Putting data centers on turbines to save billions of dollars

GE’s Bill Ruh has a message for anyone who’s confused or skeptical about the company’s new focus on the “industrial internet.” The long story made short is that the amount of data being generated by industrial machines “is going to surpass anything you’ve ever seen,” and analyzing this data is going to make everyone’s lives easier.

Take gas turbines at power plants, for example. “We’re almost putting a data center on a gas turbine,” Ruh said during a session at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference on Wednesday morning, referencing the hundreds of sensors the company is placing on those machines to capture data. If those sensors, combined with GE’s (or anyone’s) software for managing and analyzing the data, is able to improve efficiency by just 1 percent, that could save nearly $6 billion a year.

Or think about air travel. Forty-one percent of unplanned downtime for airlines is caused by mechanical errors, Ruh explained, so GE wants to be able to predict when its engines or other airline systems will fail. With this knowledge, carriers can fix problems during scheduled downtime and save everyone precious time.

Speaking of jet engines, Ruh noted just how much potentially predictive data they’re generating. If someone captured everything coming off of a jet engine, he said, “We’re talking several hundred terabytes a day.”

However, he acknowledged, the macro effects of the industrial internet — cost savings, carbon-footprint reductions and efficiency gains — will come with shifts in the employment sector that might not be good for everyone involved. “There will be new kinds of jobs that get created that don’t exist today,” Ruh said. But, he added, “Some things people used to do will be done more efficiently through these machines.”

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2013 live coverageĀ here, and a video embed of the session follows below:
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A transcription of the video follows on the next page