When two self-proclaimed problem-solvers joined forces in 2014 to rethink the cumbersome management of most industrial sites and facilities, even they couldn’t have imagined how far they would go. The couple, Steve Fisher and Amit Varma, would develop digital twin technology software and found Calgary-based company Veerum.
The idea at the time was to reduce inefficiencies and cost overruns by allowing managers to conduct site visits remotely rather than driving to a site. As expected, managers would have real-time visibility into all plant or site assets, as well as condition data.
Providing this kind of access required ingesting, aggregating, analyzing and geo-referencing millions of data points – from pumps and boilers to piping and flanges to maintenance manuals and work orders – d an easily searchable way.
It also required both creativity and advanced technology. To produce an immersive experience, the team used a combination of drones, photogrammetry, terrestrial data scanning and global mapping, to generate massive amounts of data. The data was fed into a MongoDB database hosted on AWS. The team opted for MongoDB because it could handle their large volumes of data and provide flexibility.
Focus on digital twin technology
Veerum’s technology has proven to be a resounding success. The company has won a few awards and its customer base has grown rapidly. But the team was just getting started. A few years ago, Veerum upped the ante by adding more 3D assets and connecting all data points to real-time data stored in critical business information systems, like ERP, work order management, content management, and additional information such as security records and permissions. information.
The technology aims to simulate the experience of being on location – a concept widely referred to as digital twinning. A Double digital is essentially a virtual or digital representation of an object or system that is continuously updated with real-time data.
“We wanted people to be able to click on a pump and see all of the related information about it: safety records, maintenance manuals, open work orders or open permits that might be needed to do the work on site,” said Veerum. CTO Rob Southton. “[Users] can display all information about an item from a single cloud native web application, and they no longer need to go to 10 to 20 or more different systems to find all the information they need to do their job.
Make a good thing even better
The first step in expanding Veerum’s software reach was to re-evaluate the underlying technology. Veerum has elected to continue hosting its SaaSoffer based on AWS infrastructure. The company also opted to keep MongoDB, but moved from a self-hosted to a managed version of the database.
“We were going through a phase of growth where we knew we wouldn’t know how many customers we would have or how much data they would have from month to month because no one had really aggregated that amount of data and then had it. geolocated before,” Southton explained MongoDB Atlas would provide automatic scalability.
Today, every pump, work order, and piece of equipment is represented as an object, and all data points are aggregated in 3D. All objects are stored in the MongoDB database. MongoDB Atlas Search now indexes billions of aggregated data points and allows users to index and query data across a wide variety of data sources. As a result, users can now get search results across multiple systems in seconds instead of hours.
“In addition to being able to type in a word and search across different systems, we wanted to provide a comprehensive experience where users could go into detail,” Southton said. “For example, ‘Show me work orders assigned to me that are overdue on this site and require a certain permit.’ It’s there that [MongoDB] Atlas Search really makes a difference.
Despite the complexity of a system that offers a fully searchable and immersive 3D experience, it makes a difference. Southton said the company is seeing up to a 50% reduction in site visits and 35% efficiencies in work order management and fulfillment.
While the platform works well on a desktop computer, many users prefer tablets or even smartphones. This portability means that if managers need to visit sites, they can use mobile devices to view information about a given scope of work, work order, or piece of equipment.
In its latest update, Veerum has increased virtual reality support. While the software had already supported virtual reality to some extent using Unity, the latest version adds this capability, built using the open WebVR specification, in addition to its web application. With this capability and a head-mounted display, managers can be fully immersed and surrounded by the site without having to go there. This allows for everything from virtual tours to distance learning.
The next step is to find a way for its users to securely leverage the huge amount of data that Veerum aggregates through an API. “We’re always pushing the art of the possible,” Southton said.
About the AuthorKaren D. Schwartz is a technology and business writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has written on a wide range of technology topics for publications including CIO, InformationWeek, GCN, FCW, FedTech, BizTech, eWeek, and Government Executive.