A Team Learns How To Climb Mountains of Data

Akhila Tadinada
Director, Software Engineering
Hitachi Vantara

The internet of things is one of the fastest growing phenomena in technology. Innovative engineers around the world eagerly keep up with its size and scope by developing new technologies that solve a company’s very real problems in unforeseen ways. Beyond that are the engineers with the more difficult work of turning a moment’s engineering insight into an ongoing repeatable product that helps many companies with similar challenges. Meet Akhila Tadinada and her team.

Akhila Tadinada
Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.
― Barry Finlay, Author, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

Responsible for developing applications for Lumada, Hitachi’s IoT platform, Akhila recently took on a project with an Australian mining company to help them find and use the value in their data. With terabytes of data spinning off 50 mining trucks, the company’s operators were overwhelmed. Imagine 50 trucks, each with 200 sensors, and each sensor sending data and even alarms about every one of the truck’s actions. “They were just getting flooded with alarms and couldn’t figure out what the priority was,” said Akhila. The company turned over all their data and gave Akhila eight weeks to build a running demo. And a business plan. “To top it all off, I was nine months pregnant and my baby was born one week after this project ended,” said Akhila. No problem.

She knew that Hitachi data scientists would use machine learning to sift and rank the alerts coming from the sensors. But the data scientists needed to understand mining and mechanical engineering. She also knew that a successful demo required expertise in big data, analytics, and an excellent user experience. And the whole effort needed expert project management to hit all the steps in just eight weeks. No problem, said Akhila as she contacted experts from across Hitachi to bring the right people to the project. “We started out with just 5 people and by the time we presented to the customer we had more than 30 people involved from 5 different Hitachi businesses.” The cross-company collaboration was crucial to meeting the customer’s criteria. “The big turning point was when Hitachi Mining Japan sent in their mining experts who broke down the customer’s problem for us,” said Akhila. “Until then, I think we were just shooting in the dark.”

Needless to say, the demo came together well and clearly showed how Hitachi could analyze and organize the mining company’s stream of operational data. The team built fine-tuned data models to help the operators make the best decisions in real time. It’s one of many successful engineering projects that Akhila has led.

How does she do it? Well, the best answer comes from Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. Akhila is a dedicated hiker and climbed Kilimanjaro a few years earlier. It’s a major five-day trek, which Akhila completed despite respiratory complications, extreme fatigue and altitude sickness at 19,000 feet. No problem. She met those challenges in the same way that she leads her engineering team: with preparation, mentorship, a positive outlook, self-belief and organization. By now we’re not surprised that she completed the climb and returned with personal inspiration and insights she shared with her colleagues. That mountain never stood a chance.

But Akhila’s real secret for the mining challenge was the team she rallied together. “Most of our story is about people. If we get the right team in place and find each member’s unique strengths, we can go against anything.” No problem.

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Hitachi Data Systems, Pentaho and Hitachi Insight Group have merged into one company: Hitachi Vantara.

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