Common wisdom is that the Internet has changed everything, from the way we read to the way we bank, from how we communicate to how we shop and buy.
Or did it?
In many cases, the Internet has not changed the way we live as much as we think. In 2014 as in 1974, medical monitoring devices and medical robotics are largely disconnected. Real-time jet engine monitoring against global performance metrics simply does not exist. Smart energy grids are the toast of standards meeting everywhere, but they still don't exist at the vast scale that our electrical grids currently do.
And while the industrial revolution changed manufacturing forever, the internet revolution has failed to do so -- until now.
The Industrial Internet: Where the Industrial Revolution Meets the Internet Revolution
When I set the alarm clock to wake up early in order to pick up my sister-in-law at the airport, I trust the airlines to deliver her at the promised time -- though I know that often doesn't happen. I'd rather set my alarm, as part of my home automation system, to wake me up an hour before her aircraft actually arrives. That's a simple thing to say, but a difficult thing to implement today. It requires "scraping" the airline's web site for arrival information, translating that to whatever my home automation or alarm clock might use for input, and integrating the two. This is a trivial example of the Industrial Internet to come, but probably the most visible one after Google's recent acquisition of Nest. But it's nothing compared to the real opportunity.
On the industrial side, the discrete manufacturing systems I programmed in the 1970's have only seen incremental improvements in the intervening years. Ladder diagrams still rule the factory floor, despite the fact that more advanced, readable and maintainable solutions exist -- if only they took advantage of Internet technologies!
What the Internet Revolution hasn't changed, the Industrial Internet will -- automatically and rapidly. The Industrial Internet gives us a low-cost, high value way to integrate information based on widely distributed sensors, smart machines, big data and real-time analytics.
Many of the pieces are there already. Companies are spending significant resources to better harness the digital with the physical. Yet to date, this work has largely been disjointed and disconnected. What has been missing is a shared vision and organization that sets policies and recommendations for common building blocks for all aspects of the Industrial Internet: architectures, interoperability platforms, security, standards and so forth.
Today, AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM & Intel announced the formation of the Industrial Internet Consortium, an open membership organization managed by OMG that has been formed to systematically address the challenges of making the Industrial Internet a reality, and promote a common vision. By working with teams from industry, academia and the government, this nonprofit group will catalyze and coordinate the priorities and enabling technologies of industry.
There are divergent visions for the Industrial Internet that the Consortium is bringing together to define the market. In the coming weeks, some of the industry's most progressive innovators will be sharing their visions on this blog.
In the meantime, what's your viewpoint on this impending technological shift? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit www.iiconsortium.org for more information on how your organization can have a say in the future direction of the Industrial Internet.