This piece was originally published as the chairwoman’s column in the August 2016 issue of electroindustry.
Maryrose Sylvester, President & CEO, Current, powered by GE
Barbara McClintock, the only woman to win an unshared Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, demonstrated the concept of genetic recombination in 1931. Recombination occurs when DNA molecules trade genetic material to create something new—for example, two blue-eyed parents producing a brown-eyed child.
This is the essence of innovation. In our industry, technological recombination often means adding communication and sensing capabilities to existing electrical and medical imaging products, creating new or improved functionality. While thermostats and Wi-Fi connectivity existed separately for many years, recombining them resulted in systems that are remotely monitored and controlled from internet-connected devices.
Today, smartphones can control lights; power transformers can predict maintenance; and grid devices can signal that an outage is likely, based on readings at the subcomponent level. In factories, thousands of sensors and sophisticated software analytics optimize industrial processes.
These advances are all possible because information and communication technologies connect previously unconnected things. This concept, commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT), is changing the way we live and conduct business. It allows us to bring the power of the online world into the real world. When companies like mine and others put sensors into LEDs and computing technology into small handheld devices like mobile phones, we add an entirely new dimension to the evolution of computing and open up a world of opportunities unimaginable just a few years ago.
Just as the brown-eyed child’s sight is controlled by the brain as part of the nervous system, IoT components are controlled by software as part of a network. In the same way that the brain signals information to parts of the body, software platforms interface with products across a network. Thus, the next step in the IoT is to ensure that all of its parts interoperate seamlessly.
To achieve this state, standardization is essential. Furthermore, balanced legislation and regulation—when and where needed—must facilitate maximum innovation while assuring safe and efficient functionality. Beyond that, NEMA will investigate ways to expand Section scopes to inspire opportunities. The association will play a key role in all of these areas through Section work, strategic initiatives, and collaboration with other groups.
Currently in its tenth year, the Strategic Initiatives program is now exploring the IoT, including its need for cybersecurity. In addition to the IoT, we are committed to addressing opportunities and challenges related to smart cities, market development and risk mitigation, medical imaging value, and workforce development.
From now into the foreseeable future, recombinant technologies will proliferate and increasingly drive more innovation in the electrical and medical imaging industries. The IoT will offer new opportunities—and pose new risks. NEMA will continue to help its Members expand markets and overcome barriers. With 10 years of successful strategic initiatives and 90 years of industry leadership behind us, I look forward to seeing what NEMA will do in 2017 and where our innovations will take us in the years to come.