The Rise of the “Industrial Internet”

by Jeff Wiener on April 17, 2015

While many companies are flooding the burgeoning so-called Internet of Things sector, there is another associated industry that many of us have never heard about and may never directly use that promises to play a significant role in establishing our connected everything existence, one that multinational conglomerate (and household name) General Electric has dubbed the “Industrial Internet.”

“The industrial Internet draws together fields such as machine learning, big data, the Internet of things, machine-to-machine communication and Cyber-physical system to ingest data from machines, analyze it (often in real-time), and use it to adjust operations,” the Wikipedia entry states, essentially describing the complex interaction of networked physical machines and software, combining IoT with advanced analytics.

Think of the Industrial Internet—or whatever name you might want to call it—as the backbone of the IoT movement, the communication of machines with other machines that allows for the collection, analysis, and deployment of massive amounts of data, which in turn allows for machines to adjust operations in accordance with a steady flow of real-time information. It’s the way our connected everything existence will know what we need when we need it, and it stands to be an important growth industry going forward.

While most of us use the Internet for communication, exploration, and entertainment, there’s another side to the Internet that we often don’t think about, the opportunity it affords us to connect to other systems. As we’re learning with the growing IoT segment, the Internet can connect our smartphones to our refrigerators, allow us to control the temperature of our home from wherever we are, and even connect with a wide range of services.

Within this growing Internet of Things are an exponentially growing number of machines; connected devices that require constant connectivity not only to remain an effective part of the IoT ecosystem, but because much like our smartphone, computers, or other such gadgets, they use software, and that software needs continual maintenance and upgrades.

It’s this backbone process of maintaining and upgrading the IoT infrastructure across consumer, corporate, and industrial segments that GE calls the Industrial Internet, and it’s one we often don’t even know exists.

As E-Commerce writer Jeff Kagan explains, “The Industrial Internet lets machines communicate over the Internet with their makers. They get software updates and service calls over the Net. It’s for machines of all kinds — from kitchen appliances to factory robots.”

“Going forward, every machine will use software, and software needs to be updated continually. So just as we have to update our iPhone or Android on a regular basis, we also will have to update our dishwasher or our auto-manufacturing plant equipment.”

But all this to say, this entire segment remains in its infancy, and even though GE anticipates it will lead this new market, particularly if phrases like “Industrial Internet” catch on, the reality is that there is no real leader today, but over the next few years this backbone IoT industry will likely see massive growth and attract considerable attention across every industry as we move closer to a connected everything existence.

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