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I Predix a riot – of machine to machine activity

Nick Booth explores the industrial Internet of Things and asks if GE's Predix cloud platform could improve productivity and maybe even save lives

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: September 2015

I hope the Internet of Things gets to the point a lot quicker than the bottom sniffing executives, yes men and cliché repeaters that form the human chain of command in many corporations. Good grief, the time and money they waste is obscene.

Take this gem, from Europe’s largest employer, the NHS, which we are constantly told is hamstrung by limited resources. This is how an initiative, to fine tune doctor-patient communications, is described.

“You will ensure that stakeholders play a key part in designing, re-configuring, commissioning and evaluating local health services. This will be achieved by meaningful two-way engagement and communication with patients, clinical commissioning group member practices, strategic partners, the third sector and people living in Wirral.”

Not exactly a clear set of instructions is it? If you came in to work on Monday morning, and saw that on your desk, would you know what to do? What action would you take? Personally, I never trust anyone who uses the word engagement. It doesn’t mean anything.

GE, a specialist in machine to machine communication, claims to have built a cloud platform that can underpin the automation of heavy duty industries like aviation, energy, health and transport. It has entered the cloud services market with Predix Cloud which is designed to handle the industrial data that comes from an estate of life support machines, ECGs, scanners, X-Rays and all the other big number (and bone) crunching machines spread across a regional health authority.

Research, conducted in person by this column, indicates that British hospitals are not cohesively run at all, despite the tens of billions invested in technology and ‘IT consultants’. Massively expensive scans are lost, and the processes repeated, X-Rays deleted, appointments mixed up and highly expensive neurologists are left to sit twiddling their thumbs. The NHS loses an estimated £2 billion a year (according to my research) because the inter-personal communication is so abysmal. They’re too busy cutting and pasting clichés about ‘patent engagement’ to actually speak to each other and work effectively.

So, if we can cut all these buffoons out of the process, the NHS could save mega millions. But could Predix cloud cut waiting lists and improve productivity and maybe even save lives?

The general idea is to get machines sharing information more efficiently, and for humans to make more sense of it, says Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE. Predix Cloud will create asset connectivity, machine data support and industrial-grade security and compliance, he promises.

I’m not convinced yet. We need some brilliant channel players to get in there and start making things happen. There must be someone in the G-Cloud who knows their way around a hospital and can get all that expensive technology delivering what was originally promised, surely.

“GE’s Predix Cloud will unlock an industrial app economy that delivers more value to machines, fleets and factories - and enable a thriving developer community to collaborate and rapidly deploy industrial applications in a highly protected environment,” says Harel Kodesh, general manager of Predix at GE Software.

Those lost X Rays and body scans (which I have seen first hand) could be a good place to start making savings. Files are so massive that some healthcare providers still share patient images on CDs, says our contact at GE. (At my local hospital they just delete them and deny they existed.)

Delivery of large object data like a 3D MRI image to a doctor for diagnosis is an example of the kind of machine data the Predix Cloud was built to store, analyse and manage in real time, says GE.

Sounds good. The machines can be fine tuned. The human chain of command could be a lot more difficult to fine tune though. Now that really would be a difficult engagement.

Engagement! Good grief, I’m saying it now.  

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