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GE lures allies for Predix industrial internet dominance

Global manufacturer GE has established a partner programme for its Predix platform to drive the value of analytics across the industrial internet

Global manufacturer GE has used Mobile Wold Congress to flesh out Predix, its industrial internet analytics platform, with the launch of a partner programme bringing on board major system integrators and consultancy firms.

The programme represents the first step in GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s strategy to turn GE Digital, the company’s software arm, into a top 10 software business by 2020.

Hitting this goal depends on establishing Predix as a major analytics platform for industrial applications.

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, GE Digital developed Predix internally and it is now being used across the company’s business operations.

The partner programme, called the GE Digital Alliance Program, aims to build a digital industrial ecosystem across global systems integrators (SIs), independent software suppliers, telecoms service providers and technology providers.

The programme offers participants access to sales, marketing and technical resources from across GE Digital, as well as digital tools, training and enablement, online content and assets, Predix certification, developer sandboxes and joint deal registration. There are also specific benefits based on contribution level, according to GE Digital.

Partnered up

Accenture, AT&T, Cisco, SoftBank and Vodafone have already partnered with GE Digital. At Mobile World Congress the company announced more strategic alliances, including with Intel, Infosys, TCS, Deloitte Digital, Softtek and Wipro. GE Digital is also readying a deal with Capgemini for the SI to build a team of 200 to support the internet of things (IoT) on Predix. TCS plans to train 1,000 engineers on the platform, while Wipro said it would train 500. 

According to analyst Gartner, the analytics needed for IoT applications is very different to traditional business intelligence (BI). In its report on the top 10 IoT technologies for 2017 to 2018, Gartner noted: “The data collected from ‘things’ may involve new data types and analysis algorithms. Time-series data is very common, demanding filters and Fourier transforms. A growing range of ‘things’ are location-aware, demanding geographic information processing. IoT analytics therefore needs new tools such as high-volume event stream platforms, the ability to operate on new data types, new technologies such as machine learning, and new architectures where analytics is distributed throughout the network of things.”

Read more about Predix

The analyst firm warned that traditional BI and analytics staff may lack skills in areas such as streaming analytics and time-series data. It also considered IoT platforms as an immature and extremely volatile market.

One of the drivers behind GE’s partner programme for Predix may indeed be to establish its platform and expertise for the analysis of industrial data produced by internet-connected machines.

Denzil Samuels, head of global channels and alliances at GE Digital, said: “If you are making bets on platforms and who will win, GE Digital is a $5bn startup. We are not just building a software platform, we also build machinery. We know these products. Our unique proposition is the software and the machinery.”

The value of open

Openness is key to any successful ecosystem. The technology giants like Apple, IBM and Microsoft encouraged third parties to support their hardware and software even though they were developing hardware or software add-ons to core products.

This openness can be a challenge for traditional industrial organisations where the proprietary nature of the equipment has previously boosted the business. However, Samuels said there has been a cultural shift taking place at GE: “If any manufacturer wants to come on board, they are welcome to join.”

Samuels argued that since Predix is based on Pivotal Cloud Foundry and open source technologies, it is open and built on an open source stack.

Could the partner programme water down the unique services that SIs have developed for different industry sectors? “If they didn’t see an opportunity, the SIs wouldn’t use Predix,” Samuels said.

Accenture, for instance, has collaborated with GE Digital on Intelligent Pipeline Solution to enable pipeline operators reduce the potential for unforeseen events by prioritising where resources are best applied.

While Amazon dominates the consumer cloud and Salesforce has the enterprise cloud wrapped up, the industrial cloud has huge potential for the SIs, according to Samuels. “In the industrial cloud, there is no dominant player, so the partners can build a sizeable presence,” he said.

Standards wars 

However, given the immaturity of the IoT platform market, analyst Gartner predicted the emergence of multiple IoT standards and alliances. It warned: “Many overlap, most are immature, and in areas where there is considerable commercial potential such as the smart home, it’s likely that the battles between standards and ecosystems will persist for three to five years.”

With Watson, IBM is one of the organisations in a position to compete with the Predix platform. Samuels said he does not regard IBM as a competitor: “IBM cannot compete because they don’t have expertise in industrial machinery like power plants.”

In fact, Samuels believes GE Digital has an advantage over rivals both in the industrial and software markets, since it now offers expertise that bridges both spheres. But as Gartner’s Top 10 IoT Technologies for 2016 and 2018 report notes, the market for IoT platforms is immature, and so is likely to change significantly over the next few years.



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