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24 August 2018

Litmus Automation targets brownfield, in IIoT ramp-up

The industrial IoT (IIoT) has already proved a graveyard for some start-ups, unable to find a clear focus amid all the competing platforms, devices, standards and formats. Litmus Automation, founded in August 2013 in the San Francisco bay area, appears to have cleared the major first hurdles by finding relevant partners that can help open up the market, as well as some prestigious customers.

It has done this by focusing on the unglamorous area of support for legacy devices and protocols, describing itself as a brownfield specialist aiming to help factories and plants manage and collect data from legacy equipment. The firm’s co-founder and COO (Chief Operations Officer) John Younes likened this to having a universal remote that a manufacturer or process control operation can point at say a Rockwell or Siemens device and get going right away.

This in turn is attractive to remote locations such as oil rigs that have poor Internet connectivity and so cannot hoist data up to the cloud for storage, processing and analysis. “They often need to make decisions in that data right away at the local level because cloud connectivity is not feasible at that point,” said Younes.

The firm, which has raised $3.7 million in funding so far, has two complementary platforms. One is Loop Edge, a gateway providing IIoT device connectivity, as well as security and management, with the ability to perform a level of local analysis if required, as at remote locations. But this can feed data to the cloud after pre-processing and filtering at the Edge, where the Loop Platform comes in by providing long term storage and full data management, as well as ability to perform deeper analysis and push data out further to third parties.

The company has developed the concept of an Edge Computer App Store, incorporating event processing tools and machine learning engines that can perform local analysis quickly, with the longer-term objective of evolving into a solutions marketplace for IIoT edge computing.

The success of that objective will depend on whether Litmus Automation can continue to gain traction with major systems integrators and distributors. A key move was becoming a partner of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) in April 2017, resulting in certification for the LoopEdge gateway software running on the HPE Edgeline IoT Gateways. This allowed customers to purchase an HPE Edgeline IoT Gateway and run Litmus LoopEdge immediately out of the box to enable IIoT applications.

Another key move came more recently in August 2018 when Litmus Automation announced a distribution and implementation partnership with Fujisoft, a $1.6 billion enterprise and industrial software developer based in Yokohama, Japan. This will help exploit the lucrative and large Japanese market for industrial automation, but the first key step on that front had already been taken by winning Nissan as a customer. Nissan’s Global Manager IS Connected Services Koji Kamimura had credited Litmus as a major partner helping to develop and establish IoT use cases quickly both in the connected car realm and in manufacture.

This is certainly the year Litmus Automation has come onto the radar screen in IIoT, having begun it in January 2018 by being named Emerging Company of the Year for the Enterprise Market by the IoT Breakthrough Awards.