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Image: Internet of Things jet engine
Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB jet engine is prepared for delivery. (Credit: Rolls-Royce)

Soon the “Internet of Things” will be keeping watch on jet engines, refrigerators and freezers, factory floors and more, thanks to a series of partnerships announced by Microsoft at the Hannover Messe industrial fair in Germany.

The applications will take advantage of the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite to gather data from industrial products, and the Cortana Intelligence Suite to look for trends and figure out how to improve performance.

For example, Rolls-Royce will incorporate those software tools into its TotalCare maintenance services for its aircraft engines. The data sets will include engine health readings, air traffic control information, route restrictions and fuel usage.

Cortana will look for anomalies and trends in the data, and provide feedback that should help Rolls-Royce improve the engines’ performance and increase fuel efficiency.

“Our customers are looking for ways to leverage the digital landscape to increase efficiency and improve their operations,” Tom Palmer, Rolls-Royce’s senior vice president for services in civil aerospace, said in a news release. “By working with Microsoft we can really transform our digital services, supporting customers right across engine-related aircraft operations to make a real difference to performance.”

Rolls-Royce’s engines power more than 50,000 flights around the world each month, but that’s not the only place where Microsoft’s IoT tools will be in play.

Jabil, a leading manufacturing company, has rolled out the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning platform at its factory mega-sites in Malaysia and Mexico – and it plans to take the system worldwide. The idea is to predict problems with assembly-floor operations even before they happen.

“That means even if there is a mistake made in the first step … they’re able to connect back to the cloud, use machine learning, detect that mistake and correct it before it goes all the way to the end of the production line,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Sunday during his Hannover Messe keynote address.

Meanwhile, Liebherr Domestic Appliances will be using software intelligence to predict potential breakdowns of commercial refrigerators and freezers, with service tickets generated automatically to address problems.

The Hannover show is highlighting other industrial IoT applications as well, ranging from Fujitsu’s “Intelligent Dashboard” for factory management to the intelligent elevators being built by Otis and Thyssenkrupp.

Nadella said the fusion of information technology and operations technology is becoming pervasive. “The very thing that you produce, the very thing that you manufacture, for the first time is connected with all of the web of activity around it,” he said.

Is that thrilling, or a bit scary?

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