A Journey into the Future of Controls: Let’s Go Where No One Has Gone Before
I recently wrote a blog post called “Why Connectivity to Controls Matters,” where I discussed the concept of an “Advise” layer enabled by connectivity and how this optimizes machines and processes much like how connectivity has made humans more efficient.
Last month we introduced this idea to our North American channel partners. I was delighted and encouraged by how the message resonated with the more than 150 people in attendance. I was excited not because we at GE came up with this idea; but because our partners also realized the value of the connectivity from the control system. While it’s clear from their enthusiasm that our partners understand the future, at the same time, some are apprehensive about this coming change. And why shouldn’t they be?
We are talking about a new paradigm, where control systems are not just passive devices, disconnected from business outcomes. In the world of the Industrial Internet, control systems are impacting business outcomes on near-real-time basis. Imagine a water pump station switching on or off based upon the price of electricity. Or, consider a turbine controller optimizing lifecycle versus revenue opportunity by having life-optimizing models right at the unit controller.
The new business models enabled by this controls connectivity are endless. Think about how smart phones helped Uber give traditional cab companies a run for their money by facilitating direct access between us (customers) and the service providers (driver). Now, imagine a day when we can have a similar marketplace and infrastructure for industrial control “apps.” We can write apps as basic as a controller health checker that provides access to the fault table—anywhere, on any device—and offers analytics to assist in troubleshooting. Or, apps can be as complex as the life-optimizing turbine example above.
As is the case in the consumer world, customers will develop control apps to meet their specific needs. Our channel partners, system integrators and OEMs can create their own apps to enhance the value they provide to their customers and tap new revenue streams. The sky is the limit and the changes and speed of innovation that we envision will be breathtaking.
So yes, we should be apprehensive, but in a good way—like when beginning a trip to a place you’ve never been before. This is just the start of the journey, and based on the enthusiasm in that room, it’s going to be quite a trip. Join us.