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In this Digital CxO video interview, Amanda Razani speaks with Jason Urso, CTO of Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise Business, about this week’s Honeywell Connect event, enterprise solutions and announcements, and how business leaders can harness data.



Amanda Razani: Hello. I am Amanda Razani, with Digital CxO, and I’m excited to be here today with Jason Urso. He is the chief technology officer of Honeywell’s Connected Enterprise Business. How are you doing today?

Jason Urso: I’m doing great. Great to see you, Amanda.

Amanda Razani: Great to see you as well. We have a big event underway this week, Honeywell Connect. It’s very exciting, there’s a lot of people here. Can you tell me a little bit about Honeywell and the services that you provide, and then we’ll go into talking about this big event?

Jason Urso: Absolutely. I’d be glad to. A little bit of background. Honeywell is organized in four strategic business groups that are oriented around vertical markets. So, we serve aerospace, industrial plants, buildings, and distribution centers. The common theme that runs across each one of those businesses is control. We provide controls for aircraft to operate safely and with great fuel efficiency, and industrial plants, safety, reliability and efficiency are achieved using some of our control technologies. Within a building, we provide building management solutions to assure operational excellence, improve energy efficiency. Similarly within the distribution center space, where we’re providing infrastructure to large E-commerce customers, assuring that we’ve got great worker efficiency within those environments, are all things that Honeywell provides as part of our portfolio.
Now, the Connected Enterprise is a unique business in Honeywell. It is the only business that spans all of the vertical markets that I just described. So, we are the software, connected and analytics business within the Honeywell family. So, our charter is to use the power of software and data in order to deliver even greater outcomes for our customers. Helping to improve throughput and yield, improving reliability, improving worker productivity and efficiency, using the power of data and software. So, that’s how we fit within the Honeywell world.

Amanda Razani: Fantastic. Thank you for sharing that with our audience today. So, we just came off the keynotes this morning, lots of great news and announcements. Can you share some of those announcements with us?

Jason Urso: Absolutely. We’re continuing to further our software technology within the portfolio to help address some of those key outcomes that I mentioned earlier. Today, we made some pretty big announcements. The first one is oriented around cybersecurity. So, we all know the challenges of OT cybersecurity, so the cyber that works within the process plants or within the building infrastructure or distribution centers. How to secure those networks has been a challenge, because you don’t naturally use the IT, traditional IT software that provides cybersecurity capabilities in an OT environment, because it can disrupt the OT control mission that’s underway. So, we’ve introduced some exciting new software technology that can provide a realtime risk and vulnerability assessment of all the assets within the OT space, and do so in a way that is safe and reliable and works in concert with the underlying control system. So, some really exciting technology that helps evolve the state-of-the-art of cybersecurity within the manufacturing space, allowing you to deploy this technology and having a realtime view. Which is a big transformation from the typical approach of performing periodic audits and trying to understand what is the state of threats and vulnerability.
So, some really exciting offerings under our cybersecurity plus portfolio, called Cyber Insights and Cyber Watch. That’s a big introduction that we’ve got underway. A second one that’s also really exciting is we’re a key player within the life sciences market, offering an industry-leading set of software for quality management systems. This assures the quality and safe delivery of pharmaceuticals to patients. So, with this technology, we saw an opportunity to really further our customers’ ability to digitize within the life sciences industry. We’ve got some really unique technology that helps improve the annual product quality review. Here again, gives a more realtime assessment of what’s actually happening with product quality for our customers. So, it’s helping to further that digitalization and get some unique insights. Instead of waiting for an annual event to occur where you pull all the information about process and people, you can do that more dynamically and in realtime with some of our great new offerings.
Of course, those were two major new introductions that we’ve got within the portfolio, and we are continuing to advance our industry leading software in a few other areas. So, we’ve got some enhancements that are introduced in other parts of the portfolio. Within our buildings organization we’re working on technology that provides better energy efficiency for our customers particularly. In buildings now, after COVID, you’ve got a circumstance where the buildings are not as populated as they were before COVID had occurred. As a result, knowing the locations of people within a facility allows us to control the temperature in that facility, in a way that improves energy efficiency. So, if you can imagine, a big auditorium like the one that we presented in, what if that was running on a scheduled timer? So, every day it’s being heated or cooled to temperature as if people were there.
Now, with some of our unique technology, we can recognize there’s no individuals there, there’s nothing scheduled, and so we can let the temperature gradually ride up a few degrees and save some energy. Which in turn improves the sustainability portrait for a customer. So, some pretty exciting technology within our buildings organization. Within our industrial space, similarly, we’ve got some advancements in the area of carbon emissions monitoring also. So, some new technology that allows for connectivity to customers assets in an industrial plant, and giving a realtime assessment on what are the carbon emissions and how well is the customer performing in concert with their abatement curves. So, if you catch the theme, there’s a lot of realtime monitoring of technology to help our customers in their digitalization journeys. Whether it’s helping to assure cybersecurity, giving a realtime view of that. Whether it’s helping to improve quality for customers. Once again, a realtime view where these were periodic audits in the past. Realtime view of emissions within buildings and industrial plants. So, that’s where really our focus has been. Digitalization technology that helps give realtime assessment and then drives action for our customers.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. As I’ve spoken with business leaders, that is a key concern is, being able to get that realtime information, seems to be critical to most business leaders. Then again, sustainability, another big topic. So, as you’re walking the floor, what are you hearing from some of the customers and attendees? Why are they at the event this week? What are they hoping to learn?

Jason Urso: Really three key things that I hear very frequently, whether it’s at the event this week or as we’re talking to customers around the world. It’s, customers are looking to use the power of data to improve their business performance. So, how they can further their digitalization journeys by being more connected, using data analytics, using the power of artificial intelligence in order to gain some new insights. But insights that actually drive action, that results in some better business outcomes. So, digitalization number one. Number two, sustainability. Everyone is focused on sustainability in some fashion or form. To get started with a sustainability program, you have to get that real time visibility into, what is your current baseline with respect to your carbon emissions? Whether you’re in a building or whether you’re in an industrial plant, you need to know the baseline. Today, a lot of that work is manual.
So, sustainability, first understanding the baseline, and then starting to drive a set of remediation actions, whether it be energy efficiency, reducing leaks, carbon capture, using battery energy storage and renewables. These are all places that Honeywell can help our customers, and we’ve got a lot of interest in. The third key area that we hear very extensively is this concept of, how do we do a better job securing OT networks and environments, given that they are very specialized, they’re running special process control systems that have a safety mission associated with them? How do we assure that they remain protected, reliable, and safe from cyber threats? So, digitalization, sustainability and OT cybersecurity are three key themes that we hear universally.

Amanda Razani: Interesting. So, are there any partnerships or collaborations that Honeywell has with other businesses?

Jason Urso: Absolutely. We recognize that Honeywell has a breadth of capability that we can bring to bear in each one of those key areas. But we also are part of a bigger puzzle. So, we have key partners like Microsoft for instance, who works with us quite extensively in deploying some of our cloud software, cloud SaaS software, applications, and provide some of their great analytics capability to help us bring better solutions to our customers. So, you’ll see out in the demo area, a number of customers including Microsoft, demonstrating some of their terrific technologies that help augment what we’re trying to solve in those three key areas that I mentioned.

Amanda Razani: I know you have a great vendor floor for people to walk around and see some really neat technologies and the tech park there. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jason Urso: Yeah, absolutely. So, the tech park is a great place to go out and really have a look at all the latest and greatest technology that we have available in Honeywell and through our partners. One thematic thing that you’re going to see throughout is of course addressing those key outcomes that I mentioned. But you’ll see a big emphasis on the application of artificial intelligence, in order to help improve the delivery of those benefits that I mentioned. So, you’ll see examples of, well, Honeywell has been a pioneer in control science and control technologies, but in order to control a process plant for instance, things change over time. Equipment degrades, some of the process feed changes, how you adapt to those changes is something that’s important in order to sustain maximum throughput and yield for a customer. So, we’ve got some great examples of how we and our partners are employing artificial intelligence, in order to improve the control mission.
Similarly, customers looking for improvements in reliability. So, nobody wants a critical piece of equipment to fail or start to degrade in a material way in any industry. So, how we can use AI techniques in order to build on our experience with thermodynamics and heuristics, to identify equipment that’s degrading and identify remaining useful life. So, you can start planning your maintenance activities instead of just reacting to them. Third, something that is a real innovation that I think AI plays a major role is with decision support. So, we all know that people in the industries that we are serving have some demographic challenges. Individuals are retiring with a wealth of experience, and we don’t have the same knowledge that’s coming into the industry. So, how can we capture that knowledge? How can we harness the power of the information that are in people’s brains, and bring that to bear for people who are less senior in the organization?
So, when it comes time to make a decision, whether you’re a board operator in a process plant, or a maintenance technician in a building, how do you take advantage of this wealth of knowledge that exists in the form of data, historic data within your sites, and use that in order to give them some guidance? So, if we think about how an expert makes decisions today. They understand the landscape of what’s happening in their industrial plant or building or distribution center. They know that there’s a maintenance activity going on, they know that a piece of equipment is maybe degraded, they understand what the current yield circumstance is within the process plan. They assimilate all that data in their brain and make a best decision as to how to keep operating. Well, if we can use the power of AI, you can have a copilot of sorts, an industry best expert sitting next to you in the form of a computer, giving you guidance and saying, “Hey, I’ve noticed these things about the process or the building that you’re operating. Here’s some recommendations on how to perform better.”
It’s a lot like the cars that we drive today. Your car is a form of a copilot. It’s telling you if you’re approaching a car in front of you too quickly. It will alert you to the fact and say, “Hey, I need to let you know this.” It helps you be a better driver. It will let you know if you’re trying to make a lane change and there’s a car in your blind spot. It alerts you and says, “There’s something going on here and you need to be aware of it.” That’s what we believe we can bring, the power of artificial intelligence to our existing customers in industrial buildings as well as in distribution centers. So, you see a plentiful supply of that through us and some of our partners out in the tech park area.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Thanks for sharing some of those use case examples. There are so many when it comes to AI. That brings up a big question. I know many business leaders are wanting to incorporate AI. But they have two questions. First, how do they get started with incorporating AI? Secondly, the risk factors. So, can you speak to those concerns about AI, and then where do companies start when it comes to implementation?

Jason Urso: Yeah, absolutely. I think it always begins with, what’s the problem you’re trying to solve? So, making sure that AI is suitable to even solve the problem is the first step along the way. So, with the clients that we work with, we always start with, “Okay. Well, what do you want to improve? You want to improve reliability, you want to create more throughput?” Meaning you want to drive more products through your plant. “Do you want to improve energy efficiency?” So, we start with the area of improvement that will generate some tangible benefit for our customers. Then our experience is that we have a plentiful supply of foundational technologies, whether it be controlled science or thermodynamics. Applying those technologies is the first place you want to be. You want to make sure that you’ve got a good solid foundation in place. You’re doing all the things that are needed, before you’re applying the more advanced methods of using artificial intelligence.
So, we ask our clients to help us understand what’s the problem you’re solving and then we’ll give you a roadmap. It’s almost like a maturity curve that helps customers go from basic and manual operations, to controlled and automated operations, to getting some decision support and recommendations, to remote access, to levels of autonomy then, where you can start operating the equipment with less and less intervention of people. So, that’s really the way we get started, is by focusing on the problem. Then what are some of the challenges with AI? Of course, one of the key challenges is having access to the data. AI needs an abundance of data in order to make high quality recommendations. So, the next place we work with our clients is, “Okay. Let’s understand the data that you have available in order for us to apply that towards making better recommendations.”

Amanda Razani: Well, thank you for sharing that with us today. Is there any key takeaway you would like our audience to have?

Jason Urso: Well, certainly. First of all, I hope some members of the audience had an opportunity to see the session this week. I would like to say that from Honeywell’s perspective, those three key problems that I mentioned early on, digitalization, sustainability and OT cybersecurity are problems that can be advanced using today’s technology. By harnessing the power of data and analytics and connectivity, we can improve the current state-of-the-art, to something that is significantly better. Giving us more real-time insights into what’s happening with our customers, processes, buildings, and distribution centers, and using those insights to make a prescriptive set of recommendations. Whether it’s a recommendation to a human or a closed loop recommendation to actually take the action and drive improvement. Whether it be energy efficiency or throughput or yield or worker productivity. So, I look forward to engaging with you further, Amanda, during the course of the week, and thanks for spending some time with me today.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Thank you Jason for sharing your insights, and I do look forward to the rest of the event as well, and hearing some more information.

Jason Urso: All right. Thanks so much.