TechHub: Digital Disruption, IoT Expanding Digital Footprints and More

Digital Disruption Transcending Industry Borders

With the first quarter of 2017 coming to a close, it’s clear that the exponential growth within the technology industry is not slowing down.

25,000 new information-related jobs were created in February this year alone, according to Forbes.

As this tech push continues, we’re seeing more and more of the Digital Twin emerge as physical and digital worlds blend together.

The Digital Twin is the computerized companion of physical assets, using data sensors to show real-time data analytics.

The adoption of this trend is becoming increasingly popular as companies realize the countless benefits that the Industrial Internet of Things provides, and Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence become mainstream.

The biggest mistake companies are making right now is assuming these technologies won’t influence their business or impact their industry.

Industry 4.0 is real, and it’s here.

Smart technology is becoming integrated into every facet of life, resulting in customers having the ability to buy anything, anytime, anywhere.

“The convergence of cloud, mobile, social and data have ushered in a new wave of business models that will present unique challenges for various industries,” said Bob Weiler in Forbes.

With this new technology comes new challenges and questions emerging for industry leaders.

To stay ahead of the competition— and win— organizations will need partners who can provide a new level of knowledge and experience within the industry, according to Forbes.

Rethinking business models within critical industry operations is necessary to maximize performance.

The pace of change is accelerating fast. Organizations need to jump on board and embrace emerging digital technologies.

To learn the first three questions to ask in your digital transformation, join our webinar on Thursday, April 6, at 2:30 PM EST: Transform Your Operation: Vision Before Action.

Gray Matter Director of Professional Services John Benitz will demystify the beginning of the digital journey for you using his expertise on various transformations like the GE Brilliant Manufacturing process.

Reserve My Spot

Digital Transformation: Solving Big Manufacturing Problems

The top problems manufacturers are struggling with are visibility into operations, sharing information across one or multiple plants and allowing the right people to access the necessary data.

The solution? Digital transformation of plant operations.

“Digitizing production processes is more about running an efficient business than it is about jumping onto the next technology bandwagon,” said Industry Week.

Automating processes and storing big data on the cloud allows for a single connected platform with production visibility. It allows for a single-set of accurate data and increases the control plant operators need, according to Industry Week.

Instead of having information documented on manual paper processes like Excel spreadsheets, it can be accessed in real-time across one or multiple plants.

Access to product information, inventory, quality data and more increases the productivity and decreases downtime throughout the plant.

Automating the plant is also automating the communication, in turn freeing up people and resources. Instead of having to track down the necessary information and data, workers have instant access to it at a moment’s notice.

Going paperless and automating processes is a critical step within the industry, and lays the groundwork for future innovations.

Gray Matter has a new solution to help transform manual data entry processes into digital insights for manufacturers, utilities and energy companies.

Mobility@Work digitizes information that would have been buried in stacks of paper and puts data in a format that can be used for big picture analysis.

Hauling manifests, inspections, scheduling, incidents, inventory and time sheets are all transformed from piles on someone’s desk to an easy to read digital presentation.

“There are a lot of correlations you can make if you have the data working for you instead of in a stack of paper.” – Kemell Kassim, Gray Matter VP

Download the free white paper to learn how Gray Matter solved the manual data entry problem and helped save a leading energy company nearly $1 million in just the first year.

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IoT Devices Expanding Digital Footprints & Vulnerabilities

Security Week defines IoT devices as convenient.

They allow us to have access to data remotely and process it faster than ever.

However, with the convenience comes risk, and most people aren’t locking down their systems like they should be.

There are more avenues now than ever for cybercriminals to breach systems as more devices are connected and the digital footprint of plants are expanded.

The reality of IoT hacks is eminent. Recent research highlights how PLC controllers can be hacked and potentially taint water supply, according to Security Week. Not enough devices are accounted for, and too much personal and business data is intermingled.

The top recommendations to fix this are to get a clear policy in place, designate accountability and segment your network.

By having clear rules, placing risk and responsibility on people or teams and designating sections of your network help block the threat of cybercriminals. It makes finding an easy path into the network nonexistent.

IoT devices have a lot to offer in the world of operational technology and plant management, the risk just needs to be mitigated and vulnerabilities need to be tracked.

Gray Matter offers a vulnerability assessment for OT networks that creates a security baseline for each asset with an IP address.

In a recent interview with ARC Advisory Group, Gray Matter VP Kemell Kassim detailed recent cyber initiatives and ROI case studies.

Download the Q&A Here

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

Ransomware: Expanding into the Industrial Internet

The Dark Side of the Industrial Internet

Ransomware attacks are no longer just a threat for IT companies, but are rapidly creeping in and causing damage to the world of industrial infrastructure.

With a 300-percent increase from 2015 to 2016, ransomware attacks are amounting to over 4,000 daily, making it the fastest growing malware threat according to the FBI.

Ransomware blocks access to data within a computer system or network until a sum of money is paid, often in the online currency bitcoin.

Our partners at CyberX, a cybersecurity company focusing on OT networks and industrial infrastructures, reported that KillDisk malware has evolved into ransomware, transitioning from destroying data to encrypting it and then demanding a bitcoin ransom for the data to be returned to the user.

IT Locked Up, OT Wide Open

Disk-wiping malware previously used in cyber attacks responsible for disruptions within the Ukrainian power grid has found its way into the industrial domain.

In this incident, a control center worker for the power grid noted that his cursor started controlling circuit breakers on his screen, when he wasn’t touching it.

After changing the operator’s passwords and locking him out of the system, the hackers took an entire substation offline, which escalated to shutting down many more as he helplessly watched.

Much like what resulted in the Ukraine, this malware is being distributed through office email attachments, resulting in hard-drives and network-mapped folders becoming encrypted and information stolen as a result.

Industrial networks are commonly targeted due to the economic incentive, as well as the problematic situation it creates for companies. Not only does it put the data at risk, but can cause damage to production.RedDoorMailer

This is a prime example of companies locking their information technology (IT), but leaving their operational technology (OT) systems too exposed.

Download the free Cyber Security for OT guide from Gray Matter Systems and read more about securing the OT side.

Preventing Cyber Attacks

So what’s the most effective method of protection?

Prevention. Protecting SCADA networks is key to fighting cyber attacks.

By performing risk assessments on OT networks for vulnerable HMIs, Industrial Firewalls, PLCs and IIoT devices, vulnerabilities in the network are easily identified and fixed.

Had the power grid workers been required to log into the SCADA and data acquisition networks by using two-factor identification, this may have been prevented.

By creating the correct policies in place within OT systems, organizations can better ensure systems to be worked on safely and securely.

Take the Cyber Challenge

How much do you know, or not know, about your own OT systems?

Take our Industrial Internet Cyber Security quiz and gain valuable insight into your own operations and strategies.

Take the Challenge

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.

Read More

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?

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

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