Our Top Ten Greatest Hits from 2016

1. Your Front Door is Bolted, but the Back Window is Wide Open: OT Cyber Security Webinar

You’ve set up a firewall. Hired a CISO. Bought Palo Alto.

Maybe you’ve even added an assessment from a large consulting group. Those action items and checked boxes are giving you a sense of security, a plan. But the problem is, it’s a false sense of security. You still haven’t protected your operational technology and that’s a huge problem.

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, curtains billowing in the wind– leaving it vulnerable to outside threats.

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

Watch this on-demand webinar to hear two operational technology experts from the Gray Matter team address the major vulnerabilities and how to overcome them.

Watch the Webinar

2. Taming the Complexity of a Digital Era

There are now more computing devices in the world than there are people.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the world’s population is made up of 7.3 billion people, and growing steadily. In fact, their online population clock tracks each new addition like a live, ticking scoreboard. But the bureau isn’t the only organization counting new life.

The mobile analysis firm GSMA Intelligence has a similar, real-time dashboard that tracks new mobile connections.

With close to 7.8 billion SIM cards operating in the world right now, mobile devices are coming online faster than people are being born.

But what actually pushes this figure past the world population is the growing number of active machine-to-machine connections– M2M connections like cars, medical appliances and industrial infrastructure.

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3. The Road Map You Need Before a SCADA Update

Imagine agreeing to a road trip with a driver who refuses to use directions.

No GPS, no folded-up paper map, and certainly no stops to ask for directions, just an open road stretching out into a giant question mark.

“I’ll wing it,” the driver might say. “We can figure it out as we go along.” 

Chances are, you’re not going on this one.

You wouldn’t agree to an aimless road trip, and you wouldn’t trust your surgeon to improvise an operation. You wouldn’t want your operators on the plant floor to just wing it.

So why risk a SCADA upgrade by skipping the system assessment?

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4. What’s Your Industrial Cyber Security Score?

A client in operational technology recently told us their rate of cyber incidents was 200 attacks per month three years ago – now it’s 2,000 attacks in four hours. To get ahead in cyber security, the first step is finding out what you don’t know.

This 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.

Nobody has all the answers, but you can gain valuable insight into your own operations and strategies. Take our cyber challenge and you’ll receive your own knowledge level based on your score.

Are you up to the challenge?

Take the Challenge

5. The Cyber Security Guide for Operational Technology

The expansion of the Industrial Internet is leading to the need for specialized cyber security tools to protect operational technology.

Securing your information technology (IT) is a good and important step in business, but don’t forget about locking up the systems we rely on most in manufacturing, energy and water – the operational technology.

Billions of sensors are being rolled out rapidly as the Industrial Internet expands. The devices for operational technology are very different than those found on information technology networks and they need specialized technology to protect them. 

Download the guide for a comprehensive understanding of security in the OT world including top vulnerabilities. The guide walks you through the first steps in knowing what’s on your network and has specific advice about the assessment process from our top cyber security consultants.

Download the Guide

6. Gray Matter Systems Talks Technology on TechVibe Radio

Gray Matter Systems CEO, Jim Gillespie, appeared on the TechVibe podcast on Sept. 9, 2016 to talk about Gray Matter’s role in the emerging technology scene in Pittsburgh.

7. What Pokemon Go Taught Me About Augmented Reality For Industrial Environments

Gone are the days of playing a Game Boy by streetlight on family car trips. Today’s budding gamers will never know the struggle of frantically searching for new AA batteries to play the newest game, just bought with carefully saved allowances and chore money.

In fact, with Nintendo’s newest advancement in gaming technology, mothers everywhere will soon be pushing their kids to “go outside and play video games.” I am, of course, referring to the gaming company’s newest fad, Pokémon Go, which has taken seasoned and new gamers alike by storm.

The game relies on augmented reality, or AR, a sect of technology that employs the physical world as a base for overlaid, digital images. Pokémon Go, however, represents more than just a technological advance applicable to those who “gotta catch ‘em all!”

In a recent article from GE Reports, Marco Annunziata, Chief Economist and Executive Director of Global Market Insight at GE, surmises the gaming application’s role concerning how we think about big data and the industry.

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8. Digitizing Standard Operating Procedures to Ensure Safety, Security & Compliance at Orlando Utilities Commission 

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of the water/wastewater industry or not, imagine the intense smell from an overly chlorinated pool on a hot summer day. The kind of smell that burns your nose and turns your eyes red.

Now multiply that reaction by 5,000 and that only begins to illustrate the potential danger water operators can face when dealing with chlorine leaks or spills in a utility.

For municipalities across the country that deal with potentially hazardous chemicals on such a frequent basis, like Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), keeping operators safe is the top priority. 

Today’s forward-thinking utilities like OUC are using technology to keep their operators safe in these kind of situations. That technology, in the form of sophisticated software, is also helping utilities improve operations.

Download the White Paper

9. Trout Fishing and Automation: They Have More in Common Than You Think

The first thing one notices about trout fishing in western Pennsylvania on a clear April morning is the stunning, unnerving calm.

It’s a serenity that commands respect. It forces grown men to creep along its pathways like children sneaking downstairs on Christmas morning. If they talk, they only do so in a whisper.

There’s a lot of art in fishing—especially fly-fishing—but there’s a fair amount of science involved too. 

Knowing the best time of day and what bait to use can mean the difference between winning and losing.

While it might sound simplistic, that’s pretty much the way applying automation and technology to oil and gas operations works. The more data an operator collects on its surroundings and the better it knows the environment, the better chance it has of being successful.

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10. Oil Insider Top Three Issues in the Boardroom 

Pricing in the oil and gas industry is extremely volatile.

It’s leaving industry decision makers with little time to lose. They need the right technology, in the right place, immediately. Their people have to be better at their jobs today than they were yesterday. Every decision counts and if one move is a few days late, it could cost millions.

Gray Matter Systems CEO, Jim Gillespie is familiar with helping oil and gas executives to solve the biggest problems facing their companies. He says the first issue circulating in oil and gas boardrooms everywhere is getting data from many different sources all on one display. It’s commonly referred to as the “single pane of glass.”

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Gray Matter Systems’ Brian Courtney Right at Home on Innovation Drive

When someone new arrives at a company, they often take a few months to settle in, meet the team members and adjust to the new environment. But not in Brian Courtney’s case.

The MIT graduate jumped right in and started building and working with his hands at GrayMatter’s headquarters on Innovation Drive just outside of Pittsburgh. Brian has been sawing, gluing and piecing pipes together for an innovative, exclusive GrayMatter project since Day One.

Brian is the new Vice President of Development and Managed Services at GrayMatter and he’s a true innovator. It shows in every conversation you have with him.

I believe there are many different styles of innovation. One of them happens to be a tinkerer,” said Brian. “I get excited about learning — a little here and a little there until it suddenly comes together in your head.

The new leadership position is a key part of GrayMatter’s recent growth. Brian will focus on building software solutions to reduce cost and increase efficiencies in manufacturing, water and energy.

Brian will help companies use analytics to determine early signs of failure before they have major equipment problems.

“Unfortunately, failures happen during the worst possible times. Machine learning helps us identify failure before something majorly goes wrong,” said Brian. “Part of my role at GrayMatter is helping companies get ahead with predictive analytics.”

Developing and building are in his blood. Brian comes from GE where he held many roles including leading a data visualization team. His team won several awards for innovation and filed for 26 patents.

“My job was to drive the team to ideate and think innovatively,” said Brian.

Brian also attributes his deep technology background and business acumen with giving him a good sense of solutions that will work the best for customers. He graduated with a computer science degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and got his MBA from MIT.

Brian said that the Industrial Internet of Things is already flipping the way the business world works. With massive amounts of data to maintain and analyze, customers expect connectivity and information on everything they’re running. This is turning more businesses into customer-facing operations than in the past when information was just an internal focus.

Small and medium-sized companies alike are giving the biggest ones ideas on how to journey through the transition.

A self-professed tinkering jack-of-all-trades, Brian likes to break things. He’d rather learn from failure to figure out what went wrong and how knowing about it sooner would have prevented that failure.

I think Edison said it best when he said he simply found 10,000 ways to not make a light bulb,” said Brian. “I believe people learn from their mistakes instead of their successes.

Look for Brian Courtney’s next innovation in the coming months at Gray Matter Systems. For now — here’s a behind-the-scenes look as Brian tests a water system he just built on Innovation Drive:

Brian Courtney on Innovation Drive from Gray Matter Systems on Vimeo.

ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending April 17

Journos Need Secure Passwords, Too


Photo Matt Buchanan

With the increasing media coverage on the importance of cyber security, those who work in the media should also consider the impact.

In an article published by the BBC, it’s suggested that words in passwords should not exist in the dictionary, and dates should not be important or relevant.

In fact, the author suggests taking a long quote or phrase and using the  initial letters of each word.

Take the quote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife,” from Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. 

The password would look like:


Of course, this is after adding some “rare” characters.

Fitting Millennials into Tech Careers

Executive Career Coach, Jeff Snyder offered his opinion on what millennials can bring to the technology and cyber security careers table for Security Recruiter. 

According to Snyder, millennials are

  • Smart, teachable & hungry for more

Snyder said millennials seek coaching for resumes, personal branding, and general career guidance from him frequently, which shows a hunger to learn more.

  • They want your jobs

Basically, Snyder asserts that these young folks want to take on more, and eventually be in leadership positions.

 President Obama Approves Sanctions on Cyber Criminals


USA Today reported recently of President Obama’s authorization of new sanctions that would penalize cyber criminals that “engage in malicious cyber-enabled activities” and undermines U.S. security and financial stability.

Specifically, cyber attacks that harm critical infrastructure, or impact trade secrets and personal financial information.

“Cyber threats pose one of the most serious economic and national security challenges to the United States, and my Administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to confront them,” Obama said in a written statement announcing the new sanctions regime.

Healthcare Providers Using Wearable Technology

We’ve read about wearable technology and seen what can be accomplished. But can they impact someone’s life?


Photo courtesy NEC Corp of America

In an article and study by Technology Advice, researchers found that while some individuals lose interest in their Fitbits or Apple Watchs, they would be interested in the technology if it was suggested by their healthcare provider, or even could lower health insurance premiums.

The next step for healthcare providers would be to solve the challenges related to data in Electronic Health Records (EHR)s.

After all, the article also shared that there are currently tens of thousands of these apps and devices- a statistic that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says  will grow by 25 percent a year. And by 2018, 1.7 billion people worldwide will download a health app.

 This Just In: Big Data Trends

Big Data News boasts 13 trends that the data science field can expect to see.

  • The rise of data plumbing along with data plumbers, system architects & system analysts

The goal being to make big data run smoothly, safely, reliably.

  • The rise of “right-sized data”
  • Increased awareness of data security against business hackers
  • The rise of the “automated statistician”

Click here to read the full list of suggested trends by Big Data News. 

Media We Link To:

 “Cyber security for journalists: How to devise the perfect password” – BBC News

“Where do millennial-aged professionals fit into technology and cyber security careers?” – Security Recruiter 

“Obama authorizes sanctions on cyber criminals” – USA Today 

“How Can Providers Use Wearable Technology to Improve Patient Care?” – Technology Advice 

“13 New Trends in Big Data and Data Science” – Big Data News


ICYMI: Automation News Roundup, Week Ending April 10

Can You Dig it?

A recent blog post on GE Report not only chronicled the history of the Panama Canal, but announced that it’s actually going through a growth spurt at the moment.


Photo courtesy Lyn Gateley, Creative Commons

The “48-mile-long waterway that cuts across the backbone of the Western Hemisphere is going through the final year of a massive expansion.”

The $5-billion project’s bigger locks will allow a “giant New Panamax”-increasing the canal’s capacity by half and energizing ports from Miami to Boston.

The Panama Canal actually celebrated their centennial anniversary last summer, reminding us that the feat is one of the largest, human-led engineering projects. Not to mention, GE’s first large, government contracts.

To experience even more of the rich history surrounding the Panama Canal, read here. 

Healthcare Fraud has Met its Match: Big Data


Photo courtesy of Healthcare Costs, Creative Commons

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners said that 2015 is “the year that technology will give v fraudsters an edge,” according to a post by VentureBeat. 

And yet, technology may ironically be one thing that significantly stops cyber criminals and fraudsters in their tracks.

Current data analytics offer progress in health-care security, specifically in patient privacy and prescription fraud, according to VentureBeat. 

“For health care organizations tasked with the responsibility to protect patient details and medical information, data is their best friend. It can be used to not only address security, fraud prevention and compliance problems, but also to anticipate and proactively address these issues,” said VentureBeat. 

To read more about how big data analytics can impact the healthcare industry and protect against fraud, check out the post here. 

 3D-Printing Can Save Lives

The website, 3DPrint,com, speculated that the 3D-printing technology that’s on the rise is an unlikely hero.

Between the USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), developing countries are assisted with preparing with extreme weather- often through weather stations.

However, it’s often challenging for poorer countries to upkeep these stations.


Photo courtesy of Mirko Tobias Schäfer, Creative Commons

The solution to this challenge? The low-cost technology of 3D-printing.

“The Micro-Manufacturing and Assembly project overseen by Kelly Sponberg, a program manager at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Joint Office of Science Support (JOSS), working in collaboration with NOAA, has begun developing afforable, 3D printed meteorological tools with which to equip weather stations,” reported 3Dprint.com.

3D printers can be used to manufacture all necessary parts for the weather stations- making the offer of these life-saving stations even more reliable to more areas in need.

Chainless E-bike Making Strides for City Cycling

VentureBeat reported that an estimated 200,000 people cycle through New York alone, changing the face of commuting forever.


Photo courtesy of Tejvan Pettinger, Creative Commons

Enter, Jivr, a unique solution to the cycling world. It’s chainless, folding, electric/mechanical hybrid bike that was started with a $100,000 Kickstarter campaign.

“Jivr’s motor is located on the front wheel and promises around 20 miles per charge, depending on how many hills you climb; the charge takes around 90 minutes from empty. It will travel at up to 16 miles per hour (MPH), which keeps it at the lower end of the speed spectrum and means you don’t require a driver’s license or helmet (though you should wear a helmet anyway),” said VentureBeat. 

 Read more about Jivr, the chainless, electric bike here. 

Media we link to:

Dig This: The Panama Canal is About to Get Busy- GE Reports 

Big data analytics can prevent health care fraud. Here’s how- Venture Beat

3D Printed Weather Stations Will Save Lives in Developing Countries- 3DPrint.com

Meet Jivr, the chainless e-bike that wants to revolutionize city cycling- Venture Beat

Featured image by  Jake Stimpson, Creative Commons


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