Leading IT companies that include General Electric and IBM have launched an Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) to develop ways to break down information silos between machinery and IT systems.

Announced on March 27, the open membership group will decide on requirements for interoperability standards to connect smart devices, people, processes and data.

Look for new standards to be created to connect machines such as gas valves, locomotives and wind turbines to IT systems.

GE coined the term “Industrial Internet,” which means the integration of physical machinery with networked sensors and software. The company announced several applications related to the Industrial Internet in October 2013, including analytics application Predix.

Technology companies, researchers and public agencies are collaborating to increase adoption of Industrial Internet applications.

GE, IBM, others announce the Industrial Internet Consortium.

“By linking physical objects to the full power of cyberspace, the Industrial Internet promises to dramatically reshape how people interact with technology,” Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement. “The administration looks forward to working with public-private collaborations like the new IIC to turn innovative Industrial Internet products and systems into new jobs in smart manufacturing, health care, transportation and other areas.”

In addition to GE and IBM, other companies participating include AT&T, Cisco and Intel.

The IIC will use five test beds for Industrial Internet applications that will comprise equipment networks and computing systems in controlled environments, Ron Ambrosio, CTO for Smarter Energy Research at IBM, told CruxialCIO in an email.

On the test beds, IIC organizations will test the interoperability of machines and IT systems to measure improved efficiency and asset management, he said.

“We believe it's critical to not only foster better standards, but to also demonstrate the actual benefits that can be derived,” Ambrosio said.

In addition, IIC will provide guidance on the global standards development process for both Internet and industrial systems. It will also create open forums to allow for people to share ideas on interoperable data and machines.

The consortium will accelerate interconnection of smarter cities, utility grids, buildings and machines, Ambrosio said.

A goal of the IIC will be to bring together operational technology, which involves the physical world of machines in industrial environments, with IT systems.

“We need to bring these two areas together and the data they generate — essentially combine operational information with business data and start optimizing across both domains,” Ambrosio said.

“To create a productivity revolution, we must break down the technology silos for more reliable access to data,” Bill Ruh, vice president of GE Software, told CruxialCIO in an email. “So the IIC will take the lead in establishing interoperability across various industrial environments.”

In addition to interoperability, the IIC will work on defining standard application models, Ambrosio noted.

Electric grids will need to be able to interact with home networks to address drops in electricity demand.

“We need to define common request and response formats that cross between the electric grid system and the home automation system, regardless of the communication technology being used (wireless, cable, smart meter, etc.), Ambrosio said.

The IIC will develop standards to connect machinery such as a gas valve, wind turbine and aircraft engine to IT systems, noted Ruh.

“For a long time the two worlds, OT and IT have been separate, not just in business, but with technology,” Ruh said. “Getting OT systems to interface efficiently with IT systems at a technical level is difficult;  getting them to work together to maximize business efficiency is even more challenging.”