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  • Writer's pictureLenora Thomas

Willowglen Systems Inc: Innovating Industrial Automation

When Wayne Karpoff took on the role of CEO at Willowglen Systems, it was only supposed to be for two years. Flash forward a decade and Wayne is still in that role. He’s bought in and is excited about the prospects of this almost 50-year-old, Edmonton company.

Yes, you read that correctly—50 years! In that time, Willowglen has attracted customers on five continents and in multiple industries.

Before we dig into Willowglen, let’s start with Wayne’s background. Wayne is a self-professed nerd whose entry into tech began as a student in computer science at the University of Alberta. From there, he joined Edmonton-based Myrias, which at the time, was Canada’s entry in the supercomputer race. Following the sale of Myrias, Wayne founded YottaYotta. He saw an opportunity to change the way data was stored as the technology had been stagnant for two decades. YottaYotta’s team developed distributed storage virtualization that is now Dell EMC's VPLEX product line.

Coming out of the sale of YottaYotta, Wayne joined Willowglen and immediately saw the potential for innovation in industrial automation.

Willowglen Systems provides the brains and nervous systems for metro systems, pipelines and power grids through automation. The company’s software consolidates multiple systems, different technology (including aging infrastructure, sometimes bridging decades of technology) and presents users with an up-to-date interface and analysis.

Wondering what that actually means?

In Singapore, it means that the entire country’s energy supply is managed through Willowglen. In Ottawa, the city’s metro runs on Willowglen from controls to passenger information and power systems. A bit closer to home, Suncor manages its entire North American pipeline system from a single control room in Sherwood Park.

Wayne shared that his team builds mission critical systems for clients who can’t afford to have them go down and who need systems that are built for large-scale use and availability. Unlike many of us who work in software and can use cloud environments like Azure or Amazon Web Services, the nature of Willowglen’s solutions means that they are also building industrial architecture behind operational firewalls to ensure security

Moving forward, Wayne’s team is going after another big issue for industrial automation: data. The process of installing and configuring data sensors, such as those found on pipelines, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Willowglen is looking at ways to improve the process and reduce costs so that Willowglen customers have access to more data. The more data available the more accurate decision support can be made. With enhanced decision support comes efficiencies, which in the energy sector can quickly translate into reduced carbon footprints.

When it comes to the question of ‘Why Alberta?’ Wayne has a lot to share about why our province has the potential to grow as a tech hub. First off, our educational institutions are world class. The University of Alberta ranked 34 in the world for engineering, and NAIT is the top polytechnic in the country. Second, by having oil and gas and construction leaders in the province, we have access to the customers we can help. A strong tech community needs a business community with pain points to solve with automation and traditional industries need automation. If tech entrepreneurs can identify the pain points that help businesses be more competitive, our province wins.

This is just a portion of the great feedback Wayne provided. I recommend you listen to the interview to learn more:

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