The Future Is Here

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The Future Is Here

See how the Internet of Things has brought the future to us and what tools are available to pursue this new frontier.

· IoT Zone ·
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Our civilization has experienced many transformational and disruptive technology advances throughout its recent history. The Industrial Revolution, the Transportation Revolution, the Internet Revolution, the Mobile Revolution, the Bio-tech Revolution. It is clear that the rate of change in the technology innovation in robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice control, augmented reality — all powered by Moore’s Law — carry a promise to make the communication between the human and the machine more streamlined, effective and safe. To that end, the future is already (somewhat) here. Enterprise is eagerly adopting smarter and smarter machines every day. In power production, water purification, automotive and transportation, aviation, public services, healthcare, smart cities, oil and gas are just a few examples of industries where the intelligent machines are getting smarter every day. 

Ericsson and Cisco both project around 50 billion connected devices by 2020. Gartner, IDC and ABI Research put their forecast a bit lower – at about 30 billion, still a large number considering that the current 2016 number of connected devices are right around 15 billion. Sisco’s research puts a target of $7 Trillion revenue by 202 from the IoT market. It is expected that two-thirds of these connected devices shall come from the consumer space and the rest from the enterprise. These are what being referred to as Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

Furthermore, smart power turbines measure their vibration and listen to rotation sound to keep their rotors out of vibration resonance and to let their maintenance crew know when exactly it is time to grease their gears. To optimize power generation, each windmill automatically adjusts its settings and behavior based on data it receives and processes from the system, such as changes in wind speed and direction. The behavior of the mills is not only defined by the changes in their direct environment and weather, but can also be derived from the behavior of other windmills in the farm.

Drones are flying in swarms performing joint tasks such as building inspection and security assessment. 

In Japan, the cars are already connected.

It is now really just a matter of infrastructure readiness and the regulations when we will be able to say your ubiquitous personal assistant “call Uber” when a driverless carriage shows up at your door to take you for a ride. Google’s Driverless Car are wandering around streets of Mountain View, CA every day.

The world is building more and more intelligent machines that interact with other machines, with their environments, with data centers and with humans. We are living in the age of Smart Machine Revolution – Industrial Revolution 2.0.

The infrastructure to support this rapid growth is coming along. It is being built and readied for explosion of smart devices.

IPv6 (AKA 6LoWPAN) structure is an upgrade to IPv4. The IPv4 structured is xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, with each “xxx” able to go from 0 to 255. IPv6 expands IPv4 so that each “x” can be a 0 through 9 or “a” through “f”. The IPv6 structure is xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx:xxxx.  It allows having an astronomically large number of IP addresses for every person in the world, enabling any embedded object or device in the world to have its own unique IP address and connect to the Internet.  It is expected that by 2018 the 90% of the world mobile devices will be Bluetooth Low-energy (AKA Bluetooth Smart) enabled with access to the Internet directly via 6LoWPAN. This combination of IPv6 and Bluetooth Smart availability drives innovation in IoT space. What about the IIoT?

IIoT vs. IoT

In 2012, GE coined the term IIoT. GE’s Predix is the Industrial IoT platform that puts a stake as the future for the IIoT standard. GE’s ambition is to revolutionize the world of manufacturing, energy, healthcare, transportation, aviation, oil/gas and other industries. Their Predix is a standard IIoT software platform for connecting to industrial machines (GE and non-GE made), collecting their sensors data, analyzing and processing this data on the Edge or in the Cloud and, ultimately, tell the machine what to do. The key promise of such a connected system comes from the ability to continuously analyze time-series data collected from the vast array of intelligent internet-connected industrial machines in real time. These real-time analytics are the basis for operational decision-making and control. They provide the ability to instantly act on information and to intelligently change the devices’ behavior or their environment without human intervention. The machine’s own nervous system (sensors) connected to a collective brain (Predix Cloud) make up a distributed intelligence of industrial machines.

So, what’s the difference between IoT and IIoT?  If you answered “The first I,” you are right.

The IoT systems are intended to connect the end-consumer devices. The consumer, with their wearables, smart microwaves and refrigerators, Nest and AppleTV are in the center of the IoT world. These devices IoT system connects are wearable for fitness, smart home controllers, internet-enabled door lock, a refrigerator that can monitor the expiration dates of the milk and eggs it contains, and remotely-programmable home security systems. These are, of course, all important and convenient for us, but the breakdowns of these systems do not immediately result in the emergency situations.

In contrast, the IIoT is designed to connect life- or mission-critical machines/assets in such industries as healthcare, aerospace, energy and defense. The IIoT system is what enables the smart system in our car to brake automatically when it detects an obstacle ahead. It enables the patient monitoring system in hospitals to track everything from a patient’s heart rate to their medication intake. It enables a mining machine or space robot to safely and efficiently operate where humans can’t. It allows the ground maintenance crew to get parts ready for the in-route airplane with technical issues.  The equipment failure in these industries often leads to loss of life or other emergencies.

In the IIoT world, the devices are expensive – their value to the enterprise is often in millions of dollars. The economic loss from their failures and idle time is often in the millions of dollars too.

With that, one of the clear distinction in IIoT vs. IoT is that the industrial asset is in the center of the IIoT universe, its systems, and its processes. The value of assets at risks is what drives much of the difference in expectation from security and reliability of the IIoT systems vs. its IoT cousine.

The IIoT is a highly-available cyber-secured system with intelligent machines connected to cloud computers that interpret, analyze and instantly make decisions, based on sensor data from these machines. These sensors are the nervous system of the digital world. They measure Location data – Position, Presence, Proximity; Motion, Velocity, Displacement; Temperature; Pressure; Humidity and Moisture; Acoustic, Sound, Vibration; Chemical composition and Gas; Flow of Gas or Liquid; Force, Load, Torque, Strain and Pressure; Leaks and Levels; Electric and Magnetic; Acceleration and Tilt, Machine Vision, Optical Ambient Light;

Taking Steps

GE traditionally makes their money in industrial equipment manufacturing. Whether these are MRI machines, power turbines or locomotive engines, GE sells these with long-term (30 years at times) service contracts. In 2010, GE began exploring the idea of reducing the cost of servicing these contracts. They figured that if they were able to gain better visibility into conditions of their install-base, they would be able to optimize the cost of maintaining their clients assets. Initially, GE vision was to collect and analyze sensor data from the installed assets to determine a most effective and optimal equipment maintenance.

The timing of this vision coincided with rapid advances of information technology industry in cloud, distributed data storage and computing, cyber security.

A shiny-new Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform Predix is a product of $5B and five years strategic investment by the GE Digital. GE figured that if they were able to run GE business on GE platform, so could the rest of the industry too. This is no different than Amazon developing their AWS to run own business and then figuring out that other enterprises could use it.

Predix is a complete system that collects the data from the internet-connected machines and stream it to Predix Cloud. There, Predix Cloud Services, such as Edge Software, Assets, Analytics, Data Management, Security, DevOps, and Mobile, are built on the open sourced Cloud Foundry. The combination of these services and Predix development tools allow the enterprise to configure solutions that solve their problems. The system provides facility to deploy scalable services and end to end apps in a secure environment.

The Takeaways

The Industrial Revolution 2.0 is still in its early stages. This is a time of uncertainty and high risk.  For small consulting / technology firms, that are willing to take the risk it is a unique moment. When such industry giant as GE makes their move, one should expect new market opportunities to open not only for the Accentures, Delloites and Tatus of this world, but also for those small and medium size service and solution providers who focus on a very specific domain and provide a very specific solution to the Predix platform and its customers. 

So, pick one of these subject areas, build your micro-services, put them into Predix’s marketplace and, pray. Pray for Predix to become a default IIoT platform attracting enterprises across industries.

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