The EdgeX Foundry community is comprised of a diverse set of member companies that represent the IoT ecosystem. The Member Spotlight blog series highlights these members and how they are contributing to and leveraging open source solutions. Today, we sat down with Jimmy Garcia-Meza, Co-Founder and CEO of CloudPlugs, to discuss architecture, the ecosystem and Industrial IoT.
What does your company do?
CloudPlugs enables energy, utility and manufacturing companies, service providers, building managers and municipalities to i) digitize and securely connect their legacy and new device infrastructure; ii) to manage end-to-end the lifecycle of their devices, applications and data; iii) to add intelligence to the edge to gain better insights and automate actions, and to easily integrate operations technology with IT systems and 3rd party applications and cloud services.
CloudPlugs offers a secure, fully integrated edge to cloud stack using state-of-the-art container technology in the cloud and in the edge. Our suite of integrated tools for connectivity, fast service development and deployment enable companies to implement and deploy their digital transformation projects in record time. For example, a large electrical utility developed a smart micro-grid service and deployed it within 35 days making it an internal example of how technology should be implemented.
Why is your company investing in the IoT ecosystem?
The IIoT space is so large and complex that it is impossible for a single company to address the needs of the market. For our customer projects to be successful, we need close relationships with the sensor, PLC, gateway and other edge device manufacturers, and upstream with the companies that provide data lakes, advanced analytics, machine learning tools and operations and business support systems. A real, field deployable solution must provide integration on the edge side and integration on the cloud or data center side. Only this way can companies truly integrate and digitize their vertical and horizontal value chains.
How has IoT impacted your company? What benefits have you seen or what do you expect to achieve?
IoT is what we do from inception, so we live and breathe the opportunities and challenges that surround this new world. Industrial customers tend to have 6-9-month evaluation cycles since the decisions will impact their operations and digital service and business model creation. However, what we have learned is that when they experience success, they will invest more. Some of the benefits we saw in adding Edge One™ to Thermal and Power plants to ingest and process legacy data that is pushed to a data lake, are that the customer is now able to use data scientists to create predictive models to further optimize operations. The confidence they gained help them venture into incorporating LoRa and sensors to transport data inside the plants and they now have an advanced material tracking system. Other customers are building their new connected systems to change their business model from selling expensive machines to selling outcomes. The impact of IoT and IIoT is just beginning to be felt and it will drive the Industry 4.0 initiatives in the years to come.
Businesses currently have to invest a lot of time and energy into developing their own edge computing solutions. What are some of the business or technical challenges you have faced when adopting edge computing technologies? How have you overcome them?
We have believed in edge computing since day one. Since then, we have built Edge One™ on top of the SmartPlug™ to deliver a container based, high performance, extensible platform for edge connectivity and computing. Coming up with an architecture that delivers flexibility, performance, scalability and extensibility has not been easy and it requires deep understanding of 1) the problem you want to solve, and 2) the technologies available and that need to be created to create a solution that can solve most of the challenges. Extensibility is key, and we are building an ecosystem of partners who can build and sell their own container applications and services on Edge One™ to complement the modules available from CloudPlugs.
Why did your company join EdgeX Foundry?
In many ways, EdgeX Foundry mimics what we do on the edge, but we expect to contribute to the technology and use cases and to make our Edge One™ platform compatible with EdgeX products and services.
How are you going to use the framework?
We are going to add to our products the pieces that allow interoperability with other edge devices that are EdgeX enabled.
Where do you see industrial IoT in 20 years?
I hope that in 20 years we’ll be talking about something else and that most of the industrial sector will have had great experiences in deploying their Industry 4.0 initiatives. One of the core elements of Industry 4.0 is the implementation of cyber-physical systems with the ability to learn and make autonomous decisions. Currently, companies are overwhelmed with the tasks of connecting everything and trying to gain better insights from the data. In a few years, as technology evolves and more, easy to integrate and use solutions become available, the number of companies using AI as part of their daily operations will grow. I expect that this will enable new battlegrounds for increased operational efficiency and new, innovative digital service and business models will emerge.