Industrial Internet brings huge changes, benefits to industry
The benefits of industrial Internet are many. What is industrial Internet? What can those in automation get from industrial Internet and how? Rich Carpenter, chief technology officer of GE Intelligent Platforms, explained these concepts to Control Engineering China, during a recent visit to Beijing.
Third revolution of Internet
Carpenter predicted great changes for this “age of industrial Internet.” Recently, he explained to Control Engineering China: “From the first Internet revolution, consumers interacted with the Internet to get information. With the second iteration Internet, e-commerce and business were established. Now the third Internet revolution is underway, the so-called industrial Internet.” As industrial equipment is connected to Internet, he explained, people and equipment are better connected via Internet technologies, resulting in higher productivity and higher reliability. “That is the core benefit to customers. Industrial Internet also can resolve challenges related to industrial automation by using knowledge resources across entire industries. We think it can bring a new ecosystem to the Internet.”
People share information over the Internet, and today, video also can be shared, Carpenter noted. Industrial Internet, using the Internet as a basic infrastructure, can do things that couldn’t be done previously. Machine to machine (M2M) communications, connecting people with machines, and intelligent decision-making using big data analysis all are among available benefits of industrial Internet development, he said.
Keys to industrial Internet
Use of the word “revolution” clearly shows the huge anticipated changes that will result from industrial Internet. Carpenter addressed important related network technologies at two levels.
From a low level, information security is the most important issue. People need secure connectivity of equipment, and very simple transportation of data, from the customer side (where the machines are located) to the cloud [web-based applications]. Secure transportation and communications are very important, since security preserve reliability, protecting against unpredictable threats. Appropriate levels of security should be required for online equipment access.
At a high level, industrial Internet requires better data organization. How can industrial customers search and find trends in data? In Carpenter’s opinion, data must be organized very carefully. Organizing data in the right way is the only way to seize all necessary information from many interconnected industrial platforms. Customers should give greater attention to “big data” opportunities, he suggested, by recording all data from equipment, plants, and even enterprise level systems. This includes data from sensors, and from the design, manufacturing, and related service. All data can be collected with cloud computing technology.
Considering the industrial demands of reliability and safety, Carpenter doesn’t suggest migrating all functionality into cloud-based applications. He said, “Controls still need to be close to equipment. We don’t want the cloud to affect the controls. However, for decision-making, industrial Internet will definitely use the cloud.” Having many customers’ data in the cloud improves decision making for each customer and can help determine if actions are required for other customers as well, he noted.
For any industrial customers unsure about cloud-based security, Carpenter explained that cloud-computing is less about technology and more about enabling people to achieve new goals. To decide where to deploy the cloud is another issue. Different customers or different countries may have their own concerns. GE can provide technical services to meet customers’ data privacy concerns and regulations in different countries, he said. Customers can choose where to deploy the data center as needed. At present, 25% of GE customer data is based in the cloud, and 75% is within customer-based systems, he said, although changes continue. Carpenter confidently predicted that the ratio will reverse over the next 5 years, because cloud-based offerings cost less and are more secure.
Changing now to industrial Internet
People’s behaviors in automation are already changing, influenced by the effect of industrial Internet growth, he said. For example, more mobile devices are being used in industries. Traditionally, many workstation screens have been deployed in a central control room for operators. Today, cross-platform mobile customers can share the same information seen in the operation center.
“It is a different method of interaction with the control system,” Carpenter said. Also, as users collect more data, it is difficult to distinguish which parts are useful to meet specific demands. Therefore, analytics and data sciences have became extremely important to understand the meaning of data. Data scientists will be a new role, separate from traditional control engineers or IT workers. They will have the professional knowledge and information about machine learning. And they can analyze big data to determine the right decisions for decision makers, he said.
– This appeared in Control Engineering China www.cechina.cn and was translated for the Control Engineering North American print and digital edition. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
See related question and answer article from Control Engineering China on the GE Intelligent Platforms “Connected World” road show topic.
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