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Physics and Statistics: The Industrial IoT's Next Level is AI and Automation

By Cynthia S. Artin
August 08, 2018

“Physics is an attempt conceptually to grasp reality as something that is considered to be independent of its being observed. In  this sense one speaks of physical reality,” Albert Einstein once wrote.

Derick Jose, CPO at Flutura , couldn’t agree more. Flutura is a small company doing big things, literally. They are helping companies to not only predict when machinery and other equipment is at risk, but to prescribe actions to be taken, automatically through software, or through notifications to people assigned to keep things working efficiently and safely.

“We’re all about outcomes,” Jose said, “and about the success of surgical solutions that are very focused and perfectly engineered.

Flutura has significant traction in the IIoT world, choosing to spend time working closely with their customers and their customers’ engineers to increase output and operational efficiency, rather than spending time “hyping” IIoT and “building their brand.” In fact, this year, Flutura was included in a Gartner report on Peer Insights. In it, Gartner received real life feedback from the trenches -  industrial customers  across the globe who executed IIoT transformation at scale . They ranked vendors and Flutura emerged among the top 3 in the IIoT category globally. Among customer reviewers who were 1 Billion plus in turnover, Flutura and GE came in first whereas Accenture came second followed by Siemens,Hitachi and Oracle.

At Flutura, they are scientists and have implemented their platform Cerebra on large-scale projects, from remote fracking diagnostics, to predicting quality outcomes for 100+  large adhesive factory lines on a unified system, to reducing valve and reactor downtime in chemical processing plants, all by integrating sensors with physics and statistics leveraging AI.

They deployed a system, for example, which triangulates signals from millions of machine events from deep water assets in the Oil & Gas industry, increasing the longevity of deep water assets by 40%.

“Traditional approaches to safety break down the subject into multiple silos and track lagging indicators of safety rather than leading indicators,” Jose said. “In the past, last mile real time visibility into safety risk exposure was extremely limited, and one of the largest hydrocarbon producers in the world came to us to help them solve this problem.”

Flutura’s Cerebra platform ingested millions of machine signals from onshore and offshore assets, and along with process, and people related signals and quantified safety risk exposure through sophisticated risk modeling algorithms. Signals ingested include machine events such as leakages, pressure changes and flow count, process related data such as audits and maintenance, and people related data such as operator expertise.

“Safety incidents happen when people and machines are not interacting intelligently,” Jose said. “Once we implemented this solution, our customers’ offshore operations team had visibility into safety risk exposure across their rigs and were able to ensure that they had the right information necessary to take proactive action to avert potential safety incidents due to machine failures.”

 “We believe that the future of Industry 4.0 is in manufacturing companies embracing and adopting the outcome economy,” Jose explained. “Outcomes include longer asset life, higher factory yields and energy savings – to name a few. Bringing together the physical and digital world and doing so in near real time will change everything for the better. We’re experiencing a major shift, where any mechanical piece of equipment – whether a massive multi-million-dollar pump, or a much smaller medical device, can provide greater value when digitized and connected.”

Jose, who is as much of an economist as he is a technologist, believes the “outcome economy” will be monetized through new IoT and IIoT applications, and that companies who used to sell only equipment and physical maintenance contracts can now add services with usage-based pricing, prognostics and more.

“Next generation signal detection platforms are key and across many, many industries will determine who wins,” Jose said. “The convergence of our physical and digital world for assets will drive new competitive advantages and revolutionize our largest industries.”

A holistic approach integrating physics, statistics and heuristics with asset management will enable the mining of deep machine signals, but “In order to triangulate monetizable signals, the platform has to look across fragmented data pools-machine events, alarms, sensor streams, calibration changes and more, rather than basic, legacy one stream signal detection.”

As co-founder of Flutura, and CTO, Jose is passionate about the potential of AI and machine learning to save and improve lives, while also contributing to more profitable businesses. He shared three IIoT trends driving future value:

  1. Verticalization: very specific “surgical” solutions that prove to solve big problems. “You can’t boil the ocean, but you can improve the way machinery works in the deepest ocean waters.”
  2. Integration of physics with statistics: “We can predict when something bad is going to happen, but we need to go further – we need to understand why, and need to integrate the physics not just predictive systems, which has been our strength.”
  3. From Capex to Opex business models: “When it comes to large industrial equipment sales, there have always been leasing and buy-back opportunities, but today we are taking that to a whole new level when we add digital services to physical assets.”

Jose is also passionate about the rapid evolution of autonomous systems with many sectors. “We are moving from humans responsible for tasks, to humans doing higher order tasks and being augmented with sensor-based systems, to full automation. While a fully autonomous world will never happen, society will become more and more comfortable with technology that makes life more convenient, more-safe, and more enjoyable. Intelligent assistants like Alexa and Siri are just the beginning, as are self-driving cars and dramatically more efficient supply chains and delivery systems.”

“Ultimately, smart factories, container ships, oil rigs, and more will save time, money and lives,” Jose said. “Smart cities, smart schools, smart homes – healthcare wearables – mobile innovations – will also save time that can be freed up to spend with friends and family, and contributing to stronger communities, creating a new generation of entrepreneurs and challenging new careers. We should embrace AI for all its potential across the continuum.”

Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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