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The Interlocutor of Industry

In Focus
NAME:Cecil Bruce-Boye
POSITION:Founder & Managing Director
LOCATION:Ingolstadt, Germany
If this publication were called 'The CIO Magazine', then Cecil Bruce-Boye might just be its new poster boy. As professor, polymath and pioneer of ‘middleware engineering’ company CBB Software, he’s right on the cusp of revolutionising industry globally.

Ever heard of the Babel fish? In Douglas Adam’s infamous space-opera spoof The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it was a tiny yellow extra-terrestrial fish which, when inserted into one’s ear canal, could translate the speech of any alien language via a process of telepathic excretion.

While that sounds rather unpleasant, the Babel fish’s interlocutory powers worked wonderfully – unlike, sadly, its ill-fated eponymous multilingual app last seen on Yahoo!. Nowadays, the closest thing we have to a Babel fish is Google Translate (and even it gets things embarrassingly wrong at times).

None of the above, though, has stopped Cecil Bruce-Boye and his company CBB Software from building their own kind of ‘Babel fish’. Except, instead of translating the speech of alien races into the brains of whomever stuffs a fish in their ear, their invention will serve as the ‘connecting tissue’ between the unique operating systems and software interfaces of different industrial machines.

Industrial revolution

Once complete, this industrial middleware will revolutionise the way large-scale industry production lines and IT infrastructure works, using automation and artificial intelligence to capture valuable data, save energy and increase efficiencies at every touchpoint.

The Founder and Managing Director explains his creation thusly: “Say, you buy a computer and a printer. Most times, you just take the printer, plug the printer in, and it works. But in the industrial field, it’s a huge, huge challenge because there’s no standard interface. It’s the equivalent of calling up Bill Gates and asking him, ‘Oh please, can you make some changes in your operating system so I can connect these different things?’

“Wherever there is a production line, there are machines interacting, which means the data flow must be really well defined. And, therefore, what we have designed is a machine to application software and back communication platform. As a new type of middleware, it acts as an interpreter between any new or legacy systems without modifying their current software.”

Reshaping the future

But this is much more than mere middleware, Cecil says. “Ultimately, what it will do is digitalise production processes and reshape the future of automation worldwide, such as in the automotive industry with autonomous driving. It won’t just save all sorts of industries’ money; it will save energy.”

In fact, one of CBB’s existing products can map the data of any production plant’s electricity use in order to efficiently plan their energy needs over the medium- and long-term. “Optimising energy consumption is how we help our clients pay a significant contribution to the ‘green deal’ and, at the same time, save money and increase turnover,” Cecil explains.

Optimising energy consumption is how we help our clients pay a significant contribution to the ‘green deal’ and, at the same time, save money and increase turnover.”

One gets the distinct impression Cecil is the smartest guy in most rooms he walks into. A tall, striking man of Liberian heritage and patrician looks, he possesses a Dipl.Ing (the German equivalent of a Masters in Science and Engineering) from the University of Bremen. His doctoral thesis dealt with robot control for the European module of the Columbus module of the International Space Station. He became a professor of electric engineering and automation technology back in 1991.

“I am possibly Germany’s first West African migrant to be awarded a professorship for a technical discipline,” he notes humbly. “Maybe who knows? But back then, I never intended to create a company.”

Nonetheless, Cecil’s intellect soon saw him in high demand. He founded CBB three years later and has remained as its shareholder and strategic master mind, servicing a number of high-profile industrial and automotive clients.


Data success

While the new middleware remains his ‘big-vision’ project, a large part of the business is ‘test benching’ – which is to say, measuring the accuracy of client products, technology and bespoke infrastructure. The service can span the research and development phase, end-of-line testing or special testing systems. In Cecil’s words, it also offers industry a holistic view of the integration of new systems into existing structures, capturing vital data and futureproofing investment. “Our catchphrase,” he smiles, “is we drive your data to success.”

The unexpected popularity of the service provided Cecil with a key learning. “It taught me flexibility. For my business to grow, we had to stay close to our clients and listen carefully to their needs, rather than what we were building or wanting them to buy. And what they needed was the test benching, which is what we now offer. This affords us the opportunity to still enhance and develop our own products.”

Cecil nurtures high hopes for CBB. “I aim to create a company that is a global player, but my plan is for stable rather than fast growth. We now have almost 90 employees, but in close cooperation with our new parent company Viega, we will succeed in having 200 in the next five years.”

I believe you should develop your personnel so that they rise, shoulder to shoulder, with you and the company, and are proud of what they do, while you yourself remain in the background.

When asked what his most valuable strategic contribution has been, Cecil’s response is unequivocal. “Contributing to the digitalisation of drinking water quality in buildings and the strategic orientation of the company in the commercial vehicle sector, and the acquisition and active participation of CBB in a pilot project in autonomous driving – Mobility as a Service,” he says. This is in cooperation with a renowned car manufacturer and other suppliers.”

Funnily enough, though, he still feels his biggest step in business was the day he hired his first employee. “That was when it all became real for me because you’re taking responsibility for someone and have to provide them a secure, rewarding job,” Cecil says.

Hence why his employees remain top of mind for him. “While we offer excellent training so they’re capable of producing great work, we also want them to feel happy in their job. Find their place. Make their mark. I believe you should develop your personnel so that they rise, shoulder to shoulder, with you and the company, and are proud of what they do, while you yourself remain in the background.”

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