GE's Planned Industrial Internet Platform Shows Promise, Faces Hurdles

G00254877

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Summary

GE announced its platform and vision for strategic transformation through industrial data and analytics. GE’s ambitious plan could pay off if it can surmount internal cultural challenges and satisfy existing customers.

News Analysis

Event

On 20 June 2013, GE announced a new Proficy Monitoring & Analysis Suite for Hadoop-based industrial big data management and analytics. Two days earlier, GE announced its planned "Industrial Internet Platform,” linking GE’s products and sensors with analytic applications built with components from new ecosystem partners.

Analysis

Responding to competitive pressure from other global automation software vendors, GE plans to “digitalize” real-time data streams from GE machines into new offerings by enabling cloud-based predictive analytics and linking its ecosystem of service partners. As machine-generated data increases, GE intends to advance its manufacturing and services leadership into software leadership by creating a platform that bridges operational technology (OT) sensor data with equipment service history, inspection details and other unstructured data for actionable insights. For example:

  • Airlines can use big data analytics to predict maintenance issues, cut operating costs and improve on-time rates.

  • Utilities can analyze combustion turbine data with weather details to optimize asset performance against emissions constraints and fuel cost changes.

GE's partners include Amazon for cloud infrastructure, Pivotal (in which GE recently invested $105 million) for Hadoop-based cloud abstraction and brokering, and Accenture for industry-specific analytic solution delivery. Key components of GE’s planned Industrial Internet solution include:

  • A new Proficy HD version of its real-time historian product, adding Hadoop cluster support for improved scalability, analytics and unstructured data

  • A new Proficy Knowledge Center asset management application featuring asset modeling, role-based collaboration and visualization

  • A cloud-hosting application platform, available initially on GE's cloud and Amazon Web Services with planned deployment on other cloud providers

  • Pivotal’s Pivotal One platform-as-a-service framework for cloud independence (planned for 4Q13)

  • A new "Predictivity" family of industry-specific, data-driven software solutions

This move is both ambitious and necessary for GE, which is well-positioned to provide leadership in this area given its deep machine know-how, historical operational data, industry expertise and service partner ecosystem. GE turbines, jet engines, locomotives and medical devices generate slews of diagnostic data. Transforming technologies in its internal monitoring centers into an external, cloud-based platform will position GE to compete with, and possibly surpass, smaller, nimble competitors.

To execute this vision, GE must overcome several challenges:

  • Moving its applications and customers to the new platform will take time and a more detailed road map than GE has shared to date.

  • GE faces stiff industrial-analytics competition. Rivals such as ABB, Schneider Electric and Rockwell Automation are pursuing similar software/data-centric paths. IT and software firms such as IBM, SAP, SAS and OSIsoft are also expanding their partner ecosystems for collaborative insight from OT data.

  • GE must satisfy IT expectations, appeal to OT stakeholders, fit with industrial customers' multivendor environments and facilitate process change (within GE and its customers), all of which will take time and effort.

  • Some companies may be reluctant to share operational data (a cultural change for many industrial sectors) to gain full optimization benefits.

Recommendations

  • GE software customers: Ask GE about its plans and technical road map for migrating solutions to the new platform and pricing.

  • Potential GE partners: Examine opportunities — and formulate strategies — to join GE's ecosystem and take advantage of the investments it is making to develop and lead in this space.

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