Connecting industrial operations to the internet could lead to significant gains in productivity, potentially worth $US10-15 trillion globally, a study by General Electric has found.
The report by the US conglomerate found that enabling internet-connected machines to communicate and operate automatically can lead to big efficiency gains.
"Securing even part of these productivity gains could bring great benefits at both the individual and economy-wide level," said GE chief economist Marco Annunziata, a co-author of the report.
"The full potential of the 'industrial internet' will be felt when the three primary digital elements — intelligent devices, intelligent systems and intelligent automation — fully merge with physical machines, facilities, fleets and networks," said Annunziata. "When this occurs, the benefits of enhanced productivity, lower costs and reduced waste will propagate through the entire industrial economy."
The report, Industrial Internet: Pushing the Boundaries of Minds and Machines, said this process could add $US10-15 trillion to global economic output.
It would also eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars of wasted time and resources by combining internet-connected machines, diagnostics, software, and analytics to make business operations more efficient.
The report said an important impact could be in "advanced manufacturing" techniques. But savings can also be achieved in health care, energy and in transportation — including more fuel efficient airline operations.
The report said the first wave of the internet and communications technologies revolution boosted US labour productivity growth to an average annual rate of 3.1 per cent from 1995 to 2004, twice the pace during the previous quarter-century.