Decoding ‘Digital Industrial:’ Predix is the Platform

Decoding ‘Digital Industrial:’ Predix is the Platform
August 23, 2017 at 01:08pm

By Hatem Elmohandes, Director, Solutions Architect at GE Digital Middle East & North Africa

There’s a metaphor I like to use to explain what GE Digital means to industrial customers adopting digital solutions: imagine taking an iconic red London telephone booth and not changing the look of the cabin itself, but enhancing the technology around and inside it to make it a WiFi hotspot. This would bring an important asset from the past into the digital age, and this is essentially how I see GE Digital. It’s bringing important machines from our past into a new era, with increased functionality and efficiency.

My focus in the GE Digital business is Predix – GE’s platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), specifically designed for the needs of industry. It helps to connect people with assets, such as airplane engines and gas turbines, or to whole systems, such as hospitals or manufacturing plants. Leveraging the Predix platform, huge volumes of data from these assets and systems can be collected, processed, and analyzed to deliver insights, allowing operators to achieve better outcomes. This can be in terms of productivity, predictive maintenance, safety, efficiency, or other important operating parameters.

Unlike other IIoT-based operating systems or environments, Predix was built from the ground up as an industrial-focused platform that is built to meet the scale, complexity and security needs of critical infrastructure.

Importantly, Predix offers a convergence between IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) to reach higher levels of productivity and efficiency. That is, it incorporates everything from the IT world (things like email, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) tools, and the cloud), as well as everything from OT (things that help machines and factories run more smoothly like HMI/SCADA, which stands for Human Machine Interface / Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition; manufacturing execution systems (MES), and historical time series).

Sound complicated? That’s why we built the platform ourselves – we have used our 125 years of industrial expertise to ensure the OT side is exactly what industry needs; all while bringing it into the digital age with the power of IT.

One reason Predix is so useable is because of its modular structure based on microservices. Microservices are like Lego blocks of code that developers can just put together, instead of building something from scratch every time. Predix makes it easy for developers to build new applications by choosing services in areas such as analytics and visualization that already exist on the platform.

This modular structure also makes troubleshooting and scaling programs up or down much simpler, and app development faster. Organizations can build just the right application for their needs in an efficient, reliable and cost-effective manner.

Selling Apps Globally

Another piece of Predix that I love to talk about is the ecosystem. GE is not in this alone. Other companies can also list build their own applications, and list them on the Predix app catalog (sort of the like the Android app store) and generate new streams revenue through a program with GE. We even offer a go-to-market strategy for these companies listing such software. We’re committed to creating an ecosystem that consists of partners of all kinds – customers, startups, internal GE coders, and independent software vendors, to name a few.

One example of this in the region is Saudi-based Obeikan Investment Group (OIG). OIG is working with GE Digital in the region to develop software on the Predix platform to improve their manufacturing operations. Eventually, they will be able to take what we’ve created together and bring it to the world, with a reach amplified by GE’s global network. This represents a totally new potential revenue stream for companies like OIG, whose focus is not software developing. But these days, it’s important to consider that companies may have to disrupt the market before it disrupts them. We’re in a new world that offers fresh opportunities, and we’re excited that Predix is helping to build this kind of transformation.

Industrial Cyber Security

While certain ways of doing business have changed, a critical focus on security remains the same. Just as physical security is a top priority for industrial plants, so too is IT and OT security a priority on the Predix platform. At GE, we understand that the benefits of digital industrial can only be realized if we can deliver reliable security.

To address this, we’ve created Predix as a “gated community” where we vet all companies and certify all app developers on the platform, while still engaging and helping to build the ecosystem.

One key here is flexibility: Predix can run on any of these three types of clouds: a public commercial cloud service (GE public cloud or Azure Cloud as examples); a cloud service restricted to a particular country; or a private cloud based on servers located at the customer’s facilities and air-gapped from the rest of the internet.

Ultimately, Predix is a platform companies can use to improve the operations of their assets and systems, and take them into the new digital era. If you’d like to transform how your company operates and help the region build its industrial base through digitization of industry, please connect with me. You can also learn more about GE’s digital industrial solutions in the region by following this link.

This is the second in a six-part series exploring GE’s digital industrial offerings in the Middle East, Africa & Turkey.

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