Katrine and Katrina on Co-creating the Industrial Internet

Katrine Rau and Katrina Alcorn from GE Energy gave a talk on how GE is developing the Internet of Things. They started with several familiar household examples but pointed out that the internet can also connect on an industrial scale to things like windmills or jet engines or gas turbines. They call this the Industrial Internet (or the internet of big things).

The devices are consumer, commercial and industrial. Billions of devices. 30 to 90 billion dollar value. Intelligent machines, or dumb machines with new sensors. Plus software and analytics. Finally, people at work use these analytics.

This is a hard problem. 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. For example, two million miles of oil transmission pipelines. Half were installed prior 1970. Important to maintain this infrastructure, but every 30,000 miles of pipeline generates 17 terabytes of data per day when instrumented.

How do you glean insights from the data without overwhelming? How can we anticipate what people might need? There are also performance issues: sometimes it takes 24 hours to crunch the numbers.

The industrial internet stakeholders have very specialized jobs. You have to work with hard-to-reach users. You can’t just guess what they need. Research is crucial.

The technology is also really new. The unknown can be scary. Data security. May require new ways of working. GE Energy uses co-creation to bring together diverse stakeholders to overcome some of these issues. This is most useful when the solutions are not clearly defined and the stakeholders aren’t yet in alignment.

Co-creation helps to:

  • Ensure we’re addressing the right problem
  • Clearly define solution and desired outcome
  • Create trust with our customers
  • Engage stakeholders in decisions
  • speed up the sales process
  • Reach solution faster
  • Avoid costly changes to code later on

Co-creation empowers stakeholders to be designers. At GE Energy they’ve identified five principles to share from their work:

Place design at the leadership level. Don’t fight against the company language and existing organization. Whoever controls the language controls the debate. Whoever translates the language can bring people to a common solution.

Practice “co-creation” just like an engineering best practice. Utilize a “federated facilitation” model that benefits internet and external teams. Spread this message through brown bag sessions that evangelize the culture of co-creation.

Sustain relationships that make things happen. Invite yourself to meetings. Remember that “people issues” are “design challenges.” Shape relationships during the pre-project.

Demystify empathy and make it practical for anyone. UX begins with the needs of the people who will use the product. Bring new people into the research and let them listen in to learn about stakeholder problems.

Help every touchpoint, without exception, to be better by design. Make realistic plans for integration design earlier and in more places.

Five takeaways:

  1. Add co-creation methods to your toolkit. Break out of your silos.
  2. Start co-creation before the project is defined. Designing the brief.
  3. Make friends with developers and data experts.
  4. Take your helicopter crash course (do your homework for research).
  5. Plant seeds in your organization.

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