Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"General Electric Pitches an Industrial Internet" (GE)

Although the term "Internet of Things" goes back at least a decade something has happened in the last three or four weeks to make the term ubiquitous. I'm not sure what it is.

There is probably a push going on in the Radio-frequency identification (RFID) space that I wasn't aware of, I miss a lot of the memos.
RFID is the basis of the IoT, sensors on/in people and machines.

From MIT's Technology Review:

With more sensors and more data, GE wants to wring efficiency from industrial systems. 
Things that spin: General Electric power turbines like the one shown in this rendering 
could transmit valuable data about electricity usage.

General Electric has a new name for where it thinks its business is headed: the “industrial Internet.”

The term, coined inside GE’s R&D division, reflects the company’s hope that adding more sensors to machinery will result in a deluge of data that will in turn let companies squeeze more efficiency out of locomotives, jet engines, MRI machines, and other equipment GE sells.

GE says it is investing $1.5 billion in the idea over a three-year period. Some of that money is being spent on research at a large new software R&D center the company has created in San Ramon, California.

At the San Ramon center, for instance, machine-learning researcher Anil Varma has been experimenting with ways to sift out subtle warning signs that can predict which of the 20,000 GE jet engines in service will need maintenance. For some types of engines, he says his algorithms can identify those needing attention with 70 percent accuracy and a month ahead of time, which could help prevent costly flight delays.

Most equipment sensors are still used reactively—a light on a dashboard might turn red if something’s wrong. And GE’s older jet engines do plenty of such sensing—measuring things like temperature, pressure, and voltage. Historically, however, not much of the information tracked that way has been retained and studied. For most flights, Varma says, three averages—one each for takeoff, cruising, and landing—are the only engine data kept.

With products such as its next generation of GEnX engines (which will be used on the Boeing 787) the idea is to eventually retain all the original readings from every flight, and possibly transmit them from an airplane in real time, Varma says. He says those engines will produce more data in a single year than GE has collected in the history of its aviation business.

Although the idea of ubiquitous sensors that communicate information from machinery isn’t new (it’s sometimes also called the “Internet of things”), the huge scale of GE’s business could help speed that vision to reality. “We have some of the biggest industrial data sets, because we’ve been operating this equipment for a long time,” Varma says. “We have the before and after and can test any algorithm and see how it works.”

GE’s idea for the industrial Internet took root during the economic crisis, says William Ruh, the former Cisco executive hired to lead the effort (and who GE says coined the term). With economic growth uncertain, industrial clients began looking to productivity gains to boost their profitability. They were also hearing more and more about “big data” and had begun asking GE whether it had a “data strategy” for its equipment....MORE
I'd be a lot more comfortable with GE leading the charge if I didn't know Jeff Immelt to be a opportunistic toadying duplicitous tool:
"GE's Immelt wishes he had soft-pedaled green talk" (GE)
From Reuters:

General Electric Co may have grown its clean-tech business fourfold over the past six years, but Chief Executive Jeff Immelt wishes he had spent a little less time talking about it.

The head of the largest U.S. conglomerate, who in January was named a top adviser on job creation to U.S. President Barack Obama, said on Tuesday that GE's focus on the environmentally friendly aspects of its wind turbines and high-efficiency appliances might have led his critics to believe he was more interested in saving the planet than growing the company.

"If I had one thing to do over again I would not have talked so much about green," Immelt said at an event sponsored by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Even though I believe in global warming and I believe in the science ... it just took on a connotation that was too elitist; it was too precious and it let opponents think that if you had a green initiative, you didn't care about jobs. I'm a businessman. That's all I care about, is jobs."...MORE
[come on, I know you want to say something -ed] 
A week before GE cranked up the PR machine ComputerworldUK had this to say about the Internet of things:

A Step Change is A-Coming
IoT could transform our lives quicker than we expect
“Open your eyes - there's a new world a comin';
Open your eyes, there's a new world today.”

These lyrics are from the 1970 Paul Kanter/Jefferson Starship album “Blows Against the Empire”, heralding widespread societal recalibration developing from the 1960s hippy revolution. They're also equally relevant for the the emerging Internet of Things revolution.

The Internet of Things, where anything can be connected to everything and anywhere, is shaping up to have potentially as huge an impact on us as did the World Wide Web, so why do so few see it coming right now?

IoT: Evolutionary vs Revolutionary
Some would say it's because the Internet of Things is evolutionary, not revolutionary. From a technological perspective they could be right, but from the perspective of intercommunicating applications and their impact this is set to be revolutionary. It's on a par, if not greater than, the deployment of the World Wide Web - the first revolution of mass Internet connectivity.

It's not easy to see a paradigm shift happening and sometimes the closer you are the less you expect to see it coming at you as fast as it does. That's because the signs are all around us and we obliviously take them for granted until some catalyst brings them all together to give them boost and direction.

Web Wake-Up....

My personal example is the got an electric shock wake-up call I got in 1994 in Geneva when I heard Tim Berners-Lee talk about the Web. It suddenly clicked with me that this was the catalyst to link and channel all the communications and desktop capabilities that were emerging around us - from hobbyist tecchie news groups to subscription services like Compuserve.

As we all now know, the web (as a result of browsers and especially CERN donating the World Wide Web intellectual property to the world) went on to transform society and then business as we knew it. Although it took time - it was only from about 2001 that it began to transform my own industry - publishing -  which is when the real mainstream shift from paper to digital publications started. IoT WakeUp

Talking to chip manufacturers last year I got a similar wake-up about the transformations to come with the Internet of Things, as well as the pace and scale of change.

The Internet of Things , the third revolution in mass Internet connectivity, is currently about where the World Wide Web was in about 1994. With the Web, consumer adoption accelerated during the later 90s' with corporates dribbling it onboard slowly, triggering versions of the continuing "Bring Your Own Device” debate right from the start....MORE
The Europeans are ahead of the U.S. and just concluded the Fourth Internet of Things, Europe forum.
For some reason I'm reminded of a chubby little pink (face and underwear!) rhetorician:
...all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science....
-Before the House of Commons
I'll be dead and gone before this stuff reaches maturity but for everyone else I sure hope it all works out.