Industrial Internet helps make use of saved data
GE Intelligent Platforms (GE-IP) started its “Connected World” road show in Beijing, China, on Aug. 8, 2013. Control Engineering China talked with Bernie Anger, general manager, Control and Communication Systems, GE Intelligent Platforms, about industrial Internet and its future benefit to industries. Bernie described industrial Internet in details and benefits compared to Internet. He confidently anticipates great inspiration for automation people in the next 5-10 years.
Control Engineering China (CEC): GE has addressed the need for industrial Internet. Please explain the differences among industrial Internet, Internet, and industrial Ethernet, and the benefits of industrial Internet.
Anger: People who talk about industrial Ethernet usually discuss how to use different protocols to connect among I/O points, controllers, and other controlled devices in the control network. Internet is the biggest, most powerful international commercial infrastructure in the world now. People depend on it to share information, do business, and to use telecommunications and other public services also. However, GE defined a new concept called industrial Internet. It’s different from industrial Ethernet, or Internet, because its purpose is unique. Our industries have been isolated in different vertical sections. If we consider the power that Internet brought to us in the commercial world, it encouraged us to bring this kind of power into industrial applications. Industrial Internet is going to build a robust, secure, real-time, high-performance Internet for industrial applications based on Internet foundations. GE connects smart machines to other machines and connects machines to people. We also do the intelligent analysis. Both parts help people make better decisions. That’s the key benefit for customers.
Industrial Internet requires security as well as high-speed, real-time performance. We also need technologies to prevent from the impact of failure, because it’s more critical than any failure on traditional Internet.
We can describe the key value of industrial Internet to users in three ways. The value comes from increased intelligence, flexibility, and speed.
People receive smart asset operation information over the network. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) users can use this information to make better, smarter machines. End users can gain efficiency, flexibility, and higher priority control during production. Speed comes in different ways. With big data, OEM users support speed and can redesign and innovate products more quickly, end users share data, use data, even sell data, or create new business models using data. Data will be quite valuable.
CEC: What are the steps needed for an average industrial enterprise to reach the ultimate aim of industrial Internet?
Anger: It’s difficult to give a universal recommendation because it depends on what users have already done. Generally speaking, while GE-IP’s customers looks at their control layer, at the very least they should think of three questions. The first is, have I already taken advantage of Ethernet in plant? The second is, have I put enough computing power in the controller, to connect controllers? The third is, do I have the security, structure, and connectivity to create a connection path to the cloud at the same time? If we called it stage 1, then stage 1.5 should be saving data, starting to create the history of the data. Data is more valuable at time goes by. After that, stage 2 should be to consider how to use data, with cloud computing, intelligent analysis, and a smart platform. The last stage should be thinking how to collaborate with data.
The Internet’s major function is to share content, from open sources. A company over industrial Internet only needs to care about creating 10% unique value over a 90% common resource. In automation, we still have too many people creating everything themselves. In stage 4, people share common things and create unique things for earning value.
However, people don’t need to worry about which stages they must reach. The future is bright, and megatrends will push them forward automatically.
CEC: There are many networks, including Foundation fieldbus, HART, Profibus, and others. Is it true that GE recommends that process industrial customers use Profinet?
Anger: We consider that the many advantages of Profinet can benefit customers, such as the simplicity and low deployment cost, easy deployment, and maintenance, reliability, awareness, and large eco-system in market. Our strategy is to support all network standards, but we recommend Profinet to our customers.
CEC: At the beginning of the Internet age, everyone was going to build websites. When is it time to start an industrial Internet era, and what is your recommendation for people?
Anger: I suggest that people should make their networks as transparent as possible and build the enabling database as soon as possible.
Industrial customers already have many networks. They need to connect them and let data transfer over quickly without obstacles. We can use OPC-UA and other technologies to combine networks to a larger, more effective Web. Moreover, we highly recommend people store as much as information from their devices and control systems. GE has saved all product data for 10 years. Intelligent analysis, based on big data, has helped GE to make the right decisions. We should know that at the beginning of the Internet age, search engine companies saved huge amounts of data for the function of searching. They obviously didn’t know what the value of the data was except for searching. But now, the huge amount of data from different areas, different levels, and different platforms can be computed and analyzed automatically. New kinds of businesses consequently appeared. New value is coming from the original saved data. If you are unsure what kind of data should be stored, store more than you think is necessary. It is not an expensive choice. It will be useful and valuable in the future.
– Andy Zhu is editor-in-chief of Control Engineering China. 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 article from Control Engineering China on the GE Intelligent Platforms “Connected World” road show topic.
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