User Summit Day 3: Are Cows a New Source of Data?

When I arrived in Orlando, Florida, three days ago for the GE Intelligent Platforms User Summit, I was well prepared to hear customer testimonials from industries such as oil & gas, aviation and power generation. But it never crossed my mind that the most fascinating story (for me, at least) would come from the livestock industry.

When Stuart Fisher from Zoetis took the stage and began describing how his organization was utilizing a GE big data and analytics solution to predict health issues in beef cattle, I was hooked! Now, I consider myself to be a pretty progressive guy, but I didn’t see this one coming.

As Stuart described the economics of the cattle industry and I began removing my preconceived ideas around thecow definition of an “asset,” it became clear to me that the USE CASE for this industry was very applicable to other industrial sectors cited above.

In this scenario, cattle ranchers have expensive assets (i.e., beef cattle) that are hard to differentiate, transient in nature and unable to communicate through traditional means. As a result, these operations are dependent solely on an operator’s (i.e., cowboy’s) ability to identify and detect problems with the animals.

One of the really compelling parts of Stuart’s presentation was when he showed a head-to-head comparison chart between the cowboys’ and the predictive analytics system’s ability to identify “sick” cattle. The cowboys were looking for physical signs of sickness, like drooping heads or excessive sitting, and thus selected more cattle to be evaluated. This might make the cowboys seem more accurate or successful than the predictive system, but it turns out many of their selections were false positives and the animals were actually not sick.

These unnecessary inspections resulted in higher expenses for the cattle ranchers because they were basically “over-servicing” their assets and expending resources on animals that should have remained with the herd.

This is a phenomenon that's prevalent in every industry where operators and maintenance professionals are forced to follow OEM-recommended servicing guidelines...rather than acting according to utilization and behavior of the equipment.

Stuart’s presentation further reiterates my belief that data truly is the fuel of the 21st century! Only time will tell if his solution has the ability to go mainstream. But for now, it’s transforming the way his company does business—driving greater efficiency and productivity. Not to mention protecting our food supply.

To learn more about what businesses like Zoetis are doing with data—many of whom were in attendance this week—visit our new Industrial Internet destination.