We are in the midst of an immense industrial revolution which has begun to leave its mark on the world. Many companies have begun their journey towards digital transformation while others have not because they don’t know where to start or how to sustain it. Centrigent is a company that is dedicated to filling this gap in the market.
Telecom Review secured an interview with Jay Srage, one of the tech industry’s most influential CEO’s here in the Middle East who founded Centrigent, a consulting 4.0 firm that helps organizations navigate their digital transformation.
Can you tell us a little bit about professional background and your company, Centrigent?
I ran Qualcomm operations in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe for more than 10 years out of Dubai. In the last couple of years, Qualcomm expanded from the Smartphone space and incorporated connected automotive and IoT, and integrated new technologies like AI into its product line. That created a very strong opportunity for a company that can actually take all these little technologies and drive them to market across industries beyond the telecom industry.
The new industrial digital divide is what I identified as the gap in today’s industry. We are evolving from the existing consumer digital divide to a new place where we see a concerning of companies and industries which are not digitized yet, and continue to use outdated processes and operations. Technology is moving at a much faster pace than adoption creating that divide. While it seems that large blue-chip companies are digitizing, there are a significantly disproportionate number of other companies that are not, and don’t know where to start. So take a medical center or a school, a real-estate developer or a bank, they talk about digital transformation, they know they need to digitize and use Artificial Intelligence, 5G and cloud computing, but they really don’t know where or how to start, what they have in digital assets and what they need to upgrade. They can’t assess whether they should build a team and hire more people or outsource. There are a lot of uncertainties when it comes to digital transformation.
In education for example, we need to move from e-learning to smart-learning. We have seen that leading schools build visionary strategies but on the flip side, more haven’t. This is where you see the industrial digital divide where some companies in every sector will follow, while others are going to be left behind. That cannot be sustainable; all ships must sail in the same direction.
So, our vision at Centrigent is to bridge that industrial-digital divide and allow all companies to get on board to their digital transformation.
In your opinion, what are the elements that made your projects successful?
I believe that the success of a project really depends on three things.
First of all, Centrigent is not your typical consulting firm. We are the early pioneers of Consulting 4.0 focused on the 4th industrial revolution. This is how we do things differently.
Let’s start with culture. The corporate culture is not short-term quarter by quarter profit. Since we deal with deep-tech solutions, we need to have a long-term view of the industry and a deep partnership with our customers.
The second part of the success is based on the vision. We want to bring digital transformation to every company. So, we have a big goal and we share that goal with many of our clients which explains the phenomenal growth of Centrigent.
Third, the complete one-stop shop digital transformation services is necessary in our fragmented industry. We provide an end-to-end offering extending from current status to audit, to benchmarks and research, business development, strategy, planning, execution and deployment.
What are the areas of focus for Centrigent?
We focus on education and telecom because there are disruptive solutions coming from innovation hubs like Silicon Valley and Cambridge with the potential to create a new pivot point for those two industries.
I would like to give two examples of partnerships I am personally involved and driving – one with the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, and the other one with B-Yond, a two-year old AI company that has grown tremendously to more than 250 employees in that short period of time.
I established a partnership with the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, which ranks one of the top 5 globally and exclusively in the Middle East. So what we built is an extremely customized, high level high quality faculty and education to build the skill-set for digital transformation specifically. We customized each program depending on each company we work with so we don’t have open generic topics but instead, we offer very specific ones to every company and show them how they can sustain their digital transformation.
The first element we are trying to push is that digital transformation is not a project, it is not a one-time process; it is a continuous evolution. The focus of Ross’ executive programs is the sustainability of digital transformation over time. It’s about building a complete strategy and leading digital transformation over the long-run. It’s also as crucial to learn how to propagate the message and strategy across the organization. Once you instill that culture of digital transformation across the organization, then they are ready to discuss technology and solutions.
What can you tell us about the advanced technology solutions?
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. I had clients say “I want AI”. This is like saying “I want the internet”. The real question is “what do you want AI to do for you?”
B-Yond is the first unique industrialized day one, operational artificial intelligence platform that uses machine learning to automate both the network and the user experience.
Indeed, as everything is connected to the internet and with 5G becoming the mobile standard, the quality of service on that network is going to be the key.
Knowing how much to invest and where to direct that investment will be crucial to the 5G deployment especially due to the shorter range of the radio which increases the cost of deployment.
Reducing the cost of operations through automation, but more importantly, the ability to upgrade with 95%+ accuracy for up to 6 months or a year from now the traffic profile and health of network, will be key for communication services provider to remain competitive and profitable.
Getting that optimized infinite network which is a network that learns from itself, fixes itself, and tells its operator where and when an upgrade is needed to maintain QoS, will enable the best user experience to both the consumer and the enterprise and in turn, it will allow them to do digital transformation.
This is where B-Yond will succeed. It’s a Digital Transformation solution in a box, with true industrialized AI, and Day 1 operation ready.
With other players out there with similar solutions, why should the telecom operators work with Centrigent and B-Yond?
The answer is simple. Not all AI solutions are created equal. The core platform, the Intelligent Element Framework (IEF) is patent-pending, and very unique in allowing the digestion of data at scale, organizing the data, and creating the core framework for recommendation and alerts. It works across hardware vendors, and connects to an AI ecosystem to allow the operator to benefit from all the AI applications out there.
It comes down to the accuracy of the AI engine, ability to scale any type of data ingestion point, and being inter-operable across vendors. But more importantly, B-Yond brings a much shorter-time frame for machine learning whereby it’s Day 1 operational allowing high accuracy prediction within weeks rather than years compared to other solutions.
The Networking Operating Center (NOC) industry is becoming more service-centric making an evolution to Service Operating Center (SOC). B-Yond enables that evolution.
Which industries will benefit from AI and machine learning the most and how?
If you take a broader look at our current industrial landscape, you can see that eventually, every industry will get impacted, in a positive way and new sectors will be created. This has happened throughout history with the different industrial revolutions that took place.
We are currently in the fourth industrial revolution’s early stages. Some industries are transforming faster than others while some are going to lag behind, but eventually they will all get there so we can’t single out just one industry.
The ones that are the most proactive in adopting AI, machine learning and automation, combined with 5G and data science which is a very powerful combination in terms of taking the world to the digital future, are telecoms and IT, followed by banking and automotive.
Could you comment on the current technological landscape here in the UAE? What excites you the most about it?
When you look at the UAE and Saudi Arabia, they are both strongly adopting emerging technologies in order to achieve a knowledge-based economy.
Technology adoption comes with education which is a very strong push on skill-building in these two countries. They do nation building through education. There’s a very big push of skill buildup to achieve that kind of transformation. What we see in this case is a public private partnership and it is quite counter-intuitive to be ahead of the private sector.
The UAE AI council was set up in the UAE, under the AI Ministry, which is by itself unique in the world. The AI academy launched and was announced at AI Everything conference last Spring. And you can see that there has been a strong push from the government to digitize all government services, becoming paperless by 2021. Now what we want is the private sector to catch up with the government.
What challenges does Centrigent face or expect to face in the years to come?
In the case of digital transformation, challenges change on a monthly basis. At one point, during the hype phase of digital transformation, there were no services or solutions. That was the challenge. Now there are too many fragmented solutions and the challenge is to separate the myth and claims from reality. In the past, everyone wanted to do a digital transformation but now there’s a divide.
What’s more important than identifying the challenges is having the ability to adapt to those evolving challenges.
What advice would you give to companies that are only beginning their journey towards digital transformation?
My message is simple: work with Centrigent if you want to succeed. I don’t believe that anyone else offers the services we do, with the same passion, knowledge, expertise, flexibility and customer-centricity.