Heavyweights GE and Cisco back IoT with Bit Stew Systems

Bit Stew Systems has today announced US$17.2 million in Series B funding.
Published: Tue 12 May 2015

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The funding which has been secured through a number of sources, including Cisco Investments and GE Ventures, is an endorsement of the Bit Stew solutions stack and its relevance to industrial customers such as utilities.

“Securing significant investments from technology giants GE and Cisco supports our market-leading technology and will allow us to scale our business into new industries and additional geographic markets,” said Kevin Collins, CEO of Bit Stew Systems.

Real-time intelligence at the edge

In a briefing with Franco Castaldini, VP of Marketing at Bit Stew Systems, we talked about the relevance of the technology for today’s industrial companies, who are increasingly running and managing an industrial internet of connected devices and workforces.

Of great interest to GE and Cisco is the fact that the Bit Stew technology can be extended to the edge, effectively embedding the data platform on edge devices like a router.

This has already been demonstrated with Cisco and can be extended to other use cases such as control systems on a manufacturing floor or a router recording the connectivity of a well head.

At Engerati we have already seen the increased focus on edge intelligence and Mr Castaldini confirmed the importance of this use case for industrial companies whose requirement is real-time.

The latency and bandwidth constraints inherent in existing systems are inadequate to serve results back to a person or device in a remote location. Beyond the increased response time there is an opportunity to archive the results of events back into a central intelligence system. This significantly reduces bandwidth, latency and improves learning for future events.

Machine learning for industrial processes

In our briefing Mr Castaldini shared the use case of an existing customer who is ingesting fifty-two different data sources. Bit Stew achieve a 90% 'time to value' through machine learning to automate the data ingestion process.

What is significant is that this intelligence and learning drives measurable business benefits. It contributes to reducing bottom line costs in response to outages and asset failures and also impacts the top line, with Mr Castaldini quoting figures north of US$15 to US$20 per device per year. This could be a significant number in the justification of smart meter rollouts for example.

A case for predictive situational Intelligence

Situational intelligence or Software Defined Operations, as Bit Stew call it, can have a particular benefit when dealing with natural disasters such as earthquakes, fire or other externally driven events which put the grid at risk.

Mr Castaldini highlighted an existing customer who brought together a large range of external data from GIS systems, earthquake, fire, smart meter, asset systems, workforce management and more in a bi-directional way. This allowed operators to triage and predict events as they occur in real-time putting the control back into the hands of the operator.

The avoidance of event fatigue where a lot of different sources give varied information is a key use case with the software using multiple internal and external sources to prioritise information for operators. Again the application of machine learning is applied to make judgements based on past patterns and can be manipulated by operators to improve accuracy.

Opportunities in the bi-directional gird

A part of the funding will help Bit Stew expand internationally. Significantly, Bit Stew cites four key European countries: UK, Spain, France and Germany.

The latter is of course the poster child of renewable generation and faces challenges in managing its bi-directional grid. This is where data platforms such as those offered by Bit Stew come in to play. Bit Stew helps to manage the disruption and overcome significantly different operational challenges, not to mention price forecasting.

Engerati have long predicted that this will be a significant new technology battle ground for existing and new market entrants providing solutions to grid operators.

The ability to realise an accurate and live situational picture of your operations will not only give grid operators the edge but it will become a necessity in the increasingly distributed grid.

Digitising the grid

Software Defined Operations as illustrated by Bit Stew utilise data in combination with analytics to improve the processes of industrial customers. With machine intelligence this can start to be automated, creating a closed loop system.

Allowing data and information from existing sources like SCADA, VMS and OMS to drive, respond and control assets and workforce in the utility context means greater uptime.

“Creating a single source of the truth provides them with the management layer to define their operational procedures,” says Mr Castaldini.

Innovations in data and analytics will be the key to driving the industrial internet and help to put context around the IoT hype in the market. The US experience and depth of learning from existing customers will make Bit Stew a company to watch in the European market.

Further reading

Full Bit Stew Systems Press Release