Quickie: AspenTech acquires Cipher IoT

Dec 6, 2017 | Hot Topics

AspenTech, the company you probably know as a supplier of chemistry simulation solutions for the oil and gas, chemical, pharma and other process industries, just announced that it has acquired, Cipher, industrial IoT-related software from Canada’s RtTech Software Inc.

I had not heard of Cipher before today, but I think the key is this: Cipher is cloud-native and provides edge connectivity as part of AspenTech’s reinvention in asset optimization. The aspenONE suite includes many tools that are used in process design, before anything is built –to help identify the financial viability of a process, to specify the equipment used in the process, to scale, etc.– but that also have incredible utility in tuning that process once it’s live. Think of it as tasting while you’re cooking soup; you could blindly follow the directions but your stove may be hotter or cooler — taking readings and checking as you go makes for a better result. Now apply that logic to making heating oil or pharmaceuticals: sensor enable the transmission of lots and lots of “tastes”, only some of which are relevant to push to a decision-making mechanism. Edge computing handles that send/no-send decision; cloud computing eases the load on the deciders.

According to AspenTech, “RtTech’s Cipher software delivers on the IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things – Ed.] promise of affordable, high performance connectivity for old, new, local and remote assets, without having to rip out and replace existing IT/OT (information technology/operational technology) infrastructures or business systems.”  The technical team behind Cipher will join AspenTech and “bring significant expertise in areas of edge and cloud computing, as well as in the waste water, manufacturing and pulp & paper industries, complementing AspenTech’s strategy to expand in asset-intensive environments outside of the process industries”.

Antonio Pietri, CEO of AspenTech spoke in prepared remarks about this jumpstart in the IoT world: “RtTech provides best-in-class cloud-based software and IIoT connectivity, delivering capabilities that allow for data cleansing and local analytics at the edge. Combining RtTech’s capabilities with AspenTech APM software will offer our customers comprehensive solutions for Industrial IoT, Analytics and Machine Learning, with both on-premise and cloud-based deployment options.”

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed but I think RtTech was more likely a technology buy than one for a specific market presence — so won’t add much to revenue

Why does this matter? Manufacturers have, for decades, been gathering data from their operating machines. In that sense, the concept of IoT is nothing new. What is new is the ability, today, to rapidly sift through those terabytes and find the few pieces of data that can be used in a meaningful way –“needs more salt” in my cooking analogy– to affect outcomes. Edge computing is a way to quickly funnel down the terabytes to more manageable volumes, since connectivity to the cloud costs real money, and to perform critical analyses right on site. The data send onwards can be written to data historians, asset management systems, and/or ERP systems for evaluation in a business context. We’re finally starting to recognize the importance of this data, and the need to segment out the truly meaningful subset. Finally, manufacturers are increasingly looking commercial solutions, as off-the-shelf as possible, to create these rich stores of asset and operating data; they don’t want to cobble something together themselves. It seems likely that, over time, AspenTech will connect Cipher to its asset performance tools, so that a manufacturer already using aspenONE for asset tuning can easily hook in operating data.

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