The IoT & Embedded Technology Beat: with Steve Rokov of GE Digital

by Roy Murdock | 01/10/2017

This interview is part of an ongoing series VDC conducts with IoT and embedded software solution providers to share views on their company, products, and state of the market.



Steve joined GE in September 2015. He reports into GE Digital and is based in San Ramon, CA. He serves as the Core Product Marketing lead for Predix – the Industrial IoT Platform. As a ‘go-to-market’ expert, he has launched multiple products in the mobile and enterprise infrastructure markets. He has held senior roles in both public and private companies in the US and UK.

Exhibit 1: GE Digital and Predix Timeline


1) To get started, could you please explain how Predix came together within GE? Which assets did it draw upon and what was the impetus for its creation?

It’s probably useful to first set some context with a quote from our CEO Jeff Immelt: "If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you're going to wake up this morning as a software and analytics company.”
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djB6BmBda6Q)

GE is a 124-year-old company and the largest manufacturer in the US, with more than 300,000 employees worldwide. Increasingly, more and more of GE’s machines were being instrumented with sensors. For example, a new jet engine might have hundreds of sensors capturing a continuous stream of data about the heat of the engine, its fuel consumption, the wear of the blades, etc. In fact, one flight might generate a terabyte of data! But simply capturing “big data” from one engine is just the starting point. How could we do that across a fleet of engines? How can we allow (in this aviation example) our customers to reduce the time that engines spend “off the wing?” Additionally, how can we increase fuel savings by 1% (saving millions of dollars)? By doing those things, we can then help customers address more market-changing questions such as “How can we improve the way we fly?

So at GE we saw a tremendous opportunity to transform the company and take advantage of this digitization of our own – and others’ – machines and processes. And to do that, we had to do things differently. So we built Predix and deployed it in our own business, and now deploy it in our customers’ businesses.
We also formed a new, commercial business unit – GE Digital – to ensure that we could guide our GE internal and external customers and partners through this complex transition. We call this transition the “Digital Industrial Transformation” journey, and it’s a journey that we live every day. And at the center of that journey stands Predix.

2) How do GE Digital and Predix mesh into the overall portfolio of GE’s traditional, vertical-oriented business units (oil & gas, power, aerospace & defense, etc.)?

You can think of GE Digital’s capabilities as horizontal building blocks that can be “verticalized” by various GE businesses.

Those building blocks include:

  • Platform (Predix)
  • Products (HMI/SCADA, Cyber Security)
  • Apps (Asset Performance Management, Brilliant Manufacturing)
  • Technologies (Digital Twins, Machine learning)
  • Services (Data Science Advisory, Implementation, Managed)
  • IT (Digital thread)
  • An operating model that builds both culture (simplification and outcome-focused) and talent (Chief Digital Officers and agile developers)

Predix is being used across the entire GE business, for example:

  • Current, powered by GE: The digital energy management solution is designed to analyze and optimize energy use and operational efficiency use across lighting, HVAC and other systems.
  • GE Healthcare: GE Health Cloud is designed to integrate into clinical workflows while managing the volume, velocity and variety of healthcare data, and will be capable of connecting to more than 500,000 GE medical imaging machines.
  • GE Power: Digital Power Plant software for gas, steam and nuclear plants helps customers reduce unplanned downtime by up to 5%, reduce false positive alerts by up to 75%, and reduce operations and maintenance costs by up to 25%.
  • GE Oil & Gas: The Predictive Corrosion Management solution provides continuous inspection data and cloud-based analytics of pipe conditions to help operators manage corrosion-related risk, improve uptime, and minimize the total cost of operations.

3) What is GE Digital’s ultimate vision for the Predix platform? How do you know you are moving in the right direction towards this goal?

Our ultimate vision is for Predix to become the application development platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
It’s worth pointing out that the challenges of Industry are an order of magnitude more complex and critical than the consumer or enterprise-related Internet of Things (IoT). In fact we regularly point out that Predix is actually for the “Internet of really, REALLY important things” – jet engines, gas turbines, MRI scanners, and so on. Reliability, security, management, safety, and the velocity, variety and volume of data are all factors that are considerably different and more challenging because these machines are part of critical infrastructure.
There are a variety of milestones that we hold ourselves accountable to in order to ensure we are making forward progress on our journey, including:

  • Are we growing our base of co-innovators and the range of 3rd party capabilities that Predix can offer?
  • Do our customers build outcomes that matter by using technologies such as Digital Twins?
  • Are our employees becoming more agile by embracing simplification and constantly experimenting with our customers?
  • Are we “drinking our own champagne” on the plant floor in our own factories so we can learn and share those experiences with our customers?
  • Do we continually invest in the platform so our customers don’t have to – for example – acquiring technology and talent in areas such as Asset performance management (Meridium), Data ingestion and management (Bitstew) and Machine learning (wise.io)?

We also measure our success in growing a few key numbers – Number of Digital Twins (551,000), Number of assets under management (200,000), number of developers (21,000+), number of partners (200+), number of apps (100+), number of algorithms (100+) and so on.

4) Can you share a few examples of how some of your key customers are using Predix?

At Minds and Machines this year we shared some insights into how some of our customers are using Predix, For example:
BP and GE Oil & Gas announced the startup of Plant Operations Advisor (POA), a new digital solution designed to improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of BP’s oil and gas production operations. The global deployment is expected to be the largest-scale deployment of GE’s Predix-powered APM technology to date.
Exelon, a Fortune 100 energy company, has chosen GE’s Predix to accelerate its digital transformation. Exelon is the first GE Power customer to sign an enterprise software license, deploying GE’s entire suite of Predix solutions across the company’s 33GW nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar and natural gas facilities.
Schindler - More than one billion users rely on Schindler’s mobility solutions every day. Timely and efficient management of these assets is critical for safety and customer satisfaction. Schindler will leverage Predix, and GE’s proven digital industrial expertise to track their products and, through analytics, start predicting maintenance issues long before equipment fails – realizing savings by reducing unplanned downtime and maintenance costs.
UC San Francisco’s Center for Digital Health Innovation and GE Healthcare announced a partnership to create a library of algorithm-based apps to address multiple diseases, disorders and clinical procedures. The apps will be deployed worldwide via the GE Health Cloud and smart GE imaging machines.
Pitney Bowes uses Predix to power their new Industrial Internet software solution, Clarity. Clarity improves inserting and mail-finishing operations, and has helped Pitney Bowes lower costs and optimize machine performance.
A sample list of market-ready industrial apps powered by Predix can be found here.

5) In previous conversations with us, GE Digital has emphasized the hybrid nature of the Predix platform. Can you give us a better sense of the Predix architecture and explain why this might be important for customers?

It’s worth first looking at what challenges – and pain points – customers are facing in asset-centric/intensive organizations as they consider a platform for their transformation journey:

  • Improve monitoring / health functions as operations have been too reactive
  • OpEx/CapEx are high/out of control due to managing/implementing many point solutions
  • Inability to deliver a new level of customer experience
  • Need to disrupt their industry or desire to change business models/distribution channels (think Uber or Airbnb)
  • Interest in bridging gap between Operational Technology (OT) and IT due to loss of revenue/competitive pressure
  • Lack of innovation as valuable resources are tied up in the DIY/plumbing
  • Prolonged project timelines (increased costs, time-to-value, lost market opp) due to monolithic waterfall development approaches
  • Inability to leverage or reuse capabilities developed elsewhere (in the business and with 3rd parties)
  • Ineffective/time consuming data readiness (data ingestion, storage and management)
  • Lack of expertise in digital technologies/processes such as Data science, Machine learning and agile development

Predix is a comprehensive, purpose-built industrial platform that can be deployed from the edge to the cloud. It is built around a modular, services-based architecture - allowing development teams to take re-usable software building blocks and combine them to create complex applications. Microservices include: Predix Machine, data management (time series, asset modeling, analytics catalog & runtime), user account and authorization, access control, mobile, and UI/UX components.

Edge and cloud deployment models are complementary and typical industrial applications need both integrated into the platform.

Why a platform: Standardized way to build apps quickly, reuse work elsewhere, share best practices and reduce sources of error.

Why at the edge: Reduce latency for mission- or safety-critical features, adhere to regulatory compliance, or reduce costs to transfer data.

Why in the cloud: Take advantage of centrally managed and shared infrastructure and scale to meet changing workloads with capacity-on-demand.

This hybrid architecture distributes capabilities (for example data capture and analysis) where it makes sense – at the controller, in gateways, at the top of the rack or in the cloud – in order to maximize the benefits. We call this Predix System, and it has these features:

  • Provides the software architecture and services required to make any machine an intelligent asset, and to bring visibility, control, and analytic insights to every part of industrial infrastructure and operations.
  • Runs on a variety of operating systems, devices and form factors, from sensors and controllers, to gateways, server appliances, and the cloud.
  • Made available on a variety of hardware form factors available from GE and its partners. Customers can choose from a growing family of Predix-ready sensor hubs, gateways, and appliances at different price/performance and compute/storage capacities depending on where they need to deploy digital connectivity, control, and intelligence.
  • Includes the following components: Predix Machine, Predix Connectivity, Predix Cloud, Predix EdgeManager, related application, management, and security services, and a growing family of Predix-ready edge devices available from GE and our partners.
  • Available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who want to make their machines and devices “Predix-ready” as part of their manufacturing process. Once installed at a customer site, Predix-ready devices and equipment can be quickly connected to the Predix cloud, enabling manufacturers and their customers to immediately get the benefit of the visibility and operational insights that come from collecting and analyzing asset performance and utilization data.

6) What is your plan for attracting developers to the platform, and how can they get started with Predix?

Without apps, a platform doesn’t come alive. So developers are at the center of our success.

GE’s own transformation into a Digital Industrial started 5 years ago and required us to make many changes. We learned a lot in that process – and continue to do so. But I think what makes us stand out is that we want to share those learnings and best practices with industry at large.

So we’ve spent the past few years focusing on building that developer community:

  • We held the world’s first ever Industrial IoT developer conference this year in Las Vegas – Transform - 1,700 attendees, 1,300 Predix trained, 131 sessions over 3 days.
  • We run hackathons throughout the year – internally - and externally at conferences (like the recent Minds and Machines conference) and with partners, for example, with Tech Mahindra.
  • We run “Dojos” that are week-long training sessions where our industrial experts help our clients’ development teams build their first app.
  • We provide training – instructor led and self-paced courses - for developers, solution architects and business managers.
  • We recently launched the Predix Developer certification program.
  • We built our development portal, Predix.io. and filled it with everything you need to jump start your journey on Predix – documentation, code samples, videos, How-to guides, forums, newsletters, and more.
  • And to get developers started, we provide a free Predix trial for those looking to build their first app.

The result of all that hard work and focus is that we now have over 21,000 developers worldwide using Predix – developers that are building innovative new apps to extract value from industrial data and deliver new business outcomes.

7) Is there anything else you’d like to leave us and our readers with today?

We started with a quote from our CEO, Jeff Immelt, so it seems fitting to end with one: “The biggest risks at GE are the inability to seize market opportunities.”

When faced with such massive disruptive industry and technology transitions, established companies can no longer sit on the sidelines and risk being “Uber-ized” out of existence.

But rather than taking on the entire burden, customers can now use Predix to build on its sophisticated infrastructure, and draw from its capabilities and the lessons learned from our industrial experts at GE and our partners.

  • If you are a developer – get trained and gain recognized skills in industrial development
  • If you are a product manager – consider how Predix can create new customer experiences
  • If you are a business leader – begin your own Digital Industrial Transformation journey TODAY before your competitors do.

Predix is real. Predix creates value. Predix is ready today.

So ask yourself. ‘Why not us?’


VDC’s View

GE has put the first piece of the Industrial IoT platform puzzle – the technical architecture – in place. The foundational Predix Machine connectivity software (part of Predix System) is stable and functional, and the Predix Cloud is well-architected on top of the industry-standard Cloud Foundry platform. The Predix architecture has been tested internally by GE operating segments, much like Amazon built out its web services capabilities internally before offering AWS to external customers. The second piece of the puzzle – the ecosystem – is rapidly being built. The Predix Services catalog features all of the necessary microservices needed to build a wide range of industrial applications, and Predix developers, along with partners, are adding new services and data sources at a healthy pace.

The challenge for GE lies in maintaining its focus on a currently-marginal (in terms of revenue) business unit, even when it means foregoing investment into its traditional operating segments. Digital revenues, including Predix, made up only 4.2% of GE’s overall revenues in 2015, and are on track to make up around 5% of GE’s total revenues in 2016. Digital revenues are exhibiting healthy growth (25% YoY), but are still small in absolute terms relative to GE’s traditional operating segment revenues, which could complicate matters for Predix if conditions in the other 95% of GE’s business fluctuate significantly.

If GE Digital is able to overcome the hurdles of onboarding a critical mass of users onto Predix, and marketing its value-add well to new customers, it will be positioned well to build the infrastructure for a new generation of agile, digital industrials.

To read a more in-depth analysis of Predix’s technical architecture, pricing, strategy, and competitive positioning, please download our recent VDC View – GE’s Predix: Deep Dive.

Interested in participating in VDC’s “The IoT & Embedded Technology Beat” series of interviews? Please reach out and let us know.


ADDRESS


TWITTER FEED