Sramana Mitra: Fair enough. And the second use case?
Steve Pavlovsky: Multiple people working on the same application.
SM: What’s new about that? What’s new in the work flow?
SP: There are a couple of things that are new. We believe that the next generation … if we think about control problems, many of our customers today solve the same problem. They have a machine. They have a material handling system, a conveyor belt that moves material to another machine. They’ve got pumps that need to be controlled. They’ve got motors that need to be controlled. When you break a control problem down into its elements, many of those elements are the same machine after machine, customer by customer across the world. We think the cloud-based infrastructure and building a collaborative environment allows our customer bases to not only work collaboratively within their own organizations to solve complicated control problems and design control schemes for those machines, but it also allows the sharing of control algorithms across company boundaries.
We believe that the next generation of controls engineers coming into the workforce, who are used to cloud-based technologies, will be willing to share controls algorithms. It’ll be a publishing mechanism. In some cases, that may be free. It may be just free sharing of those control algorithms. In some cases, it may be fee based. If someone builds a fairly complex algorithm for a commonly solved problem, we believe that we’ll deliver a platform that enables her to generate revenue from the intellectual property she’s created.
What we’re focused on is building this collaborative environment that does allow users within an organization to share the work load but also to take advantage of crowd sourced intellectual property to solve common control problems. The logic to control a conveyor belt is pretty common, but today, most of our customers go application, application. They don’t have a mechanism to say, “Oh, I wonder if someone else has solved this; let me go browse a collaborative tool to see.”
SM: How do people compete in your customer base? Are their algorithms proprietary?
SP: They may be. A lot of our customers are OEMs. They make machinery, so they may have proprietary algorithms for a part of the process that makes their machines unique. But the logic for getting material in and off the machines, handling functions might be common and generic. We have system integrator customers that build applications, let’s say, for a water treatment facility or a particular water treatment process or a pump lift station for moving clean water from a reservoir to some other holding cell. We believe that there are people who do create valuable intellectual property. Part of the collaborative environment we’re going to create will provide a marketplace for them to sell that intellectual property.
If you think about the system integrator market today, system integrators are local controls engineers whom end-user companies hire because they don’t have the staff on board because they only do a project every year or every six months. Those companies have a geographic spread of perhaps a radius of 100 miles, what they can drive to in a couple of hours. Their current potential customer base is quite narrow. We believe that by creating a marketplace within our collaborative environment, we’re going to open up the world to them in terms of being able to generate revenue from the intellectual property they’re creating.
SM: That’s an interesting dynamic. It’s probably quite new for your industry, right?
SP: It is absolutely new. We don’t think that there’s anyone else out there today doing this.