Industrial giant GE has been pushing the idea of the Industrial Internet, including publishing a detailed white paper on the concept.
This is a larger scale variation on the concept of the Internet of Things, first coined back in the late 1990s.
The basic idea behind both concepts is more and more objects are being embedded with sensors and gaining the ability to communicate. And in fact, machine-to-machine communications (which means machines and objects talking to other machines and objects) is outpacing human-to-human communications.
Researchers expect by 2020 there will be over 50 billion machines connected to the Internet. This, of course, is a lot more than the 7 billion humans expected to be alive then. And these smart machines will generate enormous amounts of big data.
GE's definition of the Industrial Internet is primarily focused on big machines like aircraft engines and power generators. Their framework consists of three broad elements:
1. Intelligent Machines: embed the world's machines, facilities, fleets and networks with advanced sensors, controls and software applications.
2. Advanced Analytics: combines the power of physics-based analytics, predictive algorithms, automation and deep domain expertise.
3. People at Work: connecting people at work or on the move, any time to support more intelligent design, operations, maintenance and higher quality service and safety.
The concepts and ideas behind the Industrial Internet are not new. They go back at least to the 1980s, when the early work around ubiquitous computing was done. Also, many firms have already deployed smart machines and objects.
But what is new is after a long gestation period we're at the point where deployments are entering the mainstream and the technology is starting to impact industry in major ways.
Whether you call it the Industrial Internet or the Internet of Things, the growth of smart ojects and machines promises to create new business models, improve business processes, and reduce costs and risks.