General Electric sees the Internet of Things as a “huge opportunity” for itself and its customers, said Mark Sheppard, CIO of GE in Australia and New Zealand, said yesterday.
“For the most part, that install base of machines we’ve sold over the years is essentially just metal that’s out there, and for us we see this as an opportunity of enabling that technology to work completely differently,” Sheppard said.
“If we could optimise that equipment just by 1 per cent – so just get 1 per cent more efficiency out of that equipment that’s out there today – we could deliver $20 billion in productivity to our customer base.”
Sheppard spoke on a panel about the Internet of Things at the Cisco Live conference in Melbourne. He was joined by other Cisco partners and customers Sense-T, Rockwell Automation and La Trobe University.
“There’s an overwhelming need to look at the way we operate there and move away from the maintenance model which is still the break/fix mentality to one where we can predict and prevent,” said Sheppard.
For example, GE’s mining customers’ maintenance strategy for underground equipment is a regular cycle of pulling equipment out of the ground, servicing it and putting it back, he said.
“If we could change that model, there’s an enormous opportunity for the operators of those mines.”
New jet engines built by GE deliver a far greater amount of information than engines of the past, resulting in a product that is much more efficient to maintain, said Sheppard.
“Traditionally we would have got a handful of data points – typically a takeoff point, somewhere in flight and then a landing data point. Now the engines themselves send back 5000 data points a second, so in flight you’re talking about a terabyte of data coming back.”
In Tasmania, sensors built by Sense-T are providing useful business information for oyster farmers, vineyard owners and others, said Sense-T founding director, Ros Harvey.
Data measuring oyster health can prevent unnecessary closures, which at large oyster farms can cost $150,000 a day, she said.
An average crops farmer in Tasmania spends $250,000 a year on water. If you can deliver a solution that just delivers 1-2 per cent savings on that, it more than covers the cost, she said.
“The opportunity is really big,” agreed David Hegarty, managing director of ANZ at Rockwell Automation. For example, having better data may prevent costly recalls, he said.
Great value can be created when everything is connected, but it must be translated into data that people can use to take actions, said Jack Singh, a director at La Trobe University.
For example, data on a home’s energy usage is most effective if it lets the owner pinpoint the exact things that are using energy and in real-time see how much money that usage is costing, he said.
That’s a powerful way to convince people to turn things off when they’re not in use, he said. “You can tell the kids, if you save that money [on energy] ... we’ll give you some pocket money.”
Cisco’s city of the future
In its keynote, Cisco painted a vision of the future in which the Internet of Things enables cities to quickly see problems and respond by pulling various levers at its disposal.
A control panel in the demo showed current traffic levels, air quality and the status of public transportation in Melbourne – all information that would be coming in through connected sensors spread throughout the city.
Cisco officials presented a scenario in which air pollution was exceeding normal levels in Melbourne. The city manager was presented with a projection of the pollution over the time and a variety of options to solve the problem.
In the example, the Cisco official changed the prices of parking — increasing the price of parking in the centre of the city and lowering it at train stations outside the CBD. He also reduced train fares. As a result, the air quality projection improved significantly.
Cisco chief globalisation officer, Wim Elfrink, said he believes the “killer app” for cities will be smart parking. With parking meters connected to the Internet, it is possible to quickly direct drivers to empty parking spots and even let people reserve parking spots in advance of their arrival, he said.
Cisco estimates the global economic value of the Internet of Things is $19 trillion from 2013 to 2022, said Elfrink. That comprises $14.4 trillion for the private sector and $4.6 trillion for the public sector, he said.
In Australia, he estimated the value for the public sector will be $26 billion, and for the private sector it will be $39 billion.
Adam Bender flew to Melbourne as a guest of Cisco.
Read more: The pioneers of the Internet of Things