Disrupting the Industrial Automation Space

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Disrupting the Industrial Automation Space

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet is significantly transforming the way we think about automation systems. GE’s Automation & Controls team believes this is driving a change in the way automation and control systems are developed and is therefore introducing disruptive technology into the controls space to take advantage of this trend.

By Rich Carpenter, GE’s Automation & Controls team | Feb 2016

The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet are the new normal for today’s factories and infrastructure. However, there is quite a bit more to the Industrial Internet than just collecting high-speed data from miles of connected infrastructure. Without a meaningful way to optimize and process data, the immense scope of information being generated by today’s machines poses a real challenge for engineers and operators.

That’s why companies are making their control systems smarter by connecting them to information outside of their normal, local field of view. This helps the control system to make economically stronger decisions to help optimize the overall business. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are connecting their equipment, no matter how distributed, to central locations where they can run analytics for anything from predictive diagnostics to avoid unplanned downtime to improved operational efficiency to achieve higher output at lower costs.

For example, GE’s Power Conversion business is using Industrial PCs (IPCs) from GE’s Automation & Controls team as control units on multiple shipboard applications, including variable frequency drives, automation systems and dynamic positioning systems. These IPCs are critical components, acting as the brains of their drives and propulsion and control systems. Power Conversion was previously using many different controllers, so the convergence onto one model has been beneficial. Now, the team is moving towards one hardware platform for their control systems, reducing the number of spare parts that they and their customers need to stock.

With this example in mind, GE’s Automation & Controls team believes the emergence of IOT and the Industrial Internet is driving a change in the way automation and control systems are developed and is therefore introducing disruptive technology into the controls space to take advantage of this trend. GE is changing the way equipment is serviced by connecting it to the Industrial Internet out of the box. In other words, the large equipment that GE provides to customers, whether for a wind application, a gas turbine, locomotive or other industrial machine, is shipped with the required connectivity in place to bring data to the Industrial Internet. Once the data is available and organized centrally, it can be mined for insights that are then used to drive improved operational results. We believe, that like connected people, connected machines can operate with more intelligence. As a result, the new control systems from GE are connected by default. Doing so greatly simplifies customers’ experience with a new control system as they can connect to industrial clouds like GE’s Predix with just a few simple steps.

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Photo 1: GE is speaking the language of industry and bringing together industrial engineering with sensors, software and big data analytics to create brilliant machines

The connected control system is then able to take advantage of Predix services like Asset Performance Management and Brilliant Manufacturing, which are focused on preventing unplanned downtime via predictive diagnostics using technology like SmartSignal and reducing production losses. Since the control system is naturally connected to Predix, it’s easy for customers to enable these services to improve their overall operations. See diagram.