Dawn of the Digital Industrial Era

Well, we’re almost a month into 2016. It’s amazing how far the industrial space has come in 2015, but more importantly, where we’re headed.

Bill Ruh, Chief Digital Officer of GE and CEO of GE Digital, calls it the Dawn of the Digital Industrial Era. And that’s such an illustrative way to think of it, because it’s only the beginning.

“But new developments in the industrial world won’t be confined to GE. Emerging trends are taking shape as businesses start to realize that they need to play ball if they want to remain competitive,” said Ruh.

Here’s what Ruh says are just some of the major trends he sees for 2016:

Industrial Companies Are Going Digital

Ruh said that the most valued companies are going to be the ones who strike a balance between digital capabilities and industrial assets. This partnership is critical to drive productivity and efficiency across the organization.

“This transformation will affect the front office all the way through the value chain through the use of digital tools like cloud, mobile, social, and most importantly, data, to change the way we think about products, services, ecosystems, business models, and customer experiences,” said Ruh.”

The App Economy Will Reach New Heights 

According to Ruh, we can expect a digital, industrial “App Economy” to emerge to become deeper, broader and even more pervasive.

“Industrial-strength apps will guide predictive maintenance for factories, plants, and fleets of assets so they never go offline,” said Ruh. “Manufacturing facilities will seamlessly adjust to the market demands. Machines can provide cleaner, more efficient capabilities than ever before.”

Machines to Have Digital Twin 

In the digital era, Ruh said everything will have a “digital twin.” Or, a digital model of every machine– whether it’s a jet engine or a locomotive– to introduce new business models through the Industrial Internet.

“The knowledge and expertise we acquire from developing industrial digital twins for physical assets will then be applied more in our daily lives,” said Ruh.

Even humans? “Ultimately, every human will have a digital twin at birth in order to identify better and more economical health-sustaining treatments,” said Ruh.

Any way you call it, 2016 is going to be a great year for the Industrial Internet. Check out a few other notable stories from this week: 

How the IoT is Changing Industry Investment

According to research from the Industrial Internet Consortium, the Industrial Internet is now turning the venture capital model upside down.

Last year the consortium commissioned a project with New England Partners to define just what was changing, how companies were no evaluating opportunities and best practices when it came to IoT-related investments, according to AutomationWorld.

In short, according to the VC executives IIC interviewed for its research, the traditional VC model doesn’t always apply to industrial applications of IoT. Read more about why here.

Platforms on the Rise

According to a recent Economist article powered by GE Look Ahead, platforms-as-a-service (PaaS)–which provide computing platforms that developers can use to build new software in the Cloud– could empower the Industrial Internet.

And the PaaS market could grow 25% annually over the next five years, reaching $8bn by 2020, according to Transparency Market Research.

“A driving force behind this growth is the rapid evolution of the Industrial Internet, which relies on PaaS and associated applications to provide solutions that will help entities such as airlines, railroads, hospitals and utilities to optimise productivity,” according to the article. Read more here.

What We Can Learn About the Internet of Things from CES 2016

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held every January in Las Vegas, has been an integral part of the technology industry since 1967. The event is famed for introducing many ground-breaking technologies to the world– from the VCR in 1970, to Blu-Ray in 2003.

But this year, the Internet of Things (IoT) took center-stage.

According to Fortune, there were “thousands of square feet devoted to connected gadgets like Wi-Fi enabled TVs and lightbulbs you can control from your phone.” And amid the hyper-connected conversations, some IoT trends for the coming years were highlighted.

In fact,  of Fortune said that one trend spotted at CES was the IoT being viewed as a service instead of solely devices.

“This year, there was a subtle shift from building the device to designing services,” said Higginbotham. “A number of larger companies showed off connected products including Procter & Gamble with its Internet-connected air freshener that ties in to connected Nest Thermostat to spray air freshener to the optimal time to take advantage of your AC fans blowing air around your home.”

And Agence France-Presse of Industry Week  said that — after smartphone and browser wars– the war is now to be the “hub that connects the millions of connected objects” in our home or our lives. France-Presse dubbed it a “battle for digital life” and said it was ever-present at this year’s CES.

Interestingly enough, Higgenbotham also said that very few IoT demonstrations even mentioned obsolescence.

“Between the Samsung refrigerator with what looked like a giant Android phone in the door and a demonstration of a concept car with 3D street view delivered on-demand while driving, I realized that few people were talking about how to swap out or fix the techno-heavy innards of these connected devices without having to replace the entire product,” said Higgenbotham.

Another trend at CES? Internet-connected vehicles. According to Industry Week, numerous carmakers unveiled systems that connect not only to mobile devices, but to home networks– “enabling users to tap smart appliances or garage door openers, for example.”

And here are a few other notable stories from this week.

The Cloud and the Internet of Things are Inseparable

Speaking of CES 2016, Information Week said that like many of the Internet-connected devices shown off at the show, the Cloud is an inseparable part of IoT devices.

“Indeed, most new devices, from refrigerators to cars, have a massive cloud-based back end. The cloud components of these technologies are becoming more systemic. Indeed, the cloud is assumed,” said David Linthicum of Info World.

As time goes on, people expect more things to be connected. And Linthicum said that no matter what it is –a house appliance, a car — it will communicate with cloud servers.

Read more about the link between the Cloud and the IoT.

Star Wars Reveals a Dark Side to Cyber SecurityStarWars

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you’ve probably heard that a new Star Wars movie was released — “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to be specific.

And while millions of people flocked to the theaters to enjoy the seventh movie in the saga, Raj Patel pointed out a deeper takeaway in a recent article. After watching all seven films, Patel noticed that cyber security is an issue we should pay attention to– whether in this galaxy or one far, far away.

Patel said that lack of encryption, unsecured ports, and more are just some of the similarities. Read more here.

Media We Link To:

“The evolution of the Consumer Electronics Show” – Mashable 

“The 6 Things CES Taught Us About The Internet of Things” – Fortune 

“CES: Battle for Digital Life Grabs Center Stage” – Industry Week 

“The cloud and the Internet of things are inseparable” – Info World

“‘Star Wars’ reveals dark side of cybersecurity” – Crain’s Detroit Business 

Moving Toward Operational Excellence in 2016 for Food & Beverage Industry

For some, operational excellence may seem like just a buzzword. But according to a recent article in FoodDive, a news outlet for food manufacturing professionals, operational excellence (OpEx) is gaining major ground in the food and beverage industry– specifically for the upcoming year.

According to Katie Moore, global industry manager for GE Digital’s manufacturing branch, operational excellence is “continuous improvement and basically taking a methodical approach involving people, processes, and technology to drive sustainable improvement as it relates to the business outcome that they’re trying to achieve,” according to Carolyn Heneghan of FoodDive.

Heneghan suggests that OpEx benefits companies in two major ways: agility and accountability. Agility, or being quick to respond to consumer demand and supply chain challenges, has become important for smaller companies– while accountability has been cemented as a  critical part of process as more FDA requirements and FSMA rules are introduced.

“With operational excellence often comes systems and processes that make it easier to track and analyze data in different aspects of production, and with that data, companies can be more accountable,” said Heneghan. “This most recently has become of interest to manufacturers with the introduction of new FSMA rules that require companies to better document their risk assessments and safety practices.”

Of course, Moore is no stranger to identifying OpEx benefits like agility and accountability in a food manufacturing setting.

As a former food processing plant manager, Moore often wondered about the plant and operations in terms of OpEx, according to her recent blog post for GE Digital.

“What were other similar plants doing?  How were they performing?  A portion of our internal metrics included a comparison of the “best of the best” and the “worst of the worst” plants as it pertained to safety, plant efficiency, product quality and safety, sustainability, completed shipments and on-time delivery, to name a few,” said Moore. “But how did other plants in the industry compare?  What about my direct competitors?”

According to a survey of 170 food and beverage manufacturers completed by the Aberdeen Group, leaders in the industry reported a 20% higher Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), 47% fewer delayed shipments as a result of quality issues, and 5% reduction in waste.

While “followers” experienced an increase in energy consumption and zero change to wastewater costs, the leaders experienced double digit improvements, according to Moore.

So what were the drivers behind these impressive results for the leaders? Why did some companies outperform others? Moore says it comes down to the choice of leaders to implement OpEx initiatives with software technology.

“They’re digitizing their production processes to turn information into actionable insight—combining people, process and technology to move the operational excellence needle in the right direction,” said Moore.

Here’s a few other notable stories from this week: 

Next-Gen Wi-Fi Will Actually Connect the Internet of Things

According to Wired Magazine, there are still plenty of blockades between us and the connected-device future– specifically, our Wi-Fi’s efficiency.

But the Wi-Fi Alliance, or the organization that advances the standards in place for Wi-Fi, has announced the latest version, promising to double the range of connection. Called HaLow, it will also do “a better job of penetrating walls, floors, and other obstacles that can make your Wi-Fi sputter and skulk.”

“For a consumer, you might imagine someone who wants to deploy a water sensor in their basement to detect flooding or a motion sensor at the end of their driveway to warn them of someone arriving late at night,” says Kevin Robinson, Wi-Fi Alliance vice-president of marketing. “In both of these cases, Wi-Fi HaLow will deliver power-efficient connectivity to the home access point (and the Internet) despite the challenging environment caused by obstructions in the device’s path or ranges involved.”

Big Data is Now a Top Management Issue

According to Forbes,  a new report from Economist Intelligence Unit has shown that big data is “moving from its infancy to ‘data adolescence,’ in which companies are increasingly meeting the challenges of a data-driven world.”

The report said that in the past 5 years, more and more companies have begun treating their data as a “strategic corporate asset.” And not just any data, the data that can help solve problems and address certain areas.

Because of this, the report said that data strategy is becoming much more of a priority for those in a leadership position.

“Data strategy has been elevated to the C-level, usually centralized with a CIO/CTO or a newly-appointed Chief Data Officer (CDO). Outside that position, executives across the board are more likely to be in charge of their departments’ particular data initiatives and instrumental in putting those resources to use.”

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