Saturday, November 24, 2012

Another likely Digital Divide

There is an interesting article in The New York Times suggesting that the Internet of things may be the next disruptive technology.
(General Electric) plans to increase that work force of computer scientists and software developers to 400, and to invest $1 billion in the center by 2015. The buildup is part of G.E’s big bet on what it calls the “industrial Internet,” bringing digital intelligence to the physical world of industry as never before. 
The concept of Internet-connected machines that collect data and communicate, often called the “Internet of Things,” has been around for years. Information technology companies, too, are pursuing this emerging field. I.B.M. has its “Smarter Planet” projects, while Cisco champions the “Internet of Everything.” 
But G.E.’s effort, analysts say, shows that Internet-era technology is ready to sweep through the industrial economy much as the consumer Internet has transformed media, communications and advertising over the last decade.
The article goes on to give an example of a current application of the ideas behind the Internet of things:
Some industrial Internet projects are already under way. First Wind, an owner and operator of 16 wind farms in America, is a G.E. customer for wind turbines. It has been experimenting with upgrades that add more sensors, controls and optimization software. 
The new sensors measure temperature, wind speeds, location and pitch of the blades. They collect three to five times as much data as the sensors on turbines of a few years ago, said Paul Gaynor, chief executive of First Wind. The data is collected and analyzed by G.E. software, and the operation of each turbine can be tweaked for efficiency. For example, in very high winds, turbines across an entire farm are routinely shut down to prevent damage from rotating too fast. But more refined measurement of wind speeds might mean only a portion of the turbines need to be shut down. In wintry conditions, turbines can detect when they are icing up, and speed up or change pitch to knock off the ice. 
Upgrades on 123 turbines on two wind farms have so far delivered a 3 percent increase in energy output, about 120 megawatt hours per turbine a year. That translates to $1.2 million in additional revenue a year from those two farms.
Companies in poor countries are not likely to have the ability to invest a billion dollars to compete with General Electric. The technology will probably eventually benefit those countries. More efficient wing power generation, for example, will be used in poor countries and will benefit the producing enterprises and the consumers. However, the technology will be used to increase industrial productivity in the United States and other developed nations, making them more competitive. It is also likely to provide an edge to the rich countries in the production of all sorts of machinery and devices that link to the Internet of things.

You May Be One of the Things Connected to the Internet of Things

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