June 18, 2013, 6:52 PM — Internet tools are just starting to be applied to industrial tasks such as maintaining equipment and optimizing operations, but the wealth of data being produced by industrial systems could make this a major focus of development in the coming years.
On Tuesday, General Electric increased its bet on this proposition by introducing a cloud platform for data management and recruiting partners to help it serve industrial customers. At an event in San Francisco, GE and its partners, including Pivotal, Accenture and Amazon Web Services, laid out what they see as the opportunities and challenges.
The cutting edge of innovation in using data has shifted from the financial services sector to the consumer realm, and it's about to move again to the industrial sector, said Paul Maritz, CEO of Pivotal.
"It's the industrial space that really has to take the usage of data to a whole new level," Maritz said. Pivotal, a PaaS (platform as a service) company formed by VMware and EMC with an investment by GE, will develop cloud-agnostic industrial offerings in conjunction with GE. Also on Tuesday, GE announced an expanded relationship with Accenture to develop technology and analytics applications, plus a partnership with Amazon Web Services, which will be able to host GE's services.
Industrial equipment around the world, including jet engines, gas turbines and other products GE makes, can generate huge amounts of data that could be used to boost efficiency and prevent unexpected failures, said Bill Ruh, vice president of GE's Global Software Center. That data will grow at twice the rate of other types of information in the coming years, according to a study by research company Wikibon that was sponsored by GE. Transportation, manufacturing, health care and other sectors could benefit, GE says.
GE's new platform is designed to help enterprises collect and use data from many types of GE equipment, either on their own private clouds or on Amazon Web Services. As part of that platform, GE introduced Proficy Historian HD, a software tool for learning from real-time and historical data to improve industrial operations. The company built that software using the Hadoop distributed computing system because of its scalability.
Among other things, Proficy Historian can help enterprises interpret historical data going back a decade or more to predict and prevent equipment failures, said Brian Courtney, general manager of GE Intelligent Platforms.
"How do I understand if the equipment is telling me that a problem is minor today that's going to be major tomorrow?" Courtney said.
Combining and crunching different types of data can also yield other types of knowledge to act upon, GE said.