Industrial Internet, predictive analytics, new machine-human collaboration

Industrial Internet, predictive analytics and new machine-human collaboration in the workplace can significantly boost productivity, create new jobs and skills, and minimize unplanned downtime in major industries, GE said, with the potential to save on more than 300 million hours in servicing complex machines. GE released 14 predictive software technologies to help with that and reduce emissions as well. See comments from industry leaders, photos, and info graphic.

By Mark T. Hoske October 11, 2013

Business and technology leaders can implement solutions to improve efficiency and ultimately create smarter, faster, and more predictive solutions to improve productivity, efficiency, and reliability, according to Jeff Immelt, GE chairman and CEO, at the GE Minds + Machines 2013 conference in Chicago. At last year’s conference GE (NYSE: GE) announced the launch of its portfolio of industrial Internet solutions. Launched in January, GE’s Grid IQ Insight—a predictivity solution for the electric utility industry—was among the first solutions rolled out as a part of GE’s expanding portfolio of industrial Internet solutions. The advanced analytic solution helps utilities turn mounds of data into actionable information, Immelt said. Comments follow below from leaders presenting at the conference.

Today’s electrical distribution systems continue to evolve as new smart devices are added to the network. With each installation comes the capability to better monitor and report important data related to energy usage, outages, and changes in demand. This mass influx of raw data has led to a major void that must be addressed—data is currently being generated exponentially faster than it can be analyzed. To fill this void, utility companies often search for software that can help break down data from sensors and smart devices to find value hidden in a sea of raw data, GE said.

Grid IQ Insight provides utilities with advanced analytic capabilities to meet business needs and create a stronger connection to the machines that power the grid, the company said. It applies proven analytics to make sense of big data collected from intelligent machines to better predict, manage, model, and forecast potential problems that a utility’s electrical grid may face, GE said. The software strategically monitors influential data—such as electrical usage, grid performance, and weather history—creating an interconnected “ecosystem” of people and machines to better equip utilities with the information and tools needed to optimize use of electrical distribution systems. Utilities can then apply the information and knowledge gained through Grid IQ Insight’s advanced analytics and visualization to ensure a more efficient and reliable energy supply to customers.

“Making sense of grid data can be both a challenge and an opportunity,” said Michael Carlson, general manager—software solutions, GE’s Digital Energy business. “Applications like Grid IQ Insight are contributing immensely toward the emergence of the industrial Internet. These innovations will enable the integration of people, machines, and big data with analytics, creating a living network of information capable of developing more reliable and efficient energy solutions in the future.”

Social data integration

One way GE’s Grid IQ Insight connects minds and machines is through its capability to monitor social media for outage information. Daily, approximately 500 million registered Twitter users generate more than 340 million tweets, according to GE-cited sources. That immense amount of content translates to about 320,000 daily tweets from a typical utility’s customer base. Grid IQ Insight software can analyze social content to identify postings that can help locate a trouble spot or outage in a utility’s electrical distribution system, GE said. In many cases, the outage location can be detected before the first customer calls the utility to report a problem.

“GE’s Grid IQ Insight software can play an invaluable role during and after a storm or natural disaster has occurred,” Carlson continued. “For example, weather-related shocks to the grid can be greatly improved and expedited through Grid IQ Insight’s ability to monitor social media content through the peak of the storm—and in its aftermath. The software rapidly sorts through content to find out what areas are hit the hardest and are in need of immediate power or help. The ability to harness and disseminate this information to utility command centers can help restore critical power in a way that would have been unimaginable just years ago. The information and intelligence brought to light by the Grid IQ Insight software make it a truly brilliant solution.”

In addition to analyzing outage data in the wake of a storm, Grid IQ Insight is designed to provide crucial information regarding renewable energy generation. While renewable energy provides clean energy to the grid, it can be hard to supply guaranteed power due to the variability of the weather. Grid IQ Insight combines past, present, and future weather patterns and forecasts to help maximize the amount of renewable energy a facility can integrate into the grid. GE’s grid analytics software allows utilities to optimize which source of power is most efficient at a given time. Combining this energy with the readily available power from traditional power generation facilities helps to establish an efficient reliable electrical grid.

GE’s Digital Energy business provides protection and control, communications, power sensing, and power quality solutions. Its products and services are said to increase the reliability of electrical power networks and critical equipment for utility, industrial, and large commercial customers. From protecting and optimizing assets such as generators, transmission lines and motors, to ensuring secure wireless data transmission and providing uninterruptible power, GE’s Digital Energy business delivers industry-leading technologies to solve the unique challenges of each customer.

Presentations: Get analytics

At the meeting, Immelt noted that in the future the “Physical and analytical worlds must come together.” GE industrial Internet goals focus on customers’ outcomes. Repeatability and speed are critical, and world-class partners will be included to support customers’ solutions with offerings that drive growth, increase customer value, and transform the GE services businesses. Brilliant machines, advanced analytics, and higher productivity for people with mobility solutions will help, Immelt said.

The GE Predix industrial strength platform connects machines, sensors, and analytics to extract more value from big data. Partners include Intel, Accenture, Amazon web services group, Pivotal (analytics), Cisco, Kaggle, and AT&T. He expects lots of investments in manufacturing and industrial Internet. He noted that 10,000 technology engineers are working on new innovations, including what will soon be 1,000 in Silicon Valley.

Within industry, uptime and asset optimization are increasingly important, Immelt said, and there’s an increasing need for people and processes to accurately analyze and optimize huge amounts of data. For example, in the oil industry, a double ram blowout preventer (which weighs in at 50,000 lb, used at 12,500 ft underwater) has 30 sensors producing 200,000 data points daily.

Florian Zettelmeyer, MIT Graduate, professor, and director of the Center for Data Analytics, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, also emphasized that businesses need to adjust their processes and understand analytics. They need to empower people to better understand what’s going on in real time by measuring the right things. Data scientists, experts in analysis, are in great demand and can help with what questions to ask, meaning of data, and how to link causes and effects.

Zettelmeyer offer four ways to make the industrial Internet work more effectively: 1) share information; 2) use data in new ways; 3) start in byte sizes; and 4) scale to opportunities.

Bill Ruh, vice president of GE Software, noted that GE has 24 GE software solutions that can help, including 14 new ones introduced Oct. 9. Andy Geisse, CEO of AT&T Business Solutions, said more than 1 billion devices now are connected via networks. Guido Jouret, vice president and general manager of Internet of things (IoT) for Cisco, said more machines will be interconnected than people and will include self-regulation capabilities due to the sheer number of machines. Hank Skorny, vice president and general manager of Intel Services Division, said Intel opened a software division a little over two years ago given the understanding of how important of role software will play in the future. Challenges for large-scale adoption and cross-device communication include a lack of common language for communications. He said Intel recently introduced low-power, small-sized Quark chips, for use in very small, or mobile systems (including on a person or in a moving machine.)

Smarter grid

In discussions about GE Grid Insights software, Mike Bahorich, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Apache Corp., an oil and gas exploration company, said just 1% savings in processes could results in $35 billion saved. Because of the operating environment, it’s critical for Apache to “let software and sensors do some of the worrying or thinking for us.”

Sonja Indrebo, chief information officer and senior vice president IT for Statoil, said it’s important to bring technology and IT together in smarter ways. Information security is key, she said, as more system openness increases encounters with security issues. Monitoring offshore fields from on-shore locations can bring the offshore problems to people rather than requiring people to go to the problems, which can be safer and more cost effective. In big data, Statoil is looking at current and historical data to help improve processes and analyze oil and gas discovery, using technologies to help identify new drilling locations more effectively.

Dr. Peg Van Bree, CEO of St. Luke’s Medical Center, said communications technologies help improve processes, with ideas coming from workers of all levels and roles. Technologies can help hospitals be more efficient, tracking patients and equipment to shorten stays when it makes sense and improve outcomes. Big data analytics can have a dramatic improvement in determining what and how to change to optimize the hospital of the future.

Terry Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Commonwealth Edison, said the digital environment will help ComEd’s 4 million customers. Thousands of electrical substations will be digitized; field and line personnel will use visualization tools to work more closely with operations; downtime will decrease; and GE smart meters are already helping with outage detection and increasingly will provide valuable usage information. Control rooms are using big data tools for real-time electronic communications, and have migrated away from older technologies including paper maps.

Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer for United Airlines, said the airline business is all about optimization, since seats are perishable product, downtime is critical, and the largest operating cost is fuel. He noted that the digital nature of the Boeing 787 airplane represents a revolutionary, not evolutionary, move that required many new processes. In comparison, the Boeing 787 has 300 software loaded parts and the Boeing 777 has 100 software loaded parts. For United, big data will help e-commerce, in connecting with customers and driving revenue.

In Immelt’s closing remarks, he emphasized the need for companies to provide additional training for leadership teams on the importance of analytics and how to effectively use analytics to evaluate everything from people to their systems.   

Survey: More help is needed

Kate Johnson, GE vice president and chief commercial officer for enterprise solutions, reviewed answers to questions asked of the audience (perhaps 300 managers).

• Is your company using predictive analytics to drive operational efficiency?

28% No, but we want to

60% Yes, but in limited scope

13% Yes, we use extensively

• Does your company partner with vendors based on service outcomes?

51% No, we’re not ready

24% Yes, but our partners are not ready

24% Yes, we have outcome sharing partnerships in place today

Key concepts, in review

Industrial Internet solutions like GE’s Grid IQ Insight:

• Help mesh intelligent machines, people, data, and advanced analytics software

• Transform large amounts of raw data to easily digestible and useful information

• Identify outage locations more quickly with social media monitoring capabilities.

– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer,, with info from GE and CFE Media’s Steve Rourke.


Original content can be found at Oil and Gas Engineering.

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.