CloudOne focuses on IoT applications as they pertain to the industrial engineering sector, primarily. Based in Indianapolis, in the heart of the manufacturing industry hub of the United States, the company caters to over 50 customers, and in this interview, John shares some examples and trends from the sector.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself as well as to CloudOne.
John McDonald: I’m the CEO of the company called CloudOne, which is based in Indiana. CloudOne was started in early 2010 and I was privileged to be one of the early leaders of the company. I did that after a long career at IBM – almost 20 years – where I led different entrepreneurial projects within the organization, mostly in the software space. I had the opportunity to get to know some of the early founders of CloudOne while I was still at IBM and was privileged to join them in 2010.
Sramana Mitra: What do you do in the company?
John McDonald: CloudOne is a creator of Internet of Things platforms. The work we do is to help, in most cases, very large corporations. We weave together existing components of software and systems, add to them other things that they may not have, and weave them into a complete platform that we then run for them on a managed services basis. Each customer’s platform is a bit different because we work with different industries and different IoT projects that they’re looking to do. More importantly, we’re dealing with different basic materials that we want to inherit, leverage, and extend. Each platform becomes a little bit different as a result but with the same common outcome, which is a sustainable operating environment for them to be able to take advantage of the Internet of Things in whatever way they choose.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s double-click down on the different platforms. If you could explain with a bit more color, take maybe a few customers of each of the platform. Walk us through what problem you are solving for these customers.
John McDonald: The first customer I’ll highlight is a company called Cummins. Cummins makes engines. They’re based in our home state of Indiana. They’re put inside lots of different places – school buses, large semi-trucks, generators— actually, anywhere where you need a significant amount of mechanical power. It’s built into one of those engines. The engine control system is a computer. Built into that computer is a set of software that manages various aspects of the engine. These are software that we help them, over the years, by providing an environment where many of those engineers can build, test, and deploy that software.
Recently though, they came to us and asked us if we would be interested in helping them take that base and extend that into a complete IoT platform where they could pull data from the engine itself and do analytics on that data in order to not only understand the performance of the engine, but also to provide insight into the operators of that engine, which could be about certain trouble codes and what sort of activity they need to take based on what’s happening. These engines are very intricate and extremely expensive. If you were to receive a fault code, the way you see that is the check engine light comes on your dashboard. There’s not a lot of information about what the light really means. It’s the same problem with a semi-trailer except with the difference being that the engine in that thing may cost a million dollars. It’s really important to understand what that fault code really means and more importantly, be able to take the appropriate action. Should I pull over and shut the truck right now? Can I wait till the next exit? Can I wait till the next servicing? The driver doesn’t know and the fleet operator definitely wants to know.
What we did was we took their existing virtual private cloud, which we have been providing for some time, and we added software components. Specifically, we added a message queuing software that allows you to catch all the inbound packets of data. It’s a software called Streams that was made by IBM. It all goes into a large Hadoop-based database. There are some tools that they then can use. More importantly, they can provide streams of information in various forms to operators of the fleets that give them recommended actions based on what’s happening in the engine. They can also integrate with certain business processes. If the recommendation is to take the engine and the truck to the nearest care facility, it can automatically start pre-rolling the necessary parts to do the repair to that facility. Thus, removing a lot of time and expense. That system is called Connected Diagnostics. It’s essentially their expression of the Internet of Things. CloudOne is privileged to, not only stand that system up, but to operate it for them on a regular basis.