The new Predix-iOS software development kit, which the companies will release at GE’s Minds + Machines event on Oct. 26, will include tools that software developers can use to write industrial apps that will run on Apple’s iOS operating system.
The new partnership means that a wind turbine mechanic in Oklahoma and engineers in New York City can use their iPhones to collaborate on fixing a problem that normally would require a trip back to headquarters — by launching, say, Apple’s FaceTime video chat — and make real-time decisions with instant visuals. “We are really taking these very complex industrial scenarios and bringing them together with the simplicity of the iOS experience,” explains Kevin Ichhpurani, GE Digital’s executive vice president and corporate officer who leads the unit’s ecosystem and channels.
The new applications will make it easier for factory workers and engineers to collaborate no matter where they are. Ichhpurani says that colleagues can look remotely at a machine and analyze the last action taken, study notes and look at images. Instant communication can help industrial companies avoid expensive unplanned outages and utilize workers better.
GE has already developed an iOS app called Asset Performance Management Cases. The app tracks data streaming from sensors inside a power plant and helps operators determine whether a machine part — a bearing, for example — can remain in service and when it needs to be replaced. GE employees and customers can download it through the Apple app store.
As part of the partnership, GE will make iPhones and iPads the preferred mobile devices for their workers around the world and offer Macs as an option. Apple will also use Predix as its analytics platform.
The partnership is a sign of the worldwide growth of the industrial internet of things (IoT) — which connects machines with embedded devices. The IoT is projected to add $15 trillion to the global GDP by 2030, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study. Last year, GE Digital predicted that in the next five years the Industrial Internet could break the zettabyte barrier, making it roughly twice the size the World Wide Web was in 2009.