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Machine Code: Big Data Lands GE on MIT Review’s Smart List

Massachusetts Institute of Technology has educated some of the sharpest engineering minds and its magazine, MIT Technology Review, reports on the latest advances from the intersection of innovation, technology and business. The Review’s editors released on Monday its annual global list of the 50 smartest companies “that have displayed impressive innovations in the past year.” Their list includes GE for the third time in a row.

“It might sound difficult to define what makes a smart company, but you know one when you see it,” writes deputy editor Brian Bergstein. “When such a company commercializes a truly innovative technology, things happen: leadership in a market is bolstered or thrown up for grabs. Competitors have to refine or rethink their strategies.”

The Industrial Internet, an emerging digital network that links people and machines with data and software, is a whole new universe of disruptive technologies, and the editors recognized GE for investing $1.5 billion in the space. They also noted that GE’s “use of big data and sensors could help revive manufacturing.”

The Industrial Internet is changing the way we live, making everything from airlines to hospitals and power plants operate faster and more efficiently. These gains could add between $10 and $15 trillion – the size of today’s U.S. economy – to global GDP over the next 20 years.

GE’s Grid IQ system, for example, combines diverse sets data from transformers, smart meters, the weather service and social media like Twitter to help utilities predict and prevent power outages. Another system, Agile Trac, is already tracking patients, doctors and medical equipment in hospitals. It can also monitor caregiver behavior like hand washing. The American Journal of Infection Control estimates that 20 to 40 percent of all hospital-acquired infections are transmitted to patients by hospital employees.

GE has launched two dozen Industrial Internet technologies since fall 2012. The 10 products released in 2012 brought in $290 million in revenues and another $400 million in orders during the first 12 months.

Last week, Fast Company also included GE on its list of most innovative companies. “General Electric is best known for its machine making,” the magazine wrote, “but it’s gotten smart and branded itself as a big-data company, too, by pushing its vision for an “Industrial Internet”—the notion that machines should be connected like the web in order to increase efficiency and reduce downtime.”

Last year, a group of directors who either won or were nominated for Oscar made short films that illustrate Industrial Internet applications in air travel, medicine, and electricity distribution. Take a look.

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