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Interview of Pascale Vicat-Blanc, PhD, CEO Stackeo, by William Sadrin, Technology Evangelist at IoT Valley. Stackeo is one of the award winners of Tech Tour France Transfer Invest 2021.

Toulouse, IoT Valley, 18/02/2022

W.S.: I’m often asked how Stackeo is good at helping people succeed in IoT. To answer this question, I decided to sit down with Stackeo’s CEO, Pascale Vicat-Blanc here at IoTValley. Here’s what she said about the reasons why she has created Stackeo. She then gives explanations on how Stackeo effectively accelerate decision-making and increase project success:

How did Stackeo start?

Pascale explained that she was lucky because she has navigated her international career between academia and industry and many disciplines of computer science and engineering - from hardware to virtualization and AI. She initially worked as a teacher in distributed computing and networking in one of the top engineering schools in France. In the 2000s, as Research Director, she was a key leader in global infrastructures deployments like DataGrid and DataTag with the CERN, disrupting projects that have played a key role in the advent of the Cloud. In the 2010s she launched a start-up, Lyatiss, in France on network virtualization and software-defined infrastructures - key innovations in the Internet and data networking history - and another one in the US, CloudWeaver, in AI-based infrastructure observability when AIOps was only just emerging. She then moved to a leading networking OEM, F5 Networks, as senior Director where she led the IoT initiative helping large companies like General Electric, Daimler or PSA bootstrap their first large scale connected vehicles platforms. The seeds of Stackeo emerged from this last experience. She had the vision that the tremendous potential of IoT technology and Digital Transformation would not be accessible by Industrial Companies because they lacked the skills and tools to successfully deploy them. She then decided to build and commercialize these tools to change the game.

Indeed, her eclectic professional learning in IT is somehow condensed in Stackeo’s vision and ambition. For Pascale, there’s absolutely no doubt that today, probably more than ever, we must invent and deploy new digital technology to preserve our environment and for the interest of human beings.

“However, I know that, when high complexity is at stake - which is currently the case in many domains - the combination of science and field deployment is key for innovative projects and product success.”

Making this possible is the first pillar that the Stackeo software focuses on.

Stackeo’s vision Is Based On 3 Pillars

Pillar 1: The first beneficiaries of IoT are People and the Planet

At Stackeo, we’re convinced that technology is at the service of the environment and of the people who are increasingly interlinked with devices and data. People need to understand why and how IoT technology is going to help them contribute to solving major issues like climate change or resource challenges.

My first motivation when creating Stackeo, was to make science globally accessible and democratize it to embrace and face the increasing complexity that surrounds us. With the recent utilization of AI in many fields, we see the potential that learning from data can bring to decision improvement. But AI comes with its own limitations: building and exploiting large data sets is adding a new challenge to solve. And this is going to be endless.

I believe that what is most needed is the simplification of our lives, our processes and our organizations for the well-being of our ecosystems and future generations. We now have developed the means for what is called “combinatorial innovation”. This is fascinating but it can also lead to the over-complexification of our lives.

At the same time, we know that we must tend towards more sobriety. So connectivity and artificial intelligence should not add complexity but instead, remove it. How can we make this happen?

I believe that systems and computer sciences can be combined with human common sense to build augmented practical intelligence (human intelligence extended to digital intelligence) to integrate new perspectives into our way of thinking and making impactful decisions.

For example, when deciding to deploy a smart transportation system, we can easily imagine that city managers want to express their goals, what they intend to save or improve: for example reduce CO2 emission by 30% within 5 years. They also plan to delegate the monitoring of the achievement of these goals to a machine that will report the progress and alert them if the objective isn’t reached. We can also imagine that for the CEO of an insurance company planning to adopt a smart building solution, reducing energy consumption will be at the top of their mind. He expects that the solution will act accordingly and let him control the results. According to a recent ABB report1, 71% of the 765 industrial business leaders surveyed by the company are giving greater priority to sustainability objectives as a result of the pandemic.

Stackeo has been created to guide companies in the success of their IoT and AI journey in order to achieve their environmental corporate social responsibility as well as business goals.

Thanks to Stackeo collaborative tool, industrial companies can ensure that every stakeholder is on the same page and acts in accordance with the strategy. Stackeo is here to help set goals, verify the accomplishment and adjust the trajectory if necessary.

Pillar 2: At Stackeo, every IoT project must be business relevant

“We help companies plan and deploy new IoT technology not only to enrich the conversation between their physical world - factories, agriculture fields, truck fleets - and the digital world, but also to perform impactful actions. At the end of the day, all this has to be financially profitable if the company wants to survive or at least unlock the right budget for the project.

To make that possible, our product has a few special features,” explains Pascale. She opened the Stackeo app on her laptop and pointed to the IoT Canvas. “We provide a simplified end-to-end view of the smart solution to highlight the relationship between the physical assets, the technical stack and the digital services. We then associate a business “role” to each of these components: the augmented physical assets are supposed to generate Savings, the digital services to create new Revenues and the technical stack, in charge of bridging the two worlds, represents the Cost.” This is general and easy to understand.

 

 

Depending on the solution, the field specialists will find the key impact and the most important benefits right at the beginning. They will know where they are going to save time and money. Stackeo will help them formulate these savings, to realize where they are going to make new money but also why and where they will spend the most.

Pascale points out that Stackeo’s IoT Solution Canvas is structured as a guide, so it’s easy to get a quick overview, hide the complexity and stay oriented towards the most important goals. The same canvas assists the project team throughout the PLAN-BUILD-RUN lifecycle.

But if you just want to explore the ROI forecast, you can also jump right in! Pascale clicks “Business” on the main menu and then comments on the Dashboard displayed at the right of the screen: "We use our users' feedback continually optimize our product. Thanks to our customer service team, but also to the feedback we collect in partner meetings, we know that our users are eager to show these concise projections to their customers and their management to convince them quickly. Our business modeling and simulation feature in the product supports them in these actionable demonstrations.”

Pillar 3: Our User-Oriented Design Keeps The Focus On Your goals

Making each stakeholder able to add its expertise during meetings with Stackeo is also possible, with features such as dynamic comparative scenarios which we keep as interactive as possible. Pascale demonstrates the principle: “In Stackeo, the dashboard presents the results of a simulation in a way that fits both operational team and financial experts — which is something critical in multi-party initiatives. That way, mutual understanding is strengthened and common goals are set in a natural way.”

Pascale emphasized that, even the way one can detail the expenses or revenues with real-life labels, like “downtime reduction”, “inventory management cost reduction” and their own expected values, greatly helps to speak to field users. Stackeo is developed in such a way that users can model and simulate their customized context as quickly as possible. Compared to Excel, Stackeo isn’t as painful and time consuming: it doesn’t have the range of possibilities that might make Excel universal. “But that’s a clear decision from our side,” explained Pascale.

“We want our users to put away their complex calculations and experience success with a simple and common structure that favors comprehension, collaboration and appropriation and reuse.”

Along those lines, Pascale stated: “We believe that this rapid and interactive experience is a much better approach for changing intuition in conviction and accelerating decision making as well as adoption — and we see that our users come back and keep building and sharing scenarios for that very reason.”

 

 

The advantage of modeling an IoT solution with Stackeo is that the process and the knowledge you collect is targeted to meet your collective needs and build your own knowledge base.

Whether you’re a portfolio manager, a product builder or an end-customer, with Stackeo, you always have access to the reference simulation and associated results, if you save the templates beforehand.

“Stackeo’s subscription model makes it possible for you to constantly add precision to your model and optimize your execution,” Pascale said: “Once you have access to the product, all the modeling material your organization has created is available to your team – you don’t have to build a new model from scratch when you start a new project. When you deploy the solutions in the field, you just need to “connect” the various implementations to their respective digital twins to generate the “real” scenarios that will enable the actual comparison and control.”

The product is enhanced regularly with new templates from our experts so that a freshly prepared model lands directly with you. Pascale is proud not only of how the product is oriented toward the users but of the features inside the product as well: “Your involvement in continuously anticipating and optimizing your solution is what drives your success along the way. That’s why we are developing a feature you can use to analyze the current results that puts in perspective your initial needs and goals.”

Is your motivation to adapt a smart solution for a new customer? Studio, here’s our recommendation for the right steps and architecture to follow. “Of course it doesn’t end there,” Pascale said with a laugh. With Stackeo, you’re never left on your own to optimize your IoT strategy and augment your teams.

Deep tech behind the scene

What is our secret sauce? It is the original and patented network digital twin innovation that we are bringing on the table. By twining the digital model of the solution and its real implementation, we are able to simulate and control its various non-functional properties. Moreover, our experts and partners are combining a large variety of knowledge and experience in digital technologies but also industrial and environmental fields to simplify the life of non-IT experts that are digitally transforming themselves. We are codifying our expertise in virtual models mapped to real objects to let our customer manipulate scientific abstractions and digital entities without noticing it. By adopting a no-code approach, we let them use “lego” blocks to design, forecast , control end-to-end and manage the lifecycle of smart solutions like smart building applications, asset tracking solutions or predictive maintenance capabilities.

 

 

This way, they can make IoT technology at their service and not the other way around.