2015 In Review: GE’s Digital Industrial Revolution
December 30, 2015
GE has been around for more than a century, but few years in its history have been as important for the future of the company as the one that’s just ending. GE started transforming itself into the world’s largest digital industrial company by selling GE Capital assets valued at more than $100 billion.
It also acquired Alstom’s power and grid business, the largest acquisition in GE’s history, launched GE Digital and opened its cloud-based software platform for the Industrial Internet, Predix, to the outside world. “We’re the only company that will have the machines, analytics and operating systems,” GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said in December. “That’s how we’ll play the Industrial Internet.” Immelt said GE’s biggest task in 2016 would be to “keep executing on the digital industrial strategy.” Here are the most important milestones and deals from 2015.
In April, GE Capital said it would sell assets valued at $200 billion by the end of 2017. As of December, the company has closed deals valued at more than $100 billion and signed transactions valued at $154 billion. In 2014, GE Capital successfully completed a public offering of Synchrony Financial shares. GE said a share exchange program following the IPO would contribute to the company’s effort to return more than $90 billion to shareholders through dividends and share buybacks. GE Capital will keep providing jet engine and infrastructure financing for airlines, utilities and other industrial customers.
In March, GE signed an agreement with the Egyptian government to supply the country with turbines and other technology capable of generating 2.6 gigawatts of power, enough to supply 2.5 million Egyptian homes. Some of the turbines were based on technology originally developed for jet engines like the CF6 engine above - the same kind that power many Boeing 747 jumbo jets. The electricity is much needed. Egypt’s economy is growing at 4 percent and its population is quickly expanding, too.
Much of Egypt’s new power generating capacity was in place before the summer heat set in. GE could move fast because of the GE Store, a concept that allows it to share and quickly transfer knowledge and technology across its businesses. The store holds everything from jet engine know-how to advanced materials and next-generation components like silicon carbide semiconductor chips (pictured above).
Last summer, GE launched GE Digital. The new unit will work closely with all GE businesses and help them and their customers take advantage of the Industrial Internet. One new solution is the “digital twin,” a virtual double of wind turbines, jet engines and even the human body animated with real-world data. Digital Twins will help customers predict and respond to problems before they get out of hand.
In September, GE launched Predix, a cloud-based software platform for the Industrial Internet, and opened it to outside developers. Predix is similar to iOS or Android, but built for machines. The platform allows developers to mine industrial data and write apps for everything from CT and MRI scanners to turbines and jet engines, gather insights and make the machines more efficient.
In October, GE launched Current – a startup that combines energy hardware with digital intelligence. Current’s intelligent LED street lamps can already see and hear things and measure air quality.
In October, GE Transportation signed a $2.6 billion deal to supply 1,000 locomotives to India. In 2015, GE unveiled the Evolution Series Tier 4 locomotive (above), the first freight train engine that meets the U.S. government’s strict Tier 4 emission standards.
In 2015, GE Aviation won $35 billion in orders and commitments at airshows in Paris and Dubai.
Textron Aviation, the world’s largest maker of business propeller planes like Beechcraft Bonanza, Baron and King Air, said in November it would use a brand new advanced turboprop engine developed by GE to power its latest single-engine turboprop plane. The engine burns 20 percent less fuel and produces 10 percent more power, compared to engines in its class. The agreement represented a major coup for GE Aviation. A mainstay in the commercial and military jet engine space, the company entered the turboprop space for business aviation only seven years ago, when Pratt & Whitney Canada dominated the market.
In December, GE Healthcare launched the Predix-powered Health Cloud. The cloud and apps will help doctors diagnose and treat everything from stroke to diabetes, and potentially transform healthcare.