14 December 2012 – Following are some highlights from the Industrial Revolution White Paper from GE, Industrial Internet – Pushing the Boundaries of Minds and Machines, by Peter Evans and Marco Annunziata:

The world is on the threshold of a new era of innovation and change with the rise of the “Industrial Internet”.

Meshing of the digital world with the world of machines holds the potential to bring about transformation to global industry and daily life.

Industries that will benefit from greater speed and efficiency include aviation, rail transportation, power generation, oil and gas development, and health care delivery.

The authors believe it will create stronger economic growth, better and more jobs and rising living standards throughout the world.

With better health outcomes at lower cost, substantial savings in fuel and energy, and better performing and longer-lived physical assets, the Industrial Internet will deliver new efficiency gains, accelerating productivity growth the way that the Industrial Revolution and the Internet Revolution did.

And increased productivity means faster improvement in income and living standards. In the US, if the Industrial Internet could boost annual productivity growth by 1-1.5 percentage points, bringing it back to its Internet revolution peaks, then over the next 20 years through the power of compounding it could raise average incomes by an impressive 25-40 per cent of today’s level over and above the current trend.

And as innovation spreads globally, if the rest of the world could secure half of the US productivity gains, the Industrial Internet could add a sizable $10-15 trillion to global GDP – the size of today’s US economy – over the same horizon.”

The paper says the Industrial Internet brings together the advances of two transformative revolutions: the myriad machines, facilities, fleets and networks that arose from the Industrial Revolution, and the more recent powerful advances in computing, information and communication systems brought to the fore by the Internet Revolution.

Together these developments bring together three elements, which embody the essence of the Industrial Internet:

  • Intelligent machines – New ways of connecting the word’s myriad of machines, facilities, fleets and networks with advanced sensors, controls and software applications
  • Advanced Analytics – Harnessing the power of physics-based analytics, predictive algorithms, automation and deep domain expertise in material science, electrical engineering and other key disciplines required to understand how machines and larger systems operate.
  • People at work – connecting people, whether they be at work in industrial facilities, offices, hospitals or on the move, at any time to support more intelligent design, operations, maintenance as well as higher quality service and safety.”

The Industrial Internet starts with embedding sensors and other advanced instrumentation in and array of machines from the simple to the highly complex.

This allows the collection and analysis of an enormous amount of data, which can be used to improve machine performance, and inevitably the efficiency of the systems and networks that link them. Even the data itself can become ‘intelligent’ instantly knowing which users it needs to reach.

In the aviation industry alone, the potential is tremendous. There are approximately 20,000 commercial aircraft operating with 43,000 commercial jet engines in service.“Each jet engine, in turn, contains three major pieces of rotating equipment which could be instrumented and monitored separately. Imagine the efficiencies in engine maintenance, fuel consumption, crew allocation, and scheduling when ‘intelligent aircraft’ can communicate with operators. That is 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.

Similar instrumentation opportunities exist in locomotives, in combined-cycle power plants, energy processing plants, industrial facilities and other critical assets.

 Overall, there are over 3 million major “things that spin” in today’s global industrial asset base

—and those are just a subset of the devices where the Industrial Internet can take hold.”

To develop fully, the Industrial Internet will need:

  • A sustained effort and investment in technological innovation, along with investment to deploy the necessary sensors, instrumentation and user interface systems.  The pace of Industrial Internet growth will ultimately be driven by how cost effective and beneficial it can be in various regions
  • A robust cyber security system
  • Development of a strong talent pool including new cross-cutting roles that combine mechanical and industrial engineering into new “digital-mechanical engineers,” data scientists to create the analytics platforms and algorithms, and software and cyber security specialists.

“It will take resources and effort, but the

Industrial Internet can transform our industries and lives—

pushing the boundaries of minds and machines.”