BY GILIAN CORRAL
Wind farms that talk, self-aware loco-motives, connected factories, digital oil fields—once the stuff of dreams, the con-nected machine has arrived. Just how far will the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) transcend business as usual? According to industry leaders at GE’s Minds and Machines 2015 conference, the IIoT is poised to be a game-changing market dis-ruption.
“This is the future—the Industrial Internet, what it means for productivity for industrial companies,” said Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, “we really are on the cusp of the next productivity revolu-tion for our companies, and we’re proud to be a part of it.” While the customer internet has had decades to innovate and mature, industry and utilities have been more con-servative, incorporating connectivity in fits and starts. With Predix, GE’s industrial dig-ital platform, GE seeks to catapult industry into the digital age, and soon, into the cloud. “This power of science, this merger of the digital and industrial world, is really the genesis,” Immelt continued. “If you went to bed tonight as an industrial compa-ny, you’re going to wake up tomorrow morning as a software analytics company.”
The IDC forecasts the Internet of Things market to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020. Immelt predicted the Industrial Internet will be worth double the value of the consumer internet, “mainly because people can see the productivity benefits.” Further, GE’s presentation included impres-sive predictions for the company and value added to the economy:
Connectivity is changing how we do business from the plant level to utility scale, from the self-aware locomotive to a trans-portation network of connected cities. The Industrial Internet has the capacity to not only disrupt individual industries, but entire sectors, such as the energy sector. “Going forward, the world needs more power,” said Steve Bolze, President and CEO of GE Power & Water. “50% more power is required in the world in the next two decades. We will spend as a combined industry $10 trillion to put in that new power and modernize the infrastructure that exists today.”
There’s enormous opportunity—and challenge—in connecting over 1 billion peo-ple currently living without electricity in the developing world, as Bolze noted. In com-munities that lack utility infrastructure, there’s opportunity to bypass the financial and logistical headache of modernizing infrastructure and “leapfrog” ahead to new tech, such as connected microgrids and advances in renewable energy. “The single biggest opportunity for transformation is digitization of the entire energy value chain,” Bolze pointed out, which will reduce cost and time to market, decarbonize the industry, and help integrate renewables into the grid.
Immelt offered three magic words to convince industry to embrace the Industrial Internet: “no unplanned downtime.” Increased productivity and efficiency sav-ings—this is the fuel that will fire up the Industrial Internet. Machines connected in real time to each other and the cloud can generate predictive analytics to pre-vent equipment failures. For the oil off-shore customer, this could mean $5.2 mil-lion in savings by preventing just one oil platform failure; for a power generation company, $1 million can be saved in just one month by increasing efficiency, according to GE’s presentation. Through internal case studies, GE has spent years proving its platform, Predix, can deliver efficiency savings and greater productivity for business.