About this weblog

What you need to know: This weblog captures key data points about the global telecoms industry. I use it as an electronic notebook to support my work for Pringle Media.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Time for a New Productivity Miracle

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and BlackBerry

Coding skills honed in the consumer apps market could be profitably applied to the Industrial Internet

The wireless Internet is spreading into the deepest, darkest corners of industry. Everything from aircraft engines to power turbines to blast furnaces are now being equipped with sensors that can transmit performance data back to analytical applications. Heavy industry’s newfound enthusiasm for connectivity should be a boon for the global telecoms sector and those app developers who can transfer their skills into the industrial market.

There could be a lot of money in play: The so-called Industrial Internet could add 2.2 trillion euros to European GDP by 2030, if smarter machines can increase productivity growth by 0.75 percentage points above the baseline.  That was one of the findings of a report released by venerable U.S. industrial conglomerate GE at its recent Minds + Machines conference in London. (Click here to read my report of the event for Science|Business).
Waiting for another industrial revolution?

At the conference, held in derelict Battersea Power Station (see picture), executives from GE, airline Alitalia, power generator GDF-Suez International and energy distributor Northern Power Grid all waxed lyrical about how sensors, connected to wireless networks, could be used to harvest big data from industrial equipment and drive process improvements.

In other words, heavy industry is seeking to tap the technologies and concepts that are widely used in smartphone apps (wireless connectivity, data analytics, social networking, crowdsourcing, low cost sensors, geo-fencing, etc.) on a massive scale. The clear message from the conference: There is considerable scope to use these technologies to reduce downtime, slash waste and identify and implement more efficient processes – today industrial equipment is often monitored manually by under-employed human beings.

Enterprise apps outpace the IT market
The rise of the Industrial Internet explains in part why the market for enterprise software solutions is one of the few bright spots in a sluggish global ICT market. Research firm Gartner expects enterprise software sales to grow 6.4% in U.S. dollars in 2013 (up from 4.7% in 2012), compared with 2% for the overall IT market. Similarly, Forrester Research predicts “CIOs will focus their biggest spending increases on software, where growth globally will be 5.7% (in local currency terms) in 2013 and 7.3% in 2014. Analytics and applications in general and SaaS applications in particular will attract the fastest growth of any IT spending category.”

While the majority of industrial sensors will be connected using short-range technologies, such as Wi-Fi, many will be connected via mobile networks. That implies there will be more need for mobile provisioning, mobile device management (MDM) and over-the-air encryption, particularly for sensitive applications, such as connected health monitors or military equipment. So, the good times should continue for enterprise mobility management specialists.

But mainstream app developers should also take note. As the Industrial Internet takes shape, it will need some of the skills of the tens of thousands of software developers currently eking out a living trying to sell games and other consumer-orientated fare through app stores.  In particular, there will be big demand for the data analytics tools currently being applied by social networking apps, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare.

Writing code to track the wear and tear of jet engines is likely to be more lucrative than figuring out new ways to propel an irate avian through the air.

This post is sponsored by the Enterprise Mobile Hub and BlackBerry

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