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GE opens up $1bn Predix IoT platform, adds Verizon M2M connectivity

Industrial giant General Electric has announced that its Predix IoT platform generated $1bn in revenue over the past year, and that it now plans to open up the platform to other companies in 2015, and has just launched the Predix App Factory to speed up developer’s deployments.

GE has also added Verizon as an M2M partner, who now joins AT&T in providing the global backhaul for the data generated by GE’s sensors. Verizon and GE plan to develop a single global SIM standard, but have yet to announce concrete timeframes or criteria. Intel and Cisco have also begun developing Predix ready devices. The announcement was made at GE’s Minds + Machines conference.

Predix is a software platform developed in-house by GE and targeted firmly at the Industrial Internet side of the IoT. It aims to provide a standard means of collecting and running industrial-scale data analytics. It can be deployed in a centralized cloud or on customer premises, which is then linked to the Predix software on the machines to collate the data they generate.

There are currently 40 industrial services on the Predix roster, and the platform gathers 50 million pieces of data from 10 million deployed sensors daily in a fleet of machinery worth over $1 trillion. These include 1.4 million pieces of medical equipment, 28,000 jet engines, 23,000 wind turbines, 21,500 locomotives, 20,700 pieces of oil and gas equipment, and 3,900 gas turbines.

The benefits brought to the table by this connectivity are intended primarily to save costs, by warning of required maintenance or failures ahead of time. This allows a company to act on the data, enabling them to send out an engineer to service the machinery or to repair a fault that could cause failure – an essential value-add service for GE customers running power plants or flying jets.

But this is not just about efficiency, or the chance to shape the industrial side of the IoT, as GE seems to be doing so far. It is also about hard cash. GE is well aware that, in time, there may be more revenue in the data all its pieces of metal generate, once they are connected, than in the machines themselves (and a machine such as an aircraft engine generates far more data than a smart thermostat). That explained last year’s $105m investment in EMC’s Pivotal big data division, and the creation of the IIC.

The App Factory is a tool that GE says will allow rapid prototyping and validating for the custom Predix applications, which will shorten development cycles from months to weeks. GE has already used the Predix App Factory in its Aviation wing, which merged data and analytics to flag real-time issues in over 30,000 jet engines.

GE also announced that it plans to use the Achilles security protocol as part of Predix to secure all devices and technology using the Predix platform. Achilles was brought into the fold after GE acquired Wurldtech earlier this year. The GE Software team, which Wurldtech belongs to, currently numbers 1,200 and works out of Silicon Valley.

GE said it will release a new Asset Performance Management (APM) tool for potential customers to use, which identifies areas in the business that would benefit from the connectivity and analysis afforded by Predix. Wurldtech’s new Achilles Next Generation Firewall (NGFW) features a GUI is designed to simplify management, while the unit itself scans for malicious traffic.

A number of new partnerships have also been announced. In addition to the Verizon deal, Softbank and Vodafone have also signed on to provide connectivity – giving GE an expansive global reach “with advanced connectivity services in virtually any geography.”

GE will undoubtedly try to use its position in the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) as leverage to push Predix in the IoT market. The IIC was founded by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel, and following these deals only IBM has not yet had some public involvement with Predix. Notably, new partner Verizon has not joined the IIC.

GE and Cisco are currently working on integrating Predix into Cisco’s networking gear, to allow collection and analysis of data at any point in a network – and not just at the heart of a cloud.

GE and Intel have also partnered to design a reference architecture for edge devices using Intel processors and the Predix software. The aim of that collaboration is to allow Predix to run in the gateways that will almost certainly act as coordinating hubs in the smart home and its industrial equivalents. This new design will be made available to gateway OEMs, and the two predict that the first products will make it to market early in 2015.

“By opening up Predix to the world, companies of any size in any industry can benefit from the investments GE made by eliminating the barrier to entry,” said Jeff Inmelt, GE’s CEO. He added that Predix was saving AirAsia $10m in fuel in 2014, thanks to Predix’s Flight Efficiency Services – and that the savings are expected to reach $30m in 2017. Another example provided by GE was E.ON, which has boosted the yield of its wind turbines by 4%, for an extra 40 GWh of energy each year.

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