Pulling Needles out of Your Data Haystack

3 steps to act on data you’re already collecting. 

The Impossible is Now Possible

Industry 4.0 is moving fast and I’d like to let you in on a few very valuable developments about the data you’ve been collecting. It can now help you make better decisions. You can talk to your industrial data and it’s talking back to you, letting you know what’s working inside your operation and what’s not.

It’s exciting for me to see GrayMatter and our partners innovating by taking the data you’ve been collecting through sensors on industrial equipment and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning in the cloud so you can find insights on performance. Then you know exactly where to make improvements.

You need a system to sort through the haystack of data and pull needles out to focus your subject matter experts. That’s what we can do now.

It all starts by framing up the action strategy in three parts.

Step One: Set Your Goals

Start at the end and work backwards.

What return on investment do you want to see? You don’t need all the data you think you need. What information will help you solve the problems you want to solve? What’s the path to getting there? Having this roadmap first is critical, because otherwise a lot of time and money can be wasted.

Step Two: Start Creating Digital Twins

You hear the term digital twin, but what does it really mean?

Simply put, creating a digital twin is the process of merging physical and digital worlds.

The process takes a physical machine and uses technology to get all the information about past states, present states and predictions. That information creates a digital model that’s alive – taking in a stream of data – using that to adjust so the model is personalized to be a precise representation of the asset.

The software version is used for what used to be a physical inspection – requiring people to be right next to the machine. The virtual version can be done from anywhere and at any time, expanding the value of those inspections and allowing them to have more of a real-time impact. It creates a constant inspection that allows the operators to predict failures sooner.

Digital Twin Value

The digital model of a machine, built and run in a virtual environment used to be available only to the biggest companies with the largest budgets. But the Industrial Internet and an explosion in sensor technology have lowered the cost and broadened the access beyond the elite.

pulling needles out of data haystack

People are not only connected to people, they’re connected to every kind of device at home and now work. Manufacturers stand to win big from this. Factory floors are outfitted with tremendous amounts of sensors to collect data, but because that data has been locked up it hasn’t provided value.

The digital twin allows us to unlock that data and not just for one asset at a time. We can now model machines in groups – for example, a machine builder with thousands of machines installed across hundreds of customers – will now be able to operate best in class using digital twins.

There’s potential to unleash productivity and efficiencies like we’ve never seen before.

Step Three: Get Behavioral Information from Digital Twins

In order to move to more advanced use cases, such as adaptive diagnostics, condition-based maintenance or predictive failure, Industrial IoT systems need to know more than simply the current device state.

They need to know why. Knowing current device state only helps from a monitoring standpoint.  While important, it’s really just the beginning of what we can expect out of IIoT systems. If we know why an asset exhibits a certain state, we can determine what conditions lead to that state and take proactive steps to prevent future occurrences. 

This new layer of getting insight through behavioral information allows you to ask for more. You can search your data and get answers back right away. It’s like an instant messenger for operational technology.

Step Four – Get Digital Twins to Interact

Achieving this may mean digital twins built using multiple discrete machine learning algorithms potentially spread across multiple IoT platforms, not simply relying on one. Eventually, we should expect that digital twins will interact with one another in virtual space.

Leap Ahead

If you’re short on time, staffing or budget – GrayMatter can get you up and running to achieve value quickly. You know you need an Iot strategy in the near future, but may not know how to go about it. Rather than trying to design, source and build it yourself we can put the strategy in place in days or weeks.

You also don’t have to do everything at once, you can start with a limited selection of assets and scale up or down as you learn performance and asset behaviors.

Our strategy is a Salesforce version of a remote monitoring and diagnostics center that you can buy and implement incrementally.

GrayMatter’s Digital Twin Strategy

We use data, predictive capabilities and machine learning to identify your best and worst performers in each asset group. Your operators are automatically alerted to the worst performers, then they use an intuitive web interface, to turn the worst into the best.

Continuous improvement becomes expected, simplified, and routine. As your team builds new improvements or optimized settings, they can be scaled out, automatically, to every instance of a specific machine or piece of equipment.

You Don’t Need a Data Scientist

The complex algorithms that can leverage your data are pre-built so anyone can start creating the models and analytics to generate insights. One person no longer holds the keys to data, with this unique platform everyone gets a better understanding of your businesses processes, so you’re not focusing on the math to bring the insight, you’re focusing on creating better outcomes for your customers.

Think Big, Start Fast

You need to think big to truly transform your organization, but you also have to start acting on your data today.

We’re anxious to spread the word about how easy this is and to un-complicate it for you. Let me know if you’d like to discuss further.

– Jim Gillespie, GrayMatter CEO.

Click to download the case study to start acting on your data:

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How IIoT is Revolutionizing Utilities

This post originally appeared in TechCrunch. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is creating huge opportunities in the water and wastewater industries, adding value to both the utility and the consumer. Connected machines are reshaping the way these utilities operate, allowing them to make smarter and more informed decisions.

By driving up innovation, water utilities are driving down cost. Here’s what they’re up to.

Treating water and wastewater requires chemical processes that can now be monitored more accurately using digital data collection.

These digital transformations are taking the guesswork out of chemical processing and allow utilities to optimize the amount of chlorine dollars spent to maintain safe levels — saving time, money and empowering operators to make fewer mistakes.

IIoT and Wastewater Clarification

Another IIoT development, a new SaaS application will calculate wastewater clarifier tank performance — providing quick analysis on a critical step in the wastewater process. The tool, called ClariFind, alerts utilities as they’re getting close to a failure before they experience it.

ClariFind will predict when sludge will overflow and be released. This kind of problem causes EPA issues and fines that can run in the millions of dollars. It will also be able to predict a thickening failure, which is when the effluent doesn’t settle correctly and creates a costly sludge blanket in the tank. ClariFind is just one part of a water operations suite of productivity enhancers — solutions as a service.

Predictive analytics are also solving monitoring problems that were not previously possible for utilities. For example, there are a large number of pumps that are commonly found within water facilities, and digitized data is making it possible for companies to accurately predict when these pumps might fail — ahead of time. It’s similar to the predictive analytic technology used in jet engine checks between airline flights.

This cloud-based application easily connects to pumps and helps companies avoid costly and inconvenient failures, allowing engineers to schedule controlled maintenance rather than reactive maintenance.

Concepts are in the works to apply this type of predictive technology to residential properties as well, in order to help home owners and property managers predict sump pump failures, for instance, before the basement floods. This technology will be a must-have asset for seasonal homes that don’t have inhabitants year-round. Utilities are leading the way in pilot stages for this type of residential technology.

Partnerships between technology companies and utility companies are facilitating innovation.

Safety procedures are also being monitored and enforced more closely by keeping track of them using digitized technology. In Florida, the water division of the Orlando Utilities Commission is using IIoT technology to remind employees of protocol procedures when dangerous chlorine leaks are detected. The safety procedure is sent to a worker’s device to be confirmed before access to the contaminated area is granted.

Both private companies and government agencies are utilizing IIoT technology to increase efficiency and profitability in water. GE has launched an industrial platform called Predix, a cloud-based platform as a service (PaaS) that enables asset performance management on an industrial scale. For water utilities, Predix will help utilities organize time-series data to monitor asset functionality.

The Environmental Protection Agency has technology that will be used to create a new way to digitally improve the monitoring of water age and water quality. This is a very important issue for consumers because when water ages and sits in a pipe for too long, water quality goes down — which was one part of the problem at play in the Flint water crisis. We expect an analogous approach to the way Google Maps handles traffic to represent the water age, enabling municipalities to monitor this more easily.

Running a water utility is becoming more like running a business.

Collaboration in Technology & Utilities

Utilities are no longer solely relying on customers for funding, they’re collaborating and looking at alternative revenue streams to supplement cost. While power utilities have been leading the way on alternative revenue streams, water utilities are now following suit.

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) has begun to commercialize their intellectual property, giving them a new revenue channel. For example, they are commercializing their water ammonia versus nitrate algorithm (which is something that keeps the right chemical balance needed for breaking down wastewater) and selling it to other treatment plants.

Partnerships between technology companies and utility companies are facilitating innovation and developing solutions to become cleaner and more efficient at a rapid pace. It truly is a transformative time in the industry, and the results couldn’t be more pure — better drinking water for everyone.

New technologies are giving people hope that they can achieve better standards of living and Gray Matter couldn’t be prouder to lead the way in the water evolution.

Download the white paper to read more on IoT in water, game-changing technology and real Gray Matter customer stories that increase efficiency and profitability in water.
Download the Water Innovations White Paper

Let’s Do This Together: Trends to Follow in 2017

Thanks to You

I want to take a minute to say thank you.

It was an amazing 2016 at Gray Matter and that’s because of you. When I look back on everything that’s happened in the past twelve months, I see a lot of faces. I see the faces of operations leaders becoming digital innovators. I see the faces of security chiefs, confronting growing cyber threats. I see the faces of our own Gray Matter employees excited about new innovations within our company.

Change is good. It pushes you forward. Makes you grow. Forces you to lean on different strengths and develop new ones. But when you’re in the middle of change it can feel disruptive, uncomfortable, exposing vulnerabilities you were hoping to keep out of view.

Right now our industry is in a period of major change. The power of the Industrial Internet is about using data to drive outcomes for customers. But sometimes that power can feel overwhelming. So I’d like to propose a new mission for 2017 – let’s do this together. As partners we can be strategic about how to confront the change in order to move forward.

Trend to Follow in 2017 – The Digital Twin

Industries like music, shopping and media have already experienced massive transformations in connectivity. Now it’s time for manufacturing, energy and water.

GE predicts that 20 billion machines will be connected by 2020. 20 billion machines.  Take that in for a second.

Everyday objects like your thermostat, lights and refrigerator all talk to each other through an internet connection. Now that connection is extending to factory machinery as operations are becoming digitized. It’s a revolutionary way to run more efficiently and save money.

You hear the term digital twin so often, but what does it really mean?

Simply put, creating a digital twin is the process of merging physical and digital worlds.

The process takes a physical machine and uses technology to get all the information about past states, present states and predictions.  That information creates a digital model that’s alive – taking in a stream of data – using that to adjust so the model is personalized to be a precise representation of the asset.

The software version is used for what used to be a physical inspection – requiring people to be right next to the machine. The virtual version can be done from anywhere and at any time, expanding the value of those inspections and allowing them to have more of a real-time impact. It creates a constant inspection that allows the operators to predict failures sooner.

The digital model of a machine, built and run in a virtual environment used to be available only to the biggest companies with the largest budgets. But the Industrial Internet and an explosion in sensor technology have lowered the cost and broadened the access beyond the elite.  People are not only connected to people, they’re connected to every kind of device at home and now work. Manufacturers stand to win big from this. Factory floors are outfitted with a tremendous amount of sensors to collect data, but because that data has been locked up it hasn’t provided value.

The digital twin allows us to unlock that data and not just for one asset at a time.  We can now model machines in groups – for example, a machine builder with thousands of machines installed across hundreds of customers – will now be able to operate best in class using digital twins.

There’s potential to unleash productivity and efficiencies like we’ve never seen before.

How Do We Get There

This is going to be the year where concepts like creating a digital twin become less of an idea and more of a reality.  So how do we get it done?

I believe one of the keys will be to link information technology and operational technology in a real way. The teams need to become one so there’s a full understanding on both sides. It can no longer be someone else’s problem – we’re all on the same team.

Our mission at Gray Matter is to transform operations and empower people.

Success in the Industrial Internet requires both parts equally. You create the digital twin and transform your operation by getting the information that allows you to be more productive and get the most out of your assets. But you also need the innovation and insight of people. Cultural and mentality changes will be just as important as the digital ones. Your people need to feel empowered by what they’re doing so they can make the best decisions and find new ways to take that increased productivity to new levels.

Let’s do this together and truly seek feedback from each other on how the next steps should look.

Happy New Year. Here’s to working together in 2017– I look forward to it.

Surprise: Your Control Network is Connected to the Internet

That Awkward Moment

It happens daily.

A company is investigating a cyber security breach. Word of the breach gets out and suddenly their brand, reputation and trade secrets are all at stake.

It’s a really awkward moment and a PR nightmare. I read the quotes and calming explanations from communications executives that despite the breach often say — don’t worry — our systems are not connected to the Internet or any external network. Are they sure? How sure?

When we test cyber vulnerabilities at some of the biggest manufacturing and energy companies and water utilities, it’s surprising how many internet and external connections exist that top security leaders didn’t know about. We start the assessment and within seconds the room is silent.

Surprise, your control network is connected to the Internet.

Getting on the Same Operational Page

Part of the solution is making sure all members of your team are on the same page.

In many cases all your cyber security planning has secured the information technology (IT) side, while at the same time your oper­ational technology (OT) is left wide open and it’s a dangerous gap.

According to the HIS technology report, “Industrial IoT 2014,” less than half of Internet-connected devices are above the firewall. More than half are actually below it– in the operation­al technology (OT) underbelly.

Imagine a house with a bolted front door and a state-of-the-art home security system out front. It may seem secure, but the back window is wide open.

Your cyber security plan is no different. Ignoring operational technology cyber security is like leaving the back window or door wide open.

Corporate IT is significant and needs to be protected. It’s your emails, financials, documents and passwords. Protecting this sensitive information is imperative.

OT is a whole different level.

Operational technology is the hardware and software used to control all your industrial processes. These are the critical systems that clean water, make food and produce energy. If they’re attacked, the results can be dangerous and lead to power outages, environmental damage and even loss of life.

While spending for IT protection has increased, OT spending is often secondary, creating huge vulnerabilities.control network connected internet

In the past, OT systems were separate from IT but as interconnectivity spreads they’re becoming increasingly integrated.

OT can now be reached through IT and it’s becoming more susceptible to network attacks.

Not long ago, hackers caused major damage at a steel mill in Germany. They came in through the IT side, but after stealing logins through email were able to access the mill’s control systems. Now that hackers were on the operational technology (OT) side, the IT protection in place was no longer helping.

This led to parts of the plant failing, causing a furnace blast and significant damage.

Specialized software created by the hackers was used to oversee and administer the plant.

In the aftermath, software developers and digital analysts said they “didn’t expect a nuclear power plant or steel plant to be connected to the Internet.”

Depending on who you’ve hired to run security, they may fall on the IT side, OT side or somewhere in between. It’s imperative they know the operational technology side as well.

Knowing the tools and systems on the operational side takes a very special skillset.

The nature of devices on the OT network are different than those commonly found on IT networks. We’re talking about PLCs, RTUs, SCADA servers, Historian servers, data concentrators, etc.

Some legacy PLCs are equipped with built-in webservers. As a result, it’s important for us to understand not just what is on your OT network, but also how it’s behaving. Using “active” monitoring devices on an OT network can not only disrupt communication timing, but can lock up OT devices like PLCs.

In some cases, you may want to organize the OT network so that only a select set of devices can communicate to other sets of devices.

A key takeaway from a recent Department of Homeland Security conference on cyber security for op­erational technology ICS-CERT (Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team) was to first take inventory of all your connected devices digitally (or manually) to trace every connection.control network connected internet

This directive is for public/government utilities, private manufacturing and energy companies. Home­land Security advises mapping all the devices to determine where you currently have undocumented connections and to understand your overall risk.

A digital inventory is recommended as long as it is passive and does not actively ping or ask the OT devices for information.

Big Things are at Stake

The rapid growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is changing the game on all of this. As billions of sensors are being shipped that incorporate IIoT technology, knowing what is on your OT network is critically important.

Given the high likelihood that your OT network will grow, you might want to ask your team:

Are you truly confident that you know everything that’s plugged in or connected wirelessly to everything else on the network? How often have you or someone on your team traced every run from switch to device either manually or digitally?

Big things are at stake, so it’s important to be honest as you answer those questions.

Take The Cyber Challenge

Nobody has all the answers, but you can gain valuable insight into your own operations and strategies.

The cyber challenge is designed to pose important, valuable questions to your cyber strategy. You’ll find out just how much you currently know and don’t know about your own system.

Take our new Industrial Internet Cyber Security quiz and share the results with your team. Who had the best scores?

Take the Challenge

 

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