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.

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TechHub: Leading a Digital, Industrial Era and Cyber Security as a National Priority

GE’s 2016 Report and the industry potential for 2017 and onward

This week GE Digital released its 2016 Annual Report, highlighting details such as an 83-percent increase in GE cash from operating activities, amounting to $30 Billion, as well as an increase by 4-percent in Industrial Segment Revenues, amounting to over $113 Billion.

Other components to the report are a look into building jet engines, a letter to shareholders, testing a giant gas turbine and more.

The report featured a 3D interactive video, explaining additive manufacturing and the new technologies that help design 3D-printed products.

It allows you to explore pictures of the assembly of the largest jet engine designed for commercial use, as well as the most fuel-efficient one produced by GE.

3D-printed fuel nozzles and fan blades, electron beam melting and more are explored through this interactive demonstration of innovative and futuristic manufacturing in the “Factory of Tomorrow.”

Playing by the (cyber) rules

This week a new set of rules went into effect in New York requiring companies to put cyber defenses in place. It’s just the start of what will be a new era of rules and regulations about cyber security for industries. While this week’s rules are just for New York, they will have a big impact on companies outside of the state.

What are the rules?

Companies in the finance industry are now required to have a cyber-security plan in place.  According to Fortune, this includes network penetration testing, cyber audit trails and restricting access to customer data.  Firms will also need a senior security officer whose job is to submit an annual compliance certificate.

“The days of saying,’I have a great IT guy’ are now over,” said an accounting firm executive during the Fortune interview. Cyber security has become a boardroom issue.  

Who are the rules for?

The companies who need to comply are banking, insurance, or brokerage firms that use licenses to operate in New York. Fortune also reports it’s important to note the rules will affect third-party vendors.


The regulations don’t affect operational technology companies at this time, but the same scenario is playing out in the OT space. Cyber is no longer a technology issue, it’s an enterprise issue. We’ll keep you posted as the regulations grow.

Governors declare cyber security a national emergency, state emergency

“Cyber security is critical to each and every governor.”

Those were the words of Terry McAuliffe, Chairman of the National Governors Association, at the four-day-long meeting in Washington D.C. as he urged fellow governors to take cyber threat precautions and increase their states’ defenses.

Noting that his own state faced 86 million cyber attacks in 2016, according to The Hill, the Virginia governor said that cybersecurity is both a national and state issue.

The association has made cyber security a recent priority, holding its first regional summit on cyber security in October and setting up a cyber center to aid states with securing infrastructure.

McAuliffe noted there is still a drastic need of a strategic plan on how to tackle cyber security within states, as well as improving critical infrastructure vulnerabilities.

Learn how to create faster time to OT security and how to multiply your cyber team in the free webinar: Accelerate Time to OT protection on March 16.

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New computing system made from blockchain is less vulnerable to cyber attacks

This week, several corporate giants announced joining forces to create a new computing system based on the virtual currency network Ethereum.

Similar to Bitcoin, the technology platform will run on a custom-built blockchain, a very powerful shared global infrastructure that can help developers create markets, store registries of debts, move funds and more.

One notable aspect of the platform is the ability to create a tradeable digital token used as online currency that can either be set to a fixed amount or fluctuate depending on the programming, according to Ethereum, the Swiss nonprofit organization. The virtual currency is known as Ether within the network.

It can run smart contracts. It enables applications to run exactly as programmed without the possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.

This is good news for cyber security experts.

According to the New York Times, the technology is reported as being harder to hack.

By adapting blockchain technology into their business models, large businesses are able to safely keep track of information such as stock and bond trading transactions.

The creation of the alliance shows the push forward among big companies to integrate technology into business plans and create streamlined databases with less back-office maintenance.

TechHub: Industry Growth, Data Analytics for the C-Suite and More

Manufacturers preparing for Industry 4.0 and tech industry growth

A boom in the tech industry in Southeast Michigan is becoming inevitable — at least that’s what a leading technology and manufacturing association in the state is predicting.

Automation Alley, a nonprofit compiled of industry members seeking to transform Southeast Michigan into a leading technology and innovation region, released an industry report for 2017 surveying approximately 400 senior technology and manufacturing executives on Industry 4.0 and digitization of manufacturing within their companies, according to the Oakland Press, a Michigan news organization.

“We believe that there is a huge opportunity for the technology industry to grow, both in Oakland County and across Southeast Michigan,” said Automation Alley Executive Director Tom Kelly in the Oakland Press.

According to the report, technologies such as the cloud, big data analytics and cyber security are the top three categories invested in. Manufacturers are also planning to invest in autonomous robots in the region.

industry growth automation

Sterling Heights-based Lighthouse Molding was the first company accepted in the Automation Alley 7Cs program. Image: Oakland Press

Perhaps the most insightful findings in the report are the communication gaps highlighted between technology and manufacturing executives in the region, as well as the lack of company resources devoted towards technological advancements.

Ultimately, it’s determined that the local manufacturing industry is actually “ahead of the curve” for the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology, whereas national manufacturers are not.

Interested in joining the digital revolution of Industry 4.0? We can help — read more about our services and let us join you in the journey to becoming a digital operation.

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City of Pearland investing $160 million in new surface water treatment plant

As the population curve increases, so does the massive need for water and sewage infrastructure.

The City of Pearland, located in Texas near Houston, has a population of over 100,000 with a predicted population of 220,000 by 2050.

With a drastically increasing population, the city is in the design phases for a new surface water treatment plant, aiming to provide 20 million gallons of additional drinking water daily, according to Community Impact.

Currently the city’s only sources of surface water are the city of Houston and Clear Brook City.

Apart from drinking water, sewage and wastewater treatment is a large concern for the city. Gray Matter is aiding in an expansion of the Reflection Bay Water Reclamation Facility, which is projected to be completed by 2019.

industry growth Pearland

The development boom in Pearland has improved the quality of life, but put a strain on water and wastewater infrastructure. Image: Community Impact

By implementing GE Digital’s iFIX and upgrading the plant’s Historian software, the facility will be better secured, more connected and have data readily available.

iFix is an industrial automation system that can be implemented within HMI or SCADA systems, and uses advanced analytics to model high-flow scenarios within a water and wastewater system, allowing the plant to better prepare for weather-related issues.

Historian allows for storage and display of real-time analytics of big data, storing it in GE’s Predix cloud. This allows for higher productivity, a decrease in plant downtime and an increase in both machine visibility and reliability.

Faster Time to Value for Operational Technology (OT) Security

Our customers are telling us that the cyber headache is only growing in operational technology and when they look at the list of priorities it could take several years just to get their heads above water.

Armed with this knowledge, we developed a speed to operational technology protection cyber plan that you can put in place right now– without having to redesign your whole architecture.

The rapid digital assessment often takes a few hours to a day and micro-segmentation can often be done within a week.

Once you get the fast protection, you can start breathing and prioritize next steps. Faster security allows you to multiply the impact of your team, allowing them to make smarter decisions in less time.

Join two operational technology consultants from Gray Matter Systems, Steve Varmuza and Bill Weed, as they detail how to accelerate time to OT protection in our third installment of the cyber education series.

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Data Analytics in the C-Suite

Global executives who understand the value of advanced data analytics are currently using it to their advantage and implementing it as a core part of their business strategy, according to Forbes.

A new report from Forbes Insights highlights executives embedding analytics into all parts of their enterprise, aside from marketing and sales, to capitalize on the opportunities it creates.

Many large organizations still struggle with achieving the full potential of analytic capabilities, despite an increase in investment.

The survey was based on over 1,500 executives across various industries and geographic locations. The C-level executives’ companies had at least $500 million in annual revenues, with 21-percent having revenues more than $50 billion, according to the report.

TechHub: Industrial Hacks, Automated Cars and Smart Elevators

Top cyber security conference kicks off with water treatment plant hack

In case you couldn’t make it, we’ve got updates from one of the world’s largest security events happening this week in San Francisco, CA.

The RSA Conference gathers the industry’s top security and technology leaders and pioneers—including a Gray Matter cyber security consultant– promoting a forward-thinking global community to foster innovative ideas and new approaches to inspire and empower the industry.

FBI cyber division at industrial RSA 2017

The FBI Cyber Division recruitment booth at the RSA Conference 2017.

The event featured keynote speakers such as a defense intelligence officer for cyber at the Defense Intelligence Agency, senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research, director of information security at Google, a senior security engineer for Fitbit and more.

This year, it started off with a bang– kicking off with an intentional ransomware attack on a water treatment plant launched by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

According to Nextgov, a National Journal Group, the attack successfully shut down valves, adjusted chlorine levels and falsified readings.

This demonstration highlighted the increasing fear of malware attacks on utility companies, much like what’s been happening to power plants, banks and others.

Industrial control systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable, and are oftentimes connected to the Internet without intention.

To get ahead in cyber security, the first step is finding out what you don’t know.

Take our cyber challenge to test your knowledge and find out what you know — and don’t know — about your own system.

What’s Your Score?

Ford’s Billion-dollar self-driving car deal creating 200 high-tech jobs by end of 2017

This week Ford announced a partnership with Argo AI– investing in the company to create an engineer and test center for self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, PA.

Argo AI is run by alumni of the Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and specializes in development of artificial intelligence. They are looking to work with Ford to develop autonomous vehicles by 2021, according to Trib Live media group.

It’s estimated that the partnership will add 200 high-tech jobs in Pittsburgh, Michigan and California by the end of the year­– amounting to over 1,000 jobs within the next five years from the Ford deal, according to Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald in Trib Live.

Uber has already been testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh since 2016, according to Wired, where pre-selected Uber users within a 12-square-mile radius of downtown have the option of riding in one of the autonomous vehicles — with a human engineer behind the wheel, naturally.

“Pittsburgh continues to make global headlines on this growing industry,” said Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO. “Which stems from the hard work and brainpower of our friends at Carnegie Mellon and the many industries they continue to seed and grow throughout our region.”

Partners in Global Alliance and Digital Enterprise

The GE Global Partner Summit hosted by GE Digital in Napa, CA, features premiere alliances in all committed to supporting the growing industrial data marketplace.

Starting on Tuesday, the summit showcased the newest technologies and innovations in the industry. Not an alliance partner? Don’t worry — Gray Matter was there to help bring you up to speed.

The buzz of the event was success stories in digital transformations.

“The world needs a system to take industrial data from the edge and move it to the cloud,” said Harel Kodesh, Vice President of Predix and Chief Technology Officer of GE Digital.

That system is Predix.

Predix is an operating system for the Industrial Internet that connects industrial equipment, analyzes data and delivers real-time insights as a result.

Four themes of Predix were outlined throughout the summit: scale the platform, support the digital twin, edge-to-cloud platform and advance developing experience.

Predix has been implemented for various issues, including elevator safety.

Imagine you’re stuck in an elevator, alone. Who will know you’re in there and come to save you?

The solution is connected elevators.

By using GE Digital’s Predix software, Huawei Technologies developed IoT enabled elevators — reducing operational and maintenance costs by detecting potential risk immediately and in turn improving passengers’ safety.

GE Digital’s partnership with Gray Matter Systems is a part of their growing industrial ecosystem. The goal is to help companies undergoing digital transformations in every industry.

In the two-minute video spotlight with Gray Matter CEO, Jim Gillespie, GE focuses on the journey of two Gray Matter customers, Procter & Gamble and Anadarko. Watch the video here:

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