A merging of big iron and big data, the Industrial Internet is making a big difference here on earth. But, with its ability to improve efficiency and operations, the Industrial Internet is also making some significant changes out in the deepest oceans and in outer space.

A recent post on TheEconomist.com, “Space, the Connected Frontier,” details the ways in which next-generation factories on the sea floor are doing away with conventional platforms. Instead, they are using high-tech wellheads, separators, compressors and piping. All of these elements share data with one another and with their remote human operators via the Industrial Internet, according to the post.

Outer space and undersea environments have a lot in common, and, indeed, two private companies, Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries, have developed proposals to extract resources such as water and precious metals from asteroids.

“To get at those resources, asteroid mining companies will have to address many of the same challenges of undersea oil and gas exploration and production and apply many of the solutions being developed for them,” states the Economist.com. “Remote operations in inhospitable environments and robust communications and connectivity are required for both undersea and outer space resource exploitation.”

And it doesn’t stop there. NASA is in the beginning stages of building a space-based Internet—for operations including asteroid capture—that will connect astronauts, spacecraft, machines, and ground controllers. This “space Internet” will include laser communications links and delay-tolerant networking.

Even with this high-tech equipment, a space Internet will be challenged by issues related to the extreme distance over which data will have to travel. (It is space, after all.) This makes the need for intelligent, autonomous (or, at least, semi-autonomous) machines all the more important.

About the author

Debra Donston-Miller

Independent Writer and Editor at Donston-Miller Editorial Consulting