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Insights Developing software to redefine the way engineers work

As part of our #PeopleDriveResults campaign, this week we have caught up with Santhosh Kumar, our lead for the innovation and automation team at the Global Technology Centre (GTC) in India.

image of Santhosh and his team

Tell us a little bit about your professional background and your current role as technical director in the Digital team in India?

I have more than 22 years of experience in software development, building innovative automation solutions starting from chip designs for high definition setup boxes, to automating and improving x-ray film production quality in the Kodak factory.

My learning and growth experience throughout my career is very diverse. At AtkinsRéalis , I’m currently leading the innovation and automation team at the Global Technology Centre (GTC), helping to redefine and change the way engineers work.

What inspired you to become an engineer?

As a kid, I accompanied my father to the factory and watched him work on heavy equipment. It intrigued me so much, I knew that I wanted to become an engineer. Initially, my engineering interest was predominantly on vehicles and understanding engines. I was fascinated by the physics behind the four-stroke engines. During high school, electrical engineering, or the electrical subtopic, became a key part of my interest area, simply because it was easy to exhibit for school projects. I also found it interesting and exciting to showcase innovations.

Interestingly, I chose electrical engineering as my specialization in my first year of engineering but switched to computer science, as I became fascinated with algorithms. Firstly, computer science improved my logical thinking, and secondly, it enabled me to innovate using a single click of a button, sitting in a remote place and managing things outside of my physical location or boundary.

I’m happy that I made that decision because that’s my passion, interest and strength.

What is the coolest thing you are working on?

I’m currently exploring blockchain to understand how we can apply its technologies to solve our engineering problems, like our financial invoicing and reconciliation issues. I’m working with the project management office (PMO) team to see if we can apply blockchain technologies to improve the quality of data that comes in for insights and analysis.

While blockchain is more like a hobby or technology exploration, digital twin is the most exciting for me. Two years ago, we started working on capturing and automating drone images for generating a BIM model engineers can use to increase the level of details. We did some experiments with drones at our RMZ office in Bengaluru and automated the process of creating BIM model. This was an exciting beginning, as we now apply this to different projects such as the King Abdullah Financial District in the Middle East and Thames Water in the UK. For Thames Water, our certified team in the UK captured images using drones and we converted these to 3D interactive applications for users familiarize themselves with the environments. Then we converted these into BIM models, creating a digital twin.

Another cool technology our team in GTC has developed and launched, as well as benefitted from during the early stages of the pandemic, is ASSIST. The first-of-its-kind tool for AtkinsRéalis applies enterprise-scale microservices architecture to develop, deliver and automate a digital inspection tool survey, including an inspection tool that can also generate reports. This is currently live and being used by many of our clients.

At present, some of our team members are also experimenting with geospatial aspects of engineering design. We did a proof of concept in the early bit stage for Denver International Airport where we showcased different design options and their impacts on the engineering and construction processes using geospatial mapping.

What is the best advice you were ever given? Who was it from?

This was from my very early days at WIPRO where I had the opportunity to interact with Azim Premji. He told me, “Don’t do anything you’re afraid to publish in the newspaper.” This had a big impact on my career. It not only made me focus on integrity in everything I did, but also enthused me with the right passion. This quote from Mr. Premji has been my steppingstone throughout my career, guiding me in this journey.

Recently you’ve been appointed as one of the Atkins fellows. What are some of the key responsibilities that you have as a fellow?

It’s a great honour to be the first Atkins fellow from GTC. I think being a fellow enables me to share the GTC’s technological innovations or voice concerns in a global forum within the EDPM network. It will allow me to showcase the advancements in technology and adoptions across GTC. I am also confident that I’ll be able to push forward the digital agenda much more effectively in a global role, allowing us to standardize the adoptions of some of the best practices we have been performing in GTC.

Being a fellow also allows me to experiment and innovate. I can collaborate with industry partners to jointly solve a problem. I can partner with the universities to look at some of the challenges we’re facing, for which we currently don’t have a solution. These are the two aspects of being a fellow that I plan to take forward.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself?

I think my team members make fun of me for my love for coding. I quite agree with the quote that says, “Code is a ground reality.” During my weekends or whenever I find time, I code and develop gaming applications for my nephews because they are so addicted to games. I do this to give them something fun and to break the monotony of games that are out there on the market.