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Speaking at last year’s Minds and Machines conference in San Francisco, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said that a global network connecting people, data and machines called the Industrial Internet had the potential to add $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years. He announced that GE would invest $1 billion in developing Industrial Internet technology and applications to make customers more productive. “I read sometimes that people think that the big era of productivity is over,” Immelt said. “But we see multiple ways for new productivity that are here today.” Immelt said that industrial companies are “no longer just about the big iron. All of us will seek to interface with the analytics, the data and the software that’s around our products.”
GE businesses from aviation to healthcare have released a number of new products that harness the power of the Industrial Internet. Take a look at the outcomes they have achieved on the on the eve of GE’s second U.S. Minds and Machines conference, which takes place this Wednesday in Chicago.
GE Aviation and Accenture launched Taleris in 2012. The joint-venture provides airlines and cargo carriers with tools to predict, prevent and recover from operational disruptions like those caused by severe weather. The FAA estimates that delays cost airlines more than $8.3 billion in 2010. But Taleris President and CEO Norm Baker says that “significant benefits can be realized through our predictive analytics technologies which leverage an aircraft’s data within the context of the operations so one can address an issue before it occurs.” Andy Heather, vice president of engineering at Taleris, agrees. “The aircraft is clearly the airline’s biggest and most important asset,” he said. “Traditionally, however, the aircraft has not been well connected into the airlines’ digital systems, operations and maintenance to the same degree, leaving significant potential value unrealized.” Airlines like Etihad Airways have already signed up. When TransCanada Corp. decided to overhaul New York City’s largest power plant, it deployed GE’s Industrial Internet software and hardware. Rather than spending hundreds of millions on new equipment, TransCanada connected data sensors to software and started gathering and analyzing data critical to the performance of the plant’s largest gas turbine. The system, called FlexEfficiency Advantage Advanced Gas Path, is using the data to fine-tune the turbine to make sure that it is always running at its optimal level. “It’s real time and it’s interactive,” says John McWilliams, vice president of energy operations at TransCanada. “As things are changing, the control system is responding and always optimizing the unit.” As a result of the upgrade Ravenswood is now using less fuel to produce the same amount of power, making electricity cheaper and, relatively speaking, cleaner. TransCanada says that the upgrade has increased output by 5 percent. That’s enough electricity to power 10,000 NYC households. In May engineers at GE’s renewable energy business unveiled the “world’s first brilliant wind turbine.” The turbine is loaded with sensors and powerful software that can communicate with other turbines and even other wind farms. It has the option to come with a battery that allows producers and the wind turbines themselves to make decisions based on data coming in and supply predictable power in the short-term. “We are using advanced forecasting algorithms and a small amount of battery storage to meet a forecast of how much power we will be able to deliver for the next 15 minutes to one hour,” says Keith Longtin, general manager for wind products at the GE business. The sensors and software alone can make the GE2.5-120 wind turbine 25 percent more efficient and 15 percent more productive than comparable GE models. A single GE Evolution Series locomotive can pull a load equivalent to 170 Boeing 747 jetliners. That’s impressive, but for innovative railroads like Norfolk Southern, brawn is no longer good enough. They employ locomotive engineers as well as software engineers and gather gigabytes of data about their trains and rails. “We know where every tree is growing beside the track,” Deborah Butler, Norfolk Southern’s chief information officer told data journalist Jon Bruner from O’Reilly Media. Norfolk Southern feeds that data to software systems like GE’s Trip Optimizer. Bruner calls Trip Optimizer “a kind of autopilot for locomotives” that “observes the entire context of a journey – that consists of a train, grades along its route, the urgency of its delivery – and controls [the locomotive’s] throttle in real time.” Butler told Brunner that Trip Optimizer, together with another piece of GE railroad software called Movement Planner cut her company’s fuel usage by 6.3 percent and increased speed by 10 to 20 percent. What do Twitter updates, NASA’s tree-spotting satellite, and special effects from a Tom Cruise thriller have in common with the utility poles outside your house? They help power companies to keep the lights on. In January GE rolled out a new grid management system called Grid IQ Insight that harvests diverse data from social media, smart meters, satellites, the weather service, the U.S. census and other sources to help utilities predict and prevent electrical outages. The system allows utility workers tomanipulate the information with their hands, a la Cruise in the movie Minority Report. Trees that fall on wires is one headache that the system can tackle. “One of the companies we work with spends $70 million a year trimming trees,” says Jonathan Garrity, product manager at GE Digital Energy. “By combining outage, weather and satellite data we can make vegetation management more targeted, improving reliability and keeping these costs low.” Nobody likes waiting and doctors at Florida’s Aventura Hospital and Medical Center hate crowded waiting rooms as much as their patients. Last year, Aventura invested in AgileTrac, a GE software system pooling and crunching gigabytes of patient and equipment data zipping across a hospital-sizeIndustrial Internet. Each patient now receives an electronic wristband during admission. The wristband automatically checks in as patients arrive in their beds, travel around the hospital, and check out. Similar tags track IV pumps, heart monitors and other equipment. Aventura estimates that AgileTrac has cut more than 3,000 hours in discharge time at the 400-bed hospital over nine months and freed up the emergency room. “We are doing much better now than a year ago,” says Karen Bibbo, chief nursing officer at Aventura’s parent, HCA East Florida. If the Industrial Internet is the nervous system that animates machines of the new industrial age, then the heavy-duty printed circuit board assemblies, or PCBAs, designed and manufactured at GE’s new plant in Minden, Nevada, are the nerves and neurons that lash it all together. The plant, which opened in June, is part of GE Oil & Gas and serves as a one-stop workshop where GE engineers develop and test PCBAs monitoring machinery used by businesses as diverse as oil and gas, power generation, automotive manufacturing and health care. The Industrial Internet has the potential to add $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP over the next 20 years.