BTL Mark: Resolve interoperability issues & increase buyer confidence
So… you’re ready to hack your way through the jungle of deception and reality in the business intelligence and automation market? Are you ready to start looking for the next great “dashboard”? Do you think you have a handle on what’s out there? Well, be careful.
The first thing to keep in mind is that markets expand and contract on themselves over time. A good example of this is the storage market. Do you remember the company Iomega? They made the feverishly popular Zip and Jaz drives. As Moore’s law continued to flourish, causing the storage size to grow and the hardware to shrink, the seemingly endless expansion of storage drive manufacturers began to dry up. Now my Blackberry Storm™ has a standard, 8GB mini-SD card that is no bigger than my fingernail, and I can get gigabytes worth of storage data online for free!
It is safe to assume that the energy market and its impact on the automation market will follow a similar path. There will be countless solutions, partners and magic bullets that will claim to do this and that, but at the end of the day, it is capitalism at its best, and ‘let the fleecing begin’. Many companies will be claiming solutions that aren’t provable, and there will be even more who have solutions looking for problems. In the end, and there’s no telling how long this might take, there will be some very good solutions that rise to the top.
What owners, end-users and seekers of solutions need to do first and foremost is what we have been taught to do since day one… do your homework. If the offered solution sounds too good to be true for a ridiculously small (or large) amount of money, it probably is. Know what you want to accomplish before you get started, and have a list, in priority order, of your goals. Here are some tips:
Choose a product that you can get from many trusted sources and has a real software company behind it that only sells and cares about THAT product. Make sure that it is a RIA (rich internet application) provider; which provides you the latest, leading edge technologies.
Using an automation system that includes a data warehouse (a central repository) engine is a good start.
An integration framework is key to the success of whatever strategy you are seeking to achieve. Without having a proper platform that allows you to scale the number and the type of devices you can bring data in from, you will be lost in the sea of black boxes and lots and lots of custom programming.
Along the same lines of integration, above, this framework should allow the formatting of the integrated data points in a logical structure, thus allowing the users to do simple and/or complex calculations, searches and indexing, from the front-end, based on their own custom rules.
The platform of your choice should have a control engine, and the ability to execute both pre-configured and custom logical programs. It should have the flexibility to execute some processes faster than others and vice-versa.
At the dashboard level, this system has to be supported by a standard browser and give the user the ability to build and save their own custom dashboards, or pull from sets of pre-configured dashboards with current or historical data. These dashboards should give them the ability to chart, report, trend, view and control any of the systems available to their user credentials.
What these tools, and many others, give the owner is real intelligence. Their assets, whether they are factories, buildings, equipment or widgets, all contain important data that contribute to the whole. Alone they have no context, but when they are put together, in a structured, intelligent way, they create meaning that flows right to the bottom-line.
What will quickly emerge in the automation market are real, intelligent portals that have all of the above functionality and allow users to quickly appraise the state of their systems and networks, and begin to save money at a more rapid pace. One of these emerging products is called Prophet™. Prophet (www.prophetsuite.com) is a joint effort of two companies, CSI3 and DGLogik, which have extensive experience in the automation market and also the specification and design of large automation systems. The product allows users from multiple vertical markets to create their own custom Intelligent Heads-Up Automation Dashboards (IHAD). Examples of these markets are: Commercial Automation, Industrial Automation, Oil/Gas Pipeline Applications, Pharmaceutical Applications and others.
The key to Prophet™ is the advanced integration back-end based on the Niagara AX Framework™ technology. This product adds a new layer of data normalization, aggregation and analysis to Niagara AX, and it allows the users at the front-end of to “slice and dice” the data however they choose, to display it in their own preferred dashboards.
The folks at CSI3 and DGLogik offer the following as compelling reasons to consider a product like Prophet™:
The tagline says: Prophet is the dashboard that knows™? What does it know? The more important question is ‘what would you like your dashboard to show you’? Different from your typical dashboard that only displays exactly what the data is; it “knows” because it helps you know more. With automatic aggregation, normalization of values, context sensitive searching and tagging and more underlying features, Prophet makes it easy for you to add knowledge to the data. That knowledge, in the right hands, translates directly to money. Nothing is more useful than that these days.
Our expertise and knowledge of integration, aggregation and analysis tools in the automation marketplace, dramatically increases the likelihood of a successful implementation.
Energy managers looking to maximize the analysis of their total energy footprint can benefit greatly by working with Prophet. Prophet allows the integration of not only the energy assets, but also HVAC, lighting, access control, generation assets, etc.
The integration of all of your automation systems assets is the beginning of the road to being more “green” and creating economic success out of what was not apparent. The next step and part of the ongoing process is what you choose to do with that data. Prophet is built to help make sense out of what to do next. This knowledge is the easy to use, built-in ability to add context to the data, point to specific areas for improvement and efficiencies and put money back in your corporate coffers. Prophet is the dashboard that knows how to save money.
Some examples of how Prophet can help meet different customer needs:
help end-users/owners increase their revenue
help end-users/owners decrease their costs
help end-users/owners increase their profitability
help contractors/integrators/end-users/owners better respond to the needs of their customers, and new opportunities
help end-users/owners improve their productivity
help end-users/owners improve the satisfaction, retention, and growth of their customers
help end-users/owners improve their quality
Ultimately helping you reach your goals
So… don’t forget, knowledge is power and good control over your power equals money in your pocket. Good luck and happy hunting in that new frontier that is now part of all of our lives – the “energy jungle”!
About the Author
With over 15 years experience in the automation industry, Andy McMahon has worked for some of the leading automation software suppliers in various management roles including sales, product marketing and promotional marketing.
During his tenure at Tridium Corporation, he was responsible for managing North American sales and helping create the current distribution sales channel for the Vykon product line.
Prior to that, Andy was at Wonderware Corporation, a leading industrial automation software company. He played a key role in the co-creation and release of the first internet product for the industrial automation market, and managed their number one product line, InTouch.
Currently, he is tasked with managing a sales and distribution territory for Controlco, and helping design and implement leading-edge automation technology products for multi-site, end-users and VARs through his software company CSI3.
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