A standard voice for Industrial Internet

11:33 | 12/12/2016
GE’s Predix platform, much like Microsoft or Android, gives Industrial Internet app developers common base services and features so that they do not have to start from scratch every time. By making it easier, the company is stepping up efforts to make Predix the language of the Industrial Internet.

Efficiency from predictivity

Imagine a train platform. It is a safe, secure, efficient, and reusable structure that allows people to easily board trains. It is also very scalable, allowing a single rider as well as a crowd to get on and off. It also provides other services, having kiosks where one can buy a ticket, a cup of coffee, and a paper, or even drop off and pick up dry cleaning. Without a platform, getting on the train would be pretty dangerous and it would require a lot of effort. It would be different every time, depending on the speed of the train and whether there is someone waiting to give others a hand.

In the tech world, a smartphone operating system, like the Apple iOS or Android, for example, is a platform. It can be used as a base to develop new applications that would enable users to do so many things safely and efficiently on their phone, like surf the internet, take photos, listen to songs or check emails, besides  the basic function of making a call. Many of these apps are like that dry cleaning kiosk: they provide a valuable service that makes people more efficient.

Like Google’s Android or the Apple iOS operating systems, Predix has a set of software services that help developers build apps for the Industrial Internet. Rather than running on a phone, Predix can be deployed in a data centre connected to data lakes and other forms of ‘big data’ storage. Alternatively, it can be in the cloud to make it more widely accessible and available. It can even be installed on machines, like jet engines, gas turbines, and locomotives - on these edge devices. It runs apps that allow operators to do big data analytics, monitor machines remotely, and have them ‘talk’ to each other. These applications of the Industrial Internet combine the physical and the digital to give powerful insights.

Information technology (IT) is a big family that includes desktops, laptops, servers, phones, and many other devices. Operational technology (OT), on the other hand, is the machines, the jet engines, MRIs, and turbines - consider it the world’s critical infrastructure - that can now communicate through the Industrial Internet. Bringing these two worlds together enables users to remotely monitor these machines, detect and adapt to changes, and predict future behaviour. Industrial apps, which run on the Predix platform, analyse data coming off machines, such as heat and vibration, and predict when an operator needs to perform maintenance or replace parts in their machines. As of now, GE has come out with an extended range of solutions across all GE industries and is on track to drive over $1 billion of value from them.

Moreover, to make the platform more powerful, GE has opened it up to allow customers and business partners to build their own applications on Predix.

A new edge

A year after opening the source code of Predix to outside companies, GE has unveiled the platform’s newest version, which comes with a new edge.

Rather than sending everything into the cloud, Predix System can start running analysis directly on the machines, at the ‘edge’ of the system, and give industrial companies the ability to install machine apps at the physical location they are needed – from the smallest medical device to a controller, a network gateway or router – ultimately connecting to the cloud. This means that programmes can run faster and machines can quickly use the analysed data to alert operators when there is an issue. 

“The edge is the place where the cloud meets the customer environment,” said Gytis Barzdukas, vice president and head of product management for Predix at GE Digital. In the future, elevator supplier Schindler could theoretically put a small computer in each elevator to analyse data on the spot and immediately make necessary corrections. Instead of waiting for Predix analytics on centralised computers to optimise operation, users will now be able to run the system’s 100 apps at the machine level.

GE has already spent $1 billion on developing Predix. Over the coming year, the company will invest more to use the new edge features to advance the platform’s machine learning capabilities, so that machines can use algorithms to become more efficient on their own.

Today, 20,000 developers are building apps on the Predix platform, with India now the second-largest user base after the US, said Barzdukas. GE is also working with partners, such as Accenture, AT&T, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte Digital, Infosys, Intel, Genpact, SoftBank, Softtek, TCS, Vodafone, and Wipro, who are training their own developers to build apps for Predix. More than 100 applications have been developed on Predix, and customers around the world use data and analytics on Predix to improve operations, increase productivity and drive new revenue streams.

Nearly 50 micro-services are available for developers , such as time-series databases and block-chain-based security features, that make it easier to create apps. In the coming year, Barzdukas said, GE will make these developer tools more visual, so that they are easier to use.

GE has trained an additional 3,000 systems integrator partners over the past year. It has also launched a new programme for independent software vendors that will serve as a force multiplier for Predix, extending its reach further and opening new revenue streams for GE. Inaugural launch partners include Box, Decisyon App Composer, Entercoms, Ericsson, Mobideo, Nurego, Pitney Bowes and OAG Analytics. “The opportunities for Predix-based solutions are almost unlimited,” said Dave Barlett, chief technology officer at GE Aviation. “We want Predix to become the Android or iOS of the machine world. We want it to become the language of the Industrial Internet.”

By By Thanh Ngoc

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