Thingalytics_Ch-02_Twitter_880x440“Maybe the only significant difference between a really smart simulation and a human being was the noise they made when you punched them.” Terry Pratchett, author

The idea that a machine can be equipped with sensors that gives it “brains” and “feelings” has been the stuff of science fiction books and films for years. From Skynet in the Terminator movies, who turns a little paranoid about human beings wanting to destroy him, to Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot stories where we learned that robots can feel, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to fascinate.

To date, however, the quest for machines that possess the characteristics of a human brain remains in its infancy. Today’s machines are like an “exploded body” where the body parts transmit signals to a remote brain to analyze. Sensors constitute the “nerve endings” in these body parts, sending signals to the “brain,” which is in reality a computer.

This brain is where Thingalytics takes place, to respond to the sensory “feelings” and generate a smart response, which could adjust parts of the “body” to optimize performance and take advantage of the current environment.

For example, a company with 1,000 smart wind turbines—each equipped with networked “sensors”—can send information to a computer at headquarters—the “brain”—which will analyze performance and current power requirements and adjust the behavior of individual turbines accordingly. Sensors can also supply the brain with continuous information to keep track of how many hours their sensitive internal mechanisms have been working. If these hours are excessive, then the brain can trigger an alert and schedule a maintenance call.

The goal of Thingalytics is to digitize information, analyze it and then make smart decisions based on the analysis. Although existing technology can perform these tasks, and can do so much faster than humans, the challenge lies with adding the human qualities that transcend automated responses.

By equipping machines with senses — particularly sight, sound and touch – modern technology can go a long way toward replicating some human qualities.

Sensors can be added to existing systems to augment them with feelings ranging from the pain of failing components to the joy of running smoothly. We then utilize these feelings to optimize the ways the business works; specifically, doing more with less, saving money through reduced fuel usage, reducing waste and optimizing performance. In this chapter I show how a couple of visionaries are already achieving these goals.

  • Coca-Cola Enterprises uses a low energy Bluetooth-enabled device that gives the Coke cooler feelings -- sight, sound and touch -- along with the ability to communicate these feelings. This gives Coca-Cola the ability to automatically inventory its in-store equipment using a smart phone.
  • GE’s Gas Engines division revolutionized its Jenbacher generator service capabilities so it could remotely manage any issues as soon as – or sometimes even before – they come up.

The killer apps are still emerging. It seems clear, however, that inventory tracking and predictive maintenance are two revolutionary approaches that can save money and improve the customer experience.

To read more about the future of connected, intelligent machines buy the book here:

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