ICONICS Makes Invisible Visible on RealWear’s HMT-1 (Interview).
PARTNER SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: ICONICS Makes Invisible Visible on RealWear’s HMT-1.
Learn why people are ‘wowed’ by the RealWear-ICONICs solution.
Mr. Russ Agrusa founded ICONICS, Inc., in 1986 and serves as its President and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Agrusa started ICONICS in 1986 to create off-the-shelf HMI and SCADA and Visualization software for factory automation.
This conversation occurred on March 30, 2018 via phone with Russ Agrusa, Founder, President and CEO, ICONICS. We discussed a wide range of topics related to the RealWear and ICONICS’ partnership and the benefits and value it is bringing to customers.
Tell us a little about your company.
ICONICS is a software development company located in Foxboro, Massachusetts, in between Providence and Boston, right near where the New England Patriots play. We develop software for the manufacturing, industrial and building automation markets. Our products are off the shelf and are used to do what is called HMI – human machine interface and data analytics for a variety of industries. We focus on several core industries including automotive, discrete manufacturing, renewable energy, oil and gas, water and wastewater, and building automation, as examples.
How long have you been doing this?
We started in 1986, so a little over 30 years now. We’re privately held and have sold well over 350,000 licenses in the market.
Who are your marquee customers?
We have about 70% of Global 500 customers using our products. One of our biggest customers is Microsoft. We run the Redmond Campus in Puget Sound. We manage all their energy in all their buildings. By using our products, Microsoft has been able to reduce energy use by 22%.
In the automotive industry, a wide range of vehicle manufacturers and tier 1 suppliers leverage ICONICS software to monitor their production lines. We work with several major car brands globally to assist with quality control, line inspection and defect tracking, as well as perform additional analytics to reduce costs related to downtime and excessive energy use.
We work with a lot of universities including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Nebraska, and Purdue University. We also do a lot with major water and wastewater companies. We’re installed in about 1,600 water plants worldwide.
Since the early beginnings of our company, we’ve had numerous successes in the oil, gas and petrochemical industry throughout the world; from drill sites and refineries in California, Texas, and several other states, to one of the largest HMI/SCADA installations in the world for the world’s largest oil pipeline company, Transneft in Russia.
Another marquee customer is the Pentagon. Our software runs the Pentagon’s operations center from a buildings point of view. We monitor elevators, escalators, energy, the water system and the electric system for keeping one of the world’s largest buildings running. At 6,500,000 square feet (600,000 square meters), this is one of very few man-made structures actually visible from space.
Talk about what is the main solution or product you’re offering?
Our primary goal is to make the invisible visible. This means helping customers tap into what may have previously been undiscovered, untapped data and then visualizing, analyzing, mobilizing and cloud-enabling it. We run on desktops, browsers, tablets, phones, and on wearable devices such as RealWear’s, HMT-1®. We have a product offering that installs on desktops, but we also provide apps that can be downloaded from Google, Apple and Microsoft app stores. We adapted the Android version of our MobileHMI™ app for the HMT-1 device to make the invisible visible through augmented reality technology. By using voice commands such as, “Show me the temperature of the tank”, the app immediately displays that information to the user on the HMT-1 interface.
What is your product called?
ICONICS offers a number of industrial automation software solutions. One of the most well-known is our GENESIS64™ HMI/SCADA and building automation suite. We also have a high-speed data historian called Hyper Historian™ and a data analysis suite called AnalytiX®. Our product that integrates with RealWear is called MobileHMI, our data mobility suite. You can say, “Show me [this] or read a QR code to launch a particular display,” that you would then see in your mobile heads-up display.
So before you were just looking at the pipe, the valve, now you’re revealing data behind the physical object?
It’s like when you’re driving your car — How much fuel do I have? What’s my RPM? When you’re in a plant, you want to do the same thing. What’s my total production output, performance KPIs, status indicators — Do I have any alarm conditions? We bring that enhanced visibility of the process to the RealWear device. So when you’re looking at the eyepiece, you’re seeing real-world KPIs. You’re now looking at the physical equipment and maybe you’d like to know what’s the flow rate, temperature, etc. Our product connects back to the control systems where the actual data is and displays it to the user in a context never before possible.
That’s incredible. We’ll get back to that. What problem are you trying to solve?
There is a massive amount of hidden information that is sitting in these systems. If you’re in an oil refinery, imagine that you’re climbing up a ladder and, at that point, you can issue a voice command such as “Show me what the voltage level is” before you grab the door and it’s too late. We make all this data and information visible to you in the head-mounted display, showing you statuses, indicators, etc., just like the dashboard in your car.
When did you launch MobileHMI?
MobileHMI was launched about seven years ago. During the advent of smart phones and tablets, we recognized the need for a product that could provide detailed visualization, not just on a PC, desktop or browser, but also in an app in order to connect to and visualize data on any mobile device.
So this is an app?
Yes, the client end of MobileHMI is available as an app. The porting of our Android app to the RealWear platform wasn’t the hard part — We had already done a lot of development legwork to make it work well on a number of mobile form factors. But then, we tied in voice commands to invoke certain RealWear-specific menu items and actions. There was some work to do there because, normally, you click or tap with your finger when using apps. With RealWear, you use your voice. We had to map voice commands back to our system. We call this app ICONICS MobileHMI for RealWear.
That’s fascinating. How did you hear about RealWear?
That’s another interesting story. We’ve done some work with the company PTC, and I was invited to a PTC event, THINGWORX 2016. I was walking around and saw the RealWear booth. Sanjay Jhawar, RealWear’s president, was there. My CTO was with me. My CTO downloaded the app and said, “Let me show how quickly this can be done.” At that early point, we didn’t yet have the voice commanding, but that’s where it all began.
How did the porting process go to adapt the technology to RealWear? Was it a big challenge?
We were able to get the integration between both products to work in just a few days. We have a very flexible, interoperable architecture that utilizes this notion of “commanding”. For example, if you click on a button it will issue a command to bring up a new display, or open a report, or acknowledge an alarm, etc. We already had basic support for voice integration, but we never did anything to the level that you guys are doing at RealWear. Sanjay hooked us up with RealWear’s development team in the UK. We have a development office in Prague, in the Czech Republic.
I was shocked, too. This is amazing that you can do this stuff in a few days. In less than a week, we took an Android app and made it a natural part of the RealWear device. Totally integrated.
How long did it take to take it to market?
We have a normal product release cycle. We rolled all these enhancements into our last product release. Currently, we’re discussing new functionality such as a ‘Remote Mentor’ feature, which would combine real-time visualization with a remote expert.
When will that solution be released?
We’re currently targeting to release Version 10.96 of our solution near the end of 2018. We plan to add the remote expert feature, as well as a native camera integration with our visualization. Normally, we don’t do this, but based on the feedback we’ve been hearing from our customers and partners, the remote expert scenario is one of the biggest requests for our RealWear integration.
All your own tech?
ICONICS recently held a Worldwide Customer Summit, where we introduced Sanjay to our customers. We had Purdue University and several others buy units directly at the event. We have some interest from our major oil and gas industry customers. We are working on other projects with data centers and distribution centers as well. RealWear’s head-mounted display devices are very useful. It’s a natural extension to what we’ve always been doing in providing the power of choice to customers for their data visualization and management needs.
What’s the performance of the app like on the device?
The RealWear device has eight cores and a powerful set of CPUs on it. HMT-1 is snappy in real time. It understands commands dead on.
What’s the feedback?
People are wowed by our joint solution. It’s all about exposing customers to it. We’re just getting started. That’s why we are adding more functionality like the remote expert feature.
Anything else you want to add?
It’s really nice to be around technical people who are deep into the product and committed to solving problems. We’re happy to have started this working relationship with RealWear, and we look forward to discovering what our combined efforts can accomplish for our shared customers.