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Digital Energy

Knowledge Is Power: It Takes More Than Software...

Steven Martin
August 15, 2018
In the time it takes the average person to read this sentence, 36 petabytes of IoT data, (an amount roughly equivalent to 720 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text) will be created. That number will double by the end of 2019. During lunch today (for those fortunate enough to take lunch), GE Power Digital’s software will successfully manage 864 million kW hours of electricity (enough to power the city of Atlanta…for 2 months). Each of our 1200+ customers add many terabytes of data to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) pool every day.
In spite of that staggering volume, we are still at the very beginning of the IIoT revolution and GE's commitment to this space deepens every day. The size and the importance of the power market ensures there will be substantial competition, and let me say, in my best Gordon Gekko voice, "Competition is good." Competition ensures a high bar for success and guarantees solutions exceed market needs.

Driving additional efficiency across the electricity network will continue to be a significant area of focus for the industry, and IIoT plays a huge role in that. Simply put, energy will be underpinned by hardware that sets records for efficiency through software that optimizes that hardware individually and across networks that serve billions of people.

But these solutions, similar to what we are doing with an important customer in India, are just the beginning. Noted author Dr. Michael Webber often says, "Today is the easiest day we will have in our industry for the foreseeable future." Anyone who works in this space knows just how much has changed in the last few years and how much more will change over the years to come.

Delivering outcomes to this market requires three very specific things: first-hand domain knowledge, operational systems, and a scalable platform.

First-hand domain knowledge of the hardware used across the power ecosystem is paramount. In short, the closer you are to the engineers who design and optimize the hardware, the better off you are. Some may attempt to argue that this knowledge can be genericized. This is absurd. It’s like trying to argue that you don’t need doctors because the path of disease is understandable. In medicine, it’s the expertise and ability to diagnose what’s really happening that cures the sick. Similarly in our industry, deciphering signal from noise creates value and underscores the importance of the profession. Today and every day we will run over 900,000 analytics on the world’s largest fleet of gas turbines under management across 60 countries, covering 350 million peopleWe can do it because of the peerless amount of expertise accumulated by people who have spent their entire careers building and optimizing this hardware.

Access to operational systems is equally critical. The software and controls that drive generation, transmission and distribution are the backbone of the energy network. Keep in mind that over 40 percent of all electricity on earth is managed by GE software at some point in its lifecycle; extending from the power plant to your power socket. For example, being identified as a leader in emerging spaces like distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS)* reflects GE’s decades of operational experience as well as a commitment to invest in the future. These systems know more about the state of the network than any other resource. As result, they are increasingly becoming the source of data for optimization.

Being tied directly to this layer of software isn’t just about knowing the state of the system, it also gives you the ability to “close the loop” and do something about it. Optimization solutions that aren’t logical extensions of this layer are, at best, recommendation engines lacking richness and the ability to act.

 width= Top image: New York Power Authority, the largest state public utility in the United States, opened a 25,000-square-foot digital “mission control” center, in White Plains, New York, last December. Image credit: NYPA. Above: Delivering outcomes to the energy market requires three very specific things: first-hand domain knowledge, operational systems, and a scalable platform. Image credit: GE Reports.

Being able to identify opportunities for optimization is one thing. Being able to do something about it is something else altogether. Automating changes so that they happen as part of a fully secure, fail-safe, closed-loop process takes this capability from the realm of a science project to a solution that creates real business value.

Finally, the third area, a scalable platform, has been a topic of often sensationalized conversation. Customers across the IIoT world have seen a lot of evolution in this area, and more will come.

Today, most GE Power Digital’s customers have solutions that sit inside private networks isolated from the internet. Our platforms are required to run for years and years without interruption as they serve the most reliable and mission-critical networks ever created. Many of our customers are required to take this route due to regulatory controls, which are in place for good reason.

That said, we have no doubt that in the fullness of time, more solutions will leverage public cloud infrastructure. Cloud providers are clearly aware of this trend and are increasingly building tool kits, PaaS (Platform as a Service) components, and SaaS (Software as a Service) components to address these needs. We completely expect, want, and embrace this evolution. Even more to the point, we look forward to leveraging public cloud technologies as a backbone for solutions that require 100 percent up-time.

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – we’ll leave the competitive gamesmanship to others and focus instead on what our customers and the industry need. GE Power will continue to offer performance guarantees at a level that only someone with domain expertise can, and we will stand behind them financially. We will continue to make sure that our platforms are rock solid and offer customers a full set of options for cloud, edge, and on-premises deployments. To be absolutely clear, we will ensure that our customers have the safest passage, on the largest boat, as we collectively traverse this sea of change. 

Steven Martin is the chief digital officer of GE Power. This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn.

*Source: IDC MarketScape: North America Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems 2018 Vendor Assessment, doc #US41793416, July 2018