General Electric Digital conducted its Minds + Machines event this week which featured several significant announcements related to efforts directed at GE’s concept of the Industrial Internet and GE Digital’s Predix System.

On the product front GE unveiled its next release of Predix that will now include a distributed computing at the edge feature. Instead of unilaterally sending volumes of machine sensory data directly to the Cloud, Predix Edge provides an option to perform analytical analysis of such data either at the physical device itself, a local controller, or a network gateway, prior to transmitting data and information to the Cloud.  The benefit of this feature rests with machines and devices that support safety conscious use where a severe fault would cause serious consequences and where remediation reaction time is critical.  Picture a physical jet engine or a locomotive not only streaming operational data but in some cases, analyzing such data at the source with the ability to adjust or fix abnormal conditions.

An important metric for uptake of any new operating systems is the number of Independent Software Vendors (ISV’s) along with outside developers who are building applications. GE Digital now indicates that after one year after opening Predix to the broader industrial community, there are now more than 19,000 of such developers.

In addition to technical updates, a series of industry focused IoT applications were announced focusing on areas such as optimizing energy use in lighting, HVAC and other systems, an Asset Performance Management application that provides continuous inspection data for the oil and gas sector, and a new release of Digital Power Plant software for various forms of power plants to help customers to reduce unplanned downtime or reduce false positive alerts. For healthcare, GE has expanded partnerships focused on its Health Cloud area in areas of what are described as deep learning, collaboration and analytics to improve patient outcomes.

There were mentions of ongoing IoT focused customer adoption including names such as BP, Excelon, NEC Corporation and Teledyne Controls. One of the more interesting adoptions was that of the Port of Los Angeles which is partnering with GE Transportation to pilot what is being described as the first of its kind information portal that makes shipping data from today’s supermax container vessels available to cargo owners and transportation operators through secure, channeled access. Data will include that from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) system.

Another very newsworthy development from GE this week was its continuing efforts in acquisitions of other technology firms to augment its IoT development strategies. On Monday came the announcement of the acquisition of field service software support provider ServiceMax for a reported $915 million. What makes this acquisition somewhat more significant was that ServiceMax and PLM and IoT provider PTC had initiated a strategic partnership in the middle of 2015 in which both companies would collaborate on integrated products that would combine modern field service management with connected device management leveraging PTC’s ThingWorx. Where this strategic alliance stands after the GE Digital acquisition remains an open question.

Other acquisitions that were announced this week included that of Bit Stew Systems, positioned to bring deeper data intelligence capabilities to Predix and other Industrial Internet applications. GE Digital also acquired, a machine learning and intelligent systems provider. These new acquisitions augment other acquisitions of Meridium and Wurldtech.

In a Supply Chain Matters posting in June that reported on GE Digital’s mid-year report of progress, we noted that GE is clearly an industrial company that is fostering a software industry type culture of fast innovation and acquisition of advanced technology to maintain market momentum and dominance.  The uniqueness is in being an industrial equipment manufacturer, a multi-industry specialist presence and now a technology provider that is tracking to software revenues of more than $7 billion in 2016.

The industrial conglomerate elected to begin efforts to move its corporate headquarters from pastoral central Connecticut to Boston’s seaport tech district principally to foster an overall culture of fast innovation. GE is in a race among other enterprise technology providers, systems integrators and industry platform providers, an IoT focused race that presents differing roles of partner, equipment operator, developer, maintainer and perhaps key competitor.

Like previous market inflection points such as Client-Server, ERP, RFID, Cloud and now IoT, the race is on, and rather than a sprint, it is a marathon that features many hills and valleys and changes along the route. Only this time, the make-up now includes a very interesting new player, one’s that lives, breathes and practices industrial networks, equipment maintenance, services and understanding of asset management.

Bob Ferrari

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