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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When Someone Believes in You, Everything Changes: Gray Matter Systems Thanks Steve Rubin

Let’s Go For It

Recently I took my son Max, who’s about to graduate from high school, on a college trip to Worcester Polytechnic Institute. It caused me to flash back to a very important person in our lives and how Gray Matter Systems got its start.

It was 1991 in Pittsburgh and Carson Drake and I had big plans.

A revolution was underway as personal computers were shaking things up on the factory floor. Just as big data, the Cloud, mobile and the Internet of Things are disrupting everything now, it was an exciting, but unsettling time.

Business owners, managers and workers were frightened about what this meant for their jobs, but we were excited because we knew operational technology was the future. It was time for us to leave the comfort zone of working for a company to start our own company.

When Someone Believes in You, Everything Changes

When two people start a company they need money, but more than that they need the type of support that helps you make fast, innovative decisions and inspires you to carry the heavy weight of success or failure. Steve Rubin gave us both.

Steve believed in Carson and I with a passion that got Gray Matter Systems off the ground and running. He built one of the most successful industrial automation software companies from his basement. He knew there was a need for a wide-ranging computer control system that could do many things at once. That’s why he created The FIX (fully integrated control system) and took industrial automation to a whole new level. We helped bring that technology to people in manufacturing, energy, and many other industries.

My son, Max Gillespie standing outside the Rubin Campus Center

My son, Max Gillespie standing outside the Rubin Campus Center

Steve’s company, Intellution, was later bought by Emerson Electric Company, and finally by General Electric. The rest is Fortune 500 history. Steve Rubin passed away in 2015 from complications related to ALS.

Steve’s enthusiasm and passion extended beyond his work. One very special place to him was Worcester Polytechnic Institute where he received his computer science degree and later served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The Rubin Campus Center is now where students meet, debate and innovate. He cared deeply about students and wanted a space for them to grow.

At Gray Matter Systems we honor Steve’s dedication to customers. One year he flew his own plane to speak at our annual conference, sharing his insights with customers and devoting his time to their needs.

We also honor his sense of adventure and fun. Steve was a huge baseball fan and couldn’t have been happier when former Pittsburgh Pirates’ owner, Kevin McClatchy, presented him with a jersey during a Gray Matter Systems user group meeting at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, pictured here.

Most of all, we honor his incredible business values of fairness and honesty.

Steve Rubin at a Gray Matter user group meeting at Three Rivers Stadium

Steve Rubin at a Gray Matter user group meeting at Three Rivers Stadium

Two Becomes Four, Four Becomes Fifty

We’ve come a long way since Steve helped us get started.

At first it was just the two of us. But we soon added a few others and found our home in Sewickley, a walkable suburb of Pittsburgh. Working in the house on Thorn Street made us feel like a family. And that’s who we are.

Sewickley is a special place bookmarked in our history. But it was time to turn the page and transition into a bigger space for our growing company.

Now we have a state-of-the-art headquarters in Pittsburgh, more than 50 employees and we’re growing fast. We also expanded our territory in the Gulf region to include Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Western Tennessee and Southeastern New Mexico.

The World is Waking Up to What We’ve Been Doing

We help some of the biggest companies in water/wastewater, oil and gas, and manufacturing use operational technology to get faster, leaner and smarter. Thanks to Steve, we have the opportunity to solve some of today’s toughest, data-driven challenges.

These days, everyone is talking about big data, the Cloud, the Industrial Internet of Things and predictive analytics.

We couldn’t be more thrilled. We’ve been ready for this for a long time. Our team of experienced engineers, technical consultants and leaders translate all the hype around these concepts into real value for our customers.

We feel good about where we are and where we’re going and that’s all because someone believed in us. We wish we had said this sooner—thanks, Steve.

Moving Toward Operational Excellence in 2016 for Food & Beverage Industry

For some, operational excellence may seem like just a buzzword. But according to a recent article in FoodDive, a news outlet for food manufacturing professionals, operational excellence (OpEx) is gaining major ground in the food and beverage industry– specifically for the upcoming year.

According to Katie Moore, global industry manager for GE Digital’s manufacturing branch, operational excellence is “continuous improvement and basically taking a methodical approach involving people, processes, and technology to drive sustainable improvement as it relates to the business outcome that they’re trying to achieve,” according to Carolyn Heneghan of FoodDive.

Heneghan suggests that OpEx benefits companies in two major ways: agility and accountability. Agility, or being quick to respond to consumer demand and supply chain challenges, has become important for smaller companies– while accountability has been cemented as a  critical part of process as more FDA requirements and FSMA rules are introduced.

“With operational excellence often comes systems and processes that make it easier to track and analyze data in different aspects of production, and with that data, companies can be more accountable,” said Heneghan. “This most recently has become of interest to manufacturers with the introduction of new FSMA rules that require companies to better document their risk assessments and safety practices.”

Of course, Moore is no stranger to identifying OpEx benefits like agility and accountability in a food manufacturing setting.

As a former food processing plant manager, Moore often wondered about the plant and operations in terms of OpEx, according to her recent blog post for GE Digital.

“What were other similar plants doing?  How were they performing?  A portion of our internal metrics included a comparison of the “best of the best” and the “worst of the worst” plants as it pertained to safety, plant efficiency, product quality and safety, sustainability, completed shipments and on-time delivery, to name a few,” said Moore. “But how did other plants in the industry compare?  What about my direct competitors?”

According to a survey of 170 food and beverage manufacturers completed by the Aberdeen Group, leaders in the industry reported a 20% higher Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), 47% fewer delayed shipments as a result of quality issues, and 5% reduction in waste.

While “followers” experienced an increase in energy consumption and zero change to wastewater costs, the leaders experienced double digit improvements, according to Moore.

So what were the drivers behind these impressive results for the leaders? Why did some companies outperform others? Moore says it comes down to the choice of leaders to implement OpEx initiatives with software technology.

“They’re digitizing their production processes to turn information into actionable insight—combining people, process and technology to move the operational excellence needle in the right direction,” said Moore.

Here’s a few other notable stories from this week: 

Next-Gen Wi-Fi Will Actually Connect the Internet of Things

According to Wired Magazine, there are still plenty of blockades between us and the connected-device future– specifically, our Wi-Fi’s efficiency.

But the Wi-Fi Alliance, or the organization that advances the standards in place for Wi-Fi, has announced the latest version, promising to double the range of connection. Called HaLow, it will also do “a better job of penetrating walls, floors, and other obstacles that can make your Wi-Fi sputter and skulk.”

“For a consumer, you might imagine someone who wants to deploy a water sensor in their basement to detect flooding or a motion sensor at the end of their driveway to warn them of someone arriving late at night,” says Kevin Robinson, Wi-Fi Alliance vice-president of marketing. “In both of these cases, Wi-Fi HaLow will deliver power-efficient connectivity to the home access point (and the Internet) despite the challenging environment caused by obstructions in the device’s path or ranges involved.”

Big Data is Now a Top Management Issue

According to Forbes,  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.”

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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

Infographic

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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

BTTF

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.

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