The Jurassic Park Syndrome
The industrial software market started 30+ years ago and has largely stayed in a world where systems simply display and collect every piece of data from a machine—providing a functional level of control. Yes, these systems have evolved to be more robust, accessible and scalable; however, they all have been designed with the same objectives as those late 80’s originals. Industrial software has slowly evolved to make achieving that objective easier, namely the storing of device data has become ubiquitous. This has bred the mentality of “collect everything and show it on the screens; we’ll worry about how we use it later...”
I call this the Jurassic Park syndrome, which is inspired by this quote from the original 1993 blockbuster: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”
The good thing is that I’m not predicting this industrial syndrome to lead to catastrophic failure (and morality questions about cloning) like Jurassic Park. But the analogy holds true as the industry is already buried in data, and with the advent of more ubiquitous connectivity over the internet (i.e., Industrial Internet/Internet of Things), the mounds of data in the “industrial Jurassic Park” is simply going to get deeper.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This Jurassic Park syndrome has created some great control systems, execution solutions and machine interfaces, all of which serve important purposes in industry; however, these systems are complex, expensive to deploy/maintain, and are rarely accessible to all. This is just the reality of the industry, and due to the nature of the systems – I realize this mindset isn’t going to change.
This, however, has created a culture that expects to get very little real-time valuable information from these systems so each and every employee can contribute for the betterment of the business…why say that? First off because they’ll need months’ worth of training to understand what’s going on in all those existing industrial systems and to use the interfaces, and secondly , they tend to be point solutions that solve specific problems. And thirdly, because there is just too much data and not enough information!
To these points, industrial software is rapidly changing as the Jurassic Park syndrome is here to stay, and with the rise of the Industrial Internet and Internet of Things, software vendors are now focusing on innovations, which make it easy to mine, understand and access industrial data immediately. Intelligence can now be extracted more easily than ever, and it can be delivered seamlessly to a connected workforce no matter their device.
If that device happens to be a smartphone or tablet, it can even adapt dynamically to the user’s role, function, and location. I’m seeing consumer-level devices making their way into industry, and these are helping make this possible. The combinations of analytics and smart connected devices have the capability to drive worker productivity to heights not seen before.
Imagine a world where maintenance is called to a machine 15 minutes prior to it being predicted to fail with a work instruction to address the predicted failure. Imagine a world where a system dynamically dispatches field workers for critical alarms based off their current location. Imagine a world where users stop being overwhelmed with data and systems help them extract the critical information with supplementary information like statistical causes to make the best decisions.
Now imagine a world where all of this information finds the right employee through a smartphone app, a browser, or a tablet app.
We live in an industrial Jurassic Park, and it’s now much more about analytics, insight and ubiquitous human/machine connectivity. At GE Intelligent Platforms, we call this the value of Real-time Operational Intelligence (www.ge-ip.com/rtoi ). It’s what our Proficy software drives to deliver because it’s in industrial analytics, not apps or more data, where the value is found.