Why did GE decide to build a single cloud-based platform-as-a-service specifically for industry?
Because industry demanded it.
GE realized every business was building some early stage of Internet of Things technology. The group that became GE Digital got the mandate to build it for the whole company.
That was the genesis of the secure, interoperable, and customizable platform Predix, which developers use to build software for tasks like pulling data from locomotives to ensure proper and efficient operations or tracking production flow on a manufacturing line. In fact, at GE’s Minds + Machines conference, the company announced that so far more than 270 companies joined the GE Digital Alliance, and some 19,000 developers were already building software on Predix.
Predix has attracted the attention of Forrester Research, which featured the platform-as-a-service in The Forrester WaveTM: IoT Software Platforms, Q4 2016 report. In particular, Forrester lauded GE’s “intense focus and history in the industrial market as a key differentiator over its competition.”
That history begins within GE itself.
Predix has its roots in the GE Software Center of Excellence, which was created in 2011 to address the flood of data coming from its industrial machines such as its jet engines.
Before Predix, GE wasn’t able to discern the signals it could have that would help improve quality of service to customers. Though generic, all-purpose platforms-as-a-service options existed, they couldn’t recognize the nuanced types of data from industrial companies, nor could they provide the level of security required. Industrial systems are important to the way the day-to-day world works.
GE, for example, wanted a deeper understanding of its customer support agreements in aviation. The initial step was to investigate how to best use sensor data collected from the jet engines, while also taking advantage of innovations in cloud computing to process massive volumes of data quickly and spit it back in real-time to give users information as needed.
But hacks that disrupt these systems can lead to loss of service for customers. There was an opportunity to exploit low-cost storage along with the ability to manage massive volumes of data, securely.
Other GE businesses saw the same opportunity.
A Highly Disruptive Environment
The creation of a cloud-based platform came at a time when other innovations were reshaping industry.
Amazon Web Services had established itself on the infrastructure-as-service front. IBM Bluemix is an example of a platform-as-a-service, yet room remained for specialized technology to be created. All these things were highly disruptive in terms of the way software is built. GE took a look at the industrial space and discovered that nobody was building a cloud-based platform for industrial environments.
GE Digital used the cloud-computing platform Cloud Foundry for Predix because allowed the engineers to focus on the security and extreme big data demands unique to industrial equipment.
Other platforms, not built specifically for industry, did not have the features needed to capture information that equipment operators require. For example, some industrial equipment remains in service for many years and no system existed that could track assets for 20 years. Addressing those needs cemented the usefulness of a software platform built with industry firmly in mind.
An Evolving Platform
About two years ago, as the platform evolved, the GE Digital team recognized that Predix would be very valuable for GE’s industrial customers as well. That led to a decision to open the doors and allow others to build new capabilities on the platform and create an app ecosystem.
That was a tough call for GE. While it allowed potential rivals to utilize the platform, it also invited a broader community to improve upon it. It was essential to allow startups to provide services on the platform, even if that might compete with services created by different entities inside of GE.
GE knew that opening the platform for others to use and build new capabilities would allow the platform the ability to work across different assets for each customer and then tie them all together. This is especially true in environments that use equipment from many different manufacturers. Predix became generally available in February of this year, and companies such as Schindler Group, a leading manufacturer of elevators, escalators, and moving walkways, use the platform to improve efficiency, reduce unplanned downtime with predictive analytics, and open up opportunity for new business models.
More and more third-party developers from GE’s extensive ecosystem of partners are building applications on Predix for their customers, furthering its potential. The early indication is the platform strategy is working and customers like the approach GE is taking.
Learn more about becoming a digital industrial with our Dec. 13 Webinar, Start Your Digital Transformation Now.