Few people can fathom the sheer size of the World Wide Web, the most visible part of the Internet where we shop, meet friends, read news and watch movies.
But the Web will soon be a minnow when compared to the immensity of the Industrial Internet, a fast-growing network connecting machines and devices of all types: from thermostats to thermal power plants.
GE spent $1billion over the last few years to develop Predix, a cloud-based software platform that has allowed GE to securely collect data from jet engines, gas turbines and MRI scanners, analyse it and then use the results to make them run better.
Last fall GE gave access to Predix to a select group of partners and customers like Pitney Bowes, which has used it to optimise massive mail machines that can sort 900 million letters in a year.
This morning, the company took the next step at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona and opened Predix to everyone. “Many companies are looking at what we are doing and they would like to do the same thing independent of GE,” says Harel Kodesh, chief technology officer of GE Digital and one of the architects of Predix. “To unlock the platform’s full potential, we knew we needed to allow developers outside of GE to get their hands on Predix. After all, where would the consumer app and solution ecosystem be without communities of external developers building for iOS, Android or Linux.”
GE also announced in Barcelona a new “digital alliance” with companies like Intel, Capgemini and Infosys, who see Predix as a revenue stream and a valid business opportunity.
“There is a huge amount of interest in the Industrial Internet and in the solutions we are offering,” Kodesh says. “People realise that GE is not just another random company that decided to be a software company. We bring something that goes beyond software. We bring the deep, intimate understanding of how the assets can become part of the Internet.”
Read our Q&A with Kodesh we conducted on the eve of the Barcelona announcements.
GE Reports: What is Predix?
Harel Kodesh: Predix is an operating system for the Industrial Internet. It’s not that different from the operating system that you have in your phone or your laptop. But it can handle a lot of data coming from a lot of places at once and keep it secure. We call the huge amount of data hyperscale. Predix also includes features that allow you to develop and run applications that are optimised for the Industrial Internet.
GER:How much data are you talking about?
HK: We have exabytes of data coming in every month. Keep in mind that as operating system plumbers, we do not tell our customers how to build their applications. In health care, for example, if you want to ingest an MRI image, you run 2 to 3 gigabytes per image. If you store tens of thousands of them, you do the numbers. I think that in the next five years, the Industrial Internet will break the zettabyte barrier, which is 1,000 exabytes. (In 2009, the entire World Wide Web contained 500 exabytes.)
GER:How is GE using Predix today?
HK: The GE Health Cloud is one application. It’s something the healthcare team created to support the distribution and manipulation of images. In the energy sector, we are helping Qatar’s RasGas run its liquefied natural gas plant. The digital system allows the operator to know much more about what’s happening in their shop. Most of our businesses are already using it, and we are starting to see the applications getting built. Mind you, this is a very young system, but the ramp-up rate is pretty steep.
GER:You have opened Predix to all users. Why?
HK: Marc Andreessen said that software is eating the world. We see a lot of software enhancements to what used to be industrial companies. In fact, many companies are looking at what we are doing and they would like to do the same thing independent of GE. At the same time, there is a broad spectrum of industrial applications, like running elevators, we would like to target that go beyond what GE is using. To unlock the platform’s full potential, we knew we needed to allow developers outside of GE to get their hands on Predix. After all, where would the consumer app and solution ecosystem be without communities of external developers building for iOS, Android or Linux.