Interview With Virginia Technology Today
Jason and Joe recently discussing digital twins and tech startups with Eddie Amos at Virginia Technology Today.
Listen to the interview or read the transcript below to learn more
Eddie: Jason and Joe tell us more about ITUS and what is a Digital Twin?
Joe: Let’s start by defining the concept of a Digital Twin. A Digital Twin is a virtual representation of a physical object that is usually modeled in software applications to predict future behavior. As we are in a very active hurricane season, most of you have probably recently seen examples of Digital Twins. As Hurricanes form, forecast models are developed which define the expected path or track of the hurricane. Weatherman usually refer to these models as spaghetti plots. Each one of the lines in the spaghetti plot is generated by a type of digital twin that models hurricanes. In this example, the digital twin knows about the current characteristics of the hurricane such as wind speed & direction. The twin is also monitoring other environmental conditions that can influence the hurricane behavior– elements such as water temperature and upper level winds. And finally the twin also has historical knowledge on how past hurricanes have tracked. All of this information is then analytically modeled to predict future hurricane behavior. That’s a Digital Twin! Our company, ITUS Digital is in the business of providing Digital Twin software for industrial manufacturing companies. Our solution analytically models industrial equipment to predict how it will behave in the future. We model how the equipment is designed, monitor current conditions while the asset is operating and when we detect a potential problem we provide advance warning and direct activities to minimize disruption to the business.
Eddie: Why are Digital Twins important?
Joe: Our customers manage large Industrial equipment which can be complex and very expensive to maintain. Unexpected failures can impact our customers’ ability to meet their production demands, can create very costly repairs and potentially harm workers or the environment. With a digital twin the equipment behavior can be modeled, potential failures predicted, and costly accidents avoided. When this approach is applied to large populations of equipment, millions of dollars can be saved by preventing equipment downtime and ensuring the right maintenance program is in place to prevent equipment failure.
Eddie: There are several companies in the market who claim to have this technology – why are you different?
Jason: Due to the complexity and cost of developing and managing a digital twin, the approach has been reserved for very expensive or highly critical equipment. Think aircraft engines, satellites, and wind turbines. ITUS has defined an approach which simplifies the process of creating and managing a digital twin. We have taken advantage of new computing methods and approaches to connect with equipment sensors and data systems. This allows us to offer very affordable solutions which can be used on the most common equipment in many types of industrial facilities. Now organizations like local water authorities can use digital twins to ensure delivery of water to our homes. Utilities can monitor transformers in substations and predict potential failures before the lights go out. Smaller manufacturing facilities can reduce the amount of money they spend maintaining equipment and improve productivity. We believe we have built capabilities which can rapidly expand the use of digital twins in the industrial world.
Eddie: Both you and Jason are long time software professionals who played important roles in the success of Meridium. Why go the start-up route instead of working for a more established organization?
Joe: First, let me state our experiences at Meridium and later General Electric were amazing. We were able to experience starting and growing a local business with Meridium and then how to deliver software at global scale with GE. As our careers progressed, we found ourselves getting further and further from the customers that we had enjoyed working so closely with at Meridium. We were also limited in how much we could invest to innovate on new approaches and business models which we believe is key to success in this market. So we had a significant amount of experience, new ideas on how to effectively solve some very big industrial problems but no easy way to execute. We felt like the time was right to build a company that allowed us to get back to our roots, work closely with customers and build innovative software solutions right here in the region.
Eddie: Where do you see ITUS in five years?
Jason: Having worked in the region over the last 20 years, we believe this is a great place to start and grow a software business. There is great local tech talent, the universities continue to provide new graduates knowledgeable in programing, data science and advance manufacturing and we have seen many software companies thrive in the region. ITUS has recently released our software technology and the response from the market has been amazing. We expect to see rapid expansion in the use of Itus Solutions over the next year which will provide the foundation for significant company growth. In five years we expect to be a leader in the Industrial Digital twin market with our global headquarters located right here in Roanoke.
Eddie: We had Mary Miller on the show recently talking about the new cohort at RAMP. She mentioned ITUS was in the program. What has the RAMP experience been like?
Joe: The RAMP experience has been great. The program has challenged us to fully assess our customers, their problems and what our solutions need to provide and this has definitely shaped the capabilities of our solution. The program has also provided key infrastructure which has allowed us to establish our business. Simple but important elements such as a great working environment, great internet access and easier access to regional and state sponsored funding sources makes a huge impact. All of this has allowed us to set a foundation which we are already growing on. One of the biggest benefits with RAMP has been the introduction into the regional tech community. I am just amazed at the engagement we have seen from the local tech community and our program mentors, how supportive the region is with startups, and desire to see us succeed. The coaching, mentoring and support we have received through RAMP has been amazing and we are fortunate to be part of the program
Eddie: What help do you need from the local community?
Jason: If you took a map of the region, centered it on Roanoke and drew a circle with a 100 mile radius you would be amazed at the amount of industrial manufacturing organizations that reside here. Water treatment facilities, power utilities, paper mills, chemical plants to name a few. Most likely many of these facilities can take advantage of our solutions to reduce costs and prevent equipment failures. We would be interested in working with all of them to see how we can help them save money and be more predictable in their operation. The community can help by getting the word out that a local company is providing innovative solutions to help them manage their assets.
Eddie: Jason and Joe unfortunately we are out of time. Thank you for updating us on RAMP and ITUS Digital. I would like to thank our Executive Producer Joey Self for making the show possible. Until next week I’m Eddie Amos and this is Virginia Technology Today.