If everything goes according to plan, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, throwing off terabytes of data every day. This huge digital menagerie will include everything from consumer gadgets like Apple Watches and Nest thermostats to jet engines and entire power plants.
There are already plenty of massive datacenters that store music, photos, workout information and other consumer data. But GE believes that industrial data, which is growing twice as fast as any other sector, needs its own secure, heavy-duty cloud that can hold and process information that’s not always in the best shape. “The data we’re storing is very different from a Facebook picture, which is pretty well defined,” says Harel Kodesh, vice president and general manager for GE’s Predix software platform at GE Software. “Some of the sensors on machines may not be working properly and their data is dirty. It needs to be cleaned, normalized, compressed and ingested in a secure and efficient manner.”
That’s why GE said today that it’s going to launch the first cloud service designed specifically for industrial data and analytics. “A cloud built exclusively to capture and analyze machine data will make unforeseen problems and missed opportunities a complication of the past,” Kodesh says.
GE’s software revenues reached $4 billion in 2014 and the company expects to get to $6 billion this year. GIF credits: GE Reports
Kodesh says that the Predix Cloud – GE calls it that because it’s built around its Predix software platform – will allow airlines, hospitals, oil companies and other users to quickly capture and analyze large volumes of many different kinds of industrial data – from 3D MRI images to locomotive exhaust data – in a secure environment. “The nature of the devices we’re dealing with is very different from tablets or smartphones,” he says. “They are often considered part of the critical infrastructure.”
The Predix Cloud is important since the volume of machine data is growing so fast and also because this fire hose won’t turn off anytime soon. According to estimates, businesses are planning to invest $60 trillion in the digital infrastructure over the next 15 years. Analyzing data faster and more efficiently in a secure space could save companies billions of dollars every year.
A 360-degree view of GE’s 9HA gas turbine. It can connect to the Industrial Internet. Image credit: GE Reports
Sham Chotai, chief technology officer for software at GE Power & Water, says the Predix Cloud has already allowed a Texas wind farm with 273 turbines to increase its annual energy production by 3 to 5 percent. That’s like adding 21 turbines, he says. “We are creating an environment that never existed before,” he says. “The Predix Cloud is a secure place, like a gated community. You have to be invited in. Our customers can take their apps there.”
The Predix Cloud will also allow users to handle data from different cloud environments, give access to app developers, but also silo data according to regulatory requirements. “It will unlock an industrial app economy that delivers more value to machines, fleets and factories,” Kodesh says. “It will enable a thriving developer community to collaborate and rapidly deploy industrial applications in a highly protected environment.”
Kodesh says that GE will start by building two data centers in the U.S. – one on each coast. It will then expand the cloud abroad to areas rich with connected machines. “Facebook doesn’t have the biggest footprint in the Middle East because there aren’t that many people,” he says. “But we will be there in full force.“