TechHub: The Internet of Energy, Digital Solutions in Water & Brilliant Manufacturing

The Internet of Energy: Big Data & Electrons

The Internet of Things (IoT) is an industry-wide term for connected and smart devices within a network of connectivity that allows them to collect and exchange data.

A new and not-so-understood concept, being dubbed the “internet of power” by Forbes, is applying the use of big data, machine learning and IoT technology to replace the one-way, current model of energy delivery.

GE Power, that supplies 30-percent of the world’s electricity, has been developing this opportunity in an effort to revolutionize the electricity industry.

“The electricity industry is still following a one-hundred-year-old model which our founder, Edison, helped to proliferate,” said Chief Digital Officer at GE Power Ganesh Bell in Forbes.

Bell believes that can change, and that the answer is to take advantage of the current grid-based generation and delivery mechanism, increasing it with the flow of data.

This will take that linear model and move it to a networked model; taking every electron, associating it with a data bit, and optimizing it.

Creating this new system of “smart” energy distribution will pave the way for innovative structures in the future such as a reliable network of energy for charging stations, aiding society in the move away from fossil fuels.

This adoption of IoT technology will transform the power industry to a $1.3 trillion field within the next 10 years, according to Forbes.

Join us in Chicago on April 10th for Digital Day to learn more about the digital, industrial transformation and connect with top thought leaders from companies like Johnson & Johnson, Gray Matter, GE and more.

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Brilliant Factory in Grove City Puts New Life in Old Engines



The engine remanufacturing plant in Grove City, PA, has been operating for 5 years, occupies 440,000-square feet and employs more than 400 people.

The facility has made a huge transformation from being a food packaging plant into being one of GE’s first seven high-tech “brilliant” factories.

Gray Matter, through a partnership with GE, has helped implement advanced technology such as sensors that allow workers to measure and see real-time data at a glance. This improves reliability, has reduced downtime by 10 to 20-percent and boosts productivity.

The Grove City plant refurbishes diesel engines, taking old engines and give them life again.

This used to require works to manually tighten bolts in a repetitive motion by hand, using machines weighing in at 40-pounds on 41,000-pound engines, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

This new technology allowed them to have an automated way to uniformly tighten the bolts in a sequence, preventing possible injury to the workers and creating a standard for all of the bolts.

It also gives plant managers the ability to call up data on a tablet or smart phone rather than touring plant operations on foot, allowing them to address problems sooner and supervise workers remotely.

Join Gray Matter on April 18th for our Toronto Seminar and learn more about digital innovations in manufacturing, water and energy.

Connect with leaders from companies such as GE Digital, CyberX, Eramosa and more for a full day of discussion, followed by an optional Blue Jays v. Red Sox game.

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Partnering Digital Solutions & IIoT Technology to Benefit Water


The ultimate goal for water and wastewater utilities is to always be safer in order to protect the communities they serve.

GE Water put out on social this week a piece written by Steve Davis, a business development leader at GE Power, Water & Process Technologies.

It discusses the problems of the world of water and how the solutions lie within industry partnerships.

According to Davis, there is no single company in the water industry that can provide connectivity, platform, software and analytics all in one.

A quote from Gray Matter VP of Water in Water Innovations: Creating a Better Living.

The solutions to these problems are exist, however are still in their infancy and fragmented.

By uniting experts within the industry, a combined commercial effort is created through a mutually beneficial relationship.

By connecting top industry thought leaders, the partnerships cultivate into innovative ideas that can excel the industry and pace of the digital revolution. It simplifies data integration, and takes away the once overwhelming feeling for customers by interconnecting platforms.

New technologies are giving people hope that they can achieve better standards of living, and Gray Matter is helping to lead the way in the water evolution.

Download our white paper Water Innovations Create Better Living to read real customer success stories of increased efficiency and profits through innovative technology.

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Oil Insider: Top Three Issues in the Boardroom

Oil Insider: Top 3 Issues in the Boardroom from Gray Matter Systems on Vimeo.

It’s Go Time

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.

Unlocking Dollars

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.” boardroom

The information matrix is so complex now that in order to monitor performance, you have to connect streams from clouds, data centers and mobile users.

Finding the money “that’s locked up in there” is key according to Gillespie.

When the data from all systems is integrated, operators and engineers are empowered to see everything at once. The single view allows them to make better decisions, increase response time to problems and improve the overall workflow.

This shift ultimately leads to big savings on operational costs because companies are no longer wasting time operating in silos. The knowledge management tools to bring data together give key players in the oil industry the ability to know which assets are stronger, which alarms are false and the best practices moving forward.

The idea behind the single pane of glass is simply to make the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) easier for people to manage.

Want to know more about single pane of glass?

Join Kemell Kassim, VP of Energy at Gray Matter Systems, as he details creating a single pane of glass view into operations at our Oil & Gas Seminars in Dallas, Houston and Pittsburgh this month. Dr. Steven Fleischmann, a global expert in risk across a broad range of industries including energy and advanced technology, will also be on hand to discuss reducing operational costs.

Protecting the Underbelly

Effective cyber security is no longer a choice. It’s required.

That’s why it’s in the top three priorities of oil and gas executives. Surprisingly, the risks here are not always technology or equipment, in many cases they’re people.

Knowing what to do when attacks happen and the making the right, immediate decision is half the battle.

The other challenge is keeping networks up to date. The network may be safe one day and then six months later, new configurations have exposed the system to different threats.

Figuring out how to protect the soft underbelly of their (oils and gas companies) operations systems – the threat detection, the bad actors, cloaking those devices from malware and other threats – it’s a big issue today.

James Gillespie

Operational technology security has advanced to cater to customers unique needs and operating environments. It’s different than information technology security. Protecting OT control systems involves special care to make sure production isn’t disrupted by the shields put in place.

Industrial process control systems, remote assets and remote means of communication are three areas where risk protection is needed. Improving firewall policies, securing operating equipment and making sure operators know how to manage attacks are all ways companies are looking to protect themselves.

Predicting the Future

The final hot topic is optimization and predictive maintenance in all of those data issues, according to Gillespie.

The discussion around predictive analytics has become more intense recently. As the workforce tightens and efficiencies become more important, using a company’s data streams to help predict future outcomes becomes vital to success.

The ability to understand the health of an asset or machine is huge. When you have advanced warning about a problem, you can act and avoid disruption to production. Knowing when maintenance is needed reduces cost by allowing the fix before the failure.

Real time data and analytics tools are plugging into the industrial internet to create smart machines. Predictive maintenance cuts costs in several ways. First, overall maintenance costs go down when trouble is stopped before it grows. Then, the smoother flow allows delivery times to become much more predictable. Ultimately, leading to maximized oil and gas production.

The oil and gas industry is going through a transformative period. Smart, strategic judgement is needed. Making sense of the information you have, protecting the system from threats and effectively predicting roadblocks will all help to reduce costs and increase productivity during this dramatically changing time.

The trends we see in the marketplace right now are the proliferation of all the connected assets and the information overload that this creates.

James Gillespie

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. The quiet that blankets the shores of the state’s waterways right around 5 a.m. is so still and peaceful it’s nearly sacred.

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. If they break the silence by snapping a twig, they twist up their faces in embarrassment and apologize profusely but quietly.

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.

Streaming Data

In the early morning, just after a light rain, as the sky clears and the sun comes out, drops of water collect on leaves and begin to pool. The weight of the water pulls the leaf down and a trickle of water spills out into the river. A small amount of water joins the flow and becomes part of one large stream.

The same goes for the information that unknowingly streams into our networks on a daily basis. Piece by piece, information is collected from offshore platforms and onshore oil wells and transmitted via microprocessor-controlled electronic devices called remote telemetry units. One stream means one thing and came from a specific place, making it usable when operators collect it and learn from it.

HMI/SCADA

Watching a river pass by is not unlike how operators learn about their processes through a SCADA system. Operators interact with the SCADA system by using a human machine interface (HMI), which can be something as simple as a computer screen that displays the SCADA interface.

Automation in Trout fishingThe data coming into the SCADA system can be as simple as a picture of a tank filling with an animation that represents a certain capacity. When the tank in the field is half full, an animation of the tank onscreen rises to 50%.

In addition to visual cues, the SCADA system also provides alarms that indicate if there’s a problem. There also is the “control” aspect, which refers to the operator’s ability to remotely operate the equipment.

Historical Data

What if every piece of information needed to catch every fish on the first cast could be captured?

Today’s powerful historian software does just that. It logs data continuously without fail, collecting thousands of pieces of data and locking them away. For oil and gas companies, this means being able to take years of data from their operations and capturing them into a robust, never-fail locker.

Once those data are captured, they can be analyzed for trends to make better decisions. These practices, while grossly oversimplified, are how companies use Big Data to make things better. Companies analyze years and years of operational data and search for commonalities and trends that will provide insight into how they can improve in some areas or discover deficiencies in others.

A Cybersecurity Strategy

What if fishing wasn’t just a hobby for you? What if your favorite fishing hole was actually the sole source of food for your family, and you needed to protect it at all costs? What if you could segment your part of the river from the rest of the world and cloak it in such a way that no one else could see it?

In the wake of high-profile attacks on big businesses, oil and gas companies across the country are getting serious about implementing a cybersecurity strategy. The Industrial Control System Cyber Emergency Response Team, or ICS-CERT, recommends a defense-in-depth approach involving specific countermeasures to create an aggregated security posture. It can help defend against cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities that affect an industrial control system.

That technology exists now, and oil and gas companies are using it to hide critical parts of their network. These cybersecurity solutions can sit on a network and cloak high-value assets, servers and endpoints to safeguard against cyber breaches.

Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures are beginning to change in a very real way. The practice of locking down standard operating procedures makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons.

First, it ensures all operators respond to specific situations in a certain predetermined way. Next, it captures the best practices of the best operators before they are lost to retirement. Finally, it ensures that the critical steps required to complete certain activities, some of which may be regulated by government agencies, are followed strictly and documented diligently.

While the variables involved with fishing are part of the game, for the oil and gas industry, technology has become quite adept at weeding out variability in such a way that it becomes a nonfactor. The technology exists today to predict outcomes with great certainty, forecast asset failure accurately and connect people with real-time data so they make informed decisions.

This post originally appeared online for Hart Energy’s E&P Magazine.

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

The hydrated pizza from “Back to the Future Part II”

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, a recent Automation World article 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.

“Foodini is the first 3D printer to print all types of real, fresh, nutritious foods, from savory to sweet,” according to the Natural Machines website. “It uses fresh, real ingredients, making the Foodini the first 3D food printer kitchen appliance to contribute to a healthy eating lifestyle.”

While Foodini isn’t available for purchase quite yet, co-founder Lynette Kucsma, envisions a time where every household will own their own 3D food printer, according to Automation World.

Industry experts even say that 3D printing will help food manufacturers, not harm. Laurence Gibbons of Food Manufacture said it will be a huge part of the food and beverage industry — reducing costs and production time. In fact, Gibbons suggests it could even be as valuable to food manufacturers as the Internet.

But 3D printing isn’t limited to the food industry– it’s anything but.

New Balance, the athletic wear brand, announced yesterday their newest running shoe model– one that incorporates a 3D-printed midsole.

Instead of the traditional foam at the bottom of a sneaker, this model will have a lighter, 3D-printed midsole. According to Fast Company, brands like Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have experimented with 3D printing for a few years now. Apparently, shoe companies are now competing to make a lighter shoe, one that can be produced quickly and they’re doing so with the help of 3D printing.

Photo courtesy Creative Tools

Photo courtesy Creative Tools

So if food, running sneakers, and even automobile parts are impacted, where else is 3D printing applicable?

According to Jesse Snyder of Alberta Oil Magazine, the oil and gas industry may be next. Snyder said Apollo-Clad’s laser cladding is a lot like 3D printing oilfield pipes and tools.

“Suspended in the air over the tube is the spray nozzle of a laser-cladding machine, which has been placing successive layers of tungsten carbide to build up three “stabilizer blades” in the center portion of the tool,” said Snyder.

Doug Hamre, the head of research and development at Apollo-Clad, a company that manufactures and repairs downhole tools and mining equipment, said it’s “exactly like 3D printing, but on a larger, industrial scale.”

David Greenfield of Automation World even said back in 2014 that “the ability to print using many different types of materials, and decreasing costs” could make 3D printing a game changer for the global automation market.

At the 2014 IHS Industrial Automation conference, senior principal analyst Alex Chausovksy said that industrial machinery production is an area to be most dramatically impacted by 3D printing technology.

“The increased ability for innovation in design means that companies armed with 3D printing technology can ‘work from function rather than fit,’ allowing changes to be made far more quickly than ever before,” said Greenfield.

According to Chausovksy, we are on the cusp of a new way to produce. However, he warns that another change it could bring to the manufacturing industry is “a restructuring of intellectual property rights.”

“Manufacturers will have to think about IP (intellectual property) in a different way. They may need to move from selling physical parts to selling CAD files for customers to print,” said Chausovksy in the Automation World article.

If this explosion of additive manufacturing or 3D printing can teach us anything, it’s that technology continues to transform industries of all sizes and compositions.

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