Why Connectivity to Controls Matters
We as humans are wired to sense, think and then act. In prehistoric times, a person would sense a problem (storm clouds on the horizon), think about what to do (get out of the rain) and act (take shelter). They didn’t have the capability to get information from others on what to expect or what to do. With the advent of communication technology like the telegraph and telephone, people could add another step—get information from other people, most likely family, about approaching weather and how to prepare and respond to it. This was more efficient, but not optimized.
Then came television, and with it widely available weather forecasts. Of course, these were only available several times a day and only if you were near a TV. The telegraph, telephone, and television added another layer to the mix of sense, think and act. That layer is advise.
The latest communication innovation, the Internet, greatly enhances our ability to get advice. Now we can get weather information at our fingertips, any time, anywhere, for any place in the world via our smart phones. With GPS technology, weather apps can give us the forecast for our exact location and send us alerts and notifications. We can then communicate with our family via social media about how the weather might affect our plans for the weekend.
In the age of the Industrial Internet, machines are increasingly connected too. So let’s apply the “Sense, Advise, Think, Act” process to the controls managing a wind turbine, for example. Until now, machines like wind turbines could sense, think and act on their own through automation controls. But imagine if the controller running on one wind turbine could check the status of other wind turbines (its family) in the wind farm and make decisions based upon what others are doing or even what they suggest?
What if that turbine could consider wind speed, weather conditions, and energy demand to make even better decisions? The wind farm operator could also check the status of the turbine from anywhere in the world. And, the wind turbine could tell the operator that it is about to break down in just a few hours so the operator could start planning now to reduce the downtime. Armed with this information, automatically other turbines in the same farm could adjust themselves to pick up the slack while the turbine is repaired. This is just one example of what happens when controls are connected. Machines can now advise each other by collecting and sending data to the cloud for analysis, and then sharing that data with other machines.
In 1995, when Netscape designed their first browser for the Internet, little did we know the power of connectivity and how it would change our lives. That same paradigm is transforming the automation industry as controllers are securely connected to the Industrial internet. We at GE believe in this future and the power of Sense, Advise, Think, and Act and are working tirelessly to make the Industrial Internet real.
What advice does your business need? What do you need your machines to tell their “family”?