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GE Blazes Trail to Industrial Internet

By Jeffrey M. Kaplan
Aug 14, 2015 5:00 AM PT
ge-internet-things-iot-industrial

The Internet of Things market has been struggling to get untangled, despite the hype regarding unprecedented business opportunities.

GE's latest initiative to capitalize on those IoT opportunities might be the catalyst many corporate executives have been waiting for to advance their own goals.

GE has been in the vanguard of efforts to fortify the Web -- to build a new, more scalable and secure Industrial Internet.

It started the Industrial Internet Consortium a year and a half ago, with the goal of bringing together various industry players -- including multinational corporations, leading technology vendors, academic institutions and government agencies -- to accelerate the development, adoption and use of Industrial Internet technologies.

Among the first to join the IIC were AT&T, Cisco, IBM and Intel. The IIC has grown to include 167 members from 24 countries.

Power of 1 Percent

The IIC in March announced its first energy-focused testbed: the Communication and Control Testbed for Microgrid Applications. IIC members Real-Time Innovations, National Instruments and Cisco launched the project in conjunction with CPS Energy, Southern California Edison, Duke Energy, and the power industry's Smart Grid Interoperability Panel.

The IIC in June released the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture, which provides a common language for the Industrial Internet system elements, and maps the relationships between them. The purpose of this reference architecture is to help developers decide which elements they need for their systems, and to encourage faster delivery of IoT implementations.

GE has been moving even more quickly to strengthen its position in the Industrial Internet and IoT markets. It has made a big bet on its GE Software development efforts to redefine its business; made a US$105 million investment in Pivotal -- an independent big data company spearheaded by EMC; and has made a concerted effort to evangelize the virtues of IoT.

In particular, GE has been promoting "the power of 1 percent" -- the idea that a small improvement in operating efficiency or reduction in costs can translate into a big increase in revenue and profitability.

Prime IoT Position

GE now aims to turn those ideas and investments into Predix Cloud, a new money machine. GE recently introduced a new Platform as a Service offering that enables enterprises to capture and analyze machine data generated across a global network in a scalable and secure fashion via an industrial-strength cloud environment.

The PaaS is built on Pivotal's open Cloud Foundry platform for application development and deployment. It runs on Amazon Web Services' low-cost Infrastructure as a Service.

The company is hoping that its Industrial Internet PaaS will attract a bevy of established and emerging developers of new IoT solutions that solve various vertical market requirements across an assortment of industries.

Expect GE to roll out an app store for the solutions built and delivered via Predix Cloud. The online marketplace could become an important clearinghouse of Industrial Internet solutions, and put GE in a prime position to monitor enterprise buying behavior and promote its own IoT capabilities.

Challenges Ahead

Of course, GE still faces plenty of organizational, operational and marketing challenges. It plans to reorganize many of its business units to fulfill its promises. It also must implement a new set of software development and e-commerce systems to facilitate the developers and enterprises that want to take advantage of the Predix Cloud.

GE will have to shift its corporate culture to transform its operations from an industrial manufacturing company to an entrepreneurial IoT software provider.

Those are not easy tasks, and plenty of companies have failed attempting to achieve far less. However, GE's new initiative at the very least can be expected to encourage more enterprise decision-makers to move forward with their IoT efforts.


Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace, and host of the Cloud Innovators Summit executive forum series. He can be reached at jkaplan@thinkstrategies.com.


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