General Electric - Industrial Internet Strategy
The concept of Internet-connected machines that collect data and communicate, often called the “Internet of Things,” has been around for years. Information technology companies, too, are pursuing this emerging field. I.B.M. has its “Smarter Planet” projects, while Cisco champions the “Internet of Everything.”
But General Electric’s effort, analysts say, shows that Internet-era technology is ready to sweep through the industrial economy much as the consumer Internet has transformed media, communications and advertising over the last decade.
G.E. is the nation’s largest industrial company, a producer of aircraft engines, power plant turbines, rail locomotives and medical imaging equipment. It makes the heavy-duty machinery that transports people, heats homes and powers factories, and lets doctors diagnose life-threatening diseases.
G.E. resides in a different world from the consumer Internet. But the major technologies that animate Google and Facebook are also vital ingredients in the industrial Internet — tools from artificial intelligence, like machine-learning software, and vast streams of new data. In industry, the data flood comes mainly from smaller, more powerful and cheaper sensors on the equipment.
Smarter machines, for example, can alert their human handlers when they will need maintenance, before a breakdown. It is the equivalent of preventive and personalized care for equipment, with less downtime and more output.
Today, G.E. is putting sensors on everything, be it a gas turbine or a hospital bed. The mission of the engineers in its San Ramon, California research center is to design the software for gathering data, and the clever algorithms for sifting through it for cost savings and productivity gains. Across the industries it covers, G.E. estimates such efficiency opportunities at as much as $150 billion.