Over the last 200 years, the world has experienced several waves of innovation, which successful companies learned to navigate. The Industrial Revolution brought machines and factories that powered economies of scale and scope, making a profound impact on society and the culture of the world. With the Internet Revolution we have seen the rise of computing power, information sharing and data networks, fundamentally changing the way we connect (on whatever device).
And now we are at the cusp of another metamorphic change that will spawn new business models, new jobs and new operational efficiencies: The industrial internet, the convergence of contextual data, people and brilliant machines.
Whether we’re discussing the consumer internet or the industrial internet, a new challenge arises with the seemingly endless proliferation of connected devices and intelligent machines: Big data. Consider that 90 percent of the data in the world today was created within the last two years. And according to IDC’s Digital Universe study, between now and 2020 the amount of digital data is expected to double every two years – much of which will be ‘dark’ data that won’t ever be used.
To fully appreciate the potential for this data, it is important to consider how large the global industrial system has become. There are now millions of machines across the world, ranging from simple electric motors to highly advanced CT scanners. There are tens of thousands of vehicle fleets, ranging from the trucks fielded by utilities and governments to the aircraft that transport people and cargo around the world.
Tied to those fleets are thousands of complex networks ranging from power grids to railroad systems, all of which are spinning off millions of bytes of data daily. To put this in context, the information contained in all 33 million books in the Library of Congress equates to roughly 15 terabytes of digital data. Compare that to the almost six terabytes of data a single 500-turbine wind farm generates in one day. And that farm just makes up a tiny component of the industrial internet. If we can harness all of this data, it will help reduce unplanned downtime of these machines, which in turn lead to savings for both the company and consumers.Big industry, big data, big analytics
By 2020, the biggest change for industrial businesses will be in how they use new software-based services to manage this influx of critical data.
Companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google understand that existing data platforms – the majority of which were designed to handle traditional back office IT requirements – are not adequate to meet the on-demand needs of their customers. Thus they have developed new architectures (software and hardware) that can manage the ever-growing amount and pace of data-generation. They have learned to manage large volumes of consumer information to provide new services, and in doing so, have fundamentally changed the consumer landscape.
But the industrial sector needs to improve on what the consumer internet started. The next leap forward for industry will be all about more agile development, mastering data science and becoming proficient at repeatable processes. There is a need to create software and a platform that is equivalent, if not better, than what current consumer companies have built.
When compared to other sectors (e.g., government, financial services, and retail), industrial data is different, growing at two times the rate of any other big data segment in the next ten years. Its creation and use are faster, safety considerations are more critical, and security environments are more restrictive. Computation requirements are also different. Industrial analytics need to be deployed on machines (sometimes in remote locations) as well as run on massive cloud-based computing environments. The unique and proprietary nature of industrial applications and processes also make it difficult to properly contextualize the data.
As a result, the integration and synchronization of data and analytics, often in real-time, are needed more than in other sectors. Industrial businesses require a big data platform with common software and hardware standards, optimized for these unique characteristics.
Indeed, these requirements are changing how data and information will be used by industrial operators. There are six capabilities that industrial companies must adopt as part of their business strategy to be successful in this new era.
Humans and machines are more interconnected than they have ever been before, and data is the common language between us. The rate at which data is created from the intelligent devices and machines we use every day is forcing corporations to shift their business processes and strategies to adapt to this new connected reality. And the ability to manage this data will not only change the landscape for businesses, but will allow us to navigate successfully through this next wave of innovation.
Oil refinery photo courtesy of Shutterstock user alice-photo
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