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Big data will drive the industrial internet

Thor Olavsrud | June 24, 2013
While most big data headlines focus on sentiment analysis and other marketing activities, multinational conglomerate GE sees a future in which machine-to-machine communication and big data analytics spur a wave of innovation on par with the Industrial Revolution and the Internet Revolution.

The conversation around big data has largely focused on clickstream data, sentiment analysis and consumer targeting. But behind the scenes, the capabilities enabled by machine-to-machine communication and advanced analytics stand poised to dramatically change the world around us.

Case in point: General Electric (GE) and its vision of the "Industrial Internet," which it suggests may bring about as profound a change to the way we live our lives as the Industrial Revolution and the more recent Internet Revolution.

"The world is on the threshold of a new era of innovation and change with the rise of the industrial Internet," Peter C. Evans, director of Global Strategy and Analytics at GE, and Marco Annunziata, chief economist and executive director of Global Market Insight at GE, writes in a GE whitepaper, Industrial Internet: Pushing the Boundaries of Minds and Machines.

"It is taking place through the convergence of the global industrial system with the power of advanced computing, analytics, low-cost sensing and new levels of connectivity permitted by the Internet. The deeper meshing of the digital world with the world of machines holds the potential to bring about profound transformation to global industry, and in turn to many aspects of daily life, including the way many of us do our jobs," Evans says. "These innovations promise to bring greater speed and efficiency to industries as diverse as aviation, rail transportation, power generation, oil and gas development and healthcare delivery."

The Industrial Internet: Intelligent Machines, Advanced Analytics and People
It starts, they say, with embedding sensors and other advanced instrumentation in the machines all around us, enabling collection and analysis of data that can be used to improve machine performance and the efficiency of the systems and networks that link them.

According to Wipro Technologies, and IT, consulting and outsourcing company, a Boeing 737 engine generates 10 terabytes of data every 30 minutes in flight.

"A six hours flight from New York to LA on a twin-engine aircraft produces a 240-terabyte mountain of data," writes Paul Mathai, applied research lead, Manufacturing & Hi-Tech, at Wipro. "The data can be analyzed to reveal every aspect of the engine's performance and health."

As GE's Evans and Annunziata point out, there are approximately 20,000 commercial aircraft operating in the aviation industry—43,000 commercial jet engines in service.

"Imagine the efficiencies in engine maintenance, fuel consumption, crew allocation and scheduling when 'intelligent aircraft' can communicate with operators," they write. "That's just today. In the next 15 years, another 30,000 jet engines will likely go into service as the global demand for air service continues to expand."

Just a One-Percent Savings Could Be Enormous
The potential gains in efficiency from harnessing this data are enormous. In commercial aviation, even a one percent improvement in fuel savings could yield a savings of $30 billion over 15 years. And it's not just the aviation industry that stands to gain. Evans and Annunziata note that a one percent efficiency improvement in the global gas-fired power plant fleet could yield a $66 billion savings in fuel consumption. A one percent reduction in process inefficiencies in the global healthcare industry could yield more than $63 billion in health care savings.


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