SAN FRANCISCO–General Electric’s growing digital division and Microsoft have announced a new, more interconnected partnership involving GE Digital’s Predix industrial internet platform and Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
The expanded business deal closely follows another agreement struck with Apple on Oct. 18, in which GE Digital will make Predix deployable on iOS smartphones, tablets and laptops. This is aimed at optimizing Apple devices for so-called “deskless” workers, those whose workplaces are in the field–such as restaurant workers, emergency medical personnel and manufacturing floor staffers.
Steve Brumer, partner at 151 Advisors, told eWEEK that the Apple news “is a major announcement for GE Predix. They did not have a way for people who had Apple iOS products to access their software and system. As more Apple iPhones and Macs are used by people in the field within the industrial space, access to a highly successful and largely deployed Predix system is critical and now possible.
“The new expanded dev kit will allow technical field service groups who use Predix the ability to interface their apple products and that is a good thing. And to have GE commit to Apple products for its field groups is huge for Apple.”
The announcement between the two huge corporations, made at the GE Minds & Machines conference on Oct. 26 at the Moscone Center, expands greatly the integration of Microsoft’s cloud services with Predix applications, Eddie Amos, GE Digital’s General Manager of Asset Performance Management, told eWEEK.
Predix connects industrial equipment such as jet engines and manufacturing power plants to data resources that can predict failures and reduce operating costs. The platform runs on all the major clouds.
‘Using Azure, AWS for What They’re Good At’
“We’re going to use Microsoft (Azure) and AWS for what they’re good at–basic plumbing,” Amos told eWEEK. “But things like edge to cloud and data ingestion components—we’re going to continue to do that because it’s important to us. The Predix machine (appliance) now has more than 200,000 possible connections on those boxes, feeding up to the cloud.
“The reason we have to do that is that we have to secure those things because they’re sitting on the control network and they do things that Microsoft doesn’t think about. That’s not a knock on Microsoft; they’re a horizontal platform. So we have to think about how we secure things from the control network to the cloud, and we have to think about massive amounts of data. While they’re building out great horizontal capabilities, 15 million Facebook users isn’t the same as a billion pieces of sensor data that we process every week.”
At the outset, the joint effort will be focused on large industrial use cases, such as oil-and-gas and mining companies, but would also be relevant to numerous other companies that run applications in Azure, which is slowly but surely adding marketshare against competitors such as AWS, IBM Cloud and Google Cloud.
As for the Apple deal, Amos said his engineers have been working with the new API which has augmented reality components on it. “We’ve had a fun time playing with that. We can take that information and use it for like training, inspections and so on,” Amos said. “We had used various container technologies for a lot of the mobile (Predix) apps before but now this is a native iOS SDK (software development kit) that we are providing to extend things out directly.
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“This helps out Apple, because they’ve been known basically as a consumer company. Now we’re going to help bridge them so they can actually come in and work with real industrial applications on their devices.”