Maintenance looks more predictable from the cloud

March 15, 2012
Mike Bacidore says cloud computing is an opportunity to pool data for better analytics.

As we leave February in the rearview mirror and speed headlong into March, let’s check the GPS, or, better yet, ask Siri where we’re headed. Siri is an application that works on Apple’s iOS. But it is so much more than just another app.

Siri is the automated intelligent personal assistant whose help is there for the asking. It understands your natural speech and will even ask you for more information, if necessary. You’ve seen and heard the ads on TV — “From now on, I’ll call you Rock God, OK?”

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When you receive information from Siri, you also share information with Siri, just like you would a real personal assistant. Siri knows all. And, because Siri exists in the Cloud, it grows smarter by the second, pooling, assembling, and analyzing data from all users and giving it an almost Borg-like collective intelligence. Resistance is futile.

You will be assimilated.

The information superhighway is paved with technology and driven by data, but ideas on where we’re going are far from road-tested. My favorite place to kick the tires on informed speculation and bankable prediction is at the ARC World Industry Forum. This year, almost 700 individuals from 21 countries attended. Andy Chatha, president and CEO of ARC Advisory Group (, began the conference with his annual assessment of what’s important — this year identifying the top four transformational technologies. And cloud architecture was right there among them, along with social media, analytics, and the mobile Internet.

“These are no longer consumer technologies,” he explained. “They have matured to the point where you can use them across the enterprise.”

Social media means being always connected with faster response and immediate access to experts. Analytics are now much easier to use. They can now run in seconds, instead of days. And the struggle or challenge with the mobile Internet is in managing all of the devices. “There are now more mobile devices than there are people on this planet,” said Chatha.


His cloud architecture is a bit less ambitious than that of the Borg, but for good reason. Industrial manufacturers aren’t interested in how to defeat the Starship Enterprise or in how to play “London Calling” on the guitar. They’re interested in production efficiencies, which include optimizing uptime and managing asset health. The architecture would include, for example, an E&D applications platform and an operations applications platform within an enterprise applications platform — clouds within the cloud, explained Chatha.

John Berra, former chairman of Emerson Process Management (, shared a real-world application of the concept, when he explained how one company reduced its total maintenance costs by 30% from using the predictive intelligence it had collected from 27 plants in its own private cloud.
Road-tested? Yes. Driven by data? Absolutely. Transformational? You betcha.

The path to manufacturing profitability is a winding road that is best seen and understood from the bird’s-eye view. The more information we’re able to analyze, the smarter our maintenance strategies become. Surrender your data.

Resistance is futile.