Timo, the Chairman of Distence, has more than 20 years of experience in the field of IT management consulting where he has supported in the business transformation strategies for small, medium and large clients. At present, he oversees the strategy of Distence and works with industrial companies to successfully create a digitally connected environment by embracing Industrial IoT technologies. Additionally, he serves as a Partner for a private equity firm named Miston and invests in high growth potential start-up companies.
Kiravani Emani, Senior Research Analyst for Industrial Automation & Process Control Group had an opportunity to interact with Mr.Timo Tammisto, Chairman of Distence for a Movers and Shakers interview.
KE: What is Distence’s unique value proposition and how does it offer competitive advantage over other market participants in this industry?
TT: Distence is focused on demanding industrial environments, both from a physical or operating environment perspective as well as from an infrastructure perspective. In this niche market, where assets are part of mission critical processes such as energy supply, the technology architecture, testing and the time the solution has been on the field as proof of concept, are scrutinized by the customers to the extreme. Every component, technology, and method has been developed and proven over a period of 10 years to meet the industry requirements. The scalable architecture of the complete solution, from smart terminals to the IIoT-platform, has been designed to support changing business needs. Key value proposition is a proven, field tested in 40 countries, technologically advanced and flexible solution to make industrial assets, OEM or legacy, intelligent.
KE: What are the key unmet customer needs that your technology addresses?
TT: The goal of digitisation is to move through the steps from being manual to autonomous. Moreover, the financial goal is a higher ROI from the underlying assets and processes. The world is full of such industrial assets, including pumps, motors, transformers, and gears that have a life span of 20-30 years, but which are totally disconnected or at best have a one-way connectivity for monitoring. The huge need is to make the assets aware of themselves and their surroundings in a fast, cost effective and flexible way – enable them to communicate process information and interact. As assets become autonomous they are better positioned to compete with new technology on the same level.
Predictive maintenance, the first application, is only the tip of the iceberg. The benefit can be reaped across all business function right from HR to sales when there is data accessibility and two-way communication. Most of today’s technology and discussion revolves around connected assets – Distence has been focusing for the past decade on the ultimate goal, autonomous assets, with specific focus on demanding environments, both OEM and retrofit.
KE: Can you describe how your solution exceeds customer expectation in regards to performance through the entire lifecycle?
TT: The three pillars of the Distence solution are flexibility, speed to market and reliability or proven technology. Having developed edge computing solutions for extremely demanding global customers’ operating in extreme environment conditions (temperature, vibration, humidity, lightings, high electrical interference to name a few) and mission critical applications such as high voltage transformers (ABB Power Products), wind farms and industrial gears (Moventas Gears) or power plants and processing plants (ABB Service) – Distence has developed itself a proven track record for reliable solutions, a scalable technology platform, and experience from working with demanding global customers. Every new customer benefits from the flexibility which comes in the form of proven modular technology and open architecture spanning from smart terminals to a IIoT platform; from reliability which comes from the above described long development and field testing, including over 5000 assets in 40 countries; and from speed to market, resulting from a wide range of ready technology modules and a solid scalable IIoT-platform. For 99% of the companies, the business readiness to benefit fully from IoT is far behind what technology can offer – meaning that as the readiness matures, the technology is already there and supports the evolution.
KE: How do you see your technology being adopted across product lines or being employed in different applications? Where do you see higher adoption of your technology at present and in the forthcoming years?
TT: If the technology is built from the architecture perspective in the right way, what it can do to serve the business users can evolve as the need changes or the group of information users grows. We make assets intelligent in an intelligent way. This means we can manage the algorithms that make the asset intelligent in a secure way that allows the smart terminals to evolve as the role of the asset changes. Using a micro application architecture the intelligence at the smart terminal level can evolve in a managed and easy way as the business needs evolve. We try to aim at everything we do for future needs. The first application and users can be, for example, operations and maintenance people, as is often the case. But, as the Distence concept is to reach autonomy and to shed a light on who is using the asset, where it is being used, how is it used, and in what condition it is; we can serve the finance department to help with billing (as we do with SKANSKA, Sweden) or with asset pricing based on usage or ware. The HR function can benefit from increased safety or employee development. Is the employee about to use an asset trained/certified for it? How is the asset being used? Does the operator need training or is the asset being used by the customer within the parameters the product was designed for? Does warranty apply? The applications are endless – provided the technology is built to support and grow with the business and not sub optimized for one function. We start with the question: With what information can you make money, save cost, increase safety and so on. The technology must be able and ready to support the answer.
KE: Can you share few novel features and functionality of Distence’s technology?
TT: Flexibility has driven the development of our solutions from day one. In discussions with some of the largest industrial players in the world, their R&D’s focus is often in the future. In the industrial world, however, the life of an asset can be up to 30 years, even more – leaving trillions of dollars’ worth of legacy assets operational for decades to come. With the flexibility of our solution, we can digitize or make intelligent, legacy assets with the same technology that is used for OEM. A simple example would be a reservoir, where the volume is traditionally managed simply based on water level. By making the legacy pumping system intelligent, we can easily bring in information from the cloud, such as electricity price and weather forecast. Now we can anticipate the coming rain and pump when the electricity is cheapest and the need anticipated.
KE: What is your strategy in regard to offering best value to customer for the price, compared to similar offerings from competitors?
TT: Being flexible and customer driven in terms of business model, we can adjust to what best suits the customers’ business. Our eye is in the end-game, at asset autonomy. Even though the current business readiness might be more at the monitoring, data collection, perhaps control stage, our technology readiness supports autonomy. The value to the customer comes from flexibility, reliability and speed to market. The faster they can increase the ROI from an asset, the more reliable the solution is and the more people or functions that can benefit from a digitised asset, the better. The pricing can be IoT as a service or PaaS, or a hybrid HW sales and SaaS-model. The customer can focus on what is most important to them, the information, and we focus on delivering it to them, the infrastructure. And as mentioned above, with our technology the business requirements from the technology can grow, and we are there already.
KE: What would you highlight as the 5 key differentiating factors of Distence as compared to other IIoT solution provider in the market?
1. Micro application architecture where the micro apps performing at the Smart Terminal level can be easily swapped to change performance or tasks.
2. Ability to incorporate customer code and algorithms, as we do with ABB Power products, on our Smart Terminals.
3. Ability to interface with other clouds or platforms, as well as on the HW side, the ability to interface and include existing devices into the architecture.
4. “Govern the rules” – Providing intelligence to the terminal rules and commands in a secure way with two-way communication.
5. Instead of just collecting data, which results in both increased cost from data transfer, the Distence solution processes as much as possible at the asset level and delivers data or ready processed and optimized information over the network in an intelligent way. For instance, if the temperature measured at the asset level is constant, say 25 degrees Celsius, there is no need of sending the same value, but rather the deviations from this value.
6. By focusing for over 10 years on demanding environments with global customers like ABB, the reliability of the system is extremely high. The Distence solution is field proven.