As one of the top minds working at General Electric sees it, no longer are we merely in an era of dizzying high-tech advances. Knowingly or not, we've actually moved beyond the Information Age and its inherent limits.
“Today, I'm pronouncing the end of the Information Age,” declared Dr. Joseph Salvo, director of the GE Telematics Center of Excellence in Niskayuna, NY, speaking at a media event held last month. Pointing out that content is now readily available, “commoditized” and easily downloaded wirelessly to a variety of mobile memory devices, Salvo added, “In the new age, the sheer amount of information is not as important as the quality of said information.”.
As he sees it, the new age is characterized not just by the availability of information, but by the continuing evolution of connectivity. “Several billion people in India and China have been brought into the global network…we are moving away from the physical world,” he said. ‘The natural extension (of information availability) is to all objects.”
Where previously the “network” was far less diverse, the information explosion will make it far easier to connect with anyone, anywhere, Salvo continued. He said the most important aspect of information is becoming not how much we can store, but the ability to network the information with other sources.
A good example of this shift from quantity to quality is GE Asset Intelligence's VeriWise tracking system. The challenge for tracking mobile assets is staying on top of the location and status of billions of assets in real-time. According to Salvo, sensors are the key. “It's not about a ‘box,’ it's about a brain….there is a brain in the trailer, it knows where it is. The object is self-aware.”
A swarm of intelligent trailers, tied to in-cab devices, RFID inventory management, in-road sensors, tire pressure monitoring and door sensors, allows fast decisions without any supervisory input needed, Salvo explained. He added that the value of the VeriWise network is its ability to connect anything to anything, anywhere, anytime.
“What the world needs now is transparent end-to-end logistics,” said Salvo. The goal is for system consciousness, and the future will include infrastructure services, portfolio optimization, real-time routing, recovery planning, planning optimization and local decisioning through the VeriWise Geo-analytical system and others like it.
This type of intelligent telematics system is still in its infancy, but will explode from a $4 billion industry to one worth a projected $80 billion in 2008, according to GE. “We are evolving from point-sensing to pervasive, interactive sensing,” Salvo said. While we must label and track trillions of objects, we also have to avoid storing data that will soon have absolutely no value, he pointed out, adding that while the 20th century was the era of “commoditization” of most physical assets, the 21st will change the perceived value of pure data in all its forms-- because having data is far less important than connecting it.