Edge Executive Insight – Vicki Knott, Co-Founder & CEO, CruxOCM – Edge StartUp of the Year FINALIST
In the lead up to Edge Computing World, we’re taking some time to speak to key Executives from the leading companies. Today we’re talking with Vicki Knott, Co-Founder & CEO of CruxOCM
Tell us a bit about yourself – what led you to get involved in the edge computing market and CruxOCM
As a chemical engineer with a special interest in system wide operations and control and experience working as a control room operator led me to co-founding Crux. During my work, I discovered that the primary focus of traditional industrial automation is to automate equipment and create data visualization, rather than the complex parts of the operation such as start-ups, shut downs, rate changes, etc. which are still completed by control room operators utilizing written procedures, checklists and rules of thumb. For example, I trained to eventually operate a major oil pipeline which took over 1000 commands to start-up. Having this first-hand experience motivated me to find a more efficient and overall safer way.
What is it you & your company are uniquely bringing to the edge market?
Combining advanced physics-based methodologies with machine learning, Crux software helps clients increase throughput production and energy efficiency (up to 10%), improve safety, and ensure operators stay safe while contributing to a seamless, continuous operation. Our team builds the software product features and then deploys the software in the customers’ environment.
Our software completes decision-making and execution of those decisions as it pertains to the complex operations in heavy industry control rooms. By making the decisions and executing for control room operators (humans), Crux products increase revenue for heavy industry, increase the safety of operations and decrease the probability of an environmental incident.
Tell us more about the company, what’s your advantages compared to others on the market, who is involved, and what are your major milestones so far?
Automation is the aim, but humans are the heart of our business. Our long-term goal is to work within industry regulations to create a remote working environment for control room operators, helping operators stay safe and ensuring heavy industry operations continue even as the world changes. Pilots and planes have autopilot software, but control room operators don’t, so at Crux we give these control room operators for these oil pipelines autopilot software for their more complex operations. Crux works alongside human operators in the control room to maximize revenue, increase safety, and decrease the probability of environmental incidents.
In the early stages, CruxOCM joined the GE Zone Startups program in Calgary for emerging tech companies. It was through Alberta Innovates’ Technology Development Advisor program that we received the guidance and funding to develop a user interface for our software. Another Alberta Innovates’ grant supported our work to meet pipeline integration requirements. In 2018, CruxOCM was one of a handful of companies selected globally to attend the TechStars Energy Program in Norway, allowing us to expand their industry network and promote our software. In September 2021, we raised $6M in funding that included both US and international investments. Fast forward to 2022, we saw a great momentum for our company, with a 58% increase in headcount year over year (Q1 2022 vs. Q1 2021) after onboarding employees across engineering, product management, design, sales, operations, and deployment departments. After a successful pilot phase, Phillips 66 announced in June that it committed to further expanding its production implementations of CruxOCM’s pipeBOT™, which automates its commands through Robotic Industrial Process Automation, to enable safer, more consistent operations that maximize utilization, efficiency and throughput of their pipeline network.
How do you see the edge market developing over the next few years?
We see edge computing technology expanding at an accelerated rate over the coming years. With the continued progression of AI and ML tools coupled with the vast amounts of data needed to enable that progression, we anticipate further technological advancements and a greater utilization of technology at the edge. Within the energy sector, we foresee additional innovations within control infrastructure being deployed at the edge. CruxOCM’s R(I)PA could eventually be deployed on edge devices which would result in near instantaneous processing times, and further improve efficiency, safety and utilization of existing assets.
What are the main trends you see about integrating edge computing into different verticals?
Similar to energy, adjacent verticals continue to have data bandwidth, latency and reliability difficulties constraining the performance of modern AI or ML toolsets. To close this gap, expansion of edge computing across other heavy industry verticals will continue to play a pivotal role. In consumer products, we have seen a substantial adoption of edge computing. For example, modern day vehicles are readily embracing edge computing in the application of blind spot detection, automatic lane assistance and preventative breaking. Creating the supporting vehicle communication infrastructure will eventually pave the way for connected and autonomous vehicle operations.