If you had asked the computer scientists of the late 1960s, it’s unlikely that their theories regarding the effects of connecting the world’s computers via the Internet would bear any resemblance the interconnected world we live in today. The Internet ushered in a digital age, and today we see the far-reaching effects of connecting computers together in every aspect of our daily lives. Today, think-tanks at GE are now asking, “Why stop at computers?”
With the Big Data movement changing the way we look at raw information, GE is proposing connecting the vast multitudes of machinery to each other and to sensors. In particular, GE has plans to attach a jet engine with a variety of different sensors to collect information that could potentially lead to improvements in design. In fact, GE proposes that we could be doing this with all of our machines. Though the technology needed to attach such sensors to all of our machines does currently exist, the initial buy-in is huge, and the investment is one that not many companies are likely to make in our current economic situation. Though the current economic climate does dictate choosing one’s investments wisely, Automation World’s article “Can the Industrial Internet Unleash the Next Industrial Revolution” supports the investment, saying that even if such sensors were able to discover a mere one percent improvement, such a discovery could make a huge difference to a company’s economic situation; for example, a one percent increase in fuel efficiency for airline companies constitutes a $30 billion savings over the course of 15 years. Optimizing these frequently overlooked aspects of business can create incremental improvements that propel our economy forward. It’s simply a matter of applying big data concepts to things beyond traditional computing systems, and interpreting the data effectively.