Water and power utilities, as well as companies like mining and oil and gas companies, manage large assets and sophisticated infrastructure networks. When it comes time to repair them, expand them, or build around them, precise knowledge of their construction, condition, size, and location is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, this is a challenge for many companies. Their engineering data may be scattered in different locations or be otherwise difficult to access. That is the problem that Australian company RedEye was founded to solve. It has built a cloud-native data platform to bring all of a company’s engineering data into one place and allow company employees and third-party contractors to access it.
In this interview, RedEye chief executive officer (CEO) Wayne Gerard speaks with Municipal Water LeaderManaging Editor Joshua Dill about his company and how it can help municipal water utilities manage their assets.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your background and how you came to be in your current position.
Wayne Gerard: I am the CEO of RedEye, which I cofounded in 2012. Prior to that, I was an army officer
for 9 years, then worked for a software company that serviced the industrial sector, including utilities, water, mining, and power, during the first tech bubble. I then set up a consulting company in 2005 servicing that same market and an electrical engineering company in 2011. The engineering company worked with the mining industry, and while working onsite at a mining outfit, I was constantly given the wrong set of engineering data. That led me to search for a solution that we could recommend back to the market. We realized that there was no purpose-built engineering data-management solution for large, complex assets like water or power utilities. In 2012, we started to create the first native cloud and mobile solution purpose built to solve the problems we experienced working onsite.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about RedEye today.
Wayne Gerard: When RedEye started in 2012, it was just me and two software engineers. Today, we have close to 100 staff spread across six offices. Our headquarters are in Brisbane, Australia. About 60 of our staff are there. We have three offices in North America, in Las Vegas, Denver, and Houston. We have an office in Wellington, New Zealand. We have an office in the Philippines with about 7 staff who do data improvement. All our software engineering takes place in our Brisbane City office.
Joshua Dill: What problem does your data-management solution solve?
Wayne Gerard: I’ll use a practical example. The Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and Las Vegas Valley Water District have been building water infrastructure in southern Nevada as the region’s population has grown over the last 10 years. As a result, they have hundreds of thousands of engineering files that represent what they’ve built, also known as as-built data. These files were not easily accessible or usable. We had been solving this problem for 6 or 7 years when I met the deputy general manager of the SNWA on a trade mission to Australia led by the governor of Nevada. SNWA was after a solution that would allow it to put all its engineering and as-built data in one place and help it organize it, clean it up, and make it easily accessible to staff and third-party contractors.
Joshua Dill: So your product is a platform that can be accessed from a variety of PCs or mobile devices.
Wayne Gerard: Yes. RedEye is an engineering data- management platform for companies that own and operate large, complex, critical infrastructure, including water and power utilities. We provide native cloud and mobile-based solutions. When we designed our platform in 2012, we started building a cloud solution from day 1. By contrast, a lot of software companies are converting their on-premise software products to the cloud, which is a big challenge both from a technological and a commercial perspective. Using RedEye, our clients can access their engineering data using a native iOS app or Android app, or they can log on to RedEye via the web and see their engineering data in all its formats. It is easy and fast to provide access to their staff and to contractors as well.
Joshua Dill: Would you tell us about the variety of companies and industries that use your product?
Wayne Gerard: Today, our platform is used to manage over $200 billion worth of infrastructure. Some companies that use it own and operate water infrastructure on behalf of municipalities and power utilities. Other clients include mining companies, oil and gas companies in both the United States and Australia, and companies that manage healthcare assets and roads. Hospitals use the engineering data for the hospital precinct and the water and power networks that supply those hospitals. Today, we’ve got clients all over the world.
Joshua Dill: Have you incorporated user feedback into your product over the past few years?
Wayne Gerard: When I founded RedEye, I wanted to found a company that was absolutely focused on culture and building a great environment. One part of our culture is that we design and build with our clients, not for them. We are a truly customer-centered business. The first document I wrote when I founded RedEye was our brand promise. That promise is easy+fast+relevant+secure=essential. Our goal is to become essential to our clients. Right now, we’re doing three codevelopment projects with our clients to accelerate the development of new technology on roadmap and to make sure that our solution remains relevant in an industry with rapidly changing technology, ideas, and requirements. There’s lots of talk about building-information modeling, 3D models, and moving to a world in which owners have a digital twin of their physical asset.
Municipal councils can now see all the operating parameters, engineering information, and planned maintenance displayed in real time, enabling them to make fast and accurate decisions on how they should operate and maintain that asset. We’re doing projects like that right now to help our clients make sure that their assets are the most efficient, safe, and productive they can be, using emerging technologies like 3D models, physical twin technology, and real-time sensor data from Internet of things systems.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about your security features.
Wayne Gerard: Security has always been at the front of my mind as we designed and built our platform. We have constantly added security features to our solution as we brought on more customers. We are always doing security reviews and audits with our clients to make sure that our clients are confident that the security protocols and infrastructure we have in place are robust. I think we have been successful: There’s no way that we would have been authorized to put all the engineering data for Hoover Dam in RedEye if we hadn’t demonstrated such a strong security capability.
Joshua Dill: How does your product improve safety for the companies that use it?
Wayne Gerard: Having access to current asset management data is critical when you are doing operations and maintenance. For example, if you don’t have the right engineering data, it can be very hard to deenergize part of a pump station so that you can perform maintenance on it. We’ve been approached by numerous organizations after they’ve had a safety incident because outdated engineering information was used to isolate an asset, resulting in damage and injuries. Simple things like not having access to the right engineering drawings and not knowing where the various water and power networks run underground can lead to problems, for example, when someone starts to dig up a sidewalk and unintentionally bursts a water main or cuts a power line. These things are absolutely avoidable if you have a system like RedEye in place.
Joshua Dill: Please tell us about how you work with your clients.
Wayne Gerard: One of the things that sets us apart from other companies is the way we work with our clients. We’ve delivered projects across the world and across different industries, helping organizations organize their engineering and as-built data and getting it into a system where it can
be easily accessed and used. We understand the best practices, and that has driven the way we approach working with new clients. We have two solutions, one for organizing and managing as-built data and the other for planning and doing inspections and work. They integrate well, so users can always see the latest version of their data. Our solutions really are purpose built for large water utilities and municipalities, and we are open to working with any major water utility, wherever it is.
Potential clients often say, “We have a problem, but we’re going to have to do a lot of work before we can start using a product like this.” With RedEye, that’s not the case. New clients don’t have to do any work up front. We can just take their data, wherever they are and in whatever format they are in. We have the tools and processes to clean the data up and organize the data for them. That removes a significant barrier to adoption.
Another thing that sets us apart is our simple and intuitive user interface. We wanted to build something that is as easy to use as Facebook or LinkedIn. Some people will use a program like this every day, but others will only use it once a week or once a month. Essentially, our goal is to provide enterprise software that requires no training. This reduces the time it takes to find the right information and complete inspection or maintenance. Las Vegas Valley Water District calculated that they save over 450 hours a month using RedEye. One of our new clients, a municipal council in New Zealand, told us that previously it could take up to 2 hours to find engineering drawings; using RedEye, it takes less than 2 minutes. Staff and contractors can easily start using our mobile application in the field and quickly return assets to service. For water utilities, this can improve the customer experience as well.
Joshua Dill: Tell us about your vision for the future.
Wayne Gerard: Every large, complex asset manager and every large water utility needs to adopt relevant emerging technology to make its operations more efficient. We want to be the common data environment for all the data that represent their built assets. Our vision is to become a modern asset-management platform that houses all of a company’s engineering or as-built data and makes that data extremely easy for anyone to access. We are in the process of implementing a number of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that will allow our clients to perform work on our assets and to get recommendations back out of the system about what to do next and how improve the efficiency of their maintenance schedule and ultimately to help them to run their utilities at a lower cost. Right now, we’re working with an organization to build digital twins of its key assets, and we are developing an intelligent recommendation engine. That’s going to dramatically change the way our assets work.