Sramana Mitra: What else is interesting in terms of what’s happening in your industry? This is an old industry that innovates very slowly.
Steven Pavlovsky: Yes, that is absolutely true in terms of where our industry has been. We’re in the process of launching a new control platform that has both control aspects and traditional computing aspects. Focusing the compute resources at the machine control level, where customers can have both high performance control and the computing resources to run HMI software and historian software and analytics software, enables much better analytics of the performance of the machine. That combination and our ability to deploy computing resources at the machine level will deliver to those customers and OEMs that take advantage of it to differentiate their machines to the customer bases. It will also be good for those end users who value the productivity that comes from doing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) analytics or other process control analytics at the machine. These observations lead us to think we’re at the cusp of a technology shift where the level of computing resources, combined with the networking resources to move from data that’s collected at the machine level up into plant-wide or enterprise-wide historians are cloud-based analytics that the software company within our business is working on pioneering.
We believe the networking and computing technology we’re bringing to market will drive a revolution in the productivity of machines.
SM: Interesting. Now, when you put all of this in perspective, where would you recommend IT entrepreneurs look into as areas and opportunities for innovation?
SP: One of the key aspects in how we’re building our cloud infrastructure is we’re making it extensible to allow others to build applications on top of the infrastructure we deploy. When I spent time talking about how applications are created, it was another element of if I have a plant, oil field, or water treatment for a city full of control equipment. We’ll be providing cloud-based infrastructure to monitor and manage those devices. We believe there’s an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build analytics tools, all kinds of applications that our customer base or the control’s marketplace would value in terms of getting data out of those connected edge node devices and being able to perform analytics.
On the flip side, once that network infrastructure’s there, there’s a whole series of opportunities about the remote visualization. It’s cloud-based, so you could be deploying systems instead of traditional laptop-based systems that run a thick client. You’re now on remote devices, iPads, iPhones, Android-based devices that can interact with that control platform. That infrastructure will provide a whole series of interesting opportunities in the space of visualization, analytics, cyber security. That’s a huge issue for our customers. We’re going to solve it for our control devices, but there are many other electronic devices in a factory that could be potentially connected to this infrastructure. We think there’s an opportunity for people to be building solutions for the integration of this cloud-based technology with other types of systems within the infrastructure: HVAC systems, fire systems, alarm systems, lighting systems, and building management systems.
There’s a huge opportunity to start thinking about not only the automation asset of a machine as a connected device but also all of the other types of connectible devices that are in that industrial setting and how could they be connected to the infrastructure.
Once you have that data, what are the interconnections you can make? I was at an interesting company that was starting to think about risk analysis. If they had interconnected devices, how could that company start to build up risk profiles? If several devices failed in a factory, a particular user in that general or a specific location might be at bodily risk, so how would they alert that individual to the risk? There are different kinds of ways to start to use this data device status and other infrastructure status once the data starts to be aggregated in the cloud.