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Tale of Two Cities

August 30, 2018

The similarities to the Dickens novel are sparse: our data is imprisoned, we are at the beginnings of a revolution that has been a long time coming, and the cities are Barcelona and Madrid.

I am one month in to joining Element and as part of that spent two weeks in Spain to see the ecosystem and conferences of two of the partners I manage: OSIsoft and Honeywell. Element was incubated out of OSIsoft and is a close technology partner and Honeywell invested in Element’s Series A round. Barcelona hosted OSIsoft PI World EMEA and Madrid hosted Honeywell Users Group. Both conferences had over 1,000 attendees and have been growing year over year. Both industrial businesses have around for decades, and in that time they have been creating what we now call Big Data, as opposed to "small data" which can fit in an Excel spreadsheet.

What I saw in these two weeks was a shift in attitude, the realization that this is real, the pace of change is accelerating, and there are macroeconomic imperatives that must be faced!

Industry 4.0 and Digital Transformation are not new -- we’ve been talking about them for years and companies have been dipping their toes in with Pilots. What I saw in these two weeks was a shift in attitude, the realization that this is real, the pace of change is accelerating, and there are macroeconomic imperatives that must be faced!

Whether it was at the booth or ad-hoc one-on-one conversations, companies realize they need to make optimal use of their data. Key questions we addressed:

  • How do I create a holistic view of my industrial assets from hundreds or thousands of disparate data sources from Historians, to Thing Clouds, to ERP, to static data, to transactional data?
  • How do I shape this data to be made available to all my consumers from an engineer on the floor using an ATEX Zone-1 Intelligent Wearable, to my operations manager through PI Vision, to my Data Scientist using Python, or to a dashboard view for my Executive?
  • I have so much data that I’ve been collecting for so long, how can I trust it?

A number of these companies had started trying to solve their Big-Data problem with their Excel "small data" tool and were realizing that realizing their business objectives were months or years away at best.

Element has solved these problems today for some of the largest industrial companies, and when we talked about and demonstrated the what and the how, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel switch on. A highlight for me was a Professor from one of the world’s most prestigious universities who had been researching graph databases, data modeling, and the application to business intelligence, analytics and machine learning for digital industrial transformation. He came by and was so excited to see what Element had built and applied. He had many questions and it was a joy to listen to the discussion he had with our founder and VP of Product Sameer Kalwani.

Other notable findings from the conferences:

  • There has been a significant capital investment in assets with long life-cycles, regardless of industry
  • Decades of data exists, but little has been done with it beyond Human Machine Interface (HMI)
  • Operational optimization has been minimal, and thousands of tags were not even connected to sensors, and the big-data is of questionable quality
  • This data represents the intellectual property of the end customer and is unique to their business
  • The asset manufacturers are transitioning to new business models, installing more sensors, retrofitting legacy equipment, and even moving to asset-as-a-service models in some cases
  • Hardware is being standardized and software and virtualization allow the prototyping and commissioning to be accelerated with a lower overall project risk in safety, cost, and timeline
  • These industrial companies need to accelerate their move to unify people, process, and data to develop actionable insights to keep the plant running, drive out cost, and squeeze more value from existing investments
  • Within a decade, up to 45% of skilled labor will have left the workforce and with them years of knowledge driving the need for new technologies such as Virtualized Training and Augmented Reality to free hands with everyone acting like the leading expert
  • In many cases, these industries are globally distributed, sometimes in dangerous inhospitable places

These two weeks reinforced the need, the market readiness, and the necessity and ability to act. I’ll plagiarize two sentences from the Honeywell User Group keynote speaker Pablos Holman (https://su.org/about/faculty/pablos-holman/):

"Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare."

- Pablos Holman Futurist, Hacker

Element provides the vision so you can take action.