2023–24 Thought Leaders: Reg Clutterbuck
What opportunities do you predict for the growth of your industry in 2024?
The predicted growth in artificial intelligence in 2024 and beyond means that critical infrastructure such as those utilised in telecommunications, data and essential services will need ever-increasing amounts of data processing capabilities both at the core and edge, which in turn requires incremental amounts of reliable energy and secure power. Companies like Eaton are well placed to provide those essential energy sources with unprecedented levels of reliability.
As network transformation continues to evolve, customers are expecting higher levels of remote management and real-time control of their network’s assets. They need to be able to manage their assets and plan for future demand on demand. Eaton’s BrightLayer suite of power and asset management software meets this growing need in a secure and scalable way.
What is your company doing to make critical communication accessible and affordable in the current economy?
We are constantly evaluating our solutions with the support of our global technology and development teams and utilising our international supply chain for the most competitive options. In addition to tapping into Eaton’s global network, we continue to invest in engineering hubs in Australia and New Zealand, building local expertise and resource. This has worked extremely well for our customers as we are able to design fit-for-purpose engineered solutions from the start to end of a project — whether it is for reliable and secured power for mains sites or alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.
Communications network operators are striving to cut energy costs and/or to meet aggressive carbon footprint reduction targets. Eaton’s range of modular high-efficiency rectifiers, inverters and solar chargers can significantly reduce energy waste, as well as reduce overall required energy consumption for the site cooling system.
Additional to energy savings from high efficiency, the Eaton solar chargers’ popularity in grid-connected sites continues to increase, due to the network operator’s ability to offset communications sites’ power consumption via the use of solar. Little additional hardware is required, and a solar module can be used in a mains-powered system.
How can critical communications users protect themselves against the data breaches and cyber attacks that have been plaguing Australian businesses over the last couple of years?
Implementing robust cybersecurity best practices is important for all businesses in today’s digitised economy. An area that may not be high on an IT manager’s radar when it comes to cybersecurity is the hardware itself.
Every device that has communication capability, whether it be a wired or wireless connection, creates a gateway for hackers to infiltrate into the entire network that it is connected to. Such vulnerabilities could exist in critical communications networks of mission-critical infrastructure if the equipment deployed has not met certain cybersecure benchmarks.
At Eaton, cybersecurity is part of our DNA and an integral consideration, with strict protocols placed on the people, processes and technologies within our Secure Development Lifecycle process — the program that integrates security protocols at every phase of product creation. Communication devices designed and manufactured by Eaton must be certified against UL cybersecurity standards before they are released to market. This may delay product releases; however, the practice ensures we offer the highest level of security to our customers and their networks.
Are there any new or growing sectors that will be particularly reliant on critical communications in 2024 and beyond?
We continue to see a demand for engineered-to-order off-grid solar solutions, which are a core component of the Eaton power quality business. The augmentation of alternative energy sources at mains power-supplied sites will continue to be required in the future to ensure uptime of networks.
As well as ensuring very high uptime of sites via the use of high-reliability modular power systems with built-in backup redundancy, private 5G networks used for critical infrastructure and large industrialised sites will continue to require 24/7 secure connectivity to their sites, not only for live and up-to-date monitoring, but also for historical data extraction and control over the equipment on their site.
What’s on your wish list from governments, innovators and the wider industry in 2024?
Governments in the industry need to ensure that critical infrastructure like 5G and fibre networks are resilient to natural catastrophes (flood, fire, weather-related outages). Standard utility power on its own simply does not have the levels of reliability necessary for mission-critical applications. During times of natural disaster, utility power is often one of the first services lost. If the standards of uninterrupted DC power to mission-critical equipment such as telecommunications are inadequate, the relevant communications networks that support the emergency services in the field — and local residents’ ability to reach those emergency services when in a time of need — will be lost.
Setting expectations for uninterrupted DC power is a step in the right direction that can further be improved upon by 5G network providers should they consider the addition of alternative energy sources at their mains power-only sites, such as solar and wind power. These renewable sources would augment the existing mains power and, during grid disturbances or outages, continue to support the reliability of the site to remain online, acting as an additional source of power beyond the battery backup that would also be present.
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