2015 has just begun, but the Industrial Internet offers more promise than ever before for delivering dramatic transformation around the world. The year will be over before you know it, so there’s no reason not to dive right in and take advantage of the expanding opportunities for growth.
Here’s what we’re anticipating in the year ahead:
Industrial standardization means fewer excuses
As impressive as the evolution of the Industrial Internet has been, excuses have inhibited even greater growth. Some have pointed to evolving standards and have stayed on the sidelines for fear of being caught with a large investment in a niche ecosystem. No one wants to choose Betamax over VHS or HD-DVD over Blu-Ray. Others worry that the effort required to build and secure an Industrial Internet infrastructure may outweigh the gains.
All that should change in 2015. Even stronger machine-to-machine technologies are leading the way, with solutions like Predix sparking broad interest and engagement from global pioneers like Softbank. Similarly, major Industrial Internet players like GE, Cisco, and Intel continue to align their efforts through the Industrial Internet Consortium. As standards take hold, it will be easier to link with the Industrial Internet in a predictable and protected fashion. Security will become a transparent feature, not a source of additional complexity.
Time to slow greenhouse emissions
Supporters of the Industrial Internet will focus on the serious challenges of energy consumption and related greenhouse emissions. The efficiencies and superior coordination the Industrial Internet provides are vital to the task, as the worldwide demand for energy grew by one-third in the first decade of the 21st century alone. Coal satisfied the bulk of that new energy demand, raising greenhouse gas output. But not all energy consumption is created equal, and the Industrial Internet can help users make more of the power they already use.
Connecting power distribution grids and transportation networks can both decrease energy consumption and improve energy productivity. GE projects that even a 2% improvement in energy productivity can save quadrillions of British thermal units (Btu) per year, staving off higher growth in resource consumption. By 2030, the savings could reach 70 quadrillion Btu—equivalent to about 12 billion barrels of oil.
Looking for a more relatable example? Local energy producers like Oklahoma Gas & Electric and Austin Energy are already using smart grids to slash the heavy power drain of unnecessary air conditioning by 30%. Those savings, propagated worldwide, could take a serious bite out of power bills and global energy production.
Enhanced renewable energy
The Industrial Internet can also help efficient produce cleaner, sustainable power. By optimizing turbine configuration in tandem on a second-by-second basis, the Industrial Internet can increase the output of a wind farm by several percentage points. These gains mean wind farm operators can produce and sell more power with fewer turbines, making land used for wind farm generation more productive and improving the business model for wind power.
Fewer traffic casualties
Sources as prominent as US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx have said that smart ground vehicles can reduce unimpaired driving accidents by 70 to 80%. That would mean avoiding millions of accidents and thousands of deaths on an annual basis in the US alone.
Of course, the Industrial Internet will not orchestrate all of the world's roads in 2015. But small-scale experiments like the one at the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Center can serve as a blueprint for adoption when political and industry leaders are ready to take the next step toward more efficient and less dangerous transportation networks.
McRock Capital co-founder Whitney Rockley told the Wall Street Journal that the “Industrial Internet of Things” generated $97 billion in economic activity in 2014 and is growing fast, up from $66 billion just two years before. Back-of-the-envelope math tells us that in 2015, the Industrial Internet could crack $100 billion and push well beyond.
But financial milestones will be the least of the Industrial Internet's accomplishments in the year ahead. When you look back on 2015, remember it as the year the Industrial Internet started to make a sustained, visible impact on quality of life around the world.