Total Pageviews

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

General Electric Adds to Its ‘Industrial Internet’

One of the most influential companies in high technology right now may be a 135-year-old industrial stalwart.

On Tuesday, General Electric announced software for what it calls “the Industrial Internet,” which means the use of sensors, networking technology, and data analysis to better understand and use large industrial processes like electric power production. It is the latest step in G.E.’s push to make the rest of the world’s equipment and systems operate more like the Internet.

“The rise of industrial big data is moving at twice the speed of other big data. That’s a great opportunity.” said William Ruh, the head of global software at G.E. “There’s all kinds of experiences that we’re going to create.”

One product was an enhanced data analysis framework, based on the Hadoop software used by Internet companies for Big Data analysis. Customers will use it to combine both historic and real-time information to build data-analysis applications to more efficiently manag industrial production.

The other is a kind of application software to help power companies figure out how to best build out and operate their turbines. By October, G.E. hopes to have similar applications out for railway, mining, and oil and gas companies.

G.E. also announced it is working with Amazon Web Services, offering its products to industrial customers over that public cloud. The Hadoop-based product, Mr. Ruh said, was a first part of a much larger platform for data gathering and analysis that G.E. plans to construct and use both internally and with customers.

Effectively, G.E. is taking the data-driven tools and strategies used by Google and Facebook to the much larger global economy. What tracking cookies in a browser do for understanding what Web ads to put in front of you, a turbine rich with sensors and complimentary software will do for better operating an electrical grid.

G.E. already manages more than 100 million data-gathering “tags” on its products, and f! oresees putting out far more than that while also collecting sensor data around the surrounding environment.

By 2020, GE figures, total spending on the Industrial Internet will be $23 billion. Better management of processes and understanding of systems will yield $1.279 trillion in value, the company said.

What G.E. does not yet have nailed is just how its new products will be used. The Hadoop-based analysis tool is for now tied to G.E. products, and the industrial application will be sold as its own product.

Late last year G.E. formed a joint venture with Accenture, called Taleris, designed to gather and analyze data from commercial aircraft, for airlines. More recently, G.E. invested $105 million in a company called Pivotal, which is building Industrial Internet software.

The different approaches may indicate how big ad pervasive a business G.E. considers the Industrial Internet to be. Mr. Ruh called it “one of G.E.’s top priorities.”

G.E. is not the only company looking to make the rest of the world like a Web company. Cisco Systems is in the middle of an “Internet of Things” strategy that involves selling software and services for a world rich in sensors. This is aimed more at things like traffic and water systems than manufacturing, however.

Also on Tuesday, Phillips announced an open-source competition to speed its product innovation. Phillips is also offering data-gathering connectivity in both its health care and lighting products, hoping to boost the efficiency of things like a patient’s medication adherence, or tuning lights to compliment the amount of available sunlight.

“Everybody know! s they’! ll need this technology, but they don’t know exactly what they’ll do with it yet,” said Mr. Ruh. He was speaking about G.E.’s customers, but he might also have been speaking about the companies connecting the world, and trying to figure out how best to profit.