Among the various crises facing humanity today, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change top the list, begging for solutions. While the pandemic’s onslaught necessitated immediate changes to how people live and work, climate change’s impact will likely be more profound in the near future. Virtuworx, an increasingly popular digital solution to remote working and collaboration developed by CG Tech’s The Virtulab, may be the answer companies are looking for.
Founded in 2016 by Niall Carroll, Jason English and a small group of partners, CG Tech is a multinational investment group that owns and directly manages various companies – located from Norway, through the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, to South Africa – that designs, engineers and project manages complex projects in a range of industrial and event-related sectors. Both Carroll, English and CG Tech’s leadership bring with them decades of investments, corporate, and operational expertise successfully garnered in South Africa.
CG Tech’s core strategy is to seek out established industries and utilize cutting-edge technologies to reimagine traditional business models for enhanced profits, whilst also having a positive impact on society. It is an approach that seems to have been working very well. For example, Prommac and New Age Engineering, two CG Tech companies led by CEOs Dany De Barros and Joseph Zinyana respectively, evolved from being small players in the Southern African oil, gas, and energy service sectors to becoming leading forces, collectively employing over 2,500 people and with annual revenues exceeding $US 50 million.
CG Tech initially focused on petrochemical, power, and construction with its companies New Age Engineering Solutions and Prommac Ltd, as well as the events industries in the Middle East through its acquisition of Al Laith Group, but is always looking for new opportunities to expand.
“We have never shied away from a challenge,” English asserted in a recent interview with Tech Times, and indeed the various pursuits by CG Tech clearly show the seriousness of that declaration, no more so than with its technology start-up, The Virtulab, co-founded by Jason English, helmed by Niall Carroll as its chairman, led by Managing Director David Cummins and supported by Chief Innovation Officer Wayne Stydom.
“At CG Tech we accept that we don’t know most things and understand that we are perpetually learning,” Carroll said in a separate interview with The London Economic. “The rate at which the world is changing is increasing. From new technologies to new business models, you have to make the effort to develop new expertise. And you have to find ways to do it fast, like we did with The Virtulab.”
“Having the perspective to see challenges across the sectors within which we operate, identifying common problems or synergies when they exist, and being able to respond swiftly in solving client problems, is what sets The Virtulab and other CG Tech companies apart,” Carroll added.
Established in 2015, the company that is today known as The Virtulab originally developed commercial applications for the then-emerging Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market by repurposing drone technologies away from the military to provide essential support services in the natural resources, rail and power generation sectors. The CG Tech leaders subsequently combined this capability with the digital visualisation, asset modelling and immersive training skills and assets that had been developed by the rest of the group, notably within Prommac, into a unified corporate entity. The Virtulab now has four main service offerings: Virtuservices, practical digital solutions for training and marketing; Virtuscan a visualisation portal for drone and ground-based data capture; Virtuplan, a powerful digital scene creation tool; and Virtuworx, an avatar-based remote work and collaboration platform particularly relevant to the current global environment
Naturally when the pandemic arrived and sowed chaos across the world, Carroll, English, Cumminsand the rest of the team at CG Tech saw opportunity rather than catastrophe.
“The CG Tech owners took a deliberate decision to remain positive, to support our staff, clients and suppliers as best we could, and to look at ways in which we could use our core skills imaginatively and effectively. While the pandemic devastated many communities and destroyed livelihoods, we cannot afford to be paralysed by uncertainty and have a responsibility to develop solutions to the challenges it has created,” stated Carroll.
According to Cummins, Virtuworx had its origins in the virtual reality-based training solutions that had been developed within Prommac over a few years by Wayne Strydom, currently The Virtulab’s Chief Innovation Officer. In 2019, Strydom and English had considered collaborating with a number of other avatar-based systems to expand the functionality of the in-house platform, but rapidly concluded that the group could produce a better product internally. Much of the underlying Virtuworx’s architecture and many of it’s digital assets had already been built by the time pandemic hit. As the world adapted to new ways of interacting, it became clear that CG Tech’s virtual reality platform had much wider applicability than merely a training tool.
“As the severity of the COVID situation started to become apparent, there was a feeling among the entire group that this product could not only answer some very important long term issues faced by business and employees, namely Time Saving, Cost Reduction, and Carbon Footprint reduction, but that this product could help and assist in the now, during the very difficult times faced by all of us around the world due to the pandemic,” Cummins elaborated.
Cummins and Strydom rapidly expanded the development team around the globe with a singular goal of building a scalable, feature-rich platform. Within six months, overcoming long hours and minimal time off, the team achieved that goal, and Virtuworx was born.
According to The Virtulab’s website, Virtuworx is an avatar-based platform that combines virtual reality and mixed reality environments. It is fully customisable to the needs of clients, whether they desire virtual training and education, virtual offices and meetings, or even virtual events and conferences. The platform provides companies the ability to explore various options in making remote working more productive and engaging for their employees, employers and clients.
Virtuworx taps into a growing global augmented and virtual reality market that is forecast to grow by a CAGR rate of 42.9% within the decade. Moreover, the pandemic is likely to permanently alter work patterns, with Bill Gates recently predicting a 50% structural reduction in business travel and a 30% fall in demand for office space. Virtuworx’s avatar-based virtual environment provides precisely what the market needs, giving companies the ability to create and use a digital twin of their physical office, or even create an imaginary virtual space unshackled by reality’s limitations, for example on another planet or at the bottom of the ocean. Whatever a client’s requirement, The Virtulab team can build it.
Within a few months of seeing the platform in action, Cummins noted, Virtuworx recently showcased its capabilities by hosting the first virtual reality-based TEDx event (TEDxLytteltonWomen). Impressive on many levels, and a concrete indicator of a creative and relevant solution to a global market need.
The journey for Virtuworx, powered by The Virtulab and CG Tech, is only just beginning; it’s ultimate fate expressed by one very simple question: Have you logged onto the platform yet?
The collection of business within the CG Tech group allows us to share learnings and ideas with each other, sparking collective investments into research and development of new products and services which would not normally have been created.
The technology arm of the CG Tech group, The Virtulab, has allowed me to grow the reputation of Prommac as a digital business in a traditional industry, and we have been able to transform at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing these services.
As the youngest leader in the group, the collective knowledge of leadership has helped me grow personally by engaging with great business leaders who have been there, done that and have shared their experiences with me.
The CG Tech team has helped us raise capital and fund growth using the know how and experience of the collective group. The spread of skill sets between Accountants, M&A Experts, Operational Specialists, Metallurgy Specialists has helped me shape my business for the future.