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GE is testing sensor-equipped "smart" batteries that transmit data from a Ford Focus Electric (Photo: GE)

A new digitally connected model for industry could add as much as 15 trillion dlrs to global output, according to a report published by General Electric Monday.

Researchers at the US based industrial conglomerate say the so-called "industrial internet," which links networks, data and machines, has the potential to sharply boost productivity worldwide. That key to that growth will be the convergence of the traditional industrial system with new advanced computing technology, better analytics, low-cost sensing and new levels of connectivity.

"The deeper meshing of the digital world with the world of machines holds the potential to bring about profound transformation to global industry," the report says.

GE's predictions are in line with the high expectations German automotive supplier Robert Bosch has of what it calls "the internet of things." In a speech in September, Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner predicted that "over the next few years, increasing numbers of devices and systems will communicate with each other without any human input, as part of the internet of things and services." He cited projections that, in 10 years, 50 billion devices and systems will be exchanging data with each other.

The GE report said the industrial internet could boost average incomes in the US by between 25 and 40 pc over the next 20 years.  If the rest of the world achieved half of the US productivity gains, the industrial internet could add from 10 trillion to 15 trillion dlrs to global GDP," it said. That amount would be roughly equal to the size of the US economy today.

The innovations would benefit a broad range of industries, including aviation, rail transportation, power generation, oil and gas development, and health care delivery, GE said.

The New York Times reported this week that GE plans to invest 1 billion dlrs by 2015 in a new San Francisco-based software center that will play a key role in realizing the industrial internet. According to the report, GE already recuited more than 250 engineers for the center and plans to add another 150 computer scientists and software developers there.

The GE report said national governments and companies must work together to speed up industrial growth. The focus, it said, needs to be on "deploying the necessary sensors, improve cyber security, and educate a new class of 'digital-mechanical' engineers."

A copy of the GE report can be downloaded here.

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