XMPro Emerges as an “Action Hero” of Industrial IoT – Intervening Against Future Faults, and Helping to Invent the Future Itself
By Rowan Philp, Interview with Pieter van Schalkwyk, CEO & Founder
Two industrial Fortune 10 companies are saving millions per quarter, thanks to the game-changing innovations and action-focus of one of the most exciting service providers on the IoT landscape.
XMPro is rapidly gaining industry recognition for real-time data application solutions that go far beyond the traditional dashboard and visualization of incumbents in the Industrial IoT space – effectively serving as the “conductor” in the faults response orchestra for asset-intensive industries.
Its systems actively assign corrective tasks after detecting declining asset performance from sensor data, alerting dispatchers and technicians to predicted faults as they are about to arise – even direct to their personal mobile phones. Embedded actionable analytics on event processing streams also provide intelligence that reduces and optimizes field service trips, which has slashed both costs and vehicle accidents for customers.
XMPro's platform allows field service dispatchers to identify the nearest technicians with the right parts – and its user-friendly mobile apps then allow those technicians to have real-time sensor data on the equipment during their inspection.
Illustrating their unique solutions mix, the Dallas-based company was listed among the CIO Review's 20 Most Promising BPM Solution Providers of 2015 – and also in the CIO Review's 20 Most Promising Big Data Solution Providers of 2015.
“Originally, XMPro was a BPM system with very strong IoT capabilities,” says CEO and founder Pieter van Schalkwyk. “In January of this year, we pivoted around to be an IoT solution with very strong BPM capabilities. That makes us very different from our competitors, who tend to offer IoT applications, but don’t have strong process management.”
Trained in South Africa as a mechanical engineer and founder of a successful BPM company there, Van Schalkwyk has devoted his career to developing business performance management solutions, and innovating ways in which companies can leverage real value from their sensor data. Some 65 companies worldwide are already using XMPro’s application suite to monitor asset performance, and industrial “super-majors” are rapidly joining those ranks.
XMPro astonished the oil & gas industry last year by saving $8 million for a single Fortune 10 energy client across just two quarters. In one unanticipated additional benefit that has delighted Van Schalkwyk’s team, “truck rolls” – meaning oil field service trips – were also reduced by 18 percent, leading to fewer accidents. XMPro is not only reducing liability, but also saving lives.
“We managed to win two Fortune 10 industrial organizations as customers, and we saved a major oil company $8 million in the first 6 months – that’s unheard of for any business,’ says Van Schalkwyk. “And as a result of selling to these multinationals, we have also gathered a lot of exposure. Our objective is to give 10 times ROI on asset-intensive industries,” he says.
Its R&D staff is now working on computer-controlled aerial drones to handle many field inspections and reduce risk to crewmembers, and is also integrating augmented reality systems to remedy problems in a single field trip.
He says: “As an IoT company, you want to help invent the future, and watch people try to keep up with you. Certainly, the feedback we’ve had is 'Wow – you’ve created these event streams; which actually tick all the boxes'. But our overall focus for innovation is to either increase your uptime, or decrease your down time – to help customers make more, and lose less.”
Van Schalkwyk says parallel growth in a newly connected data world will likely be driven by the need for effective, timely and prioritized action. “Gartner has a projection that there will be 25 to 50 billion connected devices by 2020, But what people forget is that its going to take 5 million applications to run those billions of devices. That’s the business we are in.”
Van Schalkwyk says the availability of sensors and data are not the problem amongst large industrial enterprises: these companies have been swamped with sensor data for years. The challenge – and the winning innovation – lies is actionable data that comes to the correct decision-maker in real-time. He says the company’s products were built around the realization that “visualization is not good enough.”
“We’ve created a simple drag and drop tool to wire up all of the data,” he says. “Our competitors in market mostly offer visualization tools; they give you dashboards. But we saw that dashboards are not good enough – you need to catch those events that will impact your business.”
“Our secret sauce is that we combine the ability to not just capture and store data, but to create the actions that come out in real time. At the technology level, we have the ability to connect all the sensors and data input and kick off all the actions customers need to remedy the situation – actually putting a task on someone’s to-do list, and checking that they’ve done it.”
For Van Schalkwyk, the conceptual breakthrough was to view the company as a “conductor” within the IoT orchestra; a service directly geared toward either boosting revenue or saving on costs, or both. “The whole IoT market is very new,” he says. “Yet there are so many platforms – Boston Consulting stopped counting at around 300 platforms around IoT. But the problem is that you need to let all these things work together. With IoT, there is not a single provider. The solution is comprised of multiple moving parts - the sensor part; the data part, the end user part; and many more. You need a conductor for all these parts, just as in an orchestra, and that’s what we are. And being a conductor is what’s worked well for us in terms of messaging.”
XMPro offers embedded predictive analytics, smart alerts, and real-time dashboards to spare companies the knock-on costs of isolated failures before they happen. So technicians can repair the pre-identified fault on an individual machine before its failure cripples an entire factory production line for days.
Like popular music recognition apps in the consumer space, XMPro’s predictive software not only recognizes signals of future failure in an asset, but also its likely cause. “If you are looking at declining well production – say you have 10,000 wells, and you want to figure which of these wells is starting to decline, what you don’t want to do is discover two days later which ones are not producing; you want any leading indicator, in real time, to tell you which ones to go and check. Or in the case of a production line: what is the likelihood that a machine is going to fail; a failure that could bring down your whole production line.”
“Our system is able to predict a failure about 100 hours before it actually fails; we also put that job onto someone’s mobile phone; and an email, and a flash on the screen. And when the technician is out there on site, he has real-time data on his phone coming in.”
There are already powerful champions of XMPro’s approach within the industrial space.
The company is a Micrsoft partner, and Van Schalwyk says: “Microsoft, at a corporate level, is promoting us. We build on their technology. They see the value in our products and are promoting us to key accounts.”
The company was also named a Gartner Cool Vendor in 2012; a status which helped the firm “break through all the noise” in the U.S. market, according to Van Schalkwyk. The company was featured in more than a dozen Gartner research reports in 2015, including the “Hype Cycle for the Internet of Things, 2015.”
“We are now a Gartner client – a whole bunch of other good things happened as a result of that. We became a Cool Vendor in 2012, and, with each innovation we created, we began to receive inquiries. We proceeded to grow from there.”
Now, Van Schalkwyk’s team is focused on optimizing the actions that flow from detection. “Our challenge now is: how do we add to this? Now that we know things that are likely to happen, how can we enhance the action that happens next? Augmented reality will be massive. ”
“Also, for example, some of the R&D stuff we’re doing is embedding drones. Instead of sending out a crew, why can’t I fly a drone out from my computer to check the pump or the line? I could fly around; have a look; use an infrared camera to see, for example: ‘is there steam coming off? When the crew goes out, the guy can have wearable glass technology. He doesn’t need to be the lead engineer on that particular problem – the engineer back at head office doesn’t need to be on site; they can see the embedded drawing superimposed on the machine, and see the real-time data on the fault coming in.”
Pieter van Schalkwyk has been the CEO of XMPro since 2009, and carries more than 15 years of experience in developing business performance management solutions. In his role at XMPro, he and his team uncover unique ways of dealing with the deluge of big data from databases, systems, and more recently, smart sensor devices and the Internet of Things (IoT). XMPro's IoT application platform helps organizations take real action on real-time IoT data and is especially suited to Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications. Pieter has led XMPro's R&D team to architect and build an innovative IoT software platform that enables companies to more easily develop custom IoT software applications that are specific to their business and that they can’t buy from a vendor “off the shelf.” His experience as an engineer has equipped him to lead the development and marketing of our IoT Application suite. While he lives in Sydney, Australia, he spends most of his time in the U.S. and Europe talking to customers, engineers and developers on innovative ways to leverage IoT and the XMPro platform to create the next IIoT “killer app.”