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Calgary’s Next Economy: Voice of Reason flips the switch on legacy data collection

The big data players want you to replace your old data systems with their specially equipped ones that help you mine the data you need.

Calgary entrepreneur Paul Smith from Voice of Reason has developed a tool that allows companies to snatch that info without the big infrastructure spend.  

The idea comes after the culmination of years of experience working in industrial cybersecurity and technology. He worked with companies like Lockheed Martin, and groups like the Israeli Defence Force.

Its first iteration was when he was working with the data around large wind turbine substations and getting the information back to the central data collection centre. Smith had come up with the concept of creating a less intelligent solution that more quickly collected the data.

The next step was creating a passive adapter for legacy infrastructure. It could peel the data from that equipment for quicker processing.

“I don’t ever have to interact with equipment, I just listen to network traffic and it’s basically stuff I did in Israel – it’s basically a wiretap using software to carve out data from that traffic,” Smith said.

“They’re getting that data up to the cloud so they can immediately run interesting models.”

He used the example of Disney using predictive modelling for maintenance on their rides. Smith said one of the big use cases would be their Peter Pan ride – a highly profitable ride that would require a tear down to replace the data system. That would be costly, time consuming and remove a profitable ride.

His switch would hook up to their current system and pull the endpoint data they need. No major capital cost.

Not the interpreter, the collector

Smith said he doesn’t provide the insights on the data; he just makes it easier to collect it.

The switch effectively acts as a middleman and expedites data to where it can be stored and manipulated.

Some of the larger data companies encourage companies to tear out their old systems and put in their new ones, Smith said. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Now you have customers that say, “you know, that’s a $20 million job. What’s my return on investment,” Smith said.

“The biggest fear you have is rip and replace your control system. I’ve got this device that you just attach, and get the data out of it.”

He said one of the major barriers for the big companies is convincing people to take that big infrastructure step. Smith said they struggle with that technology piece.

The one big key? Smith said this switch keeps the data localized. No need to put the data into places where it could potentially be compromised.

“This is huge for any kind of utility, oil and gas customer that is not 100 per cent on board with the internet of things down at the plant level yet,” he said.

“What I want to do is enable them in a secure, safe way of getting there.”

Hard knocks and experience

While Smith is an avionics engineer, computer science and power engineer, he’s never really gone to school for business.

“Most of the stuff I’ve done in startups before has been hard knocks and experience,” he said.

The Platform Calgary Junction program has validated some of his lived experience. It’s also made him take a second look at other areas.

He said it’s filled a lot of gaps for him to provide the foundation for his company to move forward.

“Then there’s just vicious gaping holes of lack of information on my side that I’m like, ‘Oh, hey, I’m gonna steal that nugget. I’m gonna put that nugget in the bank,’” he said.

Real life data collection for a business in the data gathering world.