1. G.E. has hired more than 250 engineers in the past 18 months for its new software center in San Francisco. The company plans to increase that work force of computer scientists and software developers to 400 and to invest $1 billion in the center by 2015.
2. The buildup is part of G.E.'s big bet on what it calls the "industrial Internet". Their goal is to bring digital intelligence to the physical world of industry as never before. While the concept of Internet-connected machines that collect data and communicate, often called the "Internet of Things", has been around for years, and other information technology companies are pursuing this emerging field. For example, IBM has its Smarter Planet and Cisco champions the "Internet of Everything". G.E. though, has a major leg up on any of its potential competitors.
3. G.E.'s efforts and major resource commitment gives them the first real big opportunity to sweep through the industrial economy much as the consumer Internet has transformed media communications and advertising over the last decade. The end result could make G.E. the Google of the industrial Internet and give it a major advantage to help sell its vast array of existing products and services. Because G.E. is the nation's largest industrial company, a producer of aircraft engines, power plant turbines, rail locomotives and medical imaging equipment - it has massive leverage, expertise and contacts throughout the industrial complex. In addition, G.E. makes the heavy-duty machinery that transports people, heats homes and power factories, and lets doctors diagnose life-threatening diseases.
4. The major technologies that animate Google and Facebook are also vital ingredients in the industrial Internet - tools from artificial intelligence, like machine-learning software, and vast streams of new data. In industry, the data flood comes mainly from smaller, more powerful and cheaper sensors on the equipment. Smarter machines, for example, can alert their human handlers when they will need maintenance, before a breakdown. It is the equivalent of preventive and personalized care for equipment with less downtime and more output.
5. Today, G.E. is putting sensors on everything, be it a gas turbine or hospital bed. Their goal is to design the software for gathering data, and the clever algorithms for sifting through it for cost savings and productivity gains. Across the industries it covers, G.E. estimates such efficiency opportunities at as much as $150 billion. For example, First Wind, an owner and operator of 16 wind farms in America is a G.E. customer for wind turbines. It has been experimenting with upgrades that add more sensors, controls and optimization software. Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind states this translates to $1.2 in additional revenue from just 2 farms.
6. Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York has been working with G.E. to optimize the operations of a 1,100 bed hospital. Patients get a black plastic wristband with a location sensor and other information. Similar sensors are on beds and medical equipment. The resulting data can be used to automate and streamline operations and make for better decisions such as in assigning beds. It acts as an intelligent assistant to admitting officers. G.E. estimates that the optimization and modeling technologies can translate into roughly 10,000 more patients treated per year, and $120 million in savings and additional revenue over several years.
7. All of the above is built on G.E.'s strength in research and its ability to leverage it across its varied industrial businesses. The company is currently rallying support for its vision from industry partners, academics, venture capitalists and start-ups. Jeffrey R. Immelt, G.E.'s chief executive has personally gotten involved in recruiting. His message, he says is that if you want to have an effect on major societal challenges like improving health care, energy and transportation, consider G.E.
Steve's most recent book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189 lessons learned and insider tips from Gayle King, Cathie Black, Chuck Townsend and 28 others; Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is blacker-reinventions.com and e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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