Photo: Bergmann

At Mobile World Congress 2016, GE outlined some fundamental insights about the digital transformation efforts of industrial businesses. William Ruh, CEO for GE Digital, a US$6 billion business of General Electric, shared valuable insights about the digital transformation process that industrial businesses need to tackle.

Industrial companies are very different from consumers: They don’t want to buy a great mobile or social experience; they care instead about business outcomes, such as lower energy consumption, faster cash cycles, or higher employee productivity. Digital transformation means that industry will do things differently than in the past.

  • Industrial firms will learn from the consumer world only up to a point. Industrial products are not developed, designed, and sold like consumer products. Uptime and longevity are critical in the mechanical-electrical world. Industrial products often have lifetimes spanning decades, rather than being replaced every two years like smartphones. Often, industrial equipment is not turned off for years, making ongoing software upgrades difficult. Moreover, the results of faulty industrial equipment like aircraft engines can be much more serious than for consumer products.
  • An opex-focused big data approach will be central for industry-focused digital solutions. Big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) go hand in hand in B2B. GE managed to increase energy production by 20% by analyzing sensor data at wind farms. Based on its insights into wind direction and strength, GE’s solution allows wind farm operators to adjust the curvature of rotor blades. Wind farm operators don’t really care who delivers the wind sensors; they want a provider that can package an end-to-end solution that delivers financial benefits to them.
  • On-premises-based software will give way to cloud-based solutions. In the industrial world, most technologies weren’t digital and used proprietary standards. In the coming years, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and other cloud-based solutions will increasingly be based on open source software, open APIs, and open interfaces.
  • Digital transformation will rely on a platform approach. All the capabilities that GE is driving internally are enabled through its Predix platform, Predix services, and Predix applications. GE's Predix platform focuses on the industrial Internet and offers a choice of deployment options, including via the cloud and on specific machines, devices, or appliances. GE believes that heavily regulated industries, as well as remote oil rigs and power/energy plants, need to aggregate and process data locally, at the edge, and in the cloud.