In an interview with CIO Applications, Paul McRoberts, president of Atonix Digital, sheds light on the company and its data-driven technology, and solutions it delivers for clients.
Give us a brief overview of Atonix Digital, and shed light on some of the emerging market trends that you leverage.
After 20 years of application development, Atonix Digital was introduced in 2018 by our parent company, Black & Veatch, to offer a blend of deep domain knowledge, cloud computing and AI/ML analytics technologies to optimize assets for utilities and industrial companies.
The industry faces unprecedented challenges when it comes to asset management and analytics. Bottom line: Infrastructures are more complex, more distributed, and generate more data than ever before, saddling companies with new concerns about how to manage their assets. This landscape has given rise to asset performance management (APM), a model that integrates the technologies responsible for everything from collected data to predicting how best to achieve operational goals.
Unfortunately, a couple of hurdles have slowed APM adoption. The first is that APM often is conflated with any technology that provides general asset-related analytics capabilities. This has created confusion for organizations that have legitimate APM needs, making it difficult for them to evaluate providers and invest in the right solutions for their goals. The second hurdle is that solutions have traditionally only been within reach for big enterprises, leaving many small- and mid-sized organizations with the stigma that APM is too expensive and complex for them to deploy.
Our goal is to help demystify the uncertainty and confusion around APM and provide scalable solutions delivered through our cloud-based APM platform, ASSET360. Our solutions support clients by helping them reduce unplanned outages, ensure optimal asset performance, predict the best asset use to achieve operational goals, and plan for future business needs.
We also nurture an open and straightforward discussion about our solutions and technology. Simply speaking, we take a complex environment and break it down into two types of math that we use to deploy APM. One is standard math, the known or expected operations of machinery, equipment or system. The other is nonstandard math, where we employ Machine Learning and other techniques to derive algorithms to model equipment and system behaviors. These approaches help us understand the effectiveness, efficiency and health of assets.
One of our greatest advantages is that we’re not encumbered by legacy software. We were born in the cloud and will continue to stay there, which allows us to be fast, nimble and unburdened by old or antiquated technology.
We were born in the cloud and will continue to stay there, which allows us to be fast, nimble, and unburdened by old or antiquated technology
ASSET360 is a cloud-based analytics platform built with a ‘life cycle continuum’ in mind. Designed from the ground up with predictive analytics, condition-based monitoring, reliability-centered maintenance, and other APM functions, ASSET360 can help optimize performance, improve reliability, and predict risks of client assets.
Our customers can select one or several of our products, depending upon their needs, then add capabilities as their goals evolve. Many begin with monitoring and diagnostics, which captures, monitors and analyzes data from assets and across the plant environment to provide operational insights. Rather than reacting to alarms, alerts pinpoint the source of a problem, allowing operators to evaluate the normality of an event before taking action. The progress of an issue or resolution is tracked, driving informed decisions on the asset status.
Next might be planning workflows around risks and investments. Our risk modeling assesses the likelihood for failure and its consequences to help understand reliability for clients’ plant assets. Our investment evaluation helps to develop a plan for purchasing new assets or replacing existing ones in the future. ASSET360 provides an analysis around investment scenarios by modeling different combinations of approach, goals, and effort levels to identify the best investment opportunities for driving performance and ROI.
Finally, some clients take advantage of program management to simplify complex infrastructure projects, managing the design and delivery process for new assets, or the repair or replacement of assets. Once the project is up and running, our performance environment intuitively explores the whole infrastructure, monitoring the operations of individual assets and systems in the plant or across a network of facilities.
Rather than trying to fit ourselves into one small sliver of APM, we offer a portfolio of solutions that supports the entire plant cycle—right through the planning, building and operating stages.
How does your company ensure that the vast volume of data coming in is secure and safe?
Data security and privacy are some of the most significant concerns that keep CIOs awake at night, so easing these anxieties is our number-one priority.
Our environment is 100 percent SaaS-based and resides on the AWS cloud. So, when we onboard a new client, we work hand-in-hand with AWS to define the solutions, business cases, data access, and data security that will comprise their APM solution.
Could you please elaborate on the client onboarding process and the support services you provide to clients post-implementation?
We rarely, if ever, start with a blank slate. First, we develop an understanding of our client’s goals. This understanding enables us to identify how analytics can improve their asset performance and configure our APM solutions based on their desired outcomes. Then we carry out a pilot project in the client’s environment. This usually takes place within the first four to six weeks, depending on the time it takes to provide us data access. From that point, we implement our math engine on the data to filter and extract essential aspects needed to enhance the efficiency of the facility. Unlike our competitors who take anywhere from 10 to 18 months to implement a solution, we can do it within just four months. When the pilot project is up and running and the client moves toward a full production cycle, we will expand the solution to other assets or across the network of plants as per their requirements.
What does the future hold for Atonix Digital?
Until now, we have catered to the North American market, but now the company is looking forward to expanding across Southeast Asia and Northern Europe. We also plan to add more domain-specific solutions to our product portfolio and equip clients with preconfigured comprehensive solution package(s) tailored to meet their specific requirements, whether in the power, wastewater, or other industrial and distributed asset environments. With these preconfigured solutions, we want to enable our clients to go-live in less than a month, empowering them to drive the performance of their critical assets.