Ford, Siemens Make Google Earth an Industrial Tool

One of the interesting trends of this decade is the drive to use consumer technologies everywhere, from cars and airplanes to manufacturing sites. The huge investments fuel many rapid advancements that can often be ruggedized or otherwise altered to meet demanding industrial requirements.

Siemens and Ford took the idea to new heights this week, adding Google Earth to the tools used to link manufacturing operations.

But Siemens IntoSite™ software, which leverages Google Earth, lets Ford employees add pins, similar to Google Maps, that let them upload videos, documents and images, and navigate through plants down to individual workstations. That can eliminate the need for file sharing sites now used for large files that are often needed for industrial communications.

Ford managers note that many employees use Google Earth for personal navigation and other tasks, so training won’t be a huge time requirement. This is yet another way that consumer technologies like smart phones and tablets are rapidly transforming the manufacturing environment. Google Earth isn’t going to cause many overnight changes in the electronics supply chain. But its adoption highlights the ongoing integration of mainstream technologies in manufacturing facilities that once said the Ethernet would never play a role in industrial environments.

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