The Industrial Internet has made quite a few headlines since GE announced its existence a couple of years ago, but this is one of the biggest so far – tech heavyweights IBM, Cisco, GE and AT&T have all teamed up to form the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), an open membership group that’s been established with the goal of breaking down technology silo barriers to drive better Big Data access and improved integration of the physical and digital worlds.
The nuts and bolts of it is that the Industrial Internet Consortium will work to develop a ‘common blueprint’ that machines and devices from all manufacturers can use to share and move data, the companies said in a press release. These standards won’t just be limited to internet protocols, but will also include metrics like data storage capacity in IT systems, the power levels within connected and non-connected machines, and data traffic control.
It’ll likely be several years before these standards can be created and approved, but when they are they’ll help developers of hardware and software to create products that are fully compatible with the Internet of Things. The end result will be the full integration of sensors, networks, computers, cloud systems, large enterprises, vehicles, businesses and hundreds of other entities.
Sweeping industrial cooperation
“I don’t think anything this big has been tried before, in terms of sweeping industrial cooperation,” William Ruh, vice president of GE’s global software center, told The New York Times.
“This is how we will make machines, people and data work together.”
The Industrial Internet Consortium will focus specifically on apps related to industries like healthcare, manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, and transportation. The reason being, in these industries hardware and software products are often not compatible with one another, notes The Wall Street Journal.
“They want to control it all,” Tony Shakib, a vice president in Cisco’s Internet of Things business group, said to the WSJ. “The IIC sends a message to everyone that we all have to play with each other.”
There’s good reason for these companies to want to cooperate too, as Wikibon’s Jeff Kelly pointed out during last year’s D-Eleven conference, when he spoke with General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt on theCube.
“There’s a huge opportunity for those vendors who can help power plants or water treatment facilities, or whatever the case may be, to help them become more efficient and intelligently interconnect all these devices,” stated Kelly. “In terms of where the action’s gonna be in the next five years in Big Data, it’s absolutely going to be around Industrial Internet.”
The potential rewards of a highly-integrated Industrial Internet are best illustrated by the mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight 730. Had the Industrial Internet Consortium been started say, four or five years ago, it’s likely that we’d already have the answer to what happened with this flight.
Richard Soley, the IIC’s first executive director the chief executive of the Object Management Group, a global technology standards group, told the New York Times that the consortium had already seen interest from dozens of international companies, including Huawei, Fujitsu and Siemen, among others.
“What we have got to do is get all of the standards working together,” Soley said. “If Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 had had full interoperability with the world’s tracking systems, we’d know where it is to a square meter.”
We should note that the IIC isn’t the only organization that’s trying to create standards for the IoT. Last year we saw the formation of the AllSeen Alliance, a group that’s trying to promote Qualcomm’s AllJoyn framework as the new, interoperable standard for connected sensors and devices to the web. AT&T’s Digital Life home automation service is also a member of this organization, which seems to be less focused on the Industrial Internet and more on connecting consumer appliances and gadgets.