Top 15 Automation and Industrial Internet Stories in 2015

It’s that time of year again where we take a moment to reflect on the year that’s quickly coming to a close.

If you haven’t already, check out our Year in Review for 2015. We highlight some of the biggest changes we’ve experienced this year, as well as a photo gallery from just a few of our favorite moments from 2015.

But that’s not all that’s worth reflecting upon.

While you’re at it, check out the top 15 automation, Industrial Internet, cyber security, and technology articles from the start of 2015 all the way to the end.

What’s Your Industrial Internet Score?

This one’s for the competitive folks out there.

Thanks to the GE Automation “Industrial Internet Evaluator,” you can discover your own Industrial Internet score.

Not only will it score you on your knowledge, it can help you gauge your progress in the analytic adoption path of the Industrial Internet You can also compare your results to your peers when you complete the process.

Happy scoring.

Read More

A Love Letter to Water

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District confessed their love for clean water in the form of a video right in time for Valentine’s Day with the description: “A love like this is often hard to put into words. Water, please allow us to try. #LoveCleanWater”

The love letter starts with a simple declaration “you and I have ebbs and flows, ups and downs, and waves of affection,” and while it may sound silly at first, the sewer district makes some great points.

Without proper treatment, life would be a lot different. Clean water is a precious gift, and one that often gets taken for granted.

A Eulogy for Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s marketing chief announced  back in March that the company will be “laying our longtime pal to rest upon the forthcoming release of Windows 10, which will feature a browser with another name,” according to an article published in Newsweek.

Paul Meija pokes a little harmless fun at the browser and writes from the point of view of an old friend politely saying some last words at IE’s funeral.

It’s successor, Project Spartan, will be included with the official release of Windows 10. It is said to include page annotation, extension support, and the integration of Microsoft’s Cortana.
Read More

Mobile Trends of 2015

What does “going online” or “browsing online” mean to you? Do you conjure up an image of accessing a PC or a laptop? Or do you see yourself pulling your smartphone out of your pocket to access the web?

According to an April  report done by Pew Research, that seems to be the reality these days. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all Americans now own a smartphone, up 35% from 2011.

Read More

IoT Inside Grain Operations

Even in this age, when you think about grain operations, your first thought probably isn’t the Internet of Things or cloud-based systems. But according to an Automation World article published in June, that’s the reality for Riceland Foods grain facility in Jonesboro, AK.

Their system “is designed to provide continuous monitoring and actionable information to help operators proactively prevent problems by managing both grain and equipment conditions,” and combines TempuTech system with GE’s Equipment Insight for data collection and analysis.

The data transmission and analysis tools allow information to be accessed online, on site, remotely and by operators or company managers at all times.

Read More

How to Avoid Becoming Extinct as Tech Changes

Howard Tullman uses the image of a modern Best Buy store to illustrate how technology is quickly on its way in and, on the other side, on its way out in the article published in the Chicago Tribune.

Read More

Moving Towards the Industrial Internet

According to GE and Accenture Research, executives and leaders across industries are now beginning to see the importance of harnessing the Industrial Internet. Together, they released this infographic detailing the statistics and figures behind it:


If a Dishwasher Can Talk– Why not an Operator Interface?

Vibhoosh Gupta, Product Management Leader at GE Automation, bought a new dishwasher back in June. But it wasn’t its dish cleaning power that took him by surprise– it was its ability to remotely monitor its status and report back to the manufacturer. A feature like this in a simple, home appliance can save many headaches for homeowners.

Imagine eliminating those frustrating, troubleshooting calls altogether. Gupta asked, if we can troubleshoot a common home appliance, why can’t we do this (better) for a plants or utilities?

Read More

3 Ways the IoT Will Change Every Business

By now we’ve probably all heard how the Internet of Things will be a part of our lives one way or another in the next 3-5 years or so. Wearables, activity trackers, thermostats or even lights in your home that can be controlled with a smartphone are a step in that direction.

But with all the predictions out there about everyday life changing with the onset of the IoT, Bernard Marr of Forbes points out that it’s really going to change business “at a fundamental level.”

Read More

Do We Need Our Own Cyber Security Protection Plan?

Data breaches at large entities like retail stores, banks, or government agencies have led many into cybersecurity solutions and programs. But does this mean we need our own, individual cyber security plan as an everyday citizen?

Priya Anand of The Wall Street Journal discussed the possibility in an article back in September.

Read More

Big Oil Taps Big DataPipeline-Longwatch

Even the oil and gas sector has realized the benefits from big data and analytics.  of Fortune said in a recent article that the “plummeting” oil prices have forced energy companies to focus on increasing efficiency with technology.

Fehrenbacher said that sensors are a big part of that refocus– from smarter pumps to drilling systems, sensors in a digital oilfield are helping to produce loads of information.

Read More

Cybersecurity Fears Prompt the Navy to Navigate by the Stars Again

In a time where technologies such as smart fridges, self-driving cars, and 3D printing are the norm, The United States Naval Academy is beginning to teach celestial navigation once again, according to the Capital Gazette.

The practice fell out of use about 20 years ago, thanks to advances in radio wave and GPS navigation. But it’s not nostalgia that’s making the Annapolis school teach the outdated navigation once again. It’s cybersecurity qualms.

The fear of cyber attacks has the Navy running back to the technique, using instruments to measure the angles between astronomical objects– stars, planets, asteroids.

Read More

The Unsung Hero of Eliminating Unplanned Downtime: HMI/SCADA

Unsung hero (noun). One who does great deeds but receives little or no recognition for them.

While in the midst of a changing industry, data revolution, and shift to focusing on operational efficiency, it’s no surprise that something like the HMI/SCADA landscape could be overlooked as the driving force behind efficiency.

In fact, in a guest post for ISA Interchange this October, Matt Wells, general manager of Automation Software Solutions at GE Digital declared HMI/SCADA as the unsung hero of eliminating unplanned downtime.

Read More

The Human-Centric Internet of Things

The Internet of Things.

Bloggers write about it, Gartner analysts research its future impact, and others discuss it over coffee with colleagues.

Whether it seems likely now or not, Gartner said that by 2020 there will be 25 billion connected things.

Many industry leaders have their concerns. But apprehension isn’t the only emotion tied to the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, H. James WilsonBaiju Shah, and Brian Whipple of Harvard Business Review said back in November, that a more human-centric side of the IoT is beginning to gain popularity.

Read More

How 3D Printing is Transforming Industry

Remember that scene in “Back to the Future Part II” where the future McFly family prepares dinner by “hydrating” a tiny, dense circle into an entire pizza? In mere minutes, they’re all happily devouring food from the future.


This appliance might have seemed impossible back in 1989 when the film premiered, but thanks to today’s 3D printing technology, it’s becoming more of a reality.

In fact, an Automation World article from November detailed the future of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, in the food industry. And yes, “printing” pizza is a possibility.

Enter Foodini, by Natural Machines– a 3D food printer that makes pizza, pasta, breads, and cookies. Does making ravioli from scratch sound daunting? The creators of Natural Machines suggest to simply load the dough and filling and let Foodini print the pasta for you.

Read More

Looking Back on 2015: A Year in Review

It’s going to be 2016 soon. Can you believe it?

It feels like we were just unpacking boxes in our new office, or catching the ferry for PIB 2015.

Soon we’ll have to get used to writing “2016” everywhere — or if you’re like some people, crossing out the previous year and scrawling in the correct one for the first few months.

Either way, it’s the time of year when we take a moment to pause and reflect on 2015.

So before we turn the page to 2016, here’s a recap of just some of the most important things that happened this past year.

2015 Year in Review

2015 Year in Review

Year in Pictures
Check out our photo gallery featuring moments from 2015

Our New Home

Quite possibly one of the biggest changes in 2015, or at least the most palpable, was our move to Warrendale, PA.

Gray Matter Systems New HQ

Our new headquarters in Warrendale, PA.

Back in July, we relocated our Pittsburgh headquarters to a state-of-the-art, Class-G green-certified office building about 18 miles north of the city.

Our consistent growth as a company led to the need for a bigger space—complete with conference rooms, a center of excellence, and a brainstorming area that’s home to the office foosball table.

The 223-acre Innovation Ridge Advanced Technology and Office Park also has some great views of a wooded area full of Western PA wildlife. In fact, it’s not extremely uncommon to pass a pack of turkeys or a couple of deer on the way to work in the morning.

Of course, this move meant leaving Sewickley—the walkable, suburban community we’ve been a part of since 1991. Whether you worked in the 2,000-square-foot house on Thorn Street or in the office space just across the street, Gray Matter employees loved to walk to the local Starbucks or grab a quick lunch at the Sharp Edge. The truth is, we had a great time in Sewickley, but it was time to begin our next chapter.

Office Thanksgiving 2015: The first in our new home in Warrendale.

Office Thanksgiving 2015: The first in our new home in Warrendale.

The move to the Warrendale office marks the first time in the company’s recent history that Gray Matter’s corporate staff is housed in the same space. This is perhaps the biggest benefit we have seen so far as a result of the move.

Evidence of this can be seen as we gathered into the center for Office Thanksgiving for the first time—taking a beloved tradition and celebrating it in our new home.

As Gray Matter Systems President and CEO James Gillespie said, the move “signifies an important next step in the progression of Gray Matter’s story.”

“The expansion was a big step for Gray Matter Systems,” Gillespie said in a July press release at the time of the move. “We’ve expanded our operations significantly in the United States and Canada in the past decade, but Pittsburgh has been our home since 1991.”

Sewickley was an important part of our history, but we’re excited to see where the next chapter leads.

The Gray Matter Family Grows

Of course, a new headquarters means new additions to the Gray Matter team.

Alan Hinchman and Coleman Easterly

Alan Hinchman and Coleman Easterly

We welcomed Alan Hinchman and Coleman Easterly, two veteran automation professionals with a combined 50 years of experience, as each heads up the water/wastewater and manufacturing execution (MES) divisions, respectively.

Hinchman and Easterly previously held executive leadership roles at GE, managing global strategic sales and marketing initiatives for the company’s Intelligent Platforms division. As thought leaders in their respective industry, both have authored dozens of white papers and case studies, published articles in industry magazines, and are frequent speakers at local, regional, and national conferences around the country.

VP Carson Drake and Andrew Drake of professional services team, working together & solving problems  as father and son.

VP Carson Drake and Andrew Drake of professional services team, working together & solving problems as father and son.

We also expanded the marketing team, added numerous members to the professional services team, and welcomed more sales professionals.

And we’re not done. See who we are on our new and improved careers and core values pages on our website. At the end of 2015, we worked hard to better illustrate who we are, what we do, and the values we uphold.

We also made it clear what it’s like to work at Gray Matter– that is, what it’s like to be doing some of the most important work out there while having fun doing it. Check out the new core values page and our working at Gray Matter page.

Put-in-Bay 2015: Our Annual User Group Meeting

For over 20 years, we’ve had the benefit of seeing so many different sides to our biggest event of the year, the annual user group meeting at Put-in-Bay, OH.

There’s the hard work the entire Gray Matter Systems team puts into preparation, which actually starts the week after the event ends for the next year. The type of hard work that brings the team together as it gets closer to August, closer to the event.

Gray Matter Systems Director of HR and Operations Mandy Urey wrote a lot about her experiences on the island. She’s no stranger to Gray Matter’s annual meeting – she joined the team in 2011 – and wrote that her favorite part of the event is the relationships our attendees form when they get together.

“I see people from different backgrounds catch the early ferry in a rush to get to the island and back in touch with the people they met last year,” Mandy said. “I see an operator from a Houston-based steel company walking through the tabletop trade show, talking excitedly about a new solution with the guy he met last year that works in a water plant just east of Cincinnati. In any other situation, these two people probably would pass each other on the street without thinking twice about each other’s situation but here at our event, they find common ground.”

Trade Show night at our annual user group meeting, PIB 2015

Trade Show night at our annual user group meeting, PIB 2015

Even with numerous industries and varied skill levels, it’s amazing how these professionals with such different backgrounds connect and interact with great enthusiasm.

These one-of-kind interactions may be some of Mandy’s favorite memories from PIB, but there’s even more value to be had.

We kick off PIB at the trade show where many of our vendors set up booths and demos to showcase new products and solutions that would be the most beneficial for the attendees. And sure, there are other trade shows and conferences people can attend, but what makes ours unique is the ability to talk to the people that are literally behind the products.

Then there’s the keynote address. This year, our Vice President, Carson Drake and Jeremiah Stone, GE Intelligent Platforms General Manager of Industrial Data Intelligence, gave us a glimpse into the future of automation and technology.

PIB 2015 keynote speaker, Jeremiah Stone of GE Intelligent Platforms

PIB 2015 keynote speaker, Jeremiah Stone of GE Intelligent Platforms

Of course, it’s not PIB without our many breakout sessions—from best practices to better alarm management with our own senior engineer, Bill Weed, to JMC Steel Group’s story of plant floor to SAP integration. It’s important to us to share success stories while learning from our peers.

And these peers hailed from places as far as Alberta, Dallas, TX and Orlando, FL or as close as Cincinnati, OH. There were old friends and brand-new faces alike—all with a great story to share.

We’re already looking forward to next year, and we hope you are too. Mark your calendars and tune your guitars – we’re heading back to the island August 9-11, 2016 for PIB 2016.

We Did Some Cool Things, Went Cool Places, and Met Some Interesting People Along the Way

This October, our CEO and president, James Gillespie, and vice president, Carson Drake traveled to San Francisco to attend GE’s fourth annual Minds + Machines event. It was host to about 1,000 developers, thought leaders, partners, media, and specifically focused on the state of the Industrial Internet.

Our friends Bill Fritz, Director of Public Works at Waterford Township, Todd Williams, VP of Leidos Engineering, Benoit Lapensee of Cascades Tissue Group, Peter McCabe of GE Transportation, and Mark Tudor of Eaton Corporation were even featured speakers at the event.

In addition, GE Intelligent Platforms VP and GM Jim Walsh sat down with Jim Fortner, VP of global business services for Procter & Gamble to talk revolutionizing 21st century infrastructure—specifically, how the Industrial Internet is transforming the manufacturing space. You can watch the entire discussion here.


Bronze statue of Scottish philospher David Hume

In May, Gray Matter’s Mike Manzi and Dan Misener traveled to Livingston, Scotland to work with some key customers. While there Mike and Dan did some sight-seeing.

While on their tour, they encountered the massive statue of 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume. Time had tarnished nearly all of the statue a dull green with the exception of Hume’s big toe, which shines brightly as if it had been polished diligently with every passing day.

“[It’s] because Hume’s admirers, proud of their skepticism, come from around the world to pay tribute and—get this—rub his toe for luck,” Mike explained. “Luck which, according to their own philosophy, doesn’t exist.”


Gray Matter VP Kemell Kassim formalizes a partnership with RealWorld Systems in Frankfurt this June.

Gray Matter Systems VP Kemell Kassim did a bit of international traveling as well this year. Most notably, Kemell traveled to the GE Digital Energy Software Summit in Frankfurt, Germany this June.

While there, Kemell signed a formal partnership with Realworld Systems.

It was one partnership among many we made in 2015, which includes GE Oil and Gas (Bently Nevada), GE Grid Solutions (formerly GE Digital Energy), BitStew, and Predixion.

We also attended plenty of trade shows and conferences this year. From the industries of water/wastewater to oil and gas, Gray Matter Systems was represented in Florida, Ohio, Texas, and provinces of Canada.

Branko Radulovic of our Quebec team met his doppelgänger and former Penguin, Mario Lemieux, in Pittsburgh airport

Branko Radulovic of our Quebec team met his doppelgänger and former Penguin, Mario Lemieux, in Pittsburgh airport

Our director of professional services, John Benitz, had the exciting opportunity of contributing in the development of the ANSI/ISA-101.01-2015 standard, Human Machine Interfaces for Process Automation Systems.

The standard serves as an exhaustive set of guidelines created to help organizations design, build, and operate effective HMIs. According to the authors, the primary purpose of the standard (and its accompanying technical reports) is to “help users understand the basic concepts” of an HMI and “more readily accept the style of human-machine interface that the standard recommends.”

If you’re interested in learning more about the standard, read Benitz’s blog post, “4 Things You Need to Know About ISA 101 HMI Standard.

Using Big Data to Predict Crime Patterns

If data experts are using big data to predict weather patterns, why would forecasting crime be any different?

According to a recent BBC iWonder post, police in both Los Angeles and Manchester ran similar trials using a computer algorithm to predict where crime would take place. Their goal was to find patterns in criminal behavior by analyzing large amounts of crime data in hopes to eventually prevent crime– a term called “predictive policing.”

Here’s how it works, according to the BBC report.

Using a hypothetical case study based on actual patterns found in the data, researchers at University College London pinpoint a location where a crime takes place– for example, a house is burgled in a suburb.houses

The risk of more burglaries now extends to houses in the immediate area, with the highest threat level within about 220 yards. In fact, research showed that the risk is greater on the same side of the road where the original burglary occurred. The risk of further crime continues within two weeks, but dissipates as time goes on.

Let’s say another crime happens in the same area. The risk now spreads out from both the original location and the new one– meaning police can now focus specifically where they intersect.

Now, if predictive policing sounds like a familiar movie plot–the 2002 film, “Minority Report,” anyone?– don’t panic.

According to Slate Magazine, Jeffrey Brantingham,  anthropology professor at UCLA and partner to the LAPD research team, assures us it’s nothing like Tom Cruise’s character arresting people for “pre-crime.”

“This is not about predicting the behavior of a specific individual,” said Brantingham in the article. “It’s about predicting the risk of certain types of crimes in time and space.”

Christopher Beam, author of the Slate article, said that the idea behind predictive policing is that while some crime is random, a lot is not.

And while plenty of people think that a burglarized house is like like lightning– it never strikes twice– the previous example illustrates the exact opposite. In many cases, houses in close proximity are at a higher risk.

“That doesn’t mean police can prevent every kind of crime—only the more predictable kinds, like burglary or auto theft,” said Beam. “And even then, some robberies could be truly random. But predictive policing could reduce crime on the margins, according to the UCLA researchers.”

So, does it work? According to the BBC, in instances where specific patterns are exhibited, it’s helping to cut down on crime. In fact, Manchester police noticed a 26.6% decline in burglaries in 2011.

Of course, more trials are needed for an even more accurate analysis. According to the article, Rachel Tuffin, director of research at the College of Policing said there are plans for further research, and we could expect more published findings this year.

And here are some other notable stories from this week: 

Big Data is Now a Top Management Issue

According to a Forbes article from this past week,  a new report from Economist Intelligence Unit has shown that big data is “moving from its infancy to ‘data adolescence,’ in which companies are increasingly meeting the challenges of a data-driven world.”

The report said that in the past 5 years, more and more companies have begun treating their data as a “strategic corporate asset.” And not just any data, the data that can help solve problems and address certain areas.

Because of this, the report said that data strategy is becoming much more of a priority for those in a leadership position.

“Data strategy has been elevated to the C-level, usually centralized with a CIO/CTO or a newly-appointed Chief Data Officer (CDO). Outside that position, executives across the board are more likely to be in charge of their departments’ particular data initiatives and instrumental in putting those resources to use.”

The Internet of Things Market

According to a recent press release, the industrial space has a hold on the top market share in the Internet of Things (IoT) market.

Here’s some fast facts from the report:

  • The healthcare and consumer electronics sector is the fastest growing in the IoT market
  • In 2014, the automotive industry is the second largest application segment in the global IoT market
  • North America represents the largest market share, and is the largest revenue share in the global market
  • The rapid growth of industrial, automotive and healthcare industries is the major factors driving the growth in North America 

Read the full report here.

Raspberry Pi’s $5 Computer Sold Out in Flash

Raspberry Pi, the credit card-sized, single-board computer series, has been pushing down the cost of computers for years in the pursuit of teaching basic computer science in an affordable way.

But over Thanksgiving weekend the foundation released their newest model, Raspberry Pi Zero, at an all-time low price of $5– roughly the price of a large latte.

It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise then that the model sold out in the same day, according to Popular Mechanics. That’s about 20,000 of the initial run.

​”You’d think we’d be used to it by now, but we’re always amazed by the level of interest in new Raspberry Pi products,” Eben Upton, founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, told Wired.​ 

Media We Link To:

“Can big data help us predict where crime will strike?” – BBC 

“Time Cops: Can police really predict crime before it happens?” – Slate Magazine

“Big Data: Now A Top Management Issue” – Forbes

“Internet of Things Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2015 – 2021” – PR Newswire

 “Raspberry Pi’s Dirt-Cheap $5 Computer Sold Out in a Flash” – Popular Mechanics 


Contact GrayMatter

Get in touch with us!