The advanced control system christened Leaf, an invention from Brazilian startup I.Systems, enables companies to forecast variations in consumption and control air flow and fuel intake, among other measures that ultimately cut costs. Currently, the system is also used by Votorantim Metais, Ambev, Oxiteno, Usina Sao Martinho and Ajinomoto, among other customers in 25 industries.
I.Systems was found 11 years ago in the city of Campinas, Brazil, by the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) computer engineer Igor Santiago and other three partners. Thanks to the innovative potential and scalability built into the system, I.Systems attracted the attention of hPitanga Fund, which entered into a partnership with the startup. This risk capital fundi s headed by biologist Fernando Reinach and manages US$ 380 billion.
Leaf is designed to solve common problems in the regulation of industrial automation. Based on fuzzy logic, the technology enables manufacturers to control a large number of variables in any production line. "We planned to supply the same product to any company," Santiago says. "We focused on the customer's problem and on the technology. We ignored market size, which to our way of thinking was infinite."
The product began to take shape in 2007. The Sao Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP'S Innovative Research in Small Business program (PIPE) funded its development, supporting some components of the system, including a mini-simulator, a proof of concept for the controller, and later IntFuzzy, the first version of Leaf.
Leaf was first tested at Coca-Cola Femsa in Jundiai, Sao Paulo State. Using the system, the brand's largest bottler in Latin America achieved a 31% reduction in waste due to variations in injected liquid levels and a 42% reduction in losses due to excessive fizzing, as well as being able to control pressure and flow valves at the same time. The result was a savings of 500,000 liters of soft drink and 100,000 PET bottles per year.
Suzano Papel e Celulose, the world's second-largest producer of eucalyptus pulp, controls its boilers using advanced control technology developed by I.Systems. Each boiler is powered by different energy sources with different combustion speeds, including biomass, gas, and black liquor, a byproduct of the chemical treatment process used in the pulp and paper industry. Leaf, as I.Systems' advanced control system is called, enables Suzano to forecast variations in consumption and control air flow and fuel intake, among other measures that ultimately cut costs. Previously, whenever Suzano needed to increase or decrease steam consumption, it had to control each boiler to keep pressure stable and avoid a rise in operating cost.
The association with Pitanga was crucial to defining the value-based pricing model implemented by I.Systems. The customer firm uses Leaf for a certain period, during which the benefits are measured. "Only then does the customer decide whether to purchase and license the product," Santiago says. "If the product doesn't add value, there's nothing to remunerate. It's a sophisticated commercial model used by few companies, but it's the model of the future."
I.Systems has begun prospecting for its first overseas customers. "At the end of 2015, we applied to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a patent to protect the technology for a Windows-based control system," Santiago says.
About Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)
The Sao Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) is a public institution with the mission of supporting scientific research in all fields of knowledge by awarding scholarships, fellowships and grants to investigators linked with higher education and research institutions in the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. FAPESP is aware that the very best research can only be done by working with the best researchers internationally. Therefore, it has established partnerships with funding agencies, higher education, private companies, and research organizations in other countries known for the quality of their research and has been encouraging scientists funded by its grants to further develop their international collaboration. For more information: http://www.fapesp.br/en.