Getting data from the operations network to the IT network isn’t easy. The demands of each network are different. The protocols are different. The data formats are different. And for organizations, that means getting operational data into the formats and applications used by the business team can be a challenge.
With digital transformation on every CEO’s to-do list, turning data from machines, buildings, and sensors into insights is essential. Six-year-old startup Element Analytics is one of many startups hoping to make that divide easier to bridge with its Unify middleware.
Element launched its Unify middleware in December and has customers including Evonik (whose VC arm is also a backer of Element), BP, and Cargill. The software deals in metadata. Metadata is data about data. For example, if a sensor is reading temperature from a machine, the data is the temperature and the time at which it’s being read, but the metadata will tell you the machine it comes from, whether it’s in Celsius or Fahrenheit, and potentially other pieces of information.
Such metadata matters, because when trying to pull data from a large number of geographies, machines, or even different process lines, data scientists and business executives alike need context, and metadata provides the context across different settings. This lets employees of a certain company map the ideal temperatures for a specific batch of chemicals from plants in the U.S. and those in Dubai, for example.
It also lets executives or data scientists understand what’s happening in their plants when machines might use different protocols. Additionally, the Unify software includes machine profiles that can help take in metadata and map it to various types of machines or processes.
This helps map the machine data from the real world to a digital twin so plant operators can track how their assets are performing. Evonik, a German chemicals company, has reduced the time it takes to build models of its assets by 80% using the Unify software. Using it has also made it much easier for Evonik’s data analytics team to repurpose data for future machine learning efforts.
Historically, Element has been focused on process manufacturing, which is found in oil and gas refining as well as in chemical factories. Andy Bane, the CEO of Element, says it will likely expand into discrete manufacturing over time as well.
Customers pay for Unify based on the amount of data they run through the service and the number of users on the platform. They can host the software on their own clouds or have Element manage it as a service for them.
Cleaning data and making it useful isn’t fun, but it’s the start of any organization’s digital transformation (processes come next!). So companies that can help make it simple at scale are in demand.