At the Minds+ Machines Conference in Silicon Valley, November last year, GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt hosted an event to address a room full of innovators in San Francisco. He touted the “Industrial Internet” as the next frontier in innovation. What is the Industrial Internet?

“For decades, technology has connected people and businesses globally. This is just the start. The Internet will also transform global industries, joining human insight with machine intelligence. Bringing minds and machines together has created something wholly new – the Industrial Internet – an open, global network that connects machines, people, and data.”

Immelt talks about the Industrial Internet’s context for GE through these three points-

Industrial companies are no longer about big iron: They will hope to integrate their big machines with data, seek to interface, access and develop the analytical and software layer around their products.

Small improvements in efficiency: The vastness of social media has connections tens of thousands of data points, presents a huge monetization opportunity. It can help drive small efficiency changes in vertical domains like – healthcare, aviation, rail etc that result in huge savings.

Ecosystem of companies driving change: Companies are not isolated. The ecosystem of all players in a market must be conducive for innovation.

Per GreenBiz, the next generation of technologies that could save companies like GE billions of dollars through operational efficiency –

 “..A new generation of products and services designed to radically improve customers’ efficiency and productivity, cut energy use and waste, and foster a new wave of innovation. He described the potential to cut billions of dollars of energy from sectors like aviation, railroads, power generation, and oil and gas development. He talked about ecosystems and intelligence and efficiency.”

“GE’s new focus is about “the convergence of the global industrial system with the power of advanced computing, analytics, low-cost sensing and new levels of connectivity permitted by the Internet.”

In a GE publication called the “Industrial Internet: Pushing the boundaries of Minds and Machines”, the authors explain that the world is on a threshold of a new era in innovation-

 “It is taking place through the convergence of the global industrial system with the power of advanced computing, analytics, low-cost sensing and new levels of connectivity permitted by the Internet.

GE calls this the “Industrial Internet”, the third wave of innovation after the Industrial revolution and the internet revolution. Further the document points that the essence of the Industrial Internet is a 3-way play between:

INTELLIGENT MACHINES: New ways of connecting the word’s myriad of machines, facilities, fleets and networks with advanced sensors, controls and software applications.

ADVANCED ANALYTICS: Harnessing the power of physics-based analytics, predictive algorithms, automation and deep domain expertise in material science, electrical engineering and other key disciplines required to understand how machines and larger systems operate.

PEOPLE AT WORK: connecting people, whether they be at work in industrial facilities, offices, hospitals or on the move, at any time to support more intelligent design, operations, maintenance as well as higher quality service and safety.

What struck me about the #3 “Empowering People at Work” was that open innovation will play an important role to harness and connect ideas and feedback. The more interesting aspect is the above three prongs have the potential to  feed off of each other to create the cyclic loop of economic, social and environmental prosperity.The Industrial Internet that GE is pushing is nothing but a giant communications platform where ‘everything talks to everything else’, open and creative networks that harbor this communication are crucial to the success of  this new, advanced ecosystem.Listen to the entire keynote address here. Immelt sums it up when he says,

Thanks to the internet, almost anything consumers might want is just a click away. But for businesses, the gains have been much less dramatic. That is about to change, with the arrival of the Imdustrial Internet.

What are your thoughts? Is the Industrial Internet the next revolution?