It’s been a year since GE opened Predix, its operating system for the Industrial Internet, to outside companies. Since then, it has enabled engineers to write apps, harvest data from trains, planes, power plants and other technology and send that data to the cloud for analysis. For example, Schindler Group, one of the world’s biggest elevator companies, is using Predix to optimize power consumption of its elevators and escalators.
The next release of Predix, which GE just unveiled at its annual Minds+Machines conference in San Francisco, comes with a new edge. Literally. Rather than sending everything into the cloud, the Predix Edge System can start running analysis directly on the machines, or at the “edge” of the system — and gives industrial companies the ability to place machine apps anywhere they need to be, from the smallest medical device, to a controller, a network gateway or router, ultimately connecting to the cloud. This means that programs can run faster and machines can quickly use the analyzed data to fix themselves. “The edge is the place where the cloud meets the customer environment,” says Gytis Barzdukas, vice president and head of product management for Predix at GE Digital.
In the future, Schindler could theoretically put a small computer in each elevator to analyze that data on the spot and immediately make any needed corrections. Instead of waiting for Predix analytics on centralized computers to optimize operation, Predix users will now be able to run the system’s 100 apps at the machine level.
GE has already spent $1 billion developing Predix. Over the coming year, the company will invest more to use the new edge features to advance the machine-learning capabilities of Predix so that machines can learn to become more efficient on their own.
Today, more than 19,000 developers are building apps on the Predix platform, with India now the second largest home to Predix developers after the United States, says Barzdukas. GE is also working with partners such as Accenture, AT&T, Capgemini, Cisco, Deloitte Digital, Infosys, Intel, Genpact, SoftBank, Softtek, TCS, Vodafone and Wipro. They are training their own developers to build apps for Predix.
Barzdukas says developers today can access 43 software building blocks — or microservices such as time-series databases and blockchain-based security features — that make it easier for them to create apps. In the coming year, he says, GE will make those developer tools more visual, so that they are easier to use.