Using Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to Evaluate Technology Risks

Using Technology Readiness Level (TRL) to Evaluate Technology Risks

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When a plane is ready for commercial operations? when a spacecraft is ready to take off and discover Mars or go back to the moon? Is cryptocurrency ready to be fully implemented in your project? This is exactly what we'll talk about today. We'll talk about the technology readiness level or TRL. One of the biggest challenges we face today, it's when it's time for us to adopt new technology and use them in our project. For example, all of you have seen the Gartner Hype Cycle and this graphic shows how in fashion, if I can say technology is so there is this hype moment, then there is, I would say, some fading moments up to the technology is mature in terms of use and in terms of belief. But this is much more about how fashion is, how many people are talking about it.

But is the technology really ready to be implemented? Let's suppose you are doing software development or developing a new web tool. Should I use that language that was just released? Should I use a language that is a more stable development language, or should I use an alpha version that was just released? This is all about the concept of technology readiness level or TRL. This was developed in the seventies by NASA to exactly frame when a spacecraft or when a space operation is really ready to be implemented. After that, the European Union started using this and in 2013, it became an ISO norm. The TRL is divided into nine levels. The first level is the initial one where I would say the technology is still very cold until level nine when the technology is really ready to be implemented. And in this chart, I want just to

go and explain and give some examples related to the cost to achieve and the risks. So let's start with level one. Level one is when a basic principle is observed. This is absolutely in a scientific area.

So someone makes an observation or someone creates a like the paper on, on bitcoin, you create the idea and say, look, maybe this can work most of the time, these are paper-based studies showing the technology-based properties. And here are some papers, some studies are published at a conference and this. Of course, the cost to achieve is very low most of the time.

It comes from the brain; it comes from the study of the researcher. But at the same time, the risks that this will not work are extremely high. So my question to you is, should you use something that isn't such an embryonic state to develop your project? Probably not, because the risk is extremely high.

Then after this step. A technology concept is formulated when people take these scientific observations, and they envision applications. Or maybe this technology can be used in this new type of plastic or this technology can be used, for example, in a high-pressure container.

This is where people start to envision, okay, we can use the concept of blockchain for smart contracts. The concept of blockchain to cryptocurrency, it's when people start thinking, okay, maybe we can apply this in different things. And the examples are, of course, they are limited, they are analytical. The cost is still very low, it's in the research area and also the risks are extremely high. And what I want to show you.

Many times technologies, they just die here. They are born here and die here. They are born here and die even here. So I'm not saying that all technologies go up here, not at all.

Just the fraction of what starts in PRL one goes to the ninth and the third one. And the final step of this group that we call research, this exploratory area. It's the experimental proof of concept. It's when really active research, then when universities, they put a group of people, they put some resources and they start actively researching and development. Most of the time here they do this in the lab.

They try to research this in the lab. Okay, I want to study a new type of concrete. If the technology is at level three of this new concrete, should I use it to build my new house? Probably not. Why? Because the risk is still very high.

It's so new. That is very risky. And here it's a low cost.

It's not very low because, of course, here you are using labs. So you need to do some research. So probably you need some machinery, probably you need some software.

So in this case, in stages one, two, and three, you are on this research. So if I tell you that, okay, this new technology is on TRL2. What do you need to understand immediately is that someone is already thinking about potential applications of this technology. This is still on paper. People have no clue yet if this will become useful and the risks are very high people did not spend a huge amount of money on it. So when you see this, this level one, two and three, we are talking about research and this goes up to here and this is why I love this thermometer, because it goes from this red means you should not move forward because the risks are high up to, I would say, a dark orange here.

Now let's go to TRL number four. It's the technology validated in the lab. Look, this and include some measurements. But at the four we are validating, we are designing. We are creating some examples that may include an analysis of the technology and these results. They will provide some evidence that technology may achieve the performance you expect.

Just a simple example. Someone thought about a way of combining the elements to make concrete in a different way. So instead of using water, using something different, instead of water to create a lightweight and extremely strong concrete and cheap one. Then someone thinks, okay, what would be the potential use of that? Is it a benefit for society to have this concrete? What will be the key aspects of this? Then someone says, okay, let's start investigating the properties of this concrete.

This is stage three. Stage four, it's when someone says, okay, let's really put in the lab and validate it, Okay, let's produce a piece of the concrete, and let's compare this piece of the concrete, this new concrete with the concrete we already have. And let's see. Okay. Is it possible to achieve is it easy to make? Is there any side effect on this process? So these you are validating, but are you building something? No, not yet. You are doing more advanced research on that topic of level three, and this is the first stage of the development group. And of course now the cost, they are not extremely high, but they are far higher than these three.

And the risks go from extremely high here. I still have very decent risks than when you move to number five. It's when you validate the technology in the relevant environment. Relevant environment. This is the key aspect of TRL number five.

It's when the reliability of technologies increases dramatically and it involves the validation of the technology using simulation. So when you are really okay, let's test this concrete, let's put weight, let's see if the concrete resists, let's see if the weight is enough. Let's see if this concrete resists being applied in a bridge or in construction. Is it has the

performance, I expect on that? So now you are moving forward. And now look, you are starting to spend more money, right? You are starting to spend. And the risks, risks are still quite high. Number six is when you really start to increase your I would say your profile and your costs is when you start building a prototype. Let's suppose I'm building now a full house, a full bridge with that concrete. This is the time when Boeing or Airbus or Embraer, built a prototype and will display, for example, be used for commercial operations. No, but it's a plane

that must be able to fly, must be able to understand all the benefits of that design, that specific design, or that specific flight range. So here you are looking. The fidelity of the technology. And this is where prototypes are built. Let's stop here for a moment. And I want just to share one thing.

These three pieces here are under development are one of the most challenging phases. Why? Because here, it's cheap. So here people are not very concerned. It's cheap. The risk is high. But, you know, there is little money at the stake. But when you come here, the risks are still high.

But the money becomes quite relevant. Many, many organizations. They stop here. They do not reach here because they really struggle to find reasoning to spend this money while the risk is very high. And this is what we call technology valley. It's when there is a valley, a true valley.

Because here you do a lot. When things go up, I would talk later. It's easier because you have such confidence that this will work, that you move. But here you are not immature, so you need to spend money, but you are not ready. And many times the prototype will just

not work and then you will be in trouble. So this is where most of the development stops. Because this money, of course, is not like the money here, but it's a relevant one. If you are spending here $1 here you are spending 100 and here you are spending a million.

Did you see it? The problem is that here there is a 99. This is just empirical 99.999 chances. That you lose this $1 just for the research. This you are spending 100, and there is a 95% chance that it will not work. I'm talking about this low. And this you are spending 1 million, but then it's 50, or it's 40, or it's 30%.

So did you see how these reduce? These are just okay, I made up these numbers. I'm not talking on a scientific basis because it depends on the area. Okay. But then we go to the deployment, development, and deployment. Now things are really, really serious.

And then what do I do? I built a system model and a prototype to demonstrate this in an operational environment. I will put that plane to operate. I will send that. Okay. Let's suppose it's a spacecraft that is able to return. So I do, for example, a flight without the crew to see if everything goes well.

And I do this real test in an operation and through this are all lab, all lab, all prototype. But this is operational. It's a major step when you move from 6 to 7. Wow. It's a big, big step. For example, if you're talking about cryptocurrency, we're talking here about the basic principles ideas. Then people are thinking about the concepts.

Okay, I can apply this in smart contracts, then people try to study, okay, what kind of smart contract? What kind of technology? How I will organize the data to make sure that blockchain will be used and will be reliable? Then you validate this in the lab, then you start using this, and you create this small pilot as more prototypes in an area to test. Okay. Will the law accept that? Does this comply with the laws of my country, my area, or my sector, whatever. And then I say, okay, let's start operating this in that city or in that region. Have you seen, for example, when a software or a giant social media, they have a new feature, ok? A new feature, for example, Twitter wants to allow you to add your tweets. It started here with some ideas, and then people started.

Okay, let's see how we can develop this, and how we can organize the database. And probably at this current stage, I'm recording this video that the edit button is not widely available, but I know that some regions and some users are already doing this. What I'm doing here, I'm testing this in an operational environment. Many times when you for you that are listening to me and working on the software area, this is exactly what you do when you pilot this in a city or you pilot this with the product you want to test in an operational environment. And this will increase maturity.

Of course, when you do this, the cost is high. Why? Because when Twitter, for example, decides to roll out the edit function to a country like, for example, in France, the software in the coding must be almost ready. Maybe they're testing in France just to do some adjustments. So they already spent a lot to create that feature in the system. I'm just using this.

Or for example, let's suppose this will include a new technology to allow this added function. For example. Then you come here so the cost is high, but then the risks are very because when if you reach this point, it means you truly validated that new technology, for example, use AI to create, for example, for your company to automate your TikTok posts, then you already tested this many times. So here you are spending money, but you are reducing dramatically.

Imagine one thing In order to reduce the risk, you need to put money and you need to put that forth. There is no math. There is no there is no, you know, easy thing. For example, oh, I want to keep the cost low and reduce the risk. This does not happen in real life. Number eight. Then it's when the system is complete and qualified. So when the system is

is ready and qualified and all the knowledge generate from the previous level is now used to produce the actual system, the real the actual spacecraft, the actual production line of the new Boeing airplane or the new Airbus or the new airplane or the new cryptocurrency wallet that will be completely innovative. Then the cost is the highest. Why? Because, of course, here you are really building the thing you are really developing. It is not just here. For example, when you use design thinking to test the technology, for example, when you use design thinking and you build this mock-up with paper to see what will be the next phone you are talking about here.

You are talking number three. Number four. Number five. You are doing this here. You are really building the factory to sell the iPhone.

This is why it's the highest. And then on nine. Last but not least, it's the actual system is proven in an operational environment. So the system model is apt. The technology is ready to be operational, to be used and to be developed.

So other people, you can sell it or people can use it. For example, when you have the technology for the bank, For example, the automatic transfer of funds for those from Brazil using this is what we call the pix P.I.X, which is an automatic transfer of money. So the basic principle someone started how we can do that. Then they start validated, took years up to have these proven operational and widely available for our banks. And this is a change in technology. Of course, here.

What is the difference between high, highest, and high? I want this all very expensive. Talking about technology, I'm saying comparing to this. But this is the highest one because here you are using it, people are using it. So you are now almost, almost in the business as usual operation. You are just transitioned to that new technology. And this is where most of the money will come from.

Let's suppose that you are selling this technology and this is why I put from TRL1 that is the red light because you should never sell something. When the maturity is one unless you want to sell them a PowerPoint slide, Ok? You need to move up and then this red becomes yellow. And becomes green. This is where the sweet spot is why I recorded this video. Because when you are managing a project or developing a project, it's critically important that you want to say, okay, I want to use NFT. I want to use smart contract or I want to use anything on this Gartner Hype Cycle. I want to use

machine learning or a specific algorithm for machine learning. You need to understand how ready is this technology. Is it really? At the very early stage where it's very developed. And look, there is no miracle here. From here to here may take six months.

May take 100 years. Or may take forever. Maybe when you come here, you see, this does not work.

And. And it's over. And it's over. My final comment. Do not mix two concepts. Readiness and fit.

You may have a technology that is absolutely ready. TRL nine, that is not fit for your organization in your project. So do not think that because the TRL is high, That is a perfect fit. Fit is one thing. Fit is the amount that that technology will contribute and empower your business or your project. TRL is how much that specific technology is ready to be used by people.

Always think about that. Look, I hope you enjoy I hope you found this useful. It's very simple you can download this, you can download this on the link above. And this is free.

This is not my creation, the layout, But this is based on the Nasa document. And you can do and these are, I would say, the standards. But look, you can be creative if you are doing a lot of technology, you can be creative and maybe adapt this concept to be more close, for example, to your industry, if your industry is a chemical industry, etc. So I hope you enjoy it. This video and please, if you like, subscribe to the channel and hit the ball button.

I publish videos on project management strategy, implementation strategy, execution, risk management and I hope you enjoy it.

2022-11-05 01:25

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