Monday, September 16, 2013

The Industrial Internet and SMAC - Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud

The Industrial Internet refers to the world of connected sensors on people, equipment, machines, parts, assets, vehicles, inventory, etc.  These items are connected by embedded wireless chips that monitor sensors and wirelessly send data to a server somewhere in the world.  Here is an example of how one of the largest companies in the world is utilizing the industrial Internet.

Every major part of a GE jet engine, locomotive or turbine is equipped with wireless sensors that continuously measure and wirelessly send every aspect of performance to a central server that is often in the cloud. As the data is received by the server, it is analyzed by big data analytical solutions and the results are used to improve everything from the flight path to energy efficiency.

This same kind of Industrial Internet platform could also be used to monitor and improve the health of large populations of people as well.  I think immediately of the elderly, those with chronic diseases, those recuperating from any kind of health issue.  If they can be monitored and cared for while staying at home, that is a far more comfortable and less expensive place to stay for many.  I can foresee a time when we will subscribe our elderly parents to a full time health monitoring plan.  Our elderly parents will wear a bracelet that contains a large number of sensors that monitor a spectrum of things from location to activity levels, temperature, pulse, heart rate, etc.

The industrial Internet will result in massive amounts of new data being added to wireless networks.  MNOs (mobile network operators) make less money supporting a small embedded wireless chip in a piece of equipment than adding a new iPhone customer, but the embedded wireless sensor chip is unlikely to change carriers, call a support center, or dispute an international call; so although the embedded wireless chip is not as profitable as a smartphone customer, the cost of sales and support are far lower.  This area is considered one of the major growth areas for mobile network operators and is currently being heavily promoted by MNOs.

In the enterprise, the ability to know about your operational area is critical.  If you are managing a fleet, it is important to know where they are, which vehicles need new tires, oil changes and other maintenance.  It is important to know and plan for how much money you need to spend each month/year on maintenance and replacement costs.  If you know the location of your fleet, you are better able to provide least cost routing, improve scheduling, avoid traffic and weather hazards and improve overall profitability.  The industrial Internet connects managers with real data, in real-time.  The Industrial Internet proves that knowledge is power.

What is the connection of the Industrial Internet to SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud)?  Let's consider the description above of how GE is using the Industrial Internet.  Every major part of a GE manufactured jet engine has a wireless sensor.  These sensors are continuously sending data to a server.  Many of those major parts are manufactured by third parties - contract manufacturers.  When strange data starts coming in from several parts - I can image there is an immediate need to analyze, communicate and collaborate among many different teams.  As many of your smartest key people are mobile and traveling, you will need mobile communications and the ability to review shared data (a good use case for a cloud-based collaboration environment).

The Industrial Internet has the ability to transform working environments, strategies, industries, processes and methodologies in big ways, just like mobile devices have changed entire businesses, industries and processes.  These two trends are not separate. They build off each other, and because of this the changes and transformations introduced will not be linear.  They will introduce exponential change at a pace most are not equipped to handle.



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Kevin Benedict, Head Analyst for Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and SMAC analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.