How 50B Connected Machines Will Transform the Future

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Why you should care

Because each new connection can take software where it’s never gone before.

OZY and Predix from GE — the cloud-based development platform built for industry — have partnered to bring you an inside look at the future of digital industries, where people, data and productivity meet.

Thanks to the Internet of Things, today’s developers are riding a big wave of innovation. For the now 15 billion connected devices out there in the world, geeks are busy producing countless apps, steering the drone revolution and finding smart ways to get software and sensors to talk to each other in order to make our lives better. But hold on to your shorts, because this wave of development is about to turn into a tsunami. Why?

By 2020, there will be an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things, according to a report by Cisco and DHL.

This estimate ranges from 20 billion to 50 billion among experts, but regardless of the exact figure, it’s a “big number that’s going to hit us,” says Doug Bellin, global senior manager for manufacturing and energy at Cisco Systems. He predicts we’ll be unearthing and analyzing data in unheard-of ways, adding a whole new layer of intelligence that will transform business. Because with up to triple the number of connected devices at their fingertips, engineers will be working in “real time rather than through the rearview mirror” — in other words, on-the-spot or proactive computing instead of reactive computing. That could lead to more sophisticated machinery that advances already fancy developments with smart turbines, which now use data that explains how the machines interact with the landscape and the wind to optimize efficiency. Or it could lead to engineers writing code to funnel terabytes of data from jet engines into the cloud, where it’s analyzed and translated into meaningful insights to cut costs in areas like fuel or maintenance.There’s this massive expectation of software going where no one has gone before,” says Sam Ramji, CEO of Cloud Foundry Foundation, known as the industry-standard platform for cloud applications. 

This barrage of connectivity represents huge potential — translating to a 2 to 3 percent improvement in efficiency for major organizations across industries, says Ramji — and is prompting the continual discovery of new, computable machine parts and objects that are getting “wired up.” Meanwhile, industrial control apps are being developed and implemented to crunch data and provide meaningful insight to improve operational productivity.

But there are also some possible shortcomings. Namely, a hyperconnected future could present a startling shortage of developers with the skill sets needed to build apps and meet demand. By 2020 there could be a deficit of 5 million to 10 million developers, which Ramji says leaves him and other industry experts “really worried about the cloud skills gap.” (Note to parents: Perhaps nudge your child toward a career in computer sciences.) 

As more and more connected machines come into play, the digital industry is making strides in productivity and efficiency by understanding data better than ever before, identifying where gaps or holes exist, anticipating glitches before they happen and deploying sensors in more directed ways to maximize results, says Bob Parker, group vice president of research for International Data Corp. Eventually, he says, “all industries will be impacted.” Think everything from solar panels on the roof feeding the grid to connected health care devices tackling the four or five chronic diseases that represent the majority of health care spending.

But are companies about to be overpowered by this coming swell of connected devices? Hardly. Much of this technology has the potential to eliminate human error and elevate the productivity of people, says Bellin. And that’s with 15 billion connected machines. With 50 billion, when we’re putting chips and sensors on things that were never computable before, imagine what the future holds. 

Predix from GE is enabling the adoption of powerful, secure and scalable solutions built for the industrial app economy. It’s industrial-strength strength, powering the future of industry. Get Connected.