Tech Innovation from the State of ZacatecasBy Jan Hogewoning | Fri, 01/15/2021 - 09:27
Q: How has the IT cluster evolved to reflect the potential of Zacatecas?
A: We are a small but specialized industry in Zacatecas. The cluster has 16 technology companies that are dedicated to a variety of areas, including development of tailored software, data, design of electronics and internet of things (IoT). The industries we work with include mining, the health sector and tourism. We also have some near-shore clients in other countries for which we build tailor-made solutions. Our cluster also has close relationships with local universities, providing them with information regarding the needs of the industry so that they can align their programs to that and train the necessary talent.
Q: What solutions has the cluster developed for the mining sector?
A: One of our companies, Zacsoft, developed a system -XControl-, which controls all the processes related to the use of explosives in mining. The system tracks and manages the arrival of explosives to storage and their further distribution. It optimizes the timing of the distribution of explosives in the mines. Explosives tracking and knowing who is handling them is very important. Apart from safety risks, mishandling explosives can lead to the cancelation of a permit or the imposition of fines. The Excontrol system is a registered intellectual property.
Companies like Industrias Peñoles, PLC and Capstone Gold are among those that are working with us. We are now also entering the area of management of combustibles. Furthermore, we offer security solutions for mining. Mining has specific security norms, not just related to theft but also industrial safety and tracking of personnel. Companies in the cluster are always looking at new technology concepts for mining and other important sectors such as medicine, automation, IoT and tailored innovative solutions.
Q: What project is emblematic of the successful work done outside of mining?
A: A number of companies in the cluster have been active in the development of a large platform to manage the state’s pension system. We also have companies that are doing very interesting things with telemetrics for the remote measurement of gas and electricity. Another company is working with major banks at the national level in information processing and data structuring.
Q: How are you contributing to the health sector?
A: COVID-19 has opened up many opportunities. As part of a social responsibility initiative, our companies created an initiative called Fuerza Zacatecas (Zacatecas Strong). We produced 14,500 face masks, which were distributed to the medical sector across the state before the pandemic arrived. These masks are produced using 3D laser printing. Later, we migrated to manufacturing laparoscopic cameras to help doctors to intubate patients more effectively. The market price for these cameras is US$25,000. We make them with our 3D printers for a fraction of the price. We also developed a ventilator. We would like to certify it for broad use but for now it is a working prototype. We also developed a system to administer ultraviolet shortwave radiation for disinfecting areas. We created an automated system that allows for controlled administration, while also generating a data report. It has been installed in Zacatecas’ COVID-19 hospital, in a room where suits, masks and other resources are disinfected. University of Zacatecas worked with on this initiative but we also work with the Technical University of the State of Zacatecas, Tec de Monterrey and others. It is also worth mentioning that our cluster has a strategic collaboration with a telemedicine company from Estonia.
Q: What technology have you developed for security?
A: We are developing systems that are based on IoT. They use cameras that can monitor, send alerts, record videos and much more. One example sector where these systems could be used is wind and solar energy. This sector has been very successful in the state, and most of the industry’s sites are practically operating autonomously. This kind of security can be useful to remain vigilant remotely.
Q: What other areas is the cluster interested in expanding or approaching?
A: In the automotive sector, a new industrial park is in the pipeline for Zacatecas, which will provide new opportunities to enter this industry.
Agriculture is another area of interest as projects emerge to automate certain work processes in the field. This is big area that we aim to develop, although there is some social resistance. Farmers are not always that open to technology, such as sensors that automate and collect valuable information, possibly substituting aspects of their work. Next year, we believe we will take big steps in this area. One company here has already made advances in the automation of greenhouse climate control.
Q: What alliances does the cluster have with other clusters?
A: We are part of the National Council for IT Clusters -MxTI-, which groups every IT cluster from around the country. Here in Zacatecas, we have a great deal of interaction with the mining cluster of Zacatecas, which is big and fully established. Furthermore, we have been working with the new tourism cluster here. We also interact with the Cluster of Sonora, which is active in the mining area. We exchange hardware and work together on cybersecurity issues.
Q: How supportive has the state government been for the cluster?
A: The state government has always been very open to our initiative and the current administration views tech as a priority, declaring IT sector as strategic from the bureau of economy. Funding may not always be available but we are looking more for space where tech companies can settle.
One big project that will help us is the construction of the new highway between Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, and further to Jalisco and Guanajuato, which will make the connection between these regions more efficient and reduce security risks. There is also the Quantum technology park. This is being coordinated by the Zacatecas Council of Science and Technology and involves multiple parties, including universities and a range of companies. At this site, the government is opening up spaces for things like labs to develop technology for mining and aerospace. The Centre of Training in Explosive Materials, called Terra, will also be located here.
IT Cluster of Zacatecas, also known as Clúster de TI Zacatecas, represent 16 technology companies in the state. Its objective is to grow the regional technology and contribute to a range of industries in areas such as software, IoT, data, electronics and Industry 4.0.