GE says its software for smart factories and the ‘Internet of Things’ is now a $6 billion business



Today, GE announced that its software and services business is on track to do $6 billion in revenue in 2016 — 20% higher than in 2015, and putting GE on track to hit its goal of $15 billion in annual revenue by 2020.

The core of the GE software business is Predix, what it calls an “operating system for the industrial Internet of Things.” In other words, Predix is a tool to help GE customers build the software that powers Internet-connected industrial machinery like jet turbines, trains, or factory robots.

Indeed, Predix is the star attraction at GE’s “Mind and Machines” conference this week in San Francsico.

GE Digital CEO Bill Ruh says the idea is to refine the technology to handle a wider variety of tasks, and to bring together as many partners as possible to that end. That will help ensure that the Predix platform appeals to as many markets as it can as industries begin to digitize their businesses.

“Every CEO is realising they need to transform themselves,” Ruh says.

In addition to the revenue stats, GE announced new industry-specific Predix solutions for energy management, oil and gas, and other specialised markets, as well as new solutions to help end-users, as in factory machine operators, maintenance workers, and the like, use Predix-powered applications.

GE also announced that it’s bought startups BitStew and to help customers add data from their industrial machines to the Predix cloud, and to add a little extra artificial intelligence know-how to Predix.

Gartner Research VP Benoit Lheureux praises the BitStew acquisition. He says that letting customers integrate machine data is a major difficulty for any industrial cloud vendor, and that the addition of BitStew tech to Predix makes a “substantive” dent in the problem.

GE also announced that there are 19,000 developers building specialised industrial software on top of the Predix platform, along with new initiatives to attract business software vendors like Box and Pitney Bowes.

“You have to build an ecosystem. You have to have a set of friends to help you on this journey,” Ruh says.

The endgame, Ruh says, is in using Predix, combined with GE’s own industry-specific solutions, plus some software from those 19,000 developers, to make more efficient machines. Give humans the tools to manage machines at peak efficiency, building them into the way they already work, and big things will happen. The same way that startups automate things like taxi dispatch to operate at scale, real automation brings value hereto untold.

“It’s the equivalent of what Uber did, but for business,” Ruh says.