on the consumption pattern and a notification is sent to the concerned filler before the site runs out of fuel. This helps energy managers in better planning for fuel usage, purchase and procurement from the supplier. iETS provides important report which helps track budget for energy management.

TowerXchange: Ensuring that billing is carried out seamlessly is critical to a towerco’s business model, how does Infozech help their partners in automating this and what has been the response from clients?

Ankur Lal, Founder & CEO, Infozech: Tower billing is becoming more and more complex by each passing year due to a significant increase in number of parameters involved in the billing. Furthermore, the lack of reliable data for the final settlement with operators leads to many disputes each month. Most of the billing activities are happening manually on Excel spreadsheets which are prone to human error easily. This not only affects the billing calculations, but also affects revenue realization for the tower company.

Infozech offers an effective and efficient end-to-end billing solution – iBill, which addresses these challenges and improves operational efficiencies in the billing process. A flexible rule based billing logic layer is available for the user where he himself can set up MSAs and billing rules based on different sets of billing parameters. This can be done as and when required, thus ensuring a faster turnaround. This configuration is required only once, which makes the month-on-month billing process person independent and reduces the dependency on SME.

Billing data is available in a single repository and a controlled access is available to different users. Any exceptions in this data are highlighted, and corrective actions can be defined. Bills are generated automatically from this sanitised data, which ensures accuracy of the generated bills. Moreover, bill approval workflow available in iBill helps in identifying any revenue leakage. An automated process for bill generation ensures quick bill generation, which further ensures timely payments from operators.

In addition, historical information along with audit history is maintained for any data-set changes, which provides easy and quick access for reference and verification. This results in transparency, leading to minimal billing disputes, and timely resolution of disputes with customers.

One of the customers using iBill has told us that the extensiveness provided by iBill in terms of configuring MSAs, and configurability of building new business rules on the fly has provided flexibility to their sales team to go into market with new plans and pitch the business models to the operators which are more suitable to them. He also mentioned that automation has significantly improved the accuracy and overall efficiency in the billing process, and helped us to recognise around 1% additional revenue, which was earlier not recognised due to inefficiencies.
TowerXchange: In addition to supporting billing, how do Infozech support towercos in asset reconciliation in order to take better control of their revenue management?

Ankur Lal, Founder & CEO, Infozech: Telecom operators have thousands of tower sites spread across different geographies. Each of these sites has its own passive infrastructure setup and operational cost in terms of rent, location, power consumption, fuel used, equipment installed et cetera. Reconciliation processes are required at different stages (Asset Management, Operator Billing, and Vendor Payment) of the telecom tower industry. Each business function (O&M, Finance, and Opex Controller) performs several steps of reconciliation to reach the desired outcome.

Accuracy of asset information related to a site is most important for financial and compliance management as it forms the basis of revenue through operator billing. Hence, asset reconciliation enabling tracking of the discrepancies between the physical inventory of what actually exists and the database accounting system of what should exist, becomes an important part of asset management.

Infozech built a reconciliation solution to support towercos in asset reconciliation. This helps them take better control of their revenue management:

Analyse: understand asset information requirements and management needs. Various sources of information are analysed and process and frequency of data management is analysed which forms basis of reconciliation system setup.

Data Preparation: Data collection engine is setup to collect data from different sources over different interfaces and varied formats. Validation rules are defined for each different source to identify data discrepancies, check and ensure completeness of data.

Automate: iRecon tool is setup to consume data from different sources and define process workflow to reconcile data from these sources based on business rules. iRecon publishes information gaps and mismatches and enables informed decisions to take corrective actions.

Outcome: Get an accurate picture of what assets exist, where they are and their present condition. iRecon provides the versioning of asset data which enables tracking of asset throughout its lifecycle.

Key benefits of Infozech’s rule based automated reconciliation engine are:

  • It enables fact based decision making on capex and opex planning for assets.
  • Automated process data reconciliation and management eliminates people led process redundancy.
  • Platform is flexible to cater for today’s needs as well as adapt to future needs