In a very detailed report, GE discusses the advent of the Industrial Internet and its far-reaching implications. According to the authors, the Industrial Internet promises to be the next great wave of innovation and change, the first two being the Industrial Revolution and the Internet itself.
Three elements constitute what GE calls the essence of the Industrial Internet:
- Intelligent machines provide new ways of connecting the word’s myriad machines, facilities, fleets, and networks with advanced sensors, controls, and software applications.
- Advanced analytics harness the power of physics-based analytics, predictive algorithms, automation, and the deep domain expertise (in material science, electrical engineering and other key disciplines) required to understand how machines and larger systems operate.
- People at work are connected, whether they are in industrial facilities, offices, hospitals, or on the move, at any time, to support more intelligent design, operations, and maintenance, as well as higher quality service and safety.
In a related Forbes article, Jody Markopoulos, CEO of GE Intelligent Platforms, lists five ways the Industrial Internet will change manufacturing as companies look to produce the best products, faster, and at lower costs to remain competitive in a volatile environment:
- Get more out of data.
- Employ predictive analytics for faster, smarter anticipation and response.
- Use mobility to empower the workforce.
- Leverage the cloud for efficiency gains.
- Expand support infrastructures with high-performance computing.
“The factory floor is the nucleus of a company, and when properly optimized, it is a competitive advantage,” says Markopoulos. “With a greater level of visibility at the plant level, manufacturers can achieve greater predictability in output, cost, and quality.” The Industrial Internet promises to deliver this advantage.
The economic implications of this next wave are startling. The GE report says the productivity gains enabled by adoption of the Industrial Internet, extended from today through, would deliver growth in U.S. per capita GDP from 25 percent to 40 percent, depending on conservative to optimistic estimates.
This growth is expected to carry over globally as well, but the rate of impact on the global economy will depend on the speed with which global concerns adopt the new technologies of the Industrial Internet. “A positive factor in this respect is that emerging markets still have enormous need to increase infrastructure investment, a priority for generating rapidly rising levels of production and incomes,” notes the report. “If emerging markets could this time around prove to be early adopters of the new technologies, rather than late adopters, the Industrial Internet Revolution could have a much more powerful and rapid impact on the entire global economy. Its impact in alleviating the constraints in sustainable global growth, for example in terms of commodities consumption and environmental impact, would be that much more significant.”
Where the Industrial Internet is likely to have its greatest initial impact is in the area of advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing is likely to have to play a stronger role if economies, and specifically the U.S. economy, are going to return to the vitality they enjoyed before the last economic downturn. While recent energy developments (e.g., the discovery and expropriation of shale gas) may provide an impetus to the U.S. economy, the Industrial Internet is likely to prove an equal if not superior “engine of transformation.”
The Industrial Internet is coming, perhaps faster than first thought, and by all accounts it’s a good thing that it is.