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Ramanathan Ramakrishnan, Eaton's chief technology officer, and Zari Venhaus, director of corporate marketing communications, discuss the impact of the digital transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT) on power management. 


In this episode we discuss: 

  1. How digitalization is influencing the way we think about power management
  2. The role of data science and edge computing in manufacturing
  3. How connectivity is being used to develop more intelligent power management systems and solutions

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RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: And so as we go into the 21st century, when the cyber and the physical world comes together, it opens up a lot of opportunities. And it's actually giving us a whole different perspective on how we want to look at power management.


ZARI VENHAUS: So today, you hear a lot of buzzwords-- IoT, digitalization, the Internet of Things, the industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, chat bots. What does all of this really mean for manufacturing companies? We're here today with Ram Ramakrishnan, our chief technology officer, to talk more about the changing landscape.

Hi, Ram. How are you?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Excellent, Zari. And hey, thank you for inviting me for this conversation. Looking forward to it.

ZARI VENHAUS: We're glad to talk.

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Looking forward to it.

ZARI VENHAUS: So I wanted to talk a little bit about how you see changes in the world affecting how our customers are thinking about their businesses when it comes to technology and innovation and all these changes and new opportunities that we have.

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Yeah. The nature of power management in the 21st century is changing. We still, at the core, we are a power management company focused on primarily managing the three powers that we work around-- the electrical power, mechanical power, and fluid power.

We are proud that we are an industrial company. For us, the Internet of Things, we see, doesn't start with the internet. It starts with the things that make. And that's really what puts us in a unique position in the digital world we're living in.

And so as we go into the 21st century, when the cyber and the physical world comes together, it opens up a lot of opportunities. And it's actually giving us a whole different perspective on how we want to look at power management.

So fundamentally, we will still be focusing on the key attributes of power management. We'll make it safe. We'll make it reliable. We'll make it more efficient. And there are a few other things-- because of the confluence of these cyber and physical world coming together, it opens up more opportunities to deliver for our customers than before.

ZARI VENHAUS: So how do customers need to be thinking about their things and their systems in different ways now than they maybe did before?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Exactly. So the beauty is the things. That's where it starts. And again, if you look at the data and if you look at the data, there are lot of buzzwords, right? Data is in a new blood line. Data is the new currency. All that is true. But first, we have to collect the data.

And so the way we look at data is it starts from the things. And the things are getting smarter. So for example, the way to collect data from the things that we make is having the right sensors in the things.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: It's having the right and ability to not just have the right sensors, but sense the right things, the right attributes of power. So when we talk about electrical power, we want to actually have the right sensors that really pull out the fundamental of what makes up electrical power. It's the currents, the voltages. It's the frequencies, power factors, the fundamental makeup of electrical power.

And similarly, the hydraulic and mechanical powers have some fundamental makeups, whether it's pressures, flows, torques, displacements, temperature of the fluid, the speed with which things are moving. All of those fundamental makeup of the electrical, mechanical, and fluid power-- this is where the sensors are being designed and thought through and packaged in a very effective way into the things we make.

So think about that as step one. The moment you put sensors, now you've got to put the smarts. You've got to have the right electronics, et cetera, to pull out that data and then begin to either send it to a place so we can call it-- send it to the cloud.

ZARI VENHAUS: Right. How do you get the data, right?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Yeah, central repository-- so you kind of pull the data out. And now, you've got to take the data from that thing, which is sitting in maybe an oil and gas rig, or it's sitting in a tractor in an agricultural field in the Midwest.

ZARI VENHAUS: Or an irrigation pump, right?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Irrigation pump-- it's sitting in a remote place.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: It's flying. It's in the air. It's a plane. Or it's in an ocean. The data, if we have to send the data somewhere, need to have some kind of A, what we call telematics. But it's real time telematics, which is a fancy word for basically moving data from the thing all the way and transporting it to a place-- let's just call it a place in the cloud.

ZARI VENHAUS: So we're collecting the data.


ZARI VENHAUS: We're sending them to the cloud.


ZARI VENHAUS: And then what do we do with it?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Excellent. Couple of things that we want to be careful about is not all data needs to go to the cloud.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: So the industry, the world is just talking about the cloud, the cloud computing-- absolutely, there's an element of importance. And there are certain specific applications that requires these kind of analytics, the intelligence, digesting and sifting through the data.

ZARI VENHAUS: That data science, right?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: The data science piece has to be done at the cloud. However, there's another piece which is very important, especially for industrial applications like what we do-- is it's called edge computing. So think about the edge, which is things happening right at the layer of things, whether it's in an oil field or whether it's an ag application. Right at the place where the data are being generated and collected, we don't necessarily send it, but we do all the analytics, transform the data, the raw data, into intelligence, an actionable intelligence that begins to provide the end users the additional value proposition around improved efficiency, productivity, uptime, all of those things.

So there's an element of edge, edge computing, that happens right on the things.

ZARI VENHAUS: And does that happen behind the customer's firewall? So that's within their system, right?

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: It is in their system.

ZARI VENHAUS: It's integrated as a part of their complete system.



RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: And so that actually, it kind of brings up a whole different architecture, because now we are doing all of these things within the firewalls, within the safety of our customers.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Because we are not getting the data outside their firewall at all. And so all the value, the incremental value that we're providing, it's all happening right in the customer's premises. So think of that as one end of the bookend.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: The other bookend is the cloud.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: So then we have to take the data and push it to the cloud. And that's where cybersecurity takes on a whole different meaning. But then once we push that information to a cloud, there's different kinds of analytics that can be done.

Now, both the edge computing and the cloud computing-- it depends on the applications. There are some situations where the customers need that incremental information, that knowledge pretty much real time.

ZARI VENHAUS: So when they need to access that information real time, they need to have it at their fingertips, where it's not something that they can send it off and it gets analyzed and they look at it once a quarter-- it's something like, I need to optimize my machine or my system or my production process now.


ZARI VENHAUS: I need that data to make decisions on the fly-- that's where edge computing, and doing that at the system level is really important.


ZARI VENHAUS: Well, tell me a little bit more about the Center for Intelligent Power and what we're doing there.

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: The Center for Intelligent Power is a new group which is based out of Dublin. The focus is actually bringing in skills, experts, and expertise that complement our core engineering, product engineers, and our research folks.

So we are bringing in people who understand edge computing. We are bringing in people who are deep in data science, machine learning, deep learning computational intelligence. We are bringing in people who understand IoT architecture.

And so when you bring these experts and expertise, and then now merge them with the thousands of engineers we have who do product design, product engineering day in and day out, fundamental nature of product changes and therefore, how we look at power management-- the solutions, services you develop--



ZARI VENHAUS: So they're going to be building the foundation for how we think about a lot of the intelligence that's then going to be built into our products.

RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: Exactly. And if you really look at that vision and peel and then look at all the things that we talk about, all the investments we make, and the whole thing around we believe in making power management safe, reliable, efficient, and therefore, there is a very positive sustainability story that automatically forms out that's the reason I jump out of bed every day in the morning and do what I do.




RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: That's the beauty of what we do as a company.


RAMANATH RAMAKRISHNAN: And it really starts with our vision, which is simple, profound. But that is what we are impacting day in and day out as a team of 94,000 people globally, and all the partners we have, and the supply chain and manufacturing. And we deliver our solutions through our customers to the end users.

ZARI VENHAUS: Because in the end, it all comes back to making what matters work.