Chief digital officer at General Electric and CEO of General Electric Digital, Bill Ruh, is betting big on continued growth in the industrial internet of things to ensure the company's cloud platform, Predix, is the de facto option for businesses that produce heavy machinery.
With some estimates for industrial internet of things (IIoT) spending nearing the $12.4 billion mark in 2015 alone, there's plenty of room for capitalising on managing and maintaining these connected assets. The sector is only set to grow, as the world hurtles towards becoming a completely connected planet - where every feasible 'thing' will be able to speak to and learn from one another.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Chuck Miller
Predix is a platform as a service cloud designed for analysing and capturing industrial machine data, which companies can also develop onto - whether this is asset lifecycle maintenance or for developing applications to apply analytics in oil and gas.
It went to the general availability stage in February of this year, and signed up 18 new partners this quarter alone, including giants like IT services firm Tech Mahindra and predictive maintenance company KCF.
The platform is designed specifically to meet the security, scale and speed requirements of industrial businesses - Boeing, ConocoPhillips and Pitney Bowes are all customers.
This differs from traditional public cloud or enterprise platforms exactly because it is industrially focused, Ruh says, although Predix can work with any public cloud providers as long as they support Cloud Foundry, on which the platform is built.
But why would industrial organisations decide to develop with Predix over, say, AWS or other public providers? AWS and their ilk offer IoT cloud platforms themselves, although these are more general purpose than the industrial-first Predix. And because GE builds heavy machinery itself, it arguably understands what customers in the space require and want to develop on.
"It's the ability to put out and leverage asset management analytics, and it's uniquely focused on time series, the data that machines give out. Nobody else focuses on this in the same way at al," Ruh says.
"It's capability around monitoring, diagnostics, analytics, aimed at managing assets, plants, factories, fields, and we're continuing to add more in manufacturing, in the building and city realm, and in the asset performance management realm."
"[The customers are] Exelon, the energy company," he says. "It's Pitney Bowes, mailing machines. It's Toshiba and their elevators. It's LIXIL and their home goods products."
Security is also a major concern for heavy industry. While in the quaint old days malware was mostly associated with keystroke loggers and trojan horses, the ramifications today are significantly more profound.
The Stuxnet worm, for example, was used to shut down the nuclear centrifuges critical to Iran's nuclear programme. As the physical world becomes increasingly inseparable from the digital, it is more vulnerable than ever to attacks through software used to control it. More recently, we've seen attacks on energy grids, infrastructure and hospitals.
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