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June 12, 2020 Jeremy Boren

TechHub Innovators: Astrobotic, PPG, General Mills, Penn State

NASA Chooses Pittsburgh’s Astrobotic for Moon Mission

Editor’s Note: TechHub this week features stories about organizations that are pushing innovation and exploration through digital transformation, a commitment to teamwork and education.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic is NASA’s choice to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, aka VIPER, to the moon’s south pole in 2023.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton called the selection an “enormous honor and responsibility.”

No person or robot has ever explored the south pole of the moon, and the mission would be the first “resource-mapping mission on the surface of another celestial body.”

VIPER’s goal it to locate spots on the moon where water “could be harvested by future astronauts.”

Astrobotic is a major part of Pittsburgh’s technology ecosystem. The company has worked closely with education institutions like Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University and companies like aluminum producer Alcoa.

Read more about the mission on NASA’s site.

PPG Divisions Team Up to Meet Spike in Package Coating Demand

PPG Research And Development Center near Pittsburgh

PPG‘s packaging coatings unit sought help from other sectors of the global company as employees worked to meet an uptick in demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“There was lots of pantry stocking … we have kept rolling,” said Amy Ericson, senior vice president, packaging coatings

The packaging coatings unit — which makes resins formulated into thin film used to line food and beverage cans as well as containers used for personal care products like shaving cream — saw pandemic-related demand rise by about 10%, said Ms. Ericson, the PG reported.

To help meet that demand, PPG redistributed resources from automotive and tire production plants that experienced a slow-down in Germany and The Netherlands.

That kind of collaboration could serve as a best-practice model as the economy emerges from COVID-19 shutdowns, Ericson told the PG.

Busting Myths About High Performance HMI at Waterloo

Source: AWWA hosted GrayMatter, Region of Waterloo and GE Digital for a webinar presentation about building an effective high performance HMI solution.

The American Water Works Association hosted a webinar with GrayMatter and GE Digital that features how GrayMatter worked with the Region of Waterloo to implement a successful high performance HMI strategy.

Waterloo sought to standardize the screens its water utility operators use every day to analyze and respond to data come from its SCADA system. As a fast-growing utility, Waterloo co-innovated with GrayMatter to design intuitive dynamos and to reduce the clutter and complexity of outdated operations screens.

The changes have made it easier for operators to assess the condition of a plant and to train new employees.

“You take one quick glance at this as an operator and you can see everything is going well,” a Waterloo official involved in the projects said.

A recorded version of the webinar, “It’s More Than Grayscale — Busting Myths About High Performance HMI Webinar,” is available now to view by contacting GrayMatter here.

A few key takeaways from the discussion include:

• Get your operators, directors and partners involved early

• Workshop often and do pre-planning

• Document and share – Create an HMI style guide 

• Take the time to carefully consider your alarm strategies

General Mills Uses Motorcycle Helmets to Social Distance and Communicate on the Plant Floor

Source: Sena

Motorcycle enthusiasts working at General Mills had an idea: Why not use mesh network technology found in Bluetooth motorcycle helmets to enable employees to talk to one other on the factory floor, while still keeping their distance?

General Mills is using hard hat-integrated, hand-free intercoms from Sena Technologies to allow workers in the same location to communicate securely with each other, or, to communicate to a Bluetooth-enabled PLC that could alert workers to a problem.

The mesh net work can adapt to a changing number of employees and work conditions.

Read more in Automation World.

Transform 2020 is Here!

Registration is now open for Transform 2020, GrayMatter’s annual Industrial Intelligence Conference on Aug. 5!

GrayMatter’s first keynote speaker announcement is Tom Davis, Azure IoT Leader at Microsoft! Tom is focused on bringing business value through the Internet of Things. He will discuss how leaders can remotely accelerate their Digital Transformation journeys.

Since this year’s even is online, we’re creating a virtual conference center where attendees can meet in interactive hubs, ask questions of industry experts and build their own agenda of keynote and breakout session presentations.

Read more and check out our event page for updates here, or register right now.

Penn State Launches Water and Energy Cybersecurity Project


Researchers at Penn State University are starting a 15-month grant-funded project to investigate the vulnerability for water and energy infrastructure systems to cybersecurity attacks.

Support for the project comes from $95,000 in grants from PSU’s Center for Security Research and Education.

The team will develop models that mimic an attack that could trigger a power failure or water supply outage. The goal is to highlight methods attackers can use to inject false (and potentially disastrous) data into an infrastructure system and raise awareness about the need to address vulnerabilities.

“Cybersecurity for water treatment and supply networks is only loosely monitored at the federal and state levels, where the primary focus is often on water quality,” said Sez Atamturktur, Harry and Arlene Schell Professor and head of the Department of Architectural Engineering.

“There is an urgent nationwide need for cybersecurity expertise.

Jeremy Boren

Jeremy is GrayMatter's Brand Manager and the author of TechHub and the emPOWERUP Podcast. He writes about digital solutions, trends and culture in the world of operational technology. Jeremy's background is in daily journalism. He has a passion for storytelling and enjoys highlighting the technologies and professionals taking on complex challenges in manufacturing, energy, cybersecurity and infrastructure.