The Exchange of Everything and Its Potential as Part of Industry 4.0

David Walsh, an Internet pioneer, and developer of the first global financial extranet, connecting over 2,000 banks, looks at nearly everything as an exchange.

In the early 1990s, straight out of college, Walsh began working on Wall Street building trading floor technologies and contributing to the growth of the public markets and innovation in platforms.

In his early twenties, he was charged with engineering and evolving sophisticated trader voice applications, connecting thousands of participants – buyers, sellers, brokers, banks, and exchanges.

Nasdaq was becoming the engine of growth for technology companies, while hundreds of new companies were also ringing the bell at the NYSE, and hundreds of derivative products were being rolled out to institutional and individual investors numbering in the millions.

“It was real-time all the time, with twenty-four-hour global trades emerging, and through all this – seconds meant millions, and there was no tolerance for anything other than pin drop audio,” Walsh said. “There was too much money on the line for applications not to work perfectly.”

One day, while Walsh and his team were trying to figure out how they could run more copper under the trading floor, which was already a tangled mess of spaghetti wires, it occurred to him, “This thing called the Internet – combined with fiber optics – and IP protocol – and VoIP – could unlock enormous value. My thinking was transformed, and this led me to start up and sell several companies which simply made real-time communications better.”

Given the importance and value of real-time data exchange, Walsh predicts that the same model, applied to industrial modernization through connected machines (and people), will forever change the way products are made and used in the physical/digital world.

“There are billions of end-points flourishing on the Internet of Things, especially the Industrial Internet of Things, but we are only at the beginning,” Walsh said. “There is a false distinction between human and machine communications, and there are unlimited possibilities when it comes to Real-Time Communications (RTC), particularly as better software, new standards, and powerful platforms make embedded, contextual human and machine communications possible. Future factories will thrive with the right balance of automation and people, co-botting in an environment where machine data triggers decision-making that can help factories avoid shut-downs, safety incidents, and more. When machine data contributes to human insight, manufacturing, and servicing of distributed machines will simply be better.”

Walsh explained that machines and people continue to live in more intuitively bonded ways.

“We can do just about anything on our smartphones, and with the combination of more powerful and affordable devices, bigger and better networks, easier and still secure access through cellular, WiFi, mesh, and more, Industry 4.0 will flourish, especially with the growth of 5G networks and P-LTE.”

“Telecom” started with exchanges after the telegraph made information sharing possible (post offices, railway stations, newspapers, government agencies, and stock exchanges through the old “tickers.”) The telephone exchange organized all this through a “switchboard” which distributed signals beyond the point-to-point system.

“Fast forward to today,” Walsh said. “In the fiber optics, wireless networking and Internet protocol world, we have transformed beyond the initial voice peering exchanges in the soft-switched world, to incredibly sophisticated Internetworked Packet Exchanges (IPX) enabling billions of conversations per second to occur and ensuring network service providers are being paid. This has paved the way for economic and business models, as data from machines and humans is shared, through APIs and over many different types of edge-to-cloud applications.”

Just as the original telegraph and switched voice innovations gave rise to financial exchanges a hundred years ago, the Internet continues to give rise to the possibility to trade nearly everything online, and in the future, Walsh sees innovation in the low-latency, big data world that will allow for true factory automation across different geographic locations, which will take next-level infrastructure.

Walsh is particularly excited about the potential of the healthcare industry, including the capture of data through devices which measure heart rate, oxygen levels, insulin, and more, especially when the data that is generated by the devices are integrated with Electronic Medical Records and combined with contact centers that are staffed by doctors and nurses.

“This is a great example of how entire industries and millions of people’s lives can be improved when we combine device data with human interaction,” Walsh said. “All this leads to a radically new Human Connected Experience.

“Today, when we are born, we are connected. We are given a health record; we are given a social security number. For better or worse, we are monitored for everything for our entire life. We are hooked up to big data processing like IBM’s Watson, which can be constantly evaluating every human condition we experience. We can evaluate our genomes against likely defects and keep us in the safe zone. We are able to measure our overall health and interact with exactly the right doctors, health experts, fitness instructors… and more,” Walsh said.

As a pioneer in the telecom then technology industries, Walsh said, “the potential to produce better things in factories of the future requires us to think differently and invest in innovation. It’s not just about connecting machines or people. It’s about connecting machines and people. It’s about a cyber-physical world where data fuels value creation.”