A few months ago, General Electric was running and ad that tells about their jet engines. The ad told us about engines that understand 5,000 data samples per second and how this is good for business because it means that planes will be able to spend less time on the ground and more time in the air. The ad finishes with the statement that “Brilliant machines are transforming the way we work.” .
This is the first phase of the industrial internet as envisioned by General Electric’s scientists and engineers. They foresee a day when highly intelligent machines and devices connected wirelessly through the internet will continuously update sophisticated analytical software with the operational status of all components. The software will identify potential failures and notify operators when and if maintenance is due. Advanced analytical software will also be able to identify specific maintenance that must be performed or components that need replacing. The long term benefit will be no unscheduled downtime and no more scheduled maintenance based upon time or hours of use. This advance will be possible through the use of embedded micro-sensors capable of measuring many functions including; vibration, tilt, rotation, navigation, sound, air flow, light, temperature, humidity and pressure.
They envision a day when planned and corrective maintenance as we know it will no longer exist. Before an operator is aware of a device problem, analytical software will have indentified the potential failure and either make a software correction or dispatch a technician to perform any necessary corrective maintenance. In the rare event that a device fails in operation, software will identify which component needs replacing. Troubleshooting, as we know it, will no longer be necessary.
Under this scenario, is there a role for hospital based biomedical engineering programs? If PM and safety testing are performed continuously and automatically is there a role for BMETS? When defective devices are able to troubleshoot themselves and identify malfunctioning components, what role is there for a BMET to play? Whether the industrial internet is a curse or a blessing for you and your department will depend upon how you react. You can put your head in the sand and deny that it will have any impact, or you can use it as an opportunity to become a technology leader and learn all that you can about the impact of intelligent machines and how they will benefit various departments. You then can become an advocate for its introduction into your hospital.
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