A few days after I wrote on technology and traffic, a test flight, Beechcraft King Air C90 turboprop chartered plane crashed in a crowded Mumbai suburb killing five people, which included two pilots, two flight engineers on board and a pedestrian. Fluttering over a suburb heavily busy with business and construction activities and thickly populated with people and vehicles, the flight reportedly lost control in just about four nautical miles from Air Traffic Control (ATC) take-off. No system could detect the technical snags which led to the crash. In the week that followed through heavy rains, a portion of a road bridge over the railway lines collapsed disrupting train operations and bringing road traffic in the surrounding areas to a grinding halt. It also damaged high-tension electric wires and overhead power equipment. Apparently, the bridge had design flaws, but no system could detect it ahead of the collapse.
While my earlier blog seemed to many like a premonitory signal to these and many such accidents happening world over, it is only an addition to the numerous attempts that continue to be made on raising awareness about the detrimental effects of grotesquely growing traffic, the multitude and magnitude of losses they create and the suboptimal contribution of technology, notwithstanding its rapid advancements, to help prevent those detrimental effects and the wide variety of losses they result into.
Agreed that the number of factors which could lead to such unfortunate events is very large and neither traffic nor technology could possibly be singled out as a cause. However, technology is an enabler and its misuse or lack of use or even underutilization is a big deterrent to solving such problems. What then determines whether a particular technology is used appropriately? This is where a system of performance and metrics comes in. This system should mainly establish the most essential and basic purposes of using a particular technology, the parameters upon which its performance would be measured and the stakeholders in the process. Alongside, the same system also needs to have metrics for business benefits, both tangible and intangible, which this technology brings in. And most importantly, these benefits need to be parametrized through predetermined success criteria directly correlated to the investments which go into it – investments of capital, time and resources.
For the cases of accidents cited above, a system of performance should obviously be one which alerts the monitoring team on dangers due to impending infrastructure failures. The metrics should be the number of times threshold limits are crossed for various technical attributes viz. suitability of the aircraft, age of the aircraft, conduciveness of weather conditions for flying, utility and performance certifications for both the aircraft and the bridge, load bearing capacity of the bridge, etc. and number of potential disasters prevented due to such timely alerts and corrective actions. The investments would be the amount of time and capital invested into building and operating such technology, time spent on using and maintaining it and manpower deployed for operational continuity and efficacy. Benefits would be prevention of loss of life, of property, of time of all victims of the accident as well as prevention of business opportunity losses. In simple words, the biggest benefit is that of undisturbed normalcy.
The most crucial step in establishing such a system is establishing the correlation between the various parameters of measurement. And a rigorous co-ordination between various devices and technologies powered by a scrupulous collaboration of all agencies involved in the management of these devices and technologies is the only effective strategy to make this successful. And it all starts and stays with Awareness.
Awareness is the greatest agent of change, says Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher and the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. It is the first step towards correct strategy executed through correct actions. And being correct is to achieve the intended objectives in the interest and benefit of all concerned without any harmful consequences. Technology and infrastructure need to complement each other to realize these benefits in the interest of all concerned. And what is needed to get them to complement each other is collaboration through correlation and co-ordination.