GE powers up data insights
GE powers up turbine-powered data insights
GE: we were the original Uber of the candle industry and now we're helping the next phase of positive disruptive innovation. Image Credit: GE

GE powers up data insights

GE presented a session entitled ‘Turning Data Into Competitive Advantage’ at Internet of Manufacturing 2017, held in Munich this February 2017 by Internet of Business. With turbines and their sensors a key focus for Internet of Things (IoT) deployments, both in the air and on the ground, European chief marketing officer Simone Hessel had plenty of insight to share.

Turning data into competitive advantage

Way back in 1889, GE founder Thomas Edison recognized that electricity could represent just about as (positively) disruptive a force as the IoT and cloud computing does today. As the original ‘Uber of Candles’ (a term coined by Vincent Champain in his role as general manager of the GE Digital EU Foundry in Paris), GE is now increasingly vocal about its work in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) space.

A close colleague and professional ally of Champain (yes, his real name), GE’s Simone Hessel hosted one of the first sessions at this year’s Internet of Manufacturing conference and exhibition.

“Data from operations is creating new forms of competitive advantage. GE is now using advanced analytics to analyze vast amounts of data, turning it into actionable insights and driving increased efficiencies,” said Hessel.

Related: General Electric and Bosch announce IIoT collaboration

A bigger data lake means more fish

Speaking in a breakout session, press were able to question Hessel on the massive scope of the data universe ahead of us. Often referred to as the data lake (that pool of unstructured data that we really know very little about in terms of its size, shape, date, quality, veracity and value), how does Hessel feel about this dark body of potentially frightening data… should we work now to reduce the size of the data lake?

“Not at all,” enthused Hessel. “Let’s keep the data lake as big as possible. The bigger the lake, the more fish we can catch!”

Referring to the work GE does at the firm’s Digital Foundry in Paris, Hessel reaffirmed Champain’s assertion that the company not only wants to share knowledge and experiences but also cause ‘collisions’. GE likes to call these experiences ‘transdisciplinary visions’ that help draw out the possibilities for us all in terms of how we work with the industrial Internet of tomorrow.

But, said Hessel, the problem is, we are only harvesting around 15 percent of all possible data right now. Hence, her positivity around an even bigger data lake.

“To become what we call a ‘digital industrial company’, we say that firms need to change their mindset and think about IT. We heard recently that Nissan has considered not going to the big Frankfurt motor show any more and, instead, going to CeBit IT show in Hannover,” said Hessel.

Related: General Electric continues expansion into Internet of Things

Fear the ‘Mom & Pop Shop’

She further stated that in the past, GE has seen companies ‘playing defense’ and working to protect their business from uncertainties and the opposition. “In this new world, firms might well be more worried about the ‘mom and pop shop’ down the road than their traditional competitors. This is why it is important to play the offence game,” she asserted.

GE looks to the future of the data-driven industrial economy and points out that we have seen huge declines in the price of sensors and compute power. Seeing these step-changes happen, the firm went through design processes that enabled it to ‘create a digital twin’ of each piece of equipment in its world (a component, an asset in the production line, or indeed the whole production line itself). In this way it could mirror the shop floor and then ‘enable the digital thread’ which will enable a virtuous loop of continuous improvements.

Looking ahead, GE has stated that its Digital Foundry Europe facility is already twinned with similar facilities in San Ramon (USA) and Shanghai (China) with new foundries expected to open in Boston, Singapore, Munich and Saudi Arabia.

Related: IoT data streams fill up the data lake